This month, I’m including an article from my husband’s web site, Intermin.org. Agreement is the strength of any marriage. I hope you will be blessed.
“We had this bicycle,” the lady said. “It was built for two people to ride together. What problems that bicycle caused us!”
“How so?” I asked?
“Well, my husband would ride behind me, on the back seat. I always rode in the front seat and steered. But he wouldn’t peddle! He just let me do all the work. When I applied the brake, then he would start peddling!”
Now, this husband worked against his wife only to tease her, but in many marriages the husband and wife fight against each other over much more serious issues. Rather than making a joint effort towards a common goal, they end up battling for their rights. Each of them has an individual goal and tries to make their spouse go in their direction, at their pace. Marriage becomes a struggle rather than a partnership.
The one thing you need to ride a bicycle-built-for-two is agreement. Without it, the thing just won’t work. Two may ride on it, but if they don’t work together, they won’t go anywhere. Worse, they will suffer many crashes and many frustrations.
Just like that tandem bike, every marriage takes two partners working together. That makes all the difference. With agreement we develop marital coordination. Without it, we develop marital confusion.
Our son, Matt, grew up watching his mom and I work together in the kitchen. “It’s like a dance,” he told us one evening. Matt saw our teamwork for what it was: a dance of love. We may not go dancing (mostly because I am too self-conscious), but we are really good at the kitchen dance.
If I want to control my marriage or my mate, I will cause more confusion, and less coordination. We don’t get married to control each other. We get married because we want to learn how to work together to reach a common goal. A controlling person always causes tension and unrest, making the ride shaky and unpleasant, even on the smooth parts of the road.
If I am rigid- unbending, and unyielding- I will frustrate our unity. Marriage requires flexibility, and flexibility only comes from humility. When I am arrogant, I am a hard person to work with. But when my heart is humble, life is easier for everyone.
If I refuse to bear my share of the load, I will frustrate our unity. I know husbands and wives who think that marriage is a free ride, like the man on the tandem bicycle.
They will not take any responsibility for their marriage, or make any effort for the sake of their spouses or children. Coasters, not contributors.
Will we ever disagree? Yes, of course. Consider this episode from the life of Abram and Sarai:
So she (Sarai) said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. (Genesis 16:12)
That was the wrong moment to agree! If Abram had only thought it over and consulted God, how different history would have been.
There are critical times when a husband or wife must disagree with their spouse, times when agreement would be a dangerous, even deadly course. Do you remember Ananias and Sapphira. Read their story in Acts 5:1 and following. If either one of them had seen the danger of their actions, and had spoken up, the story would have ended differently. Every couple must agree to listen when one of them feels caution about any course of action.
In America you can buy many different types of hot sauce or chili. To help the shoppers find the one that will suit them, the jars are marked either mild, medium, or hot. People are like that, too. Some are mild, some are medium, and some are quite spicy. All of them are good; it’s just a matter of taste.
Agreement does not mean that the milder partner gives in to the more forceful one, or that the quiet partner gives in to the outspoken one. When that happens hidden conflicts fester like an infection. The milder one must learn how to express an opinion or a conviction clearly. The more outspoken one must learn to give the quiet partner a chance to express an opinion or conviction. A couple must know the difference between an opinion and a conviction, and not confuse the two things. An opinion is what I think, but a conviction is what God thinks. If either member of a marriage has a deep conviction from God we must not disregard it at the risk of grieving the Holy Spirit.
The Lord can bring any couple into real agreement if they will let him. Open your heart to him. Ask him to give you the grace to be agreeable. Commit yourself to doing your part, and see what a difference unity makes!
Transition times test the strength of a couple’s agreement like nothing else can. When we glide along peacefully, secure in our everyday routine, agreement comes easily. Like two friends rowing a kayak or canoe, there’s no problem working together when the river is straight and quiet. It’s the changes in course that challenge us.
I remember canoeing with a friend many years ago. We worked well together when the river flowed smoothly and the course was steady. We almost felt like experts. But soon we came to a place where we had to change our course. Two currents fought with each other, both trying to force their way around the same turn in the river. Our canoe was caught in that battle, and we had to overcome the turbulence to keep our little craft steady.
We failed. Our canoe overturned and we crashed into the trees along the river’s edge. It’s hard to make changes when you don’t know how to work together under pressure. My boat mate and I worked together well enough when the water was smooth, but the rapids and the course change revealed our lack of agreement.
Can you put yourself in that picture? I’m sure you can. You and your spouse have probably had your share of disagreements, especially at critical moments in your life together. But we can learn from our mistakes, can’t we? One defeat at a challenging time can be worth more than many days of smooth sailing . . . if we learn from it.
In our thirty-nine years of marriage we’ve had many opportunities to learn how to navigate difficult currents. Here are a few of the lessons the Lord continually teaches us:
- We are learning that the important issue is not who is right, but what is right. We must dedicate ourselves to taking the right action, not fighting for our own way. A crisis is no time to be fighting for control.
- We are learning to wait patiently for God. It’s easier to write those words than it is to live those words. If we know a transition awaits us we can get anxious, and anxiety always wastes time and energy. How many times I have repented for my anxious activity!
- We are learning to coordinate our efforts so we enhance one another and reach our goal. Have you ever seen a three-legged race? Two people tie two of their legs together, then try to run to the finish line. For married couples, life is often a three-legged race. Many couples fall down before they learn to adjust for one another, but those who learn to cooperate finish the race together.
- We are learning to conquer our fears. When I was in the canoe with my friend, I had no fear until I saw something coming that I didn’t think I could handle. I panicked in the moment of pressure, and my panic caused our disunity. The alternative to panic is confidence, and confidence is built by working together for a long time. Teamwork, they call it. When we know how to agree, we aren’t afraid to face anything together.
- We are learning to remember the Lord and rejoice in His care for us. During times of change, we experience many pressures. We must set our minds on the Lord, for transition times are vulnerable times.
- We are learning to keep our eyes open, watching for signs of change. If we stay spiritually alert, we can prepare for change.
Brother Andrew, that Christian commando who took Bibles to people in restricted lands, had a slogan he and his wife adopted in the early days of their relationship:”We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re going there together!” Diane and I have adopted that same motto. Make that your confession, too.
“Father, how many frustrations we suffer because we don’t know how to work together. Soften our hears. Make us less defensive. Give us the grace to want what is best more than we want our own way. Thank you for the power to change, and the power to love.”
Yours For Unity,