“God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.” (Max Lucado).

If you go into marriage with the idea that my spouse needs to love me “just the way I am,” you will be in for some surprises. Sure he/she loves you for who you are, and he is willing to live with the “good, bad and ugly” because that is what love does: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

But, part of the implied marriage contract is the necessity of husband and wife to grow up together to become “one flesh.” To do so means to discover what are my weak areas that need to become stronger, what are my bad habits that need to change, and what are the sins I need to rid from my life. “I will love you for a lifetime,” should not be a life sentence that I have to put up with your bad behaviors forever, and you have to put up with mine.

Change is never easy, yet it can be very rewarding and satisfying, leading to the good things in life. There is a simple rule to determine if your behavior is good or bad and that is to look at the fruit it produces. Are you happy and satisfied in life? Are you productive and successful at your role in marriage and the set of tasks you must accomplish each day? Is your heart full of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, hope and faith? Is your spouse happy with you or are you constantly arguing and fighting?

You may say to me, “Of course not! That husband/wife God gave me drives me crazy with all their bad behaviors. If God would just get ahold of their lives and change them, my life could be filled with the fruit of the Spirit!”

As many of you know, I had a difficult marriage for the first 20 years. In many ways, it was average, probably normal, compared to what we see with many couples with arguing and disagreements as the norm. But there were areas of connection, especially over our mutual love for the Lord Jesus and the joy of our children. But the strife in our marriage kept us from being able to have an abiding love that comes from a one flesh, united marriage.

I came to the realization that no matter how plainly, gently, and lovingly I would present my side of the argument for her change, she was locked into her way of thinking. Somehow, I had to get past the woman I thought I had married, back to the hurt little girl who was protecting herself from me with various forms of being standoffish, controlling, and disrespectful with her quips. How could I get her to clearly see that her behaviors stemmed from a need to be right, and a need to protect herself from the man she chose to be her lover for life?

If your life and marriage are not going the way you think they should, then the place to begin is to look in the mirror. Yes, I went to God at times asking the Lord to please change my wife and over time, I kept sensing God’s response: “Yes, Ken, I understand very well what you are going through. You treat me the way your wife treats you.”

This took some time to sink in to understand exactly what I believe the Lord was asking of me. He was asking me to first change Ken, and my relationship with Him. To look in the mirror and work on me; my lack of consistency in the Word, my lack of discipline in some areas of life and marriage, and my unkind behaviors towards my wife when she frustrated me.

I began the process by going to her and asking if she would cuddle with me so that I could confess to her my sins. What I thought might take an hour turned into four hours, and then we picked it up again for a number of days. Confession is good for the soul, and I felt great once I got everything out in the open and to my surprise, I discovered a very understanding wife. She was very happy to get me to acknowledge what she had felt for a long time, that I was the problem.
I will save the rest of this story for other posts, as many of you know that it was not long thereafter that Lori transformed into the wife of my dreams. But the point I want to hit home with on this post is that when it comes to marriage, we each need to look at our own lives honestly and decide to rid ourselves of those sins that have entangled us, keeping us from a true and abiding intimacy with our spouse. The best mirror for your behaviors is your spouse as they may see you more clearly than you see yourself.

Go to your spouse today and ask them to cuddle with you because you want to be able to see your own faults and sins clearly. Don’t promise any changes, just talk and listen with a new desire to understand what it is that you may need to change. By uprooting the lies you have been telling yourself to protect self and bad behaviors, and by planting the truth about yourself and the truth of God’s Word into the garden of your mind, this will cause to spring up the fruit of the Spirit over time.

If you are unwilling or unable to see the truth about yourself, you will not change because changed behaviors require a change in thinking. Truth must reign over the lies we tell ourselves. Love, joy, peace, and patience must be the foundation of our home, and you must be the first one to change so that your spouse can see it, and want it for him/her self.

There is great joy in living at peace with your spouse, knowing that you are both on the same page of “doing all things Christian in your home.” Join us on this journey as a walk in the Spirit and truth just as Jesus has called us to do. Always keep in mind that when you go to God and say “that spouse you gave me…” God is telling you “Yes, and I gave them for your good to grow you up to be like my Son Jesus.” Let us allow God to use the adversity and trials in our lives to make us into true Christians, the sons and daughters of God.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-3

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