Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity! For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. Ps. 133:1-3
We’re approaching independence day 2020. What a year!
We don’t feel very “independent” in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Things are easing up a bit in Colorado, but there is still a real and present danger about. We aren’t out of the woods yet and need to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Informed but not obsessed. Life is going on.
We live in a country called “The United States of America.”
Somehow I don’t feel as united as a country as we were in my younger days. Yes, there were problems then too with Vietnam and Mr. Nixon, and the awful attitudes towards the veterans returning from the horrors of Saigon.
There are still a lot of hurting vets alive, some unable to recover from the trauma. Not just Vietnam. Trauma isn’t defined by one event or one war. Our country is undergoing trauma today.
I remember Kent State and the riots when I was in high school. I was in second grade when President Kennedy was shot. I still remember the announcement coming from the gold cloth-covered speaker on the wall as Mrs. Fleming our teacher burst into tears.
What’s happening today is nothing new. Our land needs healing.
I Pledge Allegiance
As I write this, my mind floats back to grade school where we stand from our tiny desks, turned towards the flag on its floor stand with the golden eagle on top, with that gold tassel hanging down.
With our hands on our hearts, we recite the “pledge of allegiance” together, the pledge feeling more like a holy prayer.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
That pledge is some good writing, concise and to the point, planting the first seeds of patriotism in a grade-schooler. I fear we’ve fallen from that pinnacle.
United in Marriage
Since I write on marriage and relationships, here we go.
In a real sense, our marriage covenant mirrors the intent of this pledge.
Liberty & Justice for all
“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Liberty and Justice speak of freedom in the relationship. When we lose our freedom in our relationships, we become a slave to another person. Marriage isn’t about losing personal freedom, rather, freedom is something we are to retain and fight for. Freedom is about mutual honoring.
No one else owns your feelings, or your right to voice your opinion, married to them or not. Those things are God-given and belong to you.
“Justice for all” is about fairness in the relationship. It’s about equal representation and honor bestowed on the man and the woman.
Interestingly, the Spanish word for being fair is “Justo.” You can accurately say “with liberty and fairness for all.”
We are to affirm the personal power of one another with respect, not try to suppress or manipulate out of our insecurity, or fear of losing power. Unity is learning to respect and honor another, not suppress them.
The Commanded Blessing
God wants to “command the blessing” on our marriages, but we need to do the work to unite it to “dwell together in unity”, a seemingly rare commodity these days.
Your quality of life is determined by the unity your marriage has. If it’s bad or fake at home, it seems to be bad everywhere. There’s a core problem and you know it, it gnaws at you.
You’ll either develop “workarounds,” to survive a divided relationship without mutuality or you’ll fight for unity at all costs. This includes gaining the hard bought skills of communication and conflict resolution needed to become one in your marriage.
These workarounds involve manipulation, abuse of power, and hiding to avoid emotional truthfulness. We’ve not yet learned a better way.
We’re back home late and tired after attending a small party for a friend. It was tough as strife and stress were in the air from the rift between the married host and hostess.
I got pulled in unawares by the host into the emotions of the situation resulting in some tense moments. I tried to help by offering advice that wasn’t received well.
We ground through the evening, making the most of it.
Getting ready for bed, Linda says from the closet;
“I’m so thankful we have unity in our marriage!”
I reply, feeling the same gratitude knowing that “It don’t come easy.”
I value the reality of the words “unity in our marriage,” realizing happiness does come down to whether you enjoy unity together. I ask myself;
How can anyone live that way?
Why no unity?
The reason for disunity at this party was made clear by the host; One wanted us there, the other didn’t. There wasn’t an agreement about having the party. An awkward environment to be invited into.
Better not to have the party until agreement and honoring can be established. If unity isn’t operating, something else is. See James 3:13-18
Where does unity come from?
“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” Amos 3:3 NLT
An agreement is found when the needs, values, and concerns of both parties are explored and honored. Both must get equal consideration, it can’t be one-sided. Without this, it’s a dictatorship, not a marriage.
Not only men can be dictators, but I’ve also known some lovely female ones as well.
“Husbands likewise dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together to the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 peter 3:7 NKJV
“…She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so that your prayers will not be hindered. NLT
What does honoring look like?
Valuing and validating the opinions, needs, and desires of your spouse equally with yours, even if you disagree are necessary. Unity can’t happen without this.
This means forsaking false, growth limiting beliefs, such as;
“I’m the man and my opinions and desires carry more weight than hers.” or,
“Since I’m the man, I hold the trump card. She has to do what I say.”
These are bullying attitudes, once again, the nice lady can carry them also. (:
Validating means you listen respectfully without rebuttal, treating with respect the things your partner has to say. You listen without refuting it and affirm what you hear. If you can’t do this, you need to practice until you can.
Your unity will be blocked without the validation you both need. We must grow past our defensiveness.
We give honor to our spouses with an attitude that says;
“I hear what you’re saying, and I hear how you feel about it, what can we do to get you what you want and need?” This attitude will bring you into the promised land.
Working out differences with respect without bullying, judging, or intimidating to get your way. You have to break these patterns to do this or nothing will change. I promise.
Think about it. If one doesn’t stop what is pushing the other person away, how will it ever change? If you’re the one being bullied, stand your ground, set a boundary, and state that you will no longer put up with it.
If you aren’t being treated with respect, leave them in an empty room while you remove yourself from destructive words or attitude.
Honoring is humbly negotiating to find common ground, giving and taking to get what you need.
Exploring alternative solutions to satisfy both parties. XO
Pray with your spouse, inviting God in for a safe, honoring atmosphere. Thoughtfully work through these questions to grow in unity.
1. Can you see any workarounds you have developed as a couple that are blocking your unity? Talk about this together, bringing it into the open. Work a strategy and set goals together to change the dynamic.
2. Do you feel validated in the marriage? Do you both feel your opinions, needs, or ideas are respected equally? If not, say where, why, and give examples.
3. Do you feel freedom in your marriage, or do you feel controlled? Tell why, be specific. Talk together about what you can do about it.
What would it look like if you were free? Give an example. Agree to work together towards this. XO