Phat and I recently attended a marriage conference: The Intimate Mystery. Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart, was the speaker for the three sessions. Allender speaks in a conversational style, yet each word carries such depth of meaning. As closely as I paid attention, I knew I would need the accompanying book to remember all he covered.
Last night I read this:
“A marriage is only as good as a couple’s ability to fight. A husband and wife who fail to fight are not alive and honest. Every now and then an older man or woman tells me they have been married for fifty or more years and have never spoken a cross word or had an unpleasant discussion. I don’t believe a word they’ve said, though I don’t doubt their sincerity.
Somewhere in the marriage a decision was made to be pleasant and avoid conflict at all costs. It isn’t that unpleasant conversations or cross words didn’t occur, they simply remained subvocal, hidden under the surface. To claim there was never a failure of love — of omission and commission — is tantamount to saying they’ve never sinned. Such a lie is blasphemous.
The fact is we will sin against each other, inevitably. The result of any failure will be hurt and division. It is crucial for us to grapple with the one sure need of every marriage: forgiveness. The process of asking and gifting forgiveness has to do with speech — or how we dialogue when we are hurt. Therefore the command to “weave” or to join together has to do with how we communicate, especially in moments of conflict that will likely require one or both to seek forgiveness.”
These paragraphs brought to mind an earlier time in our marriage. Phat and I had been married for three years and were at the start of our time in seminary. We had gone to dinner with another couple, friends we knew in college when we were all single. After much discussion about being married, we tried to explain that we never fight, feeling rather proud of the fact. The response: laughter…in our faces…laughter!
Well, needless to say, we were indignant that they wouldn’t believe us. The comment was made that we obviously were not sharing our true feelings. Yet, we felt we were being kind and gentle with one another…that was our desire. But were we being real?
The Smiths (let’s call them) were quick to admit their ability to fight. It seemed so unspiritual to us, and not at all what God would want in our marriage. And, we may not have been entirely wrong, considering The Smiths did not last much longer. However, now I see that we were living at two extremes. As Allender puts it, The Phats had chosen to live in the DMZ (demiliatarized zone) while The Smiths chose the gory grounds of warfare.
Fighting fair. Can it be done?
Allender moves on to explain “good” vs. “bad” talk, and what is “redeeming” talk:
Good talk explores reality.
Good talk honors differences.
Good talk pursues intimate truth.
Bad talk hides.
Bad talk blames.
Bad talk distorts.
Redeeming talk, however, acknowledges that God is an intimate player in our moment.
Do you recognize that God is in the midst of all your communication?
Do you fight?
Do you fight fair?
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not give the devil an opportunity.