The Plank and the Speck–BE the Change: CHOICES {Part 3}

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:4-5, NIV

Possibly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my spiritual walk has been living in an “unequally yoked” marriage. The constant pull between personal convictions and trying to live in peace with my spouse has often been an excruciatingly intense struggle. These days, though, there are far more rainbows and roses in our relationship than storm clouds, but it took many years and a lot of personal soul-searching to finally reach that point.

 
I’m often asked by other women in difficult marriage situations (not speaking about abusive relationships, here) who wonder how I’ve come to be so at peace in my marriage, or how I cope with the challenges rather than throw in the towel. My response to them is not generally well tolerated. And most of these women who once wanted advice from me are now no longer speaking to me. So what have I said and done to tick so many people off?

 
I chose to focus on ME, repeatedly asking God to change my own heart, rather than that of my husband.

 
Novel concept, I know!

 
That’s not to say I always did so willingly or joyfully, but rather out of sheer necessity. When I first “came back” to God, I constantly prayed for my husband’s heart to change. Of course I wanted him to love Jesus and all that jazz, but my deeper motive in prayer wasn’t his spiritual life but rather my own comfort and happiness.

 

 

“When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasure.”—James 4:3, NIV

This is where many spouses are brought to the end of their rope, and what motivates them to try to find help or counsel, their lives have become a leaky faucet of misery as their focus is continuously on the wrong-doings of their significant other. I get it because I’ve been there! In my situation, raising a child in a home where my husband and I disagreed on so much was just plain hard. And if God changed my husband’s heart (to agree with me about everything, of course, and to pick up his dirty socks…) then my life would certainly be much more pleasant and stress-free.

 
But, God being, well, GOD, knew my motives were off. And instead of instantly “poofing” my husband into everything I wanted him to be, He instead chiseled my heart into the ever-changing diamond He is designing it to be. And that whole chiseling thing hurts. A lot. Because it reveals my planks, logs, beams, or whatever you want to call them, instead of the specks, splinters, or otherwise tiny dust particles in my husband (who IS a believer now, but still leaves his dirty socks on the floor. In fact, I’m looking at them right now…).

 
At first I too was a woman who scoffed at the notion that I needed to change instead of my husband. I hated that kind of advice with a passion. One instance I remember in particular was a valued and trusted friend encouraging me to be more intentional about sex with my husband. The nerve! Easy for her to say, she was in a peaceful happy marriage! But for me, sex was typically the last thing on my mind because I was too butt-hurt over all the horrible things my spouse did (things that don’t seem so horrible now, in hindsight). But you know what? She was right! And choosing to be intentional about our sex life before I actually “felt like it” (you know, choosing to show love with actions instead of waiting for my emotions to “feel” like doing loving things) helped our marriage more than the nagging or resentment ever did. The point is, my behavior needed to change first, before my emotions would follow.

 
So, when a woman comes to me and complains how selfish and awful her husband is (again, not talking about abusive relationships!) and I gently try to share my journey of personal transformation rather than justifying her complaints, she usually gets upset with me and seeks advice elsewhere. But I can’t in good conscience sit here and join the spousal bashing. We are in far more control over our happiness and joy than we think. It really is a choice. A choice that is rooted in desiring change within ourselves, and doing whatever it takes to let God work that out—instead of focusing on all the wrongs being committed against us.

 
Ultimately God helped me see that the only change I can control is the change in my own heart. So, over time my prayers changed from grumbles against my husband to repentance against the sins I was committing against him with my attitudes and behaviors. I sought to treat my husband as I wanted to be treated, whether or not I felt like he “deserved” it. This often meant embracing the role of “servant” (not in a slave kind of way, but in an acts-of-service-to-others kind of way). God repeatedly brought me to 1 Peter 3, and the need to show my husband with my actions rather than my preaching (nagging, Bible-thumping, etc.).

 
Is your spouse inconsiderate or selfish? Do they hold to different faith perspectives than you? Do they act in ways that disappoint and discourage you? My best advice is to serve your spouse in love, and ask God to see your spouse through HIS eyes rather than your own. This prayer is what opened the door of change in my own heart. In fact, asking God to see my husband through His eyes is what allowed me to finally see how the choices I had made out of anger or resentment had so deeply hurt him (see: Waiting for Redemption). Yes, I suppose it would be easier to just call it quits and throw in the towel. Sign some papers and wipe your hands of the whole thing. Find some other guy/gal who makes you “happier” and agrees with you about everything, but ultimately, those aren’t the solutions that will bring lasting peace and joy because the root issues (within yourself) aren’t dealt with, but rather denied and ignored. God wants to change us first, so that our life can be a witness to motivate change in others.

