I darted out the door for a 10 PM run a few evenings ago after Edric and I had a conflict. The cause of our dissension isn’t worth mentioning because it was, once again, something silly and trivial. It reached a climactic point when I declared in my exasperation while riding in the car beside him, “This is irritating, you are so irritating. Why are you making a big deal out of this?!”
In all my marriage, I have never insulted Edric this way. We teach about expressing frustration with “I feel” statements but I did exactly what we tell couples not to do — I criticized him.
Edric restrained his anger and kept silent. We were nearing the bend that turns into our home but the chilly air between us stretched the time to an eternal minute.
Where did I go wrong? Not too long before this, we were enjoying the company of friends, engaged in lively discussion, and exchanging spiritual insights. What a contrast to the oppressive atmosphere that put miles between us. I looked out the window, consumed by my ugly thoughts, stewing in a toxic mix of rage and apathy.
After writing an article entitled, Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences, there I was thinking, I am tired of this. We just don’t get each other. I need to run this off.
As soon as I got home, I changed, grabbed my running shoes and snuck out the front door. If Edric had seen me, he might have dissuaded me because it was late in the evening. Guiltily, I tiptoed out, leaving the door unlocked so I could slip back in unnoticed. Yes, I know, I was in bad spiritual shape! Criticizing my husband and then sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teen! My, my!
Even if my motivation was to get away from Edric to process my feelings, the run afforded me something better…time to pray. I soon discovered what is consistently true about prayer and conflict. It is impossible to pray and stay mad at your spouse!
As I communed with God, a strong conviction rose in my heart to humble myself. I didn’t want to give in to the prodding but how could I keep praying without recognizing my wretchedness and wrong? In the presence of a holy God, my sinfulness was made obvious.
God reminded me that it didn’t matter that there were actions or words spoken by Edric that hurt me. There was no excuse for my own behavior and response. These things were within my control. He asked me to initiate an apology, to go up to Edric after my run and sincerely ask for his forgiveness.
Prayer has a way of recalibrating my heart and mind so that my attention is drawn towards the Lord and away from my carnal perspective. This is one of the reasons why I am convinced that prayer is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival and a healthy marriage. God reveals to me so many areas I need to change to become more Christ-like when I pray.
On the one hand, there is His Word and the support of friends and family who tell me when I am not living out His principles. But when I pray, God ministers to me in an intimate way.
God showed me once again that my thoughts, words, and actions are emblematic of my theology. When I resist being submissive or respectful to Edric, the real problem is my relationship with God, not Edric. Sure, Edric may have areas of improvement and he would say the same about me for sure. But the bigger issue is I don’t trust that God has my best interests at heart. I start thinking of his principles for marriage as unfair and unrealistic. My focus is no longer following God’s and pleasing Him, but giving in to the dictates of my emotions.
When I got home I found Edric sitting in the family room unwinding in front of his laptop. He didn’t realize I had been gone for the last thirty minutes. I meekly approached him asking, “Will you forgive me for disrespecting you, for saying that I was so irritated, and for being so angry? I am so sorry.”
The next day, Edric also asked for my forgiveness for being selfish and self-focused and all was well between us again.
Very often, I think of how prayer can change circumstances and people around me. But God is teaching me that prayer changes me most of all. Whenever I come before God, he reveals to me a sin I have to confess, a command I have to obey, a word of encouragement, an insight from His truth, the assurance of His presence, or the hope I need to keep pursuing His will. When I don’t pray, I become vulnerable to the schemes of the evil one who darkens my thinking with untruth.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, anticipating his impending death on the cross, the told them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NASB) He knew what challenges lay ahead of them in the days to come, how their faith would be shaken like never before. Clueless, the disciples didn’t listen but fell asleep!
Many times in my own marriage, I know that I am supposed to commit my relationship to Edric to the Lord by praying regularly and vigilantly. However, I’m not as intentional about it as I should be. Sometimes, I fall asleep in the spiritual sense, forgetting that every marriage is under continual threat from the divisive maneuverings of the evil one who wants to destroy marriages and tear spouses apart. The spiritual battle is real.
Last week, our church held a five day prayer and fasting time which did wonders for my relationship with Edric. Being in the spirit of prayer made a huge difference, not just for me but for Edric as we came together to pray each night of our fast.
Prayer put a spiritual shield around our marriage. Edric was especially patient and understanding towards me, and I found myself better able to receive correction and deal with issues between us with a gentle and quiet spirit. MIRACLE! What an affirmation to the power of praying to the Lord!
Experiencing this victory affirmed why I need to make prayer a habit in my life and marriage. As authors and speakers Craig and Amy Groeschel put it, “Seek the One with your two.” Translated: Seek God with your spouse by coming together in prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated…pray during meal times, pray about shared concerns, and pray for each other.
I began with the title, “It’s impossible to pray and stay upset at your spouse,” but the more positive perspective is, “It’s possible to keep loving your spouse when you are committed to praying to the Lord about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.”