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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
The third principle out of this is be diligent. Work hard on your relationships. Verse 28. “If you used to be thief, you must not only give up stealing, you must learn to make an honest living so that you may be able to give to those in need.”
And the idea here is be diligent. He’s talking about this transformation in relationships. And he says, yeah, you used to be a thief. What’s the idea of a thief? It’s a shortcut.
Stealing is no more than I want the product, I don’t want the process. You work all week and then the guy comes up and puts the gun and says, “You get your money out of the ATM,” and he takes it. You did all the work, he gets all the reward.
That violates a biblical principle of communication in relationship. He says, “Be diligent. Work hard.”
I came to realize, I don’t have the skill to relate, I have baggage, I have sin, she’s a woman, I’m a man, we got different personalities, I realize I needed to sign up for the rest of my life and make my marriage my number one priority and work at it.
And what we want is, we want these ideal marriages that are wonderful but we don’t want to put the time in. I don’t want to go through the process. Great marriages are like oak trees, not weeds. They take a lot of time and they’re really great. But you’ve got to really work.
Next, it’s be positive. Don’t wound with your words. Verse 29. “Let no more foul language but good words instead. Words suitable for the occasion, which God can use to help other people.”
“Never hurt the Holy Spirit. He is, remember, the personal pledge of your eventual full redemption. Let there be no more resentment.” It’s a form of anger. “No more slander and no more malicious remarks.”
So we’re to be positive. Don’t wound with your words. See, you express it in a way that doesn’t wound. In fact, one translation says, “Let no unwholesome word.”
And the word there for “unwholesome word” in Ephesians 4:29, it’s a picture of milk that’s gone sour or fruit that has been completely decayed. Have you ever been on vacation and you left something in the refrigerator for, like, two or three weeks and you open it and then you open this thing. Ooh. That smell. That stench? That’s this word.
Don’t let any of those kind of words. Words that build up people are legal in your marriage. Sarcasm, picking, labeling, name calling, talking about her parents, their parents – illegal. They’re illegal.
Now, you’ve got to discipline yourself. But they’re illegal. By the way, too, you think, oh, I said I’m sorry. Guess who keeps remembering? Right? I got a second grade teacher, I can still remember what she said to me. And I’ve been out of second grade for a long time.
I got a coach in ninth grade who said some things to me. I can still remember exactly what he said to me.
Wounds with words are powerful. There’s life and death in the power of words. Be very careful. Every one of my kids, here’s a little skill. Write down Ephesians 4:29 and write the word “memorize.”
Every one of my kids had to memorize that verse. And when they said things to one another or to one of us that were put downs, you had to put money in a jar.
And I’ll tell you what. After a while, they just realized, they realized I’m going broke doing this. But I wanted them to learn, there’s a real thing. You’re either putting money in a jar and building people up or you’re taking something out of the relationship.
Be diligent, be positive, be forgiving.
Be the first to say I’m sorry. Verse 32 says, “Be kind to one another. Be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God, for Christ’s sake, as forgiven you.” And by the way, this is the key to breaking deadlock in your marriages.
The word “forgive” literally means “to release.” Okay? You release. The reason we don’t forgive is revenge. See, you’ve got to pay for this. You hurt me, you’ve got to pay for this. I can’t forget. I can’t let it go. If I let it go, then you won’t have to pay. You know what you’ll get rid of is your ulcers.
And you say, well, he doesn’t deserve it. Do you understand what he did? You know what she did? Do you know what she said? You know how much money she spent after we talked about this? You know what? You know how…?
Yeah. You don’t forgive them because they deserve it. But forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
I give it because I got it. And when Jesus says that we’re to learn how to pray, I prayed this morning. Father, forgive me as I forgive those who’ve trespassed against me.
And then I thought of two or three names of people that I felt like had trespassed against me in maybe the last six or eight months.
And I said, I just want to remind You, Father. I want to release them and I want to pray that You bless them. Because I want You to forgive me.
There’s a little equation that goes on there, isn’t it? And so, it’s, you never can wipe the board clean and you can never start the healing process until you’re willing to let go of the past hurts.
And I know, at times, it means that’s an affair. Or that’s a squandering of money. But God has forgiven you. And you need to turn them loose and release them and treat them in the way that God has forgiven you.
And by the way, in Matthew 5, there in the Sermon on Mount, Jesus said, if you’re coming to the altar to worship and there remember your brother has something against you, He says, tell you what, you just leave your offering, your time with God and go and find your brother and make it right. Be the first to say I’m sorry.
The way we usually play the game is, “It’s ninety percent her fault. I’ll tell you what, when she comes and apologizes, we’ll get this thing straightened out.”
Well, I didn’t respond the right way. And, yeah, there was a ten percent truth. Of course, it’s, I’m an intelligent person.
And ten percent of the problem was mine. Ninety percent hers. I’ll tell you what. We haven’t talked in three days. And I’ve slept on the couch, which isn’t all that fun. She should be sleeping on the couch. But couldn’t bring myself to that.
You know what God teaches? The relationship matters more than who’s right. And go into the bedroom and wake her up and say, “You know something? Honey, I want to apologize.” And even if you only think it’s ten percent, own your part and say I’m sorry.
And isn’t it an amazing thing when the other person reality, it might have been a fifty-fifty, or a sixty-forty, or a seventy-thirty.
But isn’t it an amazing thing when another person takes the initiative and owns their part, even if it was a wrong response and asks forgiveness for that?
See, what keeps us apart is pride. And God is against the proud. It’s my rights. It’s I can’t let go. Just be the bigger person. Be the first to say I’m sorry. And what you’ll find, tremendous healing will occur in your relationship.
Well, those principles are pretty clear, aren’t they? Just right out of Scripture. Be honest, be diligent, be positive, be forgiving.
I want to give you three skills. Okay? Three quick skills. One’s a listening skill. One is a conflict resolution skill. And one is an increase your love quotient skill. All right? Are you ready?
Skill number one is what I call the conference. Tool for listening. And this is the way it works. It’s very, very, very simple.
And there’s three questions. And they’re very easy. And I sit down. I remember the first time we had this. I got this from marriage counseling. Thank you Dr. Dick Meyer.
Okay, I wish Theresa was here because we would have done this. “Theresa? What are you concerned about?” Excuse me… “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.”
I ask: What are you concerned about? I don’t interrupt. I don’t talk. I don’t solve a problem. I don’t make a comment. I can verbally “Mm-hmm. Uh-huh. Yeah.” But you just listen. What are you concerned about?
And then when I get done, she says, “Well, Chip, what are you concerned about?” And she puts tape over her mouth. Well you don’t have to actually do the tape but for some you’ll find it’s far more effective.
Because even though you’re laughing, you’ll interrupt. You will. So if this is legal in this little thing that you can say, “Excuse me, I think maybe you need this tape.” All right?
And so, question one: what are you concerned about? You pour it out. And by the way, if you haven’t done this in a long time, it might take ten, twelve minutes.
But you’re not asking questions. What are you concerned about? I’m concerned about our marriage not being where it needs to be. I’m concerned about our finances. I’m concerned about, kind of, what’s happening around the world with all these wars.
I’m concerned about our daughter. I do not like that guy she’s dating. I’m concerned about, I’m concerned about, I’m concerned about.
And then when it gets quiet, just wait. Anything else? And then you flip it.
And then the next question is, what do you desire? What do you desire? So I sit down. And again, I don’t interrupt. I get the old tape out. What do you desire, honey?
Well, I desire for us to have close-knit relationship like we used to. I desire for us to get a weekend away and really talk. I desire that you would help me with the kids with their homework because, you know what? I don’t understand math anymore and you’re good in math but you’re never around.
I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire. And it doesn’t have to be super serious. I desire we’d win the lotto and we could give most the money away but we could have some real fun for ourselves. I desire, you know? Just, whatever desire you have, just get it out.
So, question. What are you concerned about? What do you desire? You don’t interrupt one another.
And then the last question, and here’s the final rule, what are you willing to do? But there’s one rule behind the rule. You don’t have to do anything. Don’t have to do anything at all.
Otherwise, it turns into manipulation. So, when I get done, I say to her, “What are you willing to do?” She can say, “I’m willing to have another conference like this in a couple days.” Or, “I’m willing to pray for you at a deeper level.” Or, in my case, I remember it was specifically, it’s not hypothetical, “I’m willing to take over all the math homework for all the kids.”
Now, here’s what you need to understand. Most of us are in levels one, two, and three. Right? Most all the time.
In about twenty minutes, what occurs is, you share all your burdens. That’s your concerns. You know what burdens do to you? They weigh you down.
And then you share your desires. That’s kind of like, that’s wind in your sails. And what you’re really doing is you have a little time where you say, “Here’s what’s weighing me down, babe. Here’s what would put wind in my sails. I don’t expect you to do anything but now you know. If you’d like to put a little wind in my sails or if you’d like to lift off a burden, at least you’re aware but I don’t expect you to do anything.”
I’ve got to tell you, our first conference took about twenty-five minutes. I learned more about what was going on in my wife than hours and hours of talking about stuff. Because we usually talk about work and stuff and logistics.
But just have a conference. It is, we did that, we had two conferences a week probably for a decade as we were repairing and working on our marriage, to be diligent.
The second is what I call word pictures. And a lot of people have done lots of good work on this but it’s just a tool for understanding. Sometimes, we can’t get into one another’s worlds and you can’t get him to really get it. You just, you say it but he doesn’t get it or you say, “Honey, this really matters.” And no matter what you do you can’t…
Consider a word picture. And a word picture is just something that comes out of their world instead of your world that you might be able to bridge so that light would come on so they go, “Oh, I get it.”
So, I won’t go into all the details of how bad I’ve been around the house. And this, I’ve actually made lots of progress. But this was years ago. And apparently, our dishwasher, whenever it was on, the water would come under the bottom but Theresa put towels under it so I thought that was okay. And then our daughter’s room, when it rained, the water would come in and it took more than a few towels but I thought, that’s better than replacing a window.
