Once a month I try to encourage my blog readers who are married. So I’ve asked my friends, Larry and Kathy Collard Miller, to share some insights on my blog this week about how you can begin to see growth in your marriage. Here are some of their insights from their newest book, Never Ever Be the Same, which is for anyone –single or married — who wants to see change, not the same old dysfunctional patterns that plague our lives:
How do you envision spiritual growth in your marriage?
Most of us think of it visually like a linear time line. On the left side of the line we make a step of progress and the temptation seems to be behind us and we won’t address it again. We have moved along that line to the right and we’ll only encounter new challenges—not old ones.
And we think our spouse will do the same. Once he (or she) has changed in an area, we expect that he will not struggle with it again. And when he does, we might be crushed, thinking he can never change. We might even expect that all hope is gone. We (Larry and Kathy) certainly felt that way at times.
But that’s not an accurate visual of change. Change is more like a spiral. Let’s call it a whirlpool. We’re going around and around in life and every time we reach a certain situation or person, there’s a rock, representing a sinful strategy that hits us, tempting us to behave badly. If we think there are no rocks (as if they are behind us in a time line), we’ll be surprised and unaware of their approach.
But knowing that we have the tendencies of a particular sinful strategy, we can see that rock in the whirlpool coming. Instead of being knocked around by it, we can actually chip off a piece by laying hold of God’s power and resisting the temptation. Little by little, chip by chip comes off that rock; it becomes smaller and smaller until it disappears—or grows so little that the temptation is easily resisted.
Remembering that truth can give us hope for change in our marriage. We won’t be perfectionists expecting “all or nothing” change. We can trust that God is still working even if there’s a delay or the changes are small.
Small or slow change only indicates that the whirlpool of life reveals new rocks in different places. And so, as we identify the reasons for the rock, we can more easily see the rock (the temptation) approaching.
That has certainly been true in our marriage. In the beginning, I didn’t think Larry could ever change from being insensitive and unromantic. But little by little, he has, with God’s prompting, changed into a sensitive and romantic—very romantic!—husband. It was definitely a whirlpool experience. And God has changed me in that whirlpool from being insecure in our marriage to feeling secure—but from seeking primarily God’s affirmations and approval.
As this whirlpool experience continues all our lives, we’ll also be more aware of deeper levels of sin. We think growth should eliminate our awareness of sin but it only makes it more glaring and noticeable. Pastor John MacArthur, Jr. says:
“But let me warn you that the more victory you experience as you mature in Christ, the more you will recognize sin in your life.”
So here’s the bad and good news. The bad? Challenges to change and grow in holiness are never-ending. God will work on our sanctification until the day we die. And He is certainly working on your spouse—usually more than you realize. But if you demand perfection, your eyes won’t be aware of small changes. And if you discount small changes, you’ll be negating the growth that God has given.
The good news? Growth is possible. We can be strengthened in God’s power to resist temptations more and more. But that growth will occur most effectively when we believe it’s not a time line but a whirlpool.
A challenge from Cindi: In what area of your marriage would you most like to grow? And what change in your spouse’s life would you like to praise God for? I’d love for you to leave your response in the comment section below.
Kathy Collard Miller and Larry Miller are speakers and authors. They have been married 44 years and Larry is a retired police lieutenant. The Millers live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at www.LarryAndKathy.com. Kathy blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.