The title of this post is a little deceptive. It almost makes mushrooms sound bad. I love mushrooms on pizza. Last night my hubby and I grilled steaks and had mushrooms and peppers on the side. It was delicious. The only reason I chose that title was because of the picture my daughter took of these pretty orange hued shrooms. But as I was taking a shower this morning it occurred to me that maybe there is an analogy there. Mushrooms sort of pop up where you aren't looking for them. It's the same way with things that slow growth in our marriages. You aren't looking for them and then all of the sudden, WHAM! There they are, sitting pretty in the dark places of our hearts.
Men and women are very different, as if you couldn't tell. I always find it interesting, the reality, that opposites attract. Obviously our inner workings are different; physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. But God did not intend that those differences cause division and strife. He meant them for good. My husband and I enjoy many activities together. We like the outdoors so pastimes such as camping, hiking, kayaking and fishing are things we can do together. While I am content to enjoy the scenery, my spouse wants to experience it. He would love white water rafting. I would be terrified! He would love to cross the ocean in a sail boat. I am a land lubber. At times our differences become a source of frustration and irritation. It is during these times that we have to make a concerted effort to love one another and tend the garden of our marriage with kindness and gentleness. That choice is rarely easy for this French-German girl and my Danish-Welsh hubby. In this post I would like to look at several areas that inhibit growth in our marriages.
1. Unconfessed sins and hurts. As I mentioned in my faith post on Monday, unconfessed sin keeps us from becoming the people God wants us to be. In a marriage, our own sin and the effects of it are like a tangled mess of vines. For instance, selfishness is a sin we all struggle with. We live in a society that places "self" at the peak of existence. When we struggle to meet our own needs and assert our "rights" in a marriage the result can be painful. If we look at I Corinthians 13 we quickly see that "self" has no place in love. My spouse and I have been married almost 29 years and we are only beginning to really understand love. You see when I selfishly demand my way, it hurts my spouse. Then his hurt becomes a wound which leads to a pulling away from each other, which leads to mistrust. The tangled vines become large stiff cords that are hard to separate. My sin, his hurt, but we are still one flesh. When I sin, I need to confess. If he is hurt, he needs to communicate to me clearly how I have hurt him and I need to be willing to listen.
2. Criticism and anger. I am giving this a heading of its own. While criticism and anger would clearly fall into the sin and hurt category, I believe this is a huge problem in many marriages. My spouse is a philosopher. He teaches philosophy at a local university. Logic falls under the heading of philosophy. Many men are logical thinkers. I am not saying women aren't, but I am not. It's not that I can't think logically, it's that there are way too many things going on in my brain to worry about arranging it all into neat and orderly little boxes or patterns. When we first got married, Mark would criticize many things that I did, not because he didn't love me, but because he saw a much more logical way of doing particular activities. I took his criticism to heart and felt that he didn't love me. Instead of talking to him about this I just let it simmer until KABLAM! I would lose my temper and spew all sorts of not very nice things. Whether it be men criticizing their wives or wives their husbands, there is no place for criticism in a marriage. Just as there is no place for anger. Anger might make you feel better temporarily, but it will not help the marriage grow.
3. Only pursuing our own interests. Have you ever heard this out of a married couple, "We no longer have anything in common"? I always wonder why a couple marries if they have nothing in common. I realize there are all sorts of reasons people marry and I am not here to judge why, but what I do see happen in many marriages is a pulling away from each other due to busyness and a loss of compatibility. My husband loves all the outdoors sports like fishing, hunting and more recently metal detecting. I love to read, watch movies and shop. I find that when we are busy with work, social engagements, dealing with adult children, aging parents and so on, we can easily become distanced from each other. Couples need to find activities they can do together to stay connected. You don't always have to be together, but you do need to remember who you are married to and why you married them.
4. Not leaving and cleaving. In Genesis 2:18-25 we read the story of God creating woman. His reason for doing this was to give man someone to take the place of his mother. Ha, ha. God made woman as a companion for man. Someone he could love, care for and hang out with. Often times married couples have a hard time separating themselves from their families. Mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and so on. Family is important, but what is more important is that you make your own home, your own family, your own relationship. You are married to your wife, not your wife and your mother. You are married to your husband, not your husband and your father. Sure there are characteristics in our spouses that may mirror our parents. I used to tell my husband, "I'm not going to replace your mother." Now we laugh about it, because she and I are similar in many ways! I love my in-laws dearly and they have never been interfering in any way. Only loving and helpful!
The leaving and cleaving idea can also apply to our children. Let's face it moms and grandmas, we often prioritize our kids and grandkids. Our husbands get left behind, wondering what happened to the woman they married. Where did she go? Oh yeah, she's over at the daughter's house again, watching the grandkids.
These are just a few areas that I feel inhibit growth in a marriage. Next week we will look at tools for growing and keeping the love light burning. Leave me a comment below and let me know what hindrances you see to relationships in our society today. Have a great week and try to grow sunflowers instead of mushrooms!