And apparently, we had three or four appliances and four or five other things like this all around the house that I didn’t notice.
Theresa asked and asked and asked and she’s angry and she’s pushing it down. And I can’t figure out, “Well, I wonder why my wife doesn’t want to be more romantic.
And so we go through this and she says, “Chip, I really need to talk to you.” And she learned – do it at the right time at the right place.
But she told me this, for the first fifteen years of our marriage, I couldn’t hear it. And so, I was, we’re near the fireplace. I still remember this. You ever have those moments where, sort of, a turning point in your marriage? And I can remember right where I was at. And she goes, “Chip, I really want to talk to you.” I said, “You know, fine.” She goes, “No, no. You’re going to get mad. You’re really going to get mad.” “No. Surely you jest, dear. I won’t get mad.” “Will you promise?” “Okay, I won’t get mad.” “Well, then, if you don’t get mad, you’re going to get really defensive.” “Honey, I’m not going to be defensive. Would you just, just tell me?” “No. I’m really, kind of, afraid to tell you.”
And I said, “Okay. Look, will you just tell me right now and I promise I won’t be mad and I won’t be defensive.” And so she said okay. She said, “Chip, you know when we drive by the church?” And we were involved in a building program and developing a site over about a ten or twelve year period.
“And you know when you are driving by the church and the bushes are all messed up or when we walk out of a service, if songs or different things weren’t done the way you have those quick debriefing meetings and you evaluate: here’s what went well, here’s what didn’t, here’s how we need to change it or…
“Remember last week when we were driving on our date on Friday for coffee and you just saw just all this big pile of junk and you stopped and said ‘Can you take just a minute?’ And you walked into the office and you made a call to make sure that wouldn’t be there?” I said, “Well, yeah.”
I’m thinking she’s thinking about what a great husband I am who notices these things at my work.
She said, “Chip, when you notice all those things at the church and you make sure everything is right and repaired because it’s your world, I really admire you. But when you don’t even see the things that need repaired in my world, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me. Because our home, in some ways, is an extension of me.” This is like David getting it from Nathan, right?
Hey, she was telling me forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. You know, this needs fixed, that needs fixed, that needs fixed. I’m thinking, three hundred bucks, we don’t have that. Forget that. That, you know?
I want to tell you, probably in the next two and a half months, every single one of those things got fixed. Because she told me in a way that reached my heart in from my world. I just thought, Oh. I get it.
And you might have to be creative. And like Nathan made up that little story about the shepherd that had only the one little lamb. But if you can think of ways to say things that give a picture out of their world, often a light will come on.
Final thing and this is a little exercise that we’re going to run with. I call it “care list.” And it’s a tool for building.
And so, what happens is, remember I talked about the pie of life? And how you can focus on the little sliver that’s not so good and forget all the good things that you really have?
And what you really need to do is build on the good things and so those other things shrink so you get enough, kind of, positive emotions in the bank to deal with them.
A care list is list seven simple, loving, caring behaviors that are non-conflict producing and non-expensive that make you feel loved by your spouse.
So I’ve done this with lots of groups in seminars. And I get all them in together. I say, “Okay, let’s list them. Get on a white board.”
And they give me ten, twelve, fifteen things. I feel loved when my wife, and the top two are: communicates confidence in me. Man, when my wife, communicates confidence in me, I feel loved. When she shows and initiates affection, man I feel loved. And we just make a list.
And then my wife would get in the room with a bunch of ladies. So, what makes you feel loved by your husband? And ladies would say, “When he calls me from work. When he listens intently to me. When he really acts in an understanding way.”
So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take, just as we close, three, four minutes and on the part that it says “woman” if you’re a woman, I’d like you to at least put three, four, two, or three things that, when your husband does them.
Notice they’re caring behaviors, they’re non-conflict producing. In other words, like, if you’ve been arguing about a cruise for the last fifteen years, don’t put, “I feel loved when he takes me on a cruise.” Don’t do that, okay?
So non-expensive, non-conflict producing. But you feel loved when he does these things. Will you just list three or four or five things? And then, men? I want you to list three or four things that make you feel really loved.
And then this is an amazing little thing, but what you do is, ladies, when we get done, you give yours to your husband. And men, you give yours to your wife. And they don’t have to do any of them. But what I’m going to suggest is choose one of these and just do one each day. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that I can at least do one thing every day. When I do it, my wife’s going to go, “Wow, he loves me. Wow, he loves me.” And for some of you extra milers, do two a day. Right?
And what you’re going to be doing is you actually, rather than guessing, we spend so much of our energy thinking, I did that and she didn’t respond. He did that. You know?
Why not make a list and say, I really feel loved when these things happen. And then give it to the other person with ammunition to say: you are free to love me as much as you want. Right?
Christ loved so much he died for His Church. Is it too much that we would tell one another, clearly, what makes us experience love from that person? And then by a willful choice begin to do the things that communicate love.
And what you’ll find is, that sliver that bothers you will just keep shrinking. Because what you’re going to begin to do is you’re going to create an atmosphere where the deeper, more painful vulnerabilities that you will get to later, it can happen in a healthy place where you feel more secure.