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Little Green Mile Markers
I am driving up the interstate highway. I am in the fast-lane and I am counting the mile markers. They are these little green signs on the side of the road that mark the miles. I don’t know what purpose they serve other than a way to pass the time while driving. I have just crossed over the state line, mile marker 1. I have about 92 more mile markers before I turn off of this road. And I am thinking about how much I hate traveling. I have lived in the same small town my entire life and know it like the back of my hand. I know every short cut and backroad. I even know the history of all the landmarks. I have lived there so long that everyone looks familiar to me because I am sure I have seen them before.
But now I am on a road that is taking me away. As I pass another mile marker, its mile marker 3 now, I am trying to decide what to say. I have this stuffed dog next to me I would find out later that barked, but for now it was just sitting there listening. Beside it was a bouquet and card I had doted over for an hour or more. I had painstakingly written out a note in it.
I feel stupid and exposed. I am taking a risk, leaving what I know for something I don’t. I don’t even know if she will like me, or if she will keep liking me once she really knows me! Now I am getting nervous, so I look at the next marker, it’s number 4.
I think the worst part of all this is not knowing. Not knowing how this whole thing will end. And I am thinking that it may not end well for me. She is all the things I am not, outgoing, loving, kind, and pretty. She is the kind of pretty that is inside and out. Everybody likes her. I am definitely not pretty and sometimes I wonder if anybody likes me. There’s another mile marker I am at number 5 now.
So I start practicing on the dog again. It just seems better than talking to myself. This time I look in the review mirror which doesn’t help anything. So I do what all good Christians do when they are desperate, I pray. I ask God to somehow make this beautiful young lady love me. Which seems like a miracle to me!
A couple of years later, I am driving the opposite way, passing the same mile markers (they go backwards the other way and I have no idea why). But this time, I am holding her hand, and we are passing them together. We are driving back to my hometown to spend the rest of our lives together. But I am not counting them this time; we are just driving past them.
I don’t know how many “mile markers” we have driven past in our love together. But it doesn’t matter what they look like or what number is on them because we are together. And being together is the only “marker” that counts.
“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.”Sam Keen, To Love and Be Loved
Love is this beautiful, fantastic power that changes everything it touches. Love is like a slow atomic bomb. It blows up your life but replaces it with something much more meaningful. People will spend a lifetime looking for love. And those who lose it will spend the rest of their life looking to get it back. Once you have fallen in love, you never really get back up. There is no cure for love, once you have it you just can’t live without it
Introduction to Prayer Mapping
I got this idea from helping my daughter with a school assignment. It’s called concept mapping, but I have adapted it as a prayer guide. This is how it works; while you are praying for your spouse, you map out the things that you need to pray for in their life, and by mapping those things out, you discover some things about your spouse that you may not have realized before. It may help you to understand those things that you need to pray for in your spouse, yourself, and your marriage.
For example, my wife is a SAHM (stay at home mom) By mapping out some of the challenges of being a SAHM I can understand how frustrating of job that can be at times. It helps you to more effectively pray for your spouse and to see things a little differently.
Six Prayers that Could End Your Marriage Problems for Good
(I Peter 3:1-6)
What is Submission?
People have really got this wrong on both sides of the argument. Some people act like the Bible is wrong or antiqued about this so they try to explain it away or avoid it altogether. Other people think it means that the husband just gets to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and the wife just has to deal with it!
Submission is an attitude in your heart. 1Pe 3:3-4, Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. It’s in the way that you respond to your husband. Even if you think he is wrong, you offer your thoughts calmly and express your willingness to accept his decision. It’s all about your attitude. If you approach him the right way, I don’t know of a man who would not listen if He is loving you as he should.
Submission is a choice. No one can make you submit, if they did it would not be Bible submission. So a man cannot force his wife to submit and expect that to fit what God wants. You choose to submit to the authority that God has given to your husband. It doesn’t mean you are less of a person. In fact, I think it takes more grace and strength to follow than to lead.
How Do You Submit?
Submission is a return. Marriage is a “give and take” relationship and sometimes it means giving more than you are taking. So you give by submitting to your husband in authority and respect. If your husband is not leading, talk to him about it and let him know that you want him to lead your home. You are both equal, but the Spirit-filled wife agrees to follow the lead of her husband as you both follow Christ.
Submission is two-way. You can find this principle in Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. So even the husband submits to the needs and wants of his wife. If the husband loves his wife as he should, he has her best interests in mind. This is the Bible model for marriage. For the husband to lovingly lead and for the wife to follow. If you are not there right now, it’s OK, you can get there with God’s help. I’m just being honest, but I don’t always lead as I should and my wife doesn’t always submit as she should but we are working on it.
There is this song that was popular when I was little but it’s still true it’s called He’s Still Working on Me:
In the mirror of His word Reflections that I see Makes me wonder why He never gave up on me But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray Remember He's the potter, I'm the clay He's still working on me To make me what I need to be It took him just a week to make the moon and stars The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars How loving and patient He must be 'Cause He's still workin' on me
(I Peter 3:7)
Become a Student of Your Spouse
Pay attention to the things that your spouse’s likes and dislikes. You cannot love them properly without understanding this. A prayer map may help you to see some of the bigger things. But I think that sometimes it’s the small things that really matter. When I go to the pharmacy for my wife they always ask me for her birthday. I asked them if they would start asking me our anniversary because it is great practice. 🙂 Remembering special moments and things that your spouse likes helps you to connect with them and to dwell with them according to knowledge.
I don’t like sweets, I just don’t get it. But my wife likes specific sweet things. She likes these candy bars called WhatcaMaCallIt and also Carmello. It brings joy to her when I remember what she likes and I get it for her. It means more to me for her to remember my favorite meal and have it ready for me when I get home from work! Or, Jalapeno beef jerky works too!
Notice and Know What Your Spouse Struggles With
Again, if you do a thoughtful prayer map I think that those things will become clear to you. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the things that you struggle with and not even acknowledge the problems and disappointments that your spouse has.
I think that both husbands and wives struggle with this but it is a particular problem for husbands. Just like submission is a particular struggle for wives. So the Bible addresses this issue to the husband.
By noticing the things that your spouse struggles with you can change some things in your life to help them. Remember that marriage is a “give and take” and sometimes you have to give more than you take. Maybe being gone all the time with work and hobbies is not the best thing for your marriage. Or bringing work home with you is not the best thing that you can do for your marriage.
Areas to Identify from Prayer Mapping
You may discover that your spouse has no interest in spiritual things. Realizing this about your spouse or yourself can help you to make adjustments in your prayer life. You should then make plans so that you can be more faithful to church, read your Bibles, or pray together. You can’t force your spouse to do these things. Faith in an individual choice that a person has to make. You especially can’t nag them into it, but you can pray and fix the problems in your own life that you can control.
Maybe your spouse is struggling with ministry responsibilities. Doing things for the Lord can be fraught with disappointments. You envision what ministry will look like for you and it rarely works out the way you envisioned it. Understanding that your spouse may be struggling with this can help you know how to pray for them.
Notice your spouse’s health conditions, whether they are physical, long-term, or emotional. Pray that God heals your spouse, but sometimes suffering is a part of His plan. My wife has been struggling with some health conditions for the past few years, I don’t pray so much for healing as I do Grace and strength. Sometimes you and your spouse have to accept some things as His will.
Notice the hobbies or personal desires that your spouse has. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in your own personal fulfillment, that you lose sight of your spouse’s. Praying for your spouse brings these things back into focus.
Consider how your spouse feels about relationships, their role with your children, and ideas about the future. Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, or longer? Chances are your spouse has ideas about this too. You may have to have a conversation to understand what those things might be for them.
Stop and think about how your spouse is thinking about what they are doing in life. Maybe staying home with the kids all the time gets a little old. They could need a break! Praying for your spouse can reveal these things to you.
Also, your spouse may want to go back to school to learn something new. Maybe to learn something they can do part-time. Or maybe they would like to do something else. You may not be able to do that something else right now, but you can better know and understand your spouse by praying this way.
(I Peter 3:7,8)
I did an entire lesson on respect a few months ago. You can find it at FixerUpperMarriage.org/respect. We spelled out the word RESPECT together and learned how to actually respect each other.
