This morning I sat outside sipping hot coffee while a cool (but not too cold breeze) stirred the air. My husband and children still slept, and per usual I had awoken a bit before them so I might enjoy some quiet time before our day began. We had made plans to go swimming at a natural spring, and I knew the task of packing up for a day away awaited me. There would be suits to track down, dry clothes to pack, and of course, food for the day. Feeding a family of five at a snack bar got pricey, so bringing our own grub was a must. I’d need cold drinks to keep everyone hydrated, and I wondered if we should blow up and haul our own innertube?
Another breeze blew over me, refreshing, nice, and the Hebrew word ruach entered my mind. Wind, breath, the very spirit of God, it blew on me and I felt peace, contentment, satisfaction. “I could sit here all day,” I whispered, and by the time my husband woke up I had decided to do just that. He was quick to agree, and just like that we dropped the well-intentioned plans we had made for the day.
Have you ever noticed how plans play out? Especially with small children? You spend a large amount of time creating fun ideas, creating the best environment for those ideas, and struggling to have them play out just as you envisioned. Which never happens. We’ve forgotten how to be still, and we’ve forgotten how to enjoy simple. And it’s just one more thing that the enemy is using to drive a wedge between a husband and wife.
How many expensive vacations end in exhaustion? An empty savings account, a stressed-out mind, and the silent treatment. We’re a very mobile generation, always on the move, and we expect as much from our family as we do our internet provider.
Hurry up! Come on! Let’s go. We’re running out of time!
Wives are on edge, and husbands are at the end of their rope. You see, both are working very hard to create a picture-perfect life, one that Instagram would be proud of.
“I’m making memories,” we proclaim.
But at what cost, I wonder?
Overtime. Husbands and wives both working full-time to support a family is commonplace, and while I’ll be the first to admit that this world today is crazy expensive, I’ll also be the first to confess that it isn’t as pricey as we create it. We are the ones who decide our homes must be a certain size. We need the fourth bedroom and downstairs half-bath. We gotta have more than one vehicle, and it needs to be something reliable. Minivan? Yuck. No thanks. A Suburban, please. We work to buy the stuff we don’t need, and as our square footage grows, so does our work week. Cha-Ching.
But one thing is for sure. We do it for our children. They need the absolute best. They need the dance class, drama camp, and tumbling too. All of the above, please. Sign us up!
I’ll volunteer to chaperone the field trip. Hubby can coach little league on the weekends. Games on Sunday? No problem.
We pull an extra shift at work to purchase new uniforms, use that credit card for the nicer pair of cleats. Johnny says all the other kids are wearing the name-brand ones, and you don’t want him to feel left out or get bullied.
Homework. Oh my goodness, the homework those kids bring in the door. You yell too much, and then you feel guilty. You know your son is just tired from staying up late due to that extended basketball practice, and waking up early to drive across town to his exclusive private school.
Somewhere in between the late nights, running errands after practice, overtime at the office for next year’s Disney trip, and squeezing in a quick WalMart trip for another Reading Fair project, you manage to squeeze in a date night. You sit at a dark booth, both of you with your heads in your phone, and you wonder when life will slow down.
Was it always this hard?! They say it’s easier after the kids leave home, but then you think of all your parent’s friends who got divorced once empty nesters. Did they run out of stuff to talk about? You can certainly relate. I mean, what’s there to discuss once the conversation doesn’t center around the children, where they’re going and what achievement they just won? What happened to people staying in love forever? Maybe true love doesn’t exist anymore.
Or perhaps we’ve just changed our investment strategies. Maybe our focus isn’t on our marriages. I think we’re too overwhelmed to feed into that relationship. We’ve become complacent in our comfortable life as roommates, partners in parenting, and financial assistant roles. We assume our marriage will thrive without watering, with plans to feed into it later. There’s just no time!
I wonder if we create our overloaded schedules? Is it our boss insisting we work late, or are we the cause? We can’t face our spouse that we forgot how to talk to. We can’t face another conversation about the kids’ future. The stress and worry is too much, and overtime seems like a pleasant option.
I wonder if we create our debt? We need 3000 square feet! We need a trip to the coast! We need a closet so packed the doors won’t close, and a cupboard so full of processed food we can make on the fly! We need Maui, a newer cell phone, and of course, more toys. Toys to keep the children entertained, but also toys to keep each other happy. It fills the silence, you know.
We are so focused on raising the best children on the block. We are so focused on appearances. We are so focused on bigger, better, and more. We’ve gotten so good at being busy; we consider it a badge of honor. We’ve gotten so concerned with keeping up with what everyone else is doing. We’ve gotten so used to being stressed out that we think it’s normal. We medicate with wine, and we overindulge in our favorite vices. We’re too tired for sex, too exhausted to just sit and talk. We keep waiting for life to slow down, never understanding that we set the pace.
