"Many times during each day I must make the
choice between being positive or negative . . . "
Hope in a marriage has a tendency to ebb and flow with the winds of circumstance. When we are getting along well with each other our hope is at high tide. When we are fussing with each other, we wonder whether we shall ever be able to make the marriage succeed. And there were still periods when, in spite of my new commitment, our hope was at low tide. Mary was experiencing the same struggle. She was saying to herself, I don't want merely to exist in a miserable relationship until I die. Surely God doesn't want that either, does He? And if He does, then I'm not sure I want Him.
But she did want Him. There was no question about it. And Scripture verses which she had learned came flooding back into her mind, verses that assured her that God did want her to have a joyful life. Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). "These things I have spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11).
"As far as I was concerned," she says, "those verses meant that God wanted me to have a good marriage, not just one that I should endure while I waited for one of us to die. He wanted our marriage to be fun and full of joy even as we worked through our difficulties. Hadn't the apostle James said, 'Count it all joy when you fall into various trials'? (James 1:3). I realized more and more that the Christian life as well as a Christian marriage can be joyful, and I committed myself to helping make ours happier.
"The number-one problem I had to work on in order to help make our marriage more joyful was my negative, critical nature. Many times I tried to justify it by thinking, This is just the way I am and Richard will have to learn to adjust to it. He needs to learn how to deal with critical people anyway. He'll be stronger and more effective in his ministry for it. But eventually I began to recognize that my critical spirit was sin, so I confessed it to God as such, and finally I was willing to admit it to Richard. I determined that with God's power I was going to change.
"It has been tough--a constant battle. Many times during each day I must make the choice between being positive or negative, to be judgmental or nonjudgmental. Let me illustrate: I am quick and impulsive; Richard is slow and thoughtful. I want things done now. He usually has something he wants to finish before he does what I want him to do. If I think that he should return a telephone call or write a letter to someone, I want him to do it immediately--not after he finishes opening the mail or reading the newspaper. If I want him to hang a picture or do some other odd job around the house, I want him to do it on my timetable, even if it isn't done perfectly. I have a tendency to insist that he do things my way, and to criticize him irritably if he resists.
"I want him to agree with my point of view as well, to see things as I see them. It is difficult for me to accept his perspective when it is different from mine, to admit that he has the right to a different opinion from mine. I am quicker to notice the things with which I disagree than the things with which I agree, and quick to make a negative comment if I see the matter the least bit differently from the way he has expressed it.
"I don't even like it that he has different tastes from mine. For example, I don't care to eat breakfast. A piece of fruit or a small sweet roll may be tolerable, but nothing more. Richard, on the other hand, enjoys a full breakfast of bacon, eggs, potatoes and toast. For years that bothered me, and when we were on a trip together I would argue with him if he wanted to stop for breakfast. I couldn't understand why anybody would want to take the time or spend the money to eat breakfast. If we did stop, I managed to make his breakfast miserable for him.
"But I am slowly learning to appreciate Richard for who he is and what he thinks, and to allow him his way of doing things. I am beginning to acknowledge that my way may not be the only way, and (heaven forbid) may not even be the best way. It is a continual struggle, but I must make the right choice at the moment of temptation.
"In addition to admitting that my intolerant and judgmental attitude is sin, and recognizing that God's power can help me control it, I must use the will He gave me and choose to act as He wants me to act. He did not create me to be a robot. He gave me volition, and He left me with the decision to continue my negative outlook or to view life more positively. I want to claim His power to think positive thoughts and speak positive words, words that edify and encourage. I want to choose deliberately to put away my critical mindset.
"Just a few weeks ago Richard wanted to cut up a leftover baked potato and fry it as part of his breakfast. I found myself feeling agitated because I wanted to use it to prepare twice-baked potatoes for our dinner, and I made a few negative comments. But as I thought about it a little further, it occurred to me that I was making a big issue over a very small thing and that I had a choice to make--continue resisting him, or admit that my husband was more important to me than a warmed-over baked potato. I decided that he was.
"Sometimes (as you can see from the potato incident) I slip back into the old patterns of criticizing him and arguing with him simply because he is different from me. But I find that when I choose correctly, I experience much more personal satisfaction, and you can be sure that my husband enjoys my company a great deal more."
Acknowledge that your way is not the only way to do things, and that to argue incessantly over insignificant issues can do untold damage to your relationship. Try to look at your differences from your mate's point of view.
Memorize and meditate on Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men."