Every single marriage will fall upon hard times, challenging times, tiresome times. The tyranny of the tasks of life and the world around suddenly invades your happy little nest, and before you know it you’re thinking (saying?) hateful things about your spouse, and hugging the edges of your bed.
Ugh. No one intends to get there. And I believe the number one thing that gets in our way is pride.
We are all prideful beings, some more than others. We want our way. We want what we want when we want it. We can unwittingly bowl others over in the pursuit of what we want.
For about four years now, aside from an occasional blip, our marriage has been sailing along beautifully, and strengthening constantly. We renewed ourselves, we put our egos on the back shelf, and started getting focused on the other before ourselves (Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others). We created new “habits” of kindness and patience. We blossomed. Trust returned. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control were actively practiced and present. Affection, intimacy and passion were reignited. In a sense, life became charmed for us. Even in the face of some minor medical issues, we managed to keep a smile on our faces. Absent the stresses of work in the past year, and with the ability to do some traveling, we have enjoyed life well together.
Lately the stresses have hit. The stresses of selling a house and moving. Elderly parent care, hospitalizations, and death of a loved parent. More personal pain issues. Making sure college tuitions are paid, housing costs covered, move-in dates met. Separations when one has to be off caring for parents. Loneliness, poor sleep, exhaustion, more stress. Having to make solitary decisions in order to remove burdens from one another.
In the midst of this, we’ve made it a priority to make it church, and our adult Sunday School lessons, which have been about Happiness, with excellent reminders.
You are as happy as you choose to be (a rough translation of an Abe Lincoln quote).
Some of the tips Rick Warren gives from this study on the book of Philippians help me to realize how to actively pursue happiness rather than the alternative. Happiness doesn’t just come to me unbidden. A few points that stuck with me:
- We can’t look for happiness, we have to create it.
- Happiness based on happenings is temporary. But happiness built on habits is long-lasting.
- Be grateful and never grumble. (Phil 2:14-15)
- Remember that God is with me, he’s in me, and he’s for me (Phil. 2:13)
- Expect the best from people in my life; celebrate how far people have come rather than judging them for how far they still have to go. (Phil 1:6)
- Worry ALWAYS exaggerates a problem.
- Worry is unreasonable, illogical, unnatural, unhelpful, and unnecessary– especially when we can talk to God about everything, thank him in all things.
- Think about good things: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy (Phil 4:8)
- Learn to be content (Philippians 4:11-12)
- Contentment comes when I: stop comparing, thinking having more is better, and when I admire without having to acquire.
- The war with stress is won or lost in your mind. What you fill your mind with will determine the level of stress in your life.
So although SJ only got to spend 2 nights at home in the past week, I made the best of it. It wasn’t perfect, because like it or not, things outside our control sometimes cause stress because we worry and want different outcomes. It’s takes work to adopt the proper attitudes towards worry. It takes work to put your needs on hold when someone else’s are momentarily greater. And it takes practice and work for a wife to learn when to stop giving advice and offering opinions. To his credit, SJ listened to me, but then also let me know that he had things in control and gently but firmly helped me understand when my observations were not helpful. Yes, sometimes that stings. And yes, he did listen and maybe later he’ll hear my thoughts better, in the spirit they were intended.
We are sad now because we lost someone we love very much. It’s OK to be sad, but we also have so much to be grateful for and happy for. Nine decades of a life well-led, a race well-run. All the good times, in abundance. Every holiday meal we shared together. Grandchildren who loved him. His pride in his family.
I choose to focus on the blessings, amid my tears, and I refuse to allow the negatives and stresses to take over.
God gives us all a moment on this earth and we have no clue how long that moment will be. However we can choose to live each day of that moment well, with gratitude for every good thing.
“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…”