Husbands and wives become opponents instead of teammates. Marriage becomes a contest to see who contributes the most to the family unit. We become bitter, expecting our spouse to give us a reprieve, even though we ourselves have created our own chaos.
Parents forget that children don’t come first! Kids plot parents against one another, having learned early on that we allow it. We spend thousands of dollars a year on things our children don’t need, and we invest even more in a college fund to the most prestigious university. Never once do we invest in our relationship with our spouse.
But date night, you say. We have that!
Ahh, yes, the two hours alone, where you’re both too exhausted from work to do much more than lift a heavy fork to your silent mouth. That sounds lovely.
We have removed fathers from the head of the family, and we’ve replaced them with our darling child. They rule the roost. We even joke about it on Facebook. Isn’t it so cute how sassy my little diva is?!
We’ve placed our work above our families. We’ve given it to coaches and teachers to handle. Yet when something falls apart, our spouse will be the one we attack.
We’ve dropped going to church together on Sunday. It’s seriously the only day we can sleep in. Saturday is packed with extracurriculars. We’re too tired to pray together before bed, and we can’t seem to find the time to instruct our children with the Bible. They already have so much homework as it is!
But then we wonder why our children don’t respect us? We wonder why our spouse is so short-tempered.
What about our quiet time with God? Well, it’s been a while. We planned to do that today, but there was too much to do before we left the house. The house with the crazy, high mortgage, that we spend very little time in other than to sleep five hours a night.
We make excuses.
If only my husband would help out more around the house.
If only my wife would try to understand I have needs.
We’ll work this out tomorrow. I’m exhausted tonight.
One silent day leads to another, and leads to another. We find ourselves living together but feeling alone. We raise children together but exist in silence, an invisible space separating us. We make it so easy for Satan to destroy the foundation of marriage. He uses our busyness to keep us from communicating. He uses our selfishness to increase our anger. He uses our coveting and comparison to keep us working harder for more of what we don’t need. He uses our obsession with the educational excellence of our children to keep us away from time with one another. He uses our preoccupation with our cell phones, tablets, and social media accounts to keep us from making God’s Word a part of our everyday lives. He brings sin into our homes slowly, so slowly that we barely recognize it. We’re sure the movies we watch, books we read, or websites we visit in secret aren’t harming our relationships.
But I’m of the belief that we must take back our families from the enemy. We must claim our right to a happy, healthy relationship like God intended. We have to take back our time. We can’t become confused by what the world says is important. We can’t believe the lies the enemy tells us to focus on. We have to stop investing into the world and get back to investing in love. We can’t spend the majority of our life away from our families, but then wonder why they’re falling apart. We have to stop investing so much in the materialistic aspects of our home, yet neglecting the lasting flesh and blood that resides therein. We gotta stop keeping up with the Joneses and start keeping up with God’s will for our families.
God created marriage, and He didn’t just make it so we’d have someone to help us with the dishes. He didn’t create this covenant with arguments over who forgot to buy toilet paper in mind. He didn’t place us together to run ourselves ragged with busy schedules and overwhelming responsibilities. He created marriage to mirror His covenant with us, and on the day we finally become His bride, do you think He’ll be too busy running the angels to soccer practice to sit down at the banquet table with us? Do you think He’ll be too tired to talk or too overwhelmed by His day of miracles to hold us?
And here’s a thought. Our children are watching us. They are creating their idea of marriage based on our example. What type of husband are you modeling for your daughter’s future expectations? What kind of wife are you showing your son to build a life with? Do you know how Satan is stealing our marriages? Through us! We are eagerly breaking down the future foundation of marriage by our poor example, and our complacency and neglect are pushing our own spouse further and further away. It shouldn’t be so.
We have to take back our marriages before it’s too late. We have to reclaim our time so we can invest it where it is needed most. We have to take our eyes off other relationships and focus them in our own backyard. We have to let Dad lead the family. We have to stop competing. We have got to quit going and going! We have to be still! We have to sit quiet and let the ruach blow over our marriages. We’ll never feel it if we’re too busy striving for more. You have to be still to truly feel the wind blow. We have to stop handing the enemy our family on a golden platter. We have to take back what God has given us. We have to open our eyes to the gift of our spouse, just as God made them, and stop trying to make them into someone else. We have to take time to appreciate our partner. We have to trade in our badge of busy for the soothing silk of stillness. Only in simplicity can we truly see how blessed we are.
So I suppose the question is this. God has given us marriage. Will you make the pledge to take it back from the enemy today?