 
Whether we are dealing with a spousal relationship or another type of relationship (familial, friendship, coworker) the principle still applies: choose to ask God to change your heart instead of focusing on how you are being wronged. Choose to forgive. Choose to serve that person instead of gossiping about them. Choose to pray for a new perspective. Choose to ask God to help you love the person as God loves them.

 
Is everything perfect, now that my husband sits next to me at church every Sunday he’s not working, or now that he’s bought me more flowers in the last nine months than in the previous nine years? Of course not! If anything, I have come to see that no matter how “great” my husband is, and how much he “changes” still has little effect on my happiness, peace and joy. Why? Because my happiness, peace, and joy come from JESUS, not life’s circumstances. Certainly things are more peaceful around here, but my husband is still the same person with the same personality and quirks. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean he picks up his socks consistently. I still have a choice every day whether or not I will serve, love, and respect my husband or nag, resent, and slander his character to my girlfriends. Sometimes I still choose the latter, but those instances are coming fewer and farther between as God continues to transform my heart to align more with the character of Christ. By choosing to BE the change instead of nagging for him to change, God has brought about peace within me and within our marriage. And, as an added bonus (blessing) I now get to enjoy things like going to church with my husband instead of going alone.

 
So, if you really want that person to get the splinter out of their eye so your life will be a little less stressful, I suggest asking God to remove the beam in your eye first. Be the example of change with your life, attitudes, reactions, responses, and actions. How you choose to behave/respond while under adversity will speak far greater volumes to the “problem person” in your life than begging God to change that person or nagging them into behaving how you’d like them to. Choose respect, forgiveness, mercy, service, and the greatest of these things, LOVE. Ask God to transform your heart into a 1 Corinthians 13 heart. It WILL hurt, and it WON’T be easy, but the peace that results will far surpass the temporary pain that comes from sacrifice, submission, and developing a life of humility before others.

 

 

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”—Matthew 5:5-9, NIV

***PLEASE NOTE: This article is NOT referencing marriages where adultery, pornography use, physical or emotional abuse, or other more serious offenses have occurred. This is not in any way representative of such deeper struggles and is not intended to brush those issues under the rug or blame those behaviors on the victim. We are each responsible only for our own choices and responses, not the choices of others! If you are in an abusive relationship, or have a spouse immersed in pornography or sexual sin, please seek the help of a professional. Your spouse’s choices are not your fault or because of anything you have done to “deserve” such treatment. You are not responsible for their actions/choices.

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See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

CHOICES PART 2: Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

 

**If you are struggling in an unequally yoked marriage, and need resources for reading or help, please email me at RebeccaAarup@mail.com and I would be happy to share some books/resources that have helped me greatly along my journey.**

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Keeping it Fresh: How Technology Can Help Your Marriage

Technology has its downsides, but it has its upsides too. Recently my husband bought me a new phone (something I was resistant too initially and made no effort to hide my complaints). As I got familiar with this new, and maybe a bit complicated, piece of technology, I discovered an “app” that allows me to record events, appointments, and even shopping lists. The coolest thing about this feature was that everyone on our phone plan could sign in from their phones or computers and view or make changes to the calendar or shopping list. Now my husband and I have a way to keep track with what each of us was doing, eliminating confusion and misunderstanding regarding our respective schedules.

My husband found an even better use for this feature, though. He likes to send me secret messages using the shopping list. For instance, today he added “something special for Rebecca” to the shopping list. Now that made me smile. Not only was it endearing, but I knew he was thinking about me even if he had not verbally communicated it (which is important to many women, including myself). In turn I left an item on the shopping list “I love you, husband”.

Sometimes we need to lighten up and take a step away from the grueling demands of life. With work, bills, health problems, children, LIFE, it can be tempting to let the little things fall by the wayside. My husband and I have found a way to use what can be considered a curse by many to be a blessing and tool in our marriage.

How about you? Have you and your spouse discovered ways to use technology to help add a unique flavor to your relationship?  How do you “keep it fresh” in new and unexpected ways?

Have You Seen ME?

Suggested Reading: Job 42:1-7

Thought for the Day: “I have seen you, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5

 

I admit it; sometimes I don’t approach the throne of God with fear. Sometimes I get complacent. Sometimes I get indifferent. Sometimes my prayers begin with a “Hey, God” or “Jesus, I really need you to do…” and it’s not long before I’m getting nothing but silence. My prayers seem to bounce off the rubber ceiling.

Familiarity can produce a casual attitude. I see this in my human relationships. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely I am to approach them with a “Hey there” or “Can you do this for me?” But a human relationship is far different then a divine relationship.

