Recently, I’ve been near death more than usual. By “near” death, I don’t mean that I have nearly died – rather, that I’ve been in funeral homes and attended memorial services more often than I’d like and I’ve been reflecting on death – and life.
Any Moonstruck fans out there?
Rose: I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everybody else.
Cosmo Castorini: Thank you, Rose.
Rose: You’re welcome.
Physical death is inevitable. No matter how well we take care of our bodies, no matter how much plastic surgery we pay for or face cream we slather on, it is happening. Even if we always play it safe (which I usually do), the only thing we can do is delay it by a little bit.
Still, I resolve to cheat death.
Not in the physical sense, of course, but I believe there are some deaths we can escape – such as the death of a dream, and the one closest to my heart: Death of a Marriage. We’ve all seen it. Some of us have experienced it first-hand, even though we weren’t expecting it or wanting it. I have walked with friends through that dark valley and I believe it is one of the most emotionally painful things there is.
If this has happened to you, I am so sorry. These words are not meant
to cause more pain for you. I pray that your hope will remain strong and
that you will emerge from the valley a stronger person, ready for the
life and love that is ahead. (I’ve seen that, too, praise God!)
I am writing to remind and encourage those with healthy marriages and to offer hope to those with marriages that are in a tough spot. If your relationship still has a pulse, I hope you’ll try to revive it. I’ve seen God work miracles in marriages. I’ve also seen, as I’m sure you have, times when there was just no chance for bringing it back to health. Not because God wasn’t showing up, but because someone (or both someones) didn’t have the will to keep going.
Here are 6 strategies for cheating death in our marriages:
1: Be Full of Gratitude
Thank God for your spouse. I remember, when Rob and I were dating, I was filled with awe that someone so wonderful cared for me and wanted to be with me. After we were married for a hot minute, I lost my feeling of wonder and gratitude at being loved – it seemed like I felt I deserved it. But if I want to cheat death, I’ve got to remember that my husband is a gift from God. The way he is right now.
Thank your spouse for anything you can think of to thank him or her for. Making the bed. Taking the trash out. Getting the kids to bed. Getting the kids up. Making the sandwich. Cleaning up after dinner. Picking up the pizza. Doing the Christmas shopping or wrapping. Paying the bills. Reminding you that the milk is gone.You get the idea. All these tasks and to-dos are just part of being married and running a household, right? True, we are adults, and adults “do the things.” It is also true that every little thing can be seen as a gift. We all know how awful it feels to be taken for granted. I’m not saying that we should get a gold medal or a standing ovation for making dinner or raking leaves, but gratitude is always appropriate and worth the time.
2. Love Extravagantly.
This isn’t about monetary expense; there are opportunities every single day to show love in a way that “costs” me something. Whether that means big things like putting our wants on hold for the moment to help a spouse’s dream come true or planning something extraordinary that will surprise and delight, or small things, like making a late-night run to the grocery store so that the busy morning will go better, being the first one to say “I’m sorry,” or getting off the couch when you’re comfy to get the TV snacks so your spouse can stay warm and cozy. (Thanks for all the coffee and ice cream, Rob!)
3. Choose Happy
Most of the time, I am taking myself too seriously. (Anyone else?) I have found that there is nothing like laughter to break tension, and that a positive outlook makes even a bleak day brighter. Choosing to stay positive and hopeful takes the burden off any given moment. A year or a decade can handle big goals and expectations, but it is unwise to put too much pressure on each moment. So loosen up just a bit. Laugh it off. Find the bright side. Choose to believe that a good outcome is possible.
4. Protect and Defend
Always, always, always. Choose your spouse over all others, even when he or she is imperfect, grumpy or flat out wrong. Especially then. There will be plenty of people working against, fighting against your marriage and your spouse. We have to be intentional to protect our relationship. Imagine that your marriage is a helpless infant – be as gentle and nurturing in caring for it as you are warrior-like in defending it.
5. Keep the Marriage Bed Holy, and Keep the Marriage Bed Healthy.
It’s not enough to just “not be unfaithful.” Lasting love requires faithful intimacy. Intimacy is not just a symptom of health in a marriage, it is also a builder of health in a marriage – a bonding factor, an energizer. If an illness or tragedy has made “some things” impossible, work to find something that is possible, and be faithful in that.
6. Ask for (and Receive) Help When You Need Help.
Anyone who has been married more than a minute (okay, maybe 2 weeks) knows this isn’t easy. If you see a couple that makes it look easy, it is either because they are good actors or because they are doing the hard work of making their marriage happy. Find a couple that is really doing things right and ask for some pointers. Talk to a counselor, your pastor, or another spiritual leader you trust. Consider this: therapy isn’t cheap, but the cost of divorce, financially and emotionally, is much higher. An athlete doesn’t expect a broken bone to heal itself properly and certainly wouldn’t just switch sports and hope the problem goes away.
God can help you do all this.
As I write this, I am praying for the marriages (present and future) of you who might read this. I believe with my whole heart that God is for our marriages. I also believe that he is the source of the power we need for this cheating of death. I’ll leave you with a good Word about what it can look like to trust him…
… we didn’t think we were going to make it.
We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us.
As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened.
Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it,
we were forced to trust God totally—
not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead!
And he did it, rescued us from certain doom.
And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.
2 Corinthians 1:9-10ish (The Message)