Monday, January 20, 2014
5 Ways to Come to the Middle
In marriage, Josh and I work to find our middle. After we've used our words or actions as weapons against one another, we come together and work towards our middle. It's that place where we lay our arrows down and grasp hands. It's the place of humbleness and forgiveness. We find it when we lean in deeper to the other and lean out further from ourselves.
But, sometimes the middle is murky. It's filled with the yuk of all the dark and deep places that have been dug in and pitted out in the battle. It's messy and hard. Sometimes, we try and try again to find that place, but it seems elusive.
When we struggle to find that middle, my words easily become more heated and sharp. And, he, like any worn solider, finds it easier to retreat, than fight. There were some days during the last month or so, that it seemed simpler to stay on our sides than come together. Perhaps it is because we've been ushered into a new season, and the transition means that we brush up against one another almost all day long. Sometimes, for us (since we are both introverts), too much togetherness means that we aren't getting recharging time. We love being with one another, but too much of it is usually kindling for arguments (usually petty ones!) and just rubbing each other the wrong way.
For a few days, it seemed that we could not even have a conversation that ended nicely, and we were both frustrated about it. We were tired of hustling past one another, saying words, and hoping that we didn't ruffle those pesky feathers. We were tired of the sharp words, hurtful looks, passivity, sarcasm, and just ugliness that seemed to be more abundant than kindness, forgiveness, grace, and loving words.
But. We didn't let the ugliness win, and I'm thankful that we worked through all that gunk and could come to the middle. I'm thankful for a husband who is willing to wade through it all with me and work towards having not only a good marriage, but one that is full of life, sweetness, and grace. I know that we'll repeat the process over and over again during the lifespan of our marriage, but I am grateful that we both care about cultivating a healthy marriage.
I thought I'd share some of the ways that we work through it. I'm definitely not a marriage expect (ha!), but maybe some of these tips could help you and your significant other come to the middle after an ugly battle:
1. Keep fighting for the middle. I don't mean "keep fighting." I mean, don't give up. Don't start believing that finding peace, reconciliation, and grace after sin has reared it's ugly head in your marriage is impossible. It's not. Fight for it. Practically, for me, this means that I don't close the door on the issue even when it seems easier--even when I know that talking about it might be painful or hard.
2. Let your emotions out, but give them boundaries. Often, I tend to bottle up how I feel and then, at some point, it just comes roaring out. There were a few nights this past month that I was a heaping puddle of tears and just feeling bad about myself and for myself. And if I'm not careful, those emotions just become more fodder for my selfish acts and rights. Instead, I am working on letting myself feel those emotions, but instead of letting them run rampant on my spirit, I am corralling them in and asking myself the hard questions. Is what I am feeling truth? What does God say about these things? Why am I responding in these ways? Is there sin that I need to deal with? How can I kindly speak to my husband about what I feel?
3. Let God's word do its work. Honestly, there is nothing more convicting than scripture that speaks about words (at least for me!) I have some verses that I have been focusing on lately that definitely come to mind when I am busy trying to find the meanest thing to say (ps. 16:24, proverbs 18:21, Romans 14:19-21--the message version is especially convicting!, and a few others). When those verses come to mind, the Spirit gently corrects me and I find it easier to speak in love to my husband than to speak with ugliness.
4. Give space. Sometimes you need to walk away from each other and the issue and let it be. Space often brings perspective, and along with perspective, grace too. Many times, I just need some time to let my spirit simmer down and limit my emotions from ruling my actions. But, it's important that space doesn't just end in complacency. Make time to come back to the issue, when you've both shaken off some attitude, and talk kindly about it. For us, space from each other and the issue has many times been all we needed and, once we both had time to think and process, finding the middle is simple.
5. Be the first. Sometimes we can't find the middle because we are both too stubborn to make the first move towards it. We are too busy defending our side and being right. At least I am (not fun to admit!) However, this is not the way I want to continue walking. I am praying for more grace and more kindness toward Josh--even when I feel he doesn't deserve it (um, isn't that the definition of grace?) And I know that he does the same for me. We always have the choice to step forward and stop defending our side. We always have the choice to be the first to come towards the middle.
Those are some practical ways that we use to help us come to the middle and work towards having a healthy and God-honoring marriage.
I hope that I didn't scare any of you by admitting that I don't have the world's perfect marriage, and I definitely have lots of places to grow as a wife. But, for me, there is so much good and love in our marriage and I won't trade it for anything--that's why I believe it is important to come to the middle. That's why we believe in fighting for a marriage that isn't stagnant and "just there." We want a marriage that is growing, developing, and thriving--even if it is hard sometimes.
I'd love to hear the ways that you and your significant other come to the middle? I can always use more tips!