Thursday, March 21, 2024

Marriage 301: Marriage is Not a Waxed Amaryllis

Just before Thanksgiving, my sweet sister-in-law, Sherri, gave me a waxed Amaryllis bulb she purchased at Trader Joes. That was my kind of a flowering plant. Other than making sure it had some good indirect lighting, I didn’t have to tend to it. I put it in the sun, and let it be. It blossomed around Christmas producing 5 gorgeous flowers. After almost two weeks, it lost those blooms. Still it sat in my window as we headed to Arizona mid-January.

From AZ, we traveled on to the Philippines, arriving home just before heading to a marriage conference where we were speaking the first of March, and when I walked into our home, I noticed my Amaryllis produced a second time with six more blooms. A pleasant surprise, indeed!

As we left on this current trip, there were two more buds ready to burst forth again.  

If only our lives were like that beautiful Amaryllis and needed no tending (though truth be told, eventually it will run out of carbohydrates stored in the wax and will have to be thrown in a compost pile).

Sometimes, I wish I could just simply go about the day, and all things “my life” would be taken care of like my spiritual growth, my friendships, my weight, the whiteness/cavity-free-ness of my teeth, my family, and my marriage. 

Yet, no matter how much I might “want,” those "wishes" will forever remain simple “wishful thinking,” unless I put feet to my desires. 

From the time of our “littleness,” most of us were taught physical disciplines. Things like the need for a certain amount of sleep, cleanliness (showers, tooth-brushing, clothes-washing, etc), exercise (ugh)… Our parents taught us these healthy habits so our bodies could keep ticking along to “old age and gray hair (Psalm 71:18).”

Over the years, the Lord’s convictions led me to spiritual disciplines. The following put feet to my desire to grow spiritually and more intimately with Jesus: morning quiet time, bible study, personal prayer time, journaling, and gratitude lists. In recent years, I’ve added the “holy habits” of lament, Lectio and Visio Divina, paying attention, and the old practice of Examen. Spending time each morning putting these things into play, keep my soul experiencing God on a personal level.

In my teen years, I learned the value of tending to friendships that required time spent together, deep conversations, good communication skills, honesty, vulnerability, and selflessness for “healthy friendships.” Oddly enough, developing these habits prepared me for dating…and, eventually became a starting place for marriage.

These are a few of the things I committed to when I said “I do,” and repeat over and over and over again each new morning.

These are the actions I walk out to “do the work” of marriage daily.

The fact is there really are marital disciplines/holy habits/daily rhythms that help our marriages to keep ticking to “old age and gray hair” (til death do us part).

Unlike my lovely Amaryllis, my marriage needs tending, and I MUST NOT let it bloom, then shrivel up, only to throw it away. 

But, there are other "disciplines" for marriages.

What are some of the other holy habits that help us keep our love fresh? 

I’ve thought about the answer to this question a significant amount, because this topic became part of the marriage retreat where we spoke recently.

What I’m giving you are some of ours, and some that belong to friends of ours - 

- you are more than welcome to borrow some of these, but... 

...only you can determine what things breathe oxygen into the fire of your marriage...

1. Intentionally speak life to one another - words of affirmation (which has to do with your spouse's character) and appreciation (a simple thank-you is more important than you may realize).

2. Regularly touch base to share Jesus together: what God is speaking into your life, to pray, and to worship together.

3. Date nights - you determine the frequency....but, sometimes couples are just too busy to carve these sweet, special times into their schedule. Your marriage will suffer all the more if you don't eliminate the busy, and simplify your lives to spend time together without the kids.

4. Monthly marriage meetings - intentionally discuss the answers to questions like: How are we doing in our marriage? What are we doing right? How can I serve you better? Here's what I think I could do better (this is a great opportunity to confess and own mistakes)...

5. SERVING ONE-ANOTHER. This is nothing more than basic thoughtfulness... I can't tell you how many times a day, my dear husband will ask: "Is there anything I can do to help?" Generally, there isn't, but the fact he cares enough to check in means the world to me!

6. Intimacy. Yes, sex. Nothing is as sacred than this gift from the Lord, nor leads to deeper connection at the soul level.

7.  Seven seems to be the magical biblical number, so let me just close with several under this number: 

  • go on adventures together (this has been huge in our marriage, and we combine it with our ministry...but life has never been dull and always keeps us on our toes, leaning into one another. 
  • eat meals at the table together
  • Sabbath together (go to church together - a non-negotiable)
  • vacation together (you'd be surprised how many couples DON'T!)
  • laugh together (I, personally, love this one...I have a tendency to be serious about life, but Bay has a way of keeping things light and fun and I love him all the more for it).
  • play, hike, kayak, ski, snow shoe, go for a walk, tennis, pickle ball...just get outside!
  • work around the house together (divide the chores and get 'er done...together).
  • board games

 I'll close with this - make a plan for moving forward with some marriage-disciplines; because unlike a waxed Amaryllis, your marriage needs tender, loving care.