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You build your strongest and deepest relationships upon trust, which is why you love God so much. Trust is why you share with Him your deepest and darkest thoughts. He will never condemn you. (See Romans 8:1)
And, this is why you are okay with His corrective care when you sin–you know He loves you (Hebrews 12:6). His corrections flow out of His unending and unstoppable love for you. This kind of love gives Him an all-access pass into your life. He is the unique and perfect example to follow when it comes to relationship making, the person you want to emulate.
It took me a while to understand this when it came to our marriage because I did not fully realize the importance of the “for us clause” in the gospel. In Romans 8:31 Paul asked, “If God is for us, who could be against us?” Then he went on to explain what being “for us” meant as he doxologized about the gospel.
He, who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:32
Do you see what Paul did?
He connected how the Lord is for you to a practical outworking of the gospel. He said the Lord was for you, and he proved his point by reminding you that He sent His one and only Son to die on a cross to save you.
If a person is willing to die for your life, you can rest assured he is for you–He loves you with an inexhaustible love (John 15:13). And if he is for you to that degree, you know he can be trusted–the essential requirement to release your vulnerable soul to another person fully.
This kind of gospel connection to your everyday life is not what I was demonstrating to my wife at the beginning of our marriage. Though I was not a tyrant, and though we had many great times together, I was not fully and practically in-tune with what it meant to be a gospelized man.
Yes, I was for her in the sense that nobody else could mess with her, but I was not for her in the way the Lord is for me. This gospel lack in my life was enough to give her pause when it came to sharing her innermost thoughts and struggles with me.
What I am saying is I was not trustworthy to the degree I needed to be to release her from fear, while inviting her to share with me in an open and vulnerable way. I had left just enough questions in her mind to make her wary of letting me into her world fully.
When we were dating, there was hardly a thing we did not discuss. It was open season on our conversations, and all doors flung wide open as we shared our dreams as well as our fears.
The love flowed in those early days of dating. We had not known each other long enough to become disappointed or discouraged with each other. Sin was present, but it had not affected us enough to shut us down relationally.
That came later.
After we tied the knot and entered into a 24/7 relationship, the doctrine of sin began to become more of an issue. We were ignorant; we were two young people in love with no sin plan.
Because we could not get away from each other, we could no longer keep our sinful ways masked from each other. And not being trained in how to wage war biblically, we waged war according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3). I’ve listed a few of our first fighting characteristics–some of the tools that made up our poor fighting techniques.
|Condemnation||Guilt||Grumbling||Accusing||Lack of Confession|
Any of these characteristics will create distance in a relationship, with no possibility of having biblical koinonia. And to further complicate matters was my unwillingness to own the crimes I committed in the marriage.
That is where we were.
On the surface, we went to church. We did ministry things. We prayed and read our Bibles every day. We were religious people in the proper sense of that word. But there was a distance between us.
We both had independent relationships with the Lord–relationships that did not intersect with each other. It is possible we could have made it to the end of our lives and still be together, still be in church, and still doing ministry things in some way, shape, or form.
I do not think those external activities would have changed a lot, even though our spiritual lives were like two ships passing in the night. There was no connection at the deepest and richest parts of our lives.
How sad when you are not able to share your most treasured experience with the person you married: The Lord is an amazing gift, but not mutually enjoyed. Like a couple sitting in bed, playing video games on their own devices with people around the world, but not playing with each other.
I shared my experience with God with others, and Lucia shared her experience with God with others, but we did not have a shared experience with God with each other.
The depth of our “God-talk” with each other was to talk about churchy things and churchy people. We could not connect at the soul level. When it came to each other, we lived happily on the outside, but spiritually lonely on the inside.
Initially, I was offended that she would have spiritually intimate relationships with other people, but as the Lord began to open my eyes, I began to see how I had set the tone for that kind of environment in our home.
She did not shut down like that at the beginning of our relationship. She was open with me and longed for me to lead her into more openness. Of course, I had no clue about such matters, so when she disappointed me, I responded with various forms of anger, i.e., harsh words, silent treatment, accusation.