Respect the Roles of Marriage
- Husband- The husband is the spiritual head of the marriage. He is to lovingly lead and care for his wife. A spirit-filled husband will lead his wife with her best interest in mind. So, it is not an “I’m the big kahuna” attitude, but an “I love my wife” attitude. The model for this is found in Ephesians 5:25b As Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. So the husband gives his time, energy, thoughts, plans, and future to love and lead his wife.
- Wife- The wife is to lovingly follow the lead of her husband. But she must do this willingly, just like the church has to willingly follow Christ. The wife is the weaker vessel. Although I do think most men are generally stronger than women physically, (even though I have met some women I would not want to face in a dark alley) I don’t believe that is what the Bible is talking about. It means emotionally weaker with a deep desire to love and depend on her husband. So a wife can find joy by lovingly deferring to her husband. This goes against the modern ideas of our culture, but if you choose not to follow the Bible, then you are robbing yourself of great joy. It’s ok and normal to depend on your husband emotionally, financially, and physically.
So the wife is not less important than the husband, but more so because the leading of the husband is in him lovingly yielding his life for his wife.
I think there’s an element of a hierarchy type of relationship here. Where the husband is over the wife. But not the way some people are reading it. This does not mean a hierarchy in the sense of meaning, importance, or worth. Or that the wife has to just go along with everything. If a husband who rarely prays or reads his Bible tells his wife God is calling them to do something, she should question him. She has to be able to trust his leadership in order to follow. Husbands and wives have unique responsibilities to live up to.
It’s not as easy as a boss/subordinate employee relationship. So, both the husband and wife are equal, but they serve each other in two completely different ways. The husband’s job is the lovingly lead, while the wife’s job is to lovingly follow.
The husband respects his wife by treating her as a vessel that he needs to honor and care for. While the wife respects her husband by treating him as the head. It’s all about the way you treat each other in the relationship. So the husband should feel respected and loved while the wife should feel loved and cared for. Your actions are important, but you respect your spouse by the way you make them feel. So it’s not so much what you do, as in how you are interacting with your spouse.
Are you making your wife feel honored? A husband may say, “I bought you flowers!” or “I told you I love you!”. But are you making her feel honored? I can’t control how my wife feels, but I can do things, say things, or touch her in gentle ways that can illustrate my honor towards her. I can make her feel honored and special.
Are you making your husband feel respected? A wife may say, “I washed your dirty underwear!” or “I made you supper!” But are you making him feel respected? You can’t control how your husband feels, but you can say things, do things, or treat him in certain ways that illustrate your respect toward him.
Respect and honor are things that are quantified by the recipient. Your goal should be to make your spouse feel respected and honored. Should a wife be respected? Of course. Should a husband be honored? Of course. But the Bible addresses these specifically to husband or wife because He created certain primal needs into thy genders.
Respect the Responsibilities in Marriage
As a Christian, you have this unique relationship where you are not only husband and wife, but also heirs together of the grace of life. If you have Jesus in your hearts, you are both children of God. You are brother and sister in Christ. So there is the principle of treating each other as equal heirs of spiritual things.
The ONE thing I want more than anything else is to not be ashamed when I see Jesus face to face. I want to hear Him say “well done”! And I want my wife to hear those same words. So I have to pray for her every day that God will help her to live a victorious life. I have to help her in any way that I can so that she can hear those words too.
So marriage is not just about what you do or say right now, but about how what you do will impact what happens in eternity. Living together and interacting with each other is an opportunity to have something meaningful when you face Jesus. To be able to look Him in the eyes and know that you did what you could to show honor and respect to your spouse.
(I Peter 3:7,8)
OK, this is where prayer mapping really comes into play. When you layout all the things that your spouse may be struggling with, it helps you to see all the things they are facing and even how they may be feeling. This helps you fulfill the Bible instructions to be of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.
Marriage is Serving
When you read in the Bible about marriage, it’s easy to see the gaps in your spouse. Especially when you look at all the legitimate needs that you have, that your spouse is not meeting. But, unfortunately, the Bible is not framed that way. Instead, the Bible addresses the husband and the wife as to what they should each do, not what the other is not doing. So the instructions of the Bible are meant to guide you as to what you should be doing.