As I read through the latter chapters of Job, I am reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, control, and awesomeness in relation to me, the creation. Who am I to approach the throne of God with such callousness? Is God my friend? Yes. Is God my companion? Yes. But he is still God.

When I’m faced with the reality of God versus the reality of myself, I have no choice but to fall on my face, loathe my state of sin, and repent. It’s so unbelievably tempting to walk through the day with pride. It’s so easy to think I’m doing okay, and God can be proud of me, His good little child. But that is a deception of the highest form.

God is proud of me as his creation, not because of anything I have done.

Job was about as righteous as they come, but after three chapters of verbal chastisement from the Holiest of Holies (see Job 38-41), Job was left on his face in repentance. He had seen God.

Today, I am humbled as God gives me a glimpse of His righteousness. Who am I but a lowly servant of the greatest King! God owes me nothing—I owe Him everything.

“I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is Mine.”—God (Job 41:11)

Nagging Emasculation

There are few things more emasculating than an incessantly nagging wife. It sends him the message (over and over and over and over…) that he is not good enough, he’s a failure, he’s an idiot, and he’s completely incapable of being the husband she wants. Living under these circumstances for any length of time a man starts to give up; he can’t do anything right anyways.

I don’t bring it up to say I have conquered this problem. Part of me wonders if nagging is a gene inherent to wives, but I know the truth. Nagging is inherent to my fleshly nature and desire to have my own way when I want it, how I want it, and any cost to my husband’s self-esteem.

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day.” (Prov. 27:15) In other words, a nagging wife is tantamount to ancient Chinese versions of water torture. Ouch. The last thing I want is to torture my hard-working husband with my words. Shaunti Feldhahn notes this principle in her book For Women Only, as she interviews thousands of men to find out what they really think about these issues.

“Instead of affirming, a wife reinforces her husband’s feelings of inadequacy, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if we focus our attention on what he is doing wrong in the relationship, we can unwittingly undermine what we most want–for him to do what is right–I discovered a dismaying fact. Of the men I surveyed, only one man in four felt actively appreciated by his family.  And 44 percent of men felt unappreciated at home. More pointedly, men in their prime years of responsibility for home, children, and work–men between the ages of thirty-six and fifty-five–felt even less appreciated. ” (p. 68)

Ladies, what’s going on!? Surely we can do better than that! Biblical standards don’t change based on our circumstances (working or staying-at-home). A glance at Proverbs 31 easily testifies to this. The virtuous woman not only works, but “watches over the affairs of her household” (vs. 27) receiving the praise of her husband and children. I didn’t see anything in that chapter about nagging her husband to take out the trash, pick up his clothes, fix the garage door, or close the toilet seat.

After nearly nine years I have finally given up the battle to change my husband. Instead, I am replacing the nagging tendencies with those of praise and support. God is allowing me to recognize my husband’s deep seated insecurities and giving me opportunities to combat them with supportive attitudes and actions.

I can take out the trash myself, or tear down my husband the second he steps in the doorway because he didn’t do it.

I can keep the house clean so when he comes home he’s not tripping over toys, or I can allow my daughter to do whatever she wants while I’m busy plucking away on my computer, telling my husband I’m too busy to care what he thinks of the house.

I can scoop the dog poop myself, or I can spend an hour complaining to my husband about how disgusting the yard is, scheduling work for him to do on his next day off.

I can pick up his dirty socks from every place but the hamper, or I can send him an angry text message explaining how once again, I cleaned up after him and he needs to grow up.

Simply put, I can keep my mouth shut. Turn off the faucet. Stop the incessant dripping.

I can ask God to replace the nagging words with those of praise and affirmation. I can spend all day cleaning up my husband’s messes, and still choose to tell him how much I appreciate his hard work, refusing to bring attention to his short-comings.

“Men need a place where they can make their mistakes in peace.” For Women Only (p. 71)

I want to treat my husband how I’d like him to treat me. I want to show him–with my actions more than my words–the love of Jesus. I want to actively refuse to point out his faults and choose to let God expose my own. I can forgive his down-falls like Jesus has forgven mine. I can show mercy like I’m given mercy by my righteous Savior. By God’s grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, I can turn emasculation into affirmation by simply seeking God’s desire for me as a wife.

“Your beauty…should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”(1 Pet. 3:4)

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

Just Need a Little R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I awoke at 3:30am to the struggling gasps of my husband. I’m not going to lie, it frightened me. He’s struggled with his weight and some other harmful habits, so I wondered if he was having a heart attack. He got up, gasping, and went to lie on the couch. Later he said he thought he might have had a bad dream, but wasn’t sure what had caused the difficulty breathing.

