Return to Beginning Efforts

We’ve spent this month on the blog talking marriage. We’ve realized how our unions usually start out with smooth sailing, but we find ourselves on the rocks far too quickly. We discovered unlikely instructions in Revelation for our rescue efforts: remembering the heights, repenting from sin, and today, we our returning to beginning effort.

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. Remember the heights from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from it’s place.” (Revelation 2:2-5)

What does it mean to return to beginning effort? Can we even see how far off course we’ve wandered?

I was recently chatting with a friend before church. She’s been married a few years and they had gone to a wedding the night before. She lamented how they were home by 7:30pm. They left before the cake and the dancing; arguably the best parts of the wedding. When I asked if her husband liked to dance, she insisted: “He did when we were dating, but he never wants to dance now.”

Isn’t this the way marriage goes? We’ll do just about anything to woo our spouse, but once the ring is on their finger, we get lazy. We stop dancing and we leave before cake. Our pursuit falters. We don’t repeat the things we did to win them.

Healthy marriages require consistent, sustained effort in the same direction: towards one other! And towards God! This means we need to intentionally make room for romance. Fix our hair, do our makeup, put on that little black dress. Husbands: get out the date night cologne and hold open a door or two. Woo our spouse. Stay for desert and dancing.

Think back to the great lengths you went to to win your spouse. Whatever we did to snag them, remains helpful in keeping them! Return to that! If they were once worth pursuing, aren’t they still worth keeping? Valuable personal investments need ongoing attention. A home, a vehicle, the yard, even a boat requires routine maintenance. Is it any wonder the a living organism like a marriage does also?

When our marriage is on the rocks, we need to return to beginning efforts. Something we did at first, likely without even realizing it, was slowing down to see our mate.

Rob’s and my favorite Christmas movie is The Family Man, with Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni. We love this movie because it is the very last movie we saw as a couple, before we became a family.

Nicholas Cage plays Jack, this rich, narcissistic, womanizing, investment broker who is offered a glimpse of what life might be like if he hadn’t traded love for money. Jack is transported to a decade old marriage complete with two kids and a career as a tire salesman. He struggles to adjust, but the affections of his wife are relentless. The audience holds it’s breath as Jack falls in love with his wife all over again.

The very best line in the movie is when he’s looking into deep her eyes and telling her just how beautiful she is to him. And she says “How can you do that?” And Jack says “What?” and she says “Look at me like you haven’t seen me every day for the last thirteen years?”  

Song of Songs 4:9 says it like this “You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace.” 

We need to let our spouse capture our gaze and our heart again, the way they did at first. We need to daily recall all that they set aside to do life with us. And we need to treasure the good gift given in them.

Something that has made a huge impact in maintaining my own marriage is what we call our evening routine. When Rob and I crawl under the covers each night, we snuggle close and take turns sharing our low for the day, our high for the day, a blessing and a prayer. 

Sharing our lows and highs creates a window into our souls: revealing good and bad alike. It also releases a little of the steam that naturally builds up as we deal with day-to-day pressures and frustrations. There’s a Swedish proverb that says: “A shared joy is a doubled joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”  We have found this to be true.

Then we take turns sharing how our spouse blessed us that day. Rob and I noticed that sometimes what we believed was blessing each other, maybe wasn’t being received as a blessing. When we share what actually blessed us, it communicates appreciation while reinforcing beneficial behavior.

Lastly, we pray over one another and any needs on our hearts. Turns out it’s pretty tough to stay angry at someone when you hear them pour out their heart to God on your behalf each night. Prayer is the most powerful defense we have against divorce. Current statistics tell us that more than 95% of couples who pray together daily stay married. I like those odds!

This evening routine has become a touch point for us. We each feel seen, heard and treasured through this simple practice. Honestly, Rob and I were on the rocks when we decided to implement it and, at first, it was a sheer act of will. But as we persisted in pursuing each other, we discovered our marriage was healing. We found our way out of the churning seas and back into Eden. Low, High, Blessing, and Prayer: it’s a strategy that has worked well for us.

We celebrate 25 years of marriage this May. ❤

We began this blog series with the Swiss Family Robinson shipwrecked on the rocks. How did they survive? They chose to work together through their issues. They refused to give up on each other even in the midst of their catastrophe. They built a raft from sawed-in-half barrels and everyone pitched in as they made it safely to shore where they built a new life in paradise.

When God rescues our marriage from the rocks, it may look different afterwards. Roles may change. Communication increases. Appreciation will grow. This is new territory we learn to navigate together. It’s appropriate; marriage is meant to be an adventure!

The Swiss Family Robinson left that shipwreck and their life on the island looked drastically different after their time on the rocks. They had a deeper respect, affection and dependance on one another on the island then they did previously. They enjoyed a more intimate relationship than they did in regular society. In fact, when they had the opportunity to return to regular civilization, they declined. They grew to love what they became more than what they had previously possessed.

God longs to move us past the rocks and into a deeper and sweeter relationship with our spouse. He’s clearly given us the tools; remember the heights, repent from sin, and return to beginning effort.

“When the foundation is sure, the storms don’t matter.” (Rend Collective)

Lord, we thank you for the gift of our spouse. Please help us to treat them as such. May mutual love and respect reign in our hearts and homes. Help us to return to our first love and live there. Amen.

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