Marriage Series: Change Begins With You

In today’s column, we will start a series on marriage.  From the beginning, I want to say I am not a marriage expert, nor do I claim to be one.  This series aims to discuss ideas that can help your marriage.  In this series, we will look at marriage and ideas for how to improve one’s marriage from the Bible.  Let me state up front that I believe marriage is a sacred, covenantal union between one man and woman when the two swear an oath of lifelong love before God.[1]  One author has described marriage as the closest possible human relationship because a covenant binds a husband and wife before God for a lifetime.[2]

Marriage is hard work that demands time, attention, and nourishment.  I cannot help you create more time in your day for your marriage, but I will provide ideas for you to consider to be more attentive and nourishing in your marriage.

Today’s idea is intriguing: stop trying to change your spouse; instead, be self-aware.  I know some of you have stopped reading, but give me a second to make my case before you tune me out.  Let’s be honest.  We all want to change our spouses to be what we want them to be.  We feel that we know what they should do, how they should do it, and when they should do it.  We exhaust ourselves trying to change our spouses.

We are not God!  Say that out loud, I am not God.  I know you may think this is silly or nonsense, but truth be told, when we try to change people, we try to do what only God can do.  God is the only one that can change a person.  I once heard someone say that anything you talk someone into, someone else can come along and talk them out of it.  A disclaimer: I am not talking here about your spouse who is doing illegal or destructive things.  I am referring to those behaviors and personality quirks that drive you nuts.

Why would I write a marriage idea about how we should stop trying to change our spouses; instead, be self-aware?  Recently, I read an article entitled Accountability: Fixing Relationships Not People,[3] and in reading that article, I thought about Luke 6:37-42.

In the Bible, in Luke 6:41-42, Jesus gives us great advice to apply to our marriages.  Here is the advice, be self-aware.  The definition of self-aware is an awareness of one’s personality or individuality.  In this parable, Jesus tells his hears that they should get the log out of their eye before trying to get the speck out of their brother’s eye.  Let me put it another way before we seek to tell others what is wrong with them; we must realize that we have things wrong with us.  This text is about the desire of one person to impose their desires and thoughts on another person.

By being self-aware, one understands that one cannot focus their attention on trying to change others when one should focus on changing themselves.

In marriage, you have two people with different strengths and weaknesses; at times, their strengths and weaknesses can cause problems for their spouse.  However, in those times, we must realize that God has uniquely created each person, and in marriage, we complement each other and not compete with each other.

Two things to remember that are of great help when applying the idea of stopping trying to change others and instead be self-aware.

#1 – Christ was and is the only perfect person ever to walk the face of this earth.  As much as you may think that you are perfect, you are not.  We are all works in process.

#2 – In our marriages, we must show our spouses mercy and compassion.  There will be times when we want to lash out, and in those times, we must show mercy and compassion.  How can we show mercy and compassion?  The primary way is we pray.  If you are unsure what to pray or how to pray, use Psalm 139:23-24 as your guide.  In Psalm 139:23-24 the Psalmist prayed to God and asked God to search him and know his heart.  He asked God to test him and know his anxious thoughts.  The Psalmist did not stop at the point of searching and learning.  Instead, he asked God to point out anything in him that offends God.  He closes his prayer with a plea for God to lead him on the path that leads to life.  (Psalm 139:23–24, NLT)

Instead of seeking to change your spouse, seek the Lord and allow Him to change you.

Dr. Draper Rogers is a pastor with Gardendale First Baptist Church and a contributor to North Jefferson Magazine.

[1] Clendenen, R Ray with Kelly Brent R. 2003. “Marriage.” In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, and Trent C. Butler, 1082. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[2] John Piper, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence