Many of us (at least in the U.S.) are making all sorts of plans about how to feed ourselves and our family on Thanksgiving Day. Let’s pause to consider how we can feed our marriage. But first, let me set this up.
Do you remember the time your baby had a sopping wet diaper? Let’s say it was a particularly messy one, so you got everything all over your hands, but after you got your child cleaned up and she was wearing a fresh soft diaper, she looked you in the eyes and said, with the cutest voice imaginable, “Thank you.”
That never happened?
Perhaps you remember holding your sick baby for hours while colic gripped his stomach? Finally, after five hours of non-stop holding, pacing, and rocking, you put your nearly asleep baby down and he looked up at you with a smile and said, “Thank you so much! You’re the best mom/dad in the whole wide world.”
No? That didn’t happen either?
What? Your baby actually cried when you put him down, even though you had been holding him for so long?
How do I know this? We had three of them! Babies are all demands. Babies and gratitude are like scuba diving and the desert—they never go together. But we don’t expect them to. Babies aren’t formed morally. They are immature. They are takers, not givers.
It’s one thing when this is true of a baby; it’s particularly sad when it’s true of an adult.
Do we take, take, take from our spouse, without ever saying thanks? Do we receive their support, their encouragement, their good humor, their affection as an expected fact of life but then get enraged when they have one bad day or forget to do one thing we asked of them?
Many of us do.
And when we do, we’re acting like babies. We have the character of a six-month-old child.
In a wonderful sermon entitled “Perpetual Thanksgiving” (which inspired this blog post), twentieth century preacher Clovis Chappell said, “Gratitude is a child that we must watch and train and develop. Gratitude must be cultivated. It must be tended and watered and watched over or it will die.”
This is true in marriage as well.
Thankfulness toward our spouse—expressed and thought about and offered back to God—is like watering your plants or feeding your lawn. One of our first summers in Houston, our lawn care knowledge was a bit lacking. We eventually woke up to a brown wasteland, with all kinds of weeds growing up. It was embarrassing to walk by. Our lawn guy spread some weed and feed on there and two weeks later our lawn rivaled any other lawn in the neighborhood.
Your marriage can be that dry and even dying. It can look malnourished and brown instead of a lush green. Feed it with thanksgiving. “Whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philip. 4:8)
Let’s not be babies in marriage—taking everything for granted and screaming loudly when it stops, never being thankful, but always punishing our spouse with silence or surliness if one thing doesn’t go our way. Too often we take for granted every blessing, but then resent every little thing that is missed. In such a marriage, your spouse can only displease you—they can never thrill you, because you have become incapable of being pleased. If it is positive, you take it for granted. If it is negative, it is all you can think about. Thus, you can only be disappointed, never satisfied—just like a baby.
So many marital issues could be solved if we would just do what the Bible tells us to do: “In everything, give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18) Chappell’s comment that this never happens by accident that this attitude never just grows on its own, is worth heeding, so I’m going to repeat his words: “Gratitude is a child that we must watch and train and develop. Gratitude must be cultivated. It must be tended and watered and watched over or it will die.”
Think of five things you are grateful for about your spouse. Thank God for these qualities and as soon as you can, mention them to your spouse. With this one simple practice, you can begin feeding your marriage right now.
This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.