In other words, Bible instructions are about what YOU are not doing, not anyone else. The husband is to lovingly honor and lead his wife. (period) And the wife is to lovingly respect and follow her husband. (period) Marriage is an opportunity to serve your spouse. Serving is not doing things to get other things in return. So if you do something for your spouse there is the expectation that you will get something back from them. That is not serving. What happens when they don’t return the favor?
But what about my needs?
The better question is, who should I be depending on to meet my needs?
II Corinthians 3:5-6 says, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
You work to serve the needs of your spouse and depend on God to meet yours. That is hard. So instead of depending on your spouse, you depend on Christ. Marriage is not about your needs. Although those needs may have led you to get married in the first place. Those needs make you vulnerable to your spouse, but being vulnerable is really what the commitment of marriage is all about. My spouse could leave me, my spouse could hurt me, or my spouse could refuse to meet the needs that I have. But I am committed to serving her as I serve Christ and depending on Him to meet my needs. This requires faith.
There is this illustration of faith being like sky-diving. For some time after you jump out of the plane, you are just falling with nothing until the parachute comes out. Depending on Christ is that way too, there are times when it seems like you are just falling, but at just the right time, Jesus is there to catch you.
It’s easy to blame your spouse, or to leave when things get hard, but God wants you to serve your spouse and depend on Him. And really, by serving your spouse in this way you are serving the Lord.
The Complete Picture
There are times in marriage when you are just ministering to your spouse and depending on God. But if you both can get on the same page or of one mind as the Bible puts it, then you have a marriage that works the way that God intended. You both should be living by the following Bible guidelines:
- Have compassion towards each other.
- Love and treat each other as worthy because of your value to Christ. (Love as brethren)
- Treat each other with sympathy. (be pitiful)
- Be kind to each other. (be courteous)
These all seem like simple things to do, but living with each other everyday creates conflict and challenges. So you have to pray and depend on God to help you with these things. But if you are both on the same page, your marriage problems are really not problems at all. Now you can serve God together and live the principle of two lives becoming one. This is illustrated in the words of Ecclesiastes 4:9, Two are better than one.
I Peter 3:9-11
Respond with Understanding
Creating a Prayer Map for your spouse can help you to better understand what is going on in your spouse’s heart and mind. You can’t read your spouse’s mind, but taking the time to think about what they are going through can help you when conflict happens.
For instance, if through prayer mapping you notice that your spouse has some specific health problems, that could be why they are snapping at you. So if they are in pain, no wonder they are a little moody.
Or if you know that they are having some frustrations with their job, then maybe you could understand why they are a little preoccupied. This is not meant to give you an excuse to do wrong, but for you to understand what your spouse may be going through.
You Don’t Have to Come Back at Your Spouse
This has been a common marriage problem for about 6000 years! So the Bible addresses it directly, Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing. You don’t have to have a come-back for everything your spouse says to you, you can just take it. Honestly, when someone you love says something hurtful, a lot of times there is some truth to it. And words really only have the power that you let them have over you.
Some people have the philosophy that you should come back at someone the same way they come at you. That does not come from the Bible. You can be firm with someone without being ugly. So yes, you should stand up for yourself, and you don’t have to accept verbal abuse. But you don’t have to get down into the mud with your spouse to try to win an argument.
Newsflash! Nobody wins an argument in marriage. When you fight EVERYBODY loses.
Tips for Surviving a Lover’s Spat
- Don’t talk about it until you calm down. After some reflection and prayer or prayer mapping, you may realize that there is some truth in what your spouse said, or that there is no truth at all in and you can just dismiss the whole thing. Maybe, once you calm down, you can discuss how you and your spouse are feeling in a constructive way. So instead of tearing each down, you’re building each other up. Which is what the Bible says to do in I Peter 3, but contrariwise blessing
- Understand that the spat may not be what the spat is really about. Sometimes fighting in marriage is a superficial response to a deeper problem. So you don’t rail for rail because the railing may not be what the problem is really about. If you are not working towards making your husband feel respected or to make your wife feel honored and special that could be the real problem. When your wife rails about you leaving things sitting around, the real problem may be that you never show appreciation for what she does. If your husband is biting your head off or ignoring you, when is the last time you went out of your way to meet a need for him in a respectful way.