The Anger Spectrum
I did not realize how my insensitivity was perpetuating a darkness in our home. Each unkind word was like a paper cut on her heart. Rather than owning my unkindness, I continued to wax on with my eye-for-an-eye responses to her (Matthew 7:3-5, 5:38-48).
Most Christian women want to be loved and led well (1 Peter 3:7). They want to be vulnerable (Ephesians 5:29). I have described it to many couples like a person walking up to you with their heart in their hands, reaching it out to give to you.
Imagine standing there with another person’s beating heart in your hands. That is the fragility we live before the Lord–knowing He could stomp us out in a moment. Still yet, we are willing to come before Him in that kind of vulnerability because we trust Him.
A wife will never do that with her husband if he has a proven track record of not being trusted with the high honor of stewarding her heart. That is what finally dawned on me. That is what I began to own.
I had not created an environment of grace in our marriage. We were physically intimate. We loved each other. We continued to do a lot of fun things together, but there was a “no trespassing” sign on her heart, and I was the one who put it there.
Biblical fellowship is sharing with another human your deepest and richest relationship, which is your relationship with God. There are two parts to that relationship—a good and bad side, or a light and dark side.
There are positive aspects in your life where you are appropriating the Lord’s grace and living in the strength of His victory through the resurrection. Then there are other areas in your life where you have not appropriated the Lord’s grace, and you are struggling.
Biblical fellowship with another human being is when both people can share both sides of their experience with the Lord—the good and the bad side. The key to living in this kind of fellowship is trust: Can I trust you to steward my deepest vulnerabilities?
It became apparent to me that if I wanted to get into the deepest part of Lucia’s soul, I needed to lead her by being vulnerable to her. I needed to step up to the plate and lead her in biblical koinonia, rather than waiting for her to lead me.
It was time to let her in on my dirty little secret: I was a failure as a husband. The irony is that she was well-aware of my dirty little secret. The bigger obstacle was my unwillingness to own my failure, which only affirmed to her that I could not be trusted.
If a man is a thief, but will not own his thievery, you know you cannot trust him. It is one thing to steal, but to steal and not own your stealing makes you a person that others will have to be doubly cautious with when engaging.
A person who will not own his sin has trustworthy issues, not to mention integrity, honesty, transparency, deception, self-righteousness, controlling, and discernment problems. Shall I go on with more reasons that caused Lucia pause in her soul when it came to opening up to me?
As the leader of my home, it was my call as to whether I was going to make the first move. It was my overbearingness that put her on her heels, and it would be the empowering grace of God working through humility that would begin to build the faith she needed to trust me again.
In the past, I would wait for her to open up and own her sin. In those moments, I could fake humility while feeling smug, self-righteous, and grateful that she agreed with me. Think about how punishing that had to feel to her.
I honestly wanted Lucia to share with me her deepest thoughts. I did not want her only to find safety with others. It took me the longest time to realize if that is what I wanted, I needed to lead her into it.
Getting her to open up was not going to happen by verbally beating it out of her. Manipulating her through well-thought-out arguments, as though communication was a competitive event, was not going to work either.
And as for critique and shame?
Forget about it.
The radicality of the gospel cuts against the grain of prideful men. Here are a few examples that speak to that radicality:
If koinonia is the goal, open the door of your heart and invite her to your authentic self. Give her a tour. Do a walk-through, articulating your failures, fears, and weaknesses. Let her see and experience your vulnerability.
Here are five questions you can share with your wife–a suggestive way for you to consider how to approach this type of communication in your marriage. If this kind of communication has not been the norm for you guys, you may want to preface the questions with the following:
Honey, if you ultimately knew I would not defend myself in any way or retaliate in any way, how would you respond to the following things?
You are completely free to answer in any way you want to, and I will not defend myself, correct you, or try to manipulate you to my way of thinking.
I also will not bring this conversation up in the future in a punitive way. My hope is for you to experience the grace of God in your life, so it will release you to help me in areas where I have failed.
Do not say that if you don’t mean it. The words are not a technique. If you have a change of heart and your words are true, here are a few biblical fellowship starter questions as you share your thoughts about yourself with your wife while drawing her out to give input.