I found myself praying for him in ways I don’t usually do. Along with prayer, I was reminded of the way I’ve struggled to be a Biblical wife. Our relationship tends to resemble really good friends who sleep in the same house but otherwise live different lives. I know I can’t control how he acts and feels, but I can allow God to re-shape my thinking.

First one on the list is my respect level. Admittedly, it’s hard to respect someone who disagrees with me about nearly everything, especially spiritual matters. Regardless, I am called to respect (Eph. 5:33₁), and submit to my husband (1 Pet. 3:5₂, Eph. 5:22₃, Col. 3:18₄) whether or not he is acting as spiritual leader of the home. (“Submit” in Greek literally means to obey, be under obedience, put under, subdue unto, or subject and “respect” [used in Eph. 5:33] can be translated reverence, fear, or to be in awe.)

Every time I roll my eyes, think to myself how right I am and how wrong he is, talk about him in a negative manner, or choose to do something he has made clear he’s against (even if it’s a church function),  I have disrespected him.

Just because I am a Jesus follower and he is not, doesn’t mean I am any better than him (Col. 3:23-25₅, Phil. 2:3₆). He still commands my submission, as my husband. Most hear the word submit and assume it demeans the woman, involving slave work. I  look at it as “servant” work. I am to serve my husband, whether I work outside the home or not, he is my husband and I am his wife, he is the head, I am the help-meet (Gen. 2:20-24₇). Sometimes that means allowing him to make the decisions, even if they’re not Biblical. Who do I think I am, anyways? Do I not serve a God big enough to change my husband’s heart? Does God really need my help to show my husband “the light”? I think not. My biggest witness will be my attitude (1 Pet. 3:1-2₈).

So I am on a new mission to revisit some books and studies I dug into last summer about Biblical womanhood and living in a spiritually mismatched relationship. This morning I opened up “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn. In this book the author interviews thousands of men about issues like respect, sex, and self-esteem so the entire book is written for women from the view-point of men. It’s an eye-opener for sure.

“Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except their home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgment more than their own wives did…more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.” (pp. 29-30)

Lord, help me.  There is so much dirt in my heart that still needs cleaning. Most importantly I must remember that service to my husband is not an attempt to manipulate or change him, but rather an act of obedience to the revealed will of God in His word. That alone should motivate me. I may not always get my way, and I may have to set aside my desires to allow my husband to make the decisions, but it will be noted by the One who designed the marriage relationship. After all, it is not really my husband whom I serve, but my Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:5₉)

The following Scriptures were taken from the New International Version

  1. Ephesians 5:33b “The wife must respect her husband.”
  2. 1 Peter 3:5 “This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands.”
  3. Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
  4. Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”
  5. Colossians 3:23-25 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”
  6. Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
  7. Genesis 2:20b-24 “But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
  8. 1 Peter 3:1-2 “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
  9. Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”

A Mother’s Joy

“May she who gave birth to you be happy!” Proverbs 23:25b

Suggested Reading: Proverbs 23:22-25

The Holy Spirit tugs at my heart and I am reminded that my parents are my parents forever, and they’re the only ones I’ll ever have. Life is short, and I still have a responsibility to them. This obligation goes way beyond physical needs being met, or nursing home bills being paid. I’m talking about the emotional state of my parents.

As Mother day draws near I am prodded to look deep within and how I am contributing to the joy of my mother. I can’t always give her what she wants or needs materially, but according to God’s word, my godliness (or lack thereof) has an effect on my mother’s inner joy. That’s a lot of pressure! I’m starting to understand what that looks like, though. Godliness isn’t just about “doing”, it’s about “being” all God has designed me to be, from the inside out. Seeing with God’s eyes allows me to appreciate how He feels about my mom, and how she deserves to be treated, regardless of past hurts.

The Master Creator formed my mother in the womb (Psalm 139) and created her for a specific purpose; He loves her and went to the cross for her. It is my honor as her child to replicate the love of Christ over her. There is no mention in Proverbs of how I was raised, what was said, or how I was treated; it simply has nothing to do with how I am to love my mother (or father). How I love my Mom (not the feeling love, but the active love), and anyone else for that matter, is only contingent on the value I see. If I see her through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, then I will be motivated to love, honor, care for, listen to, and encourage her with the love of Jesus.

I looked hard to find the perfect gift for mom this year, not because she needed it, but because I wanted her to understand my love for her through the giving of a special “thing”.  But Mother’s Day isn’t about breakfast in bed, pretty flowers, or new appliances; it’s about reflecting the love of Jesus to my mom every day of the year, and choosing to love her as God does, without expectation.

My mom, Sue, dressed up for an old west re-enactment.