- Instead of getting even, try being a blessing instead. Ok, so instead of evil for evil or railing for railing, try returning pity for evil or try being courteous for railing. This is what the Bible teaches that you should consider a contrariwise blessing. Being good and kind when you are dealing with your spouse will yield a better result in eternity. This means that you have to set aside your pride and die to your own feelings. So you pull out some paper and write out a prayer map for your spouse. And then you pray for them. I promise you will see things differently. Praying for someone changes your attitude toward them.
- Remember that your blessing comes from someone else. The Bible words it like this. Knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. As a Christian, you have the promise of spiritual blessings now and eternal ones in Heaven. So here it is, an earth-shattering truth, the thing you are arguing about is probably not that big of a deal.
Be Careful with Your Words
My mother always told me that if I couldn’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. So once you are calm, you can deal with things with words without hidden meanings (guile) or ill intent, injurious, or evil. Think before you speak, words can hurt people. It’s like the old saying, sticks, and stones may hurt my bones but words will not hurt me. Even though you don’t have to let someone’s words have power over you, people have this tendency to let words have power them anyway. And you should not be the one doling out hurtful words especially to your spouse.
When you have been together for a while, you get comfortable, and you feel secure in your marriage, it is easy to take that security for granted. What happens is, you think in your mind that you can get away with mistreating your spouse, because after all, you’re married for life, right. This is bad logic for marriage. I addressed this in an episode entitled Why is Love so Messy? Actually that feeling of complacency and security is not really true, and it can hurt your marriage. You start to think that you can just treat your spouse anyway you want and they will just keep taking it. Or will they?
So it’s possible you can win the battle of words but lose your marriage. On June 17th, 1775 British forces engaged the Colonial Army during the American Revolution in Bunker Hill, Massachusetts. It would become known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. They fought for control of this strategic location. The colonists eventually ran out of ammunition and the British won the battle, but they lost 1000 men, 100 of them officers. The battle left the British forces depleted and demoralized. This became a turning point in the war and it rallied the Colonial Army to an eventual victory in the war. So the ancient military idiom proved true, You can win a battle but lose the war.
Actively Seek Peace
Instead of trying to “win” against your spouse. Try striving for peace instead. Instead of fighting, learn how to pray for them instead. You don’t have to do a prayer map like mine, but spend a set amount of time every day praying for your spouse. That’s what being a Christian is all about, seeking peace with other people. And seeking peace with someone much bigger than you both. There is this Peace with God that can only come through faith in the shed blood of Jesus.
I Peter 3:12
God paints this contrasting picture of two people. You can choose to be either. There is the person who chooses to do good and pray for their spouse. Then there’s the person who chooses to do evil toward their spouse.
|Choosing to Do Good||Choosing to Do Evil|
|Engages in prayer for each other||Engages in fighting and arguing|
|Speaks constructive words||Uses words that tear down|
|Depends on God to meet needs||Bemoans spouse not meeting needs|
|Actively serves one another||Complains about spouse not serving them|
|Submits to their Bible role in marriage||Fights for their rights and their own power|
|Focuses on eternity||Focused on what they don’t have now|
When you are dealing with your spouse it’s sometimes easy to miss what the real stakes involved are. God not only draws this contrast of your choices within the marriage relationship but He also draws the contrast of His attitude toward you depending on the choices you make.
His eyes are over the righteous. He hears them pray. But His face is against them that do evil. from I Peter 3
|If You Choose to Do Good||If You Choose to Do Evil|
|He is watching over you||He is against you|
|He hears you pray||He doesn’t hear you when you pray|
|You can have an unhindered relationship with Him||You can’t have a right relationship with HIm|
|You can have a good relationship with your spouse||You hurt your relationship with your spouse|
- Little Green Mile Markers
- Spiritual Enlightenment
Podcast music by Dan Lebowitz