September 1, 2017

Recalibrate: Breaking out of Spiritual and Marital Doldrums

Gary Thomas — 

My son is getting two masters’ degrees at Harvard. Lisa says I shouldn’t tell people that because it sounds like I’m bragging but it’s relevant to the point I’m about to make, so please forgive me. Graham was visiting during a vacation and I noticed he was reading a pretty lengthy history book that didn’t seem like it would fit into either one of his Harvard programs. “What’s up with that, bud?” I asked.

Harvard gets amazing guest lecturers. Business tycoons and titans, former and even occasionally current heads of state, cabinet members, religious leaders, etc., take turns pouring out their wisdom, so Graham has heard from plenty of the “best and the brightest.” Here’s his reply: “I found out that all the super-successful people have one thing in common: they read lots of books and watch little television.”

Charlie Munger, co-Founder (with Warren Buffet) of Berkshire Hathaway recently said, “In my life I have known no wise people who don’t read all the time. None. Zero.”

It may sound self-serving as a writer to talk about the need to read, but I hope this blog post will make doing so sound practical.

In life and marriage it’s inevitable that we occasionally hit the “doldrums.” It’s not that things are really bad, it’s just that they become irritating. We find ourselves getting upset at the silliest things and there’s a constant air of frustration in the wind. One wife described her horror when she realized that even the sound of her husband’s voice set her teeth on edge. She just wanted him to go away!

I’ve found that when life and marriage approaches these seasons, I need to double down on spiritual recalibration. Our walk with God is the foundation out of which love and life flows. Sometimes, rather than address a depressing attitude, frustration with children, or irritation with a spouse head on, I just need to focus more intensely on God.

Romans 12:2 calls us to be transformed by the “renewing of our minds” so that’s where I like to start—renewing my mind with some intentional reading and less screen time.

If you’ve found yourself in a season where life just isn’t clicking, evaluate whether you’ve fallen into a lot of screen time and little or no page time. Determine to renew your mind and thus renew your life.

Prayerfully consider setting aside a month to pursue two tracks: thoughtful books that help you think about the things of God in the morning, and thoughtful books that can rejuvenate your marriage in the evening. Cut screen time down to a bare minimum—maybe thirty minutes at most, or sixty if you just can’t help yourself. Get up a little earlier to read by yourself for thirty minutes. Carve out time in the evening to read together for thirty minutes. Resolve to do this for a month to give it a chance to succeed. Once you get your mind working in the right direction, it’s amazing how much of life falls into place.

Sixty minutes a day for a month isn’t much, but it’ll pay amazing dividends.

Here are some suggestions for the “things of God” morning readings:

Dallas Willard

            The Spirit of the Disciplines

            Renovation of the Heart

            The Great Omission

N.T. Wright

            After You Believe

            Surprised by Hope

Bob Sorge

            Secrets of the Secret Place

 Gary Thomas

            Thirsting for God

            Authentic Faith

            Holy Available

 For the marriage evening readings, focus on books that give you an overall view of marriage, not just the “how to.”

Tony Evans

            The Kingdom Marriage

Timothy Keller

            The Meaning of Marriage

Winston Smith

           Marriage Matters

Sheila Gregoire

           Nine Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage

Gary Thomas

           Sacred Marriage

           A Lifelong Love

           Cherish

If you want an extraordinary life and marriage, you can’t keep doing what everyone else does—tire yourself out trying to keep up with the latest Netflix or HBO hits. Lisa and I both enjoy our favorite series, but we also recognize it’s far too easy to let screen time grow and page time shrink, so this is just a friendly reminder to put “two and two” together: if things aren’t “clicking,” if a persistently sour attitude is hard to shake, if you feel frustrated with God and your spouse, resolve to deal with the disease and not just the symptoms. Do something different by cutting down on the screen time, recalibrating your mind, and reading more.

If you want an “average” walk with God and an “average” marriage, just keep doing what the average individual or couple does. If you want to reach a bit higher, resolve to do something different. If you’re like me, you’ll find that when you do, the atmosphere in your mind, home and marriage will start to get much, much sweeter.

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10 responses to Recalibrate: Breaking out of Spiritual and Marital Doldrums

  1. Yes and Amen, Gary! It grieves my heart to see so many “football widows” and “Facebook widowers” in my generation, when there are so many better ways to spend our time: building up our homes, families, and marriages rather than wasting hours staring at screens.

    The old saying is true and bears repeating: This world has everything I want and nothing that I need.

    May we spend our time wisely, since Jesus is coming soon and the fields are white unto harvest!

  2. Awesome read! I agree especially with the last portion:

    “If you want an extraordinary life and marriage, you can’t keep doing what everyone else does—tire yourself out trying to keep up with the latest Netflix or HBO hits. Lisa and I both enjoy our favorite series, but we also recognize it’s far too easy to let screen time grow and page time shrink, so this is just a friendly reminder to put “two and two” together: if things aren’t “clicking,” if a persistently sour attitude is hard to shake, if you feel frustrated with God and your spouse, resolve to deal with the disease and not just the symptoms. Do something different by cutting down on the screen time, recalibrating your mind, and reading more.

    If you want an “average” walk with God and an “average” marriage, just keep doing what the average individual or couple does. If you want to reach a bit higher, resolve to do something different. If you’re like me, you’ll find that when you do, the atmosphere in your mind, home and marriage will start to get much, much sweeter.”

  3. First and foremost Gary, my prayers go out to you, the people of Houston and the entire southern region of our country that has been impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

    I enjoyed today’s post. Reading ‘spiritual resources’ has made a big difference in my life. I would add another book to your list – the Bible. My wife and I have been reading through the New Testament together. It keeps us focused on the Magnificent Obsession and puts our lives into proper perspective. As for screen time, we have been watching more ‘Christian based’ movies lately – even if we’ve seen them before. My final comment on getting out of the ‘doldrums’ is to become more active in serving the Lord. This differs for each person depending on what He calls you to do. For us, this resulted in taking on many marriage ministry projects in our church. We do this not seeking self satisfaction, but to glorify God. Yet in doing so, He richly blesses our lives – without even asking! It resonates with your “Got Mission?” chapter theme from “A Lifelong Love”.

    These three things (along with prayer) are what we use to combat the doldrums. It’s had amazing results in our marriage and we hope other couples will discover these joys as well.

    • Fred, 100% agreement, of course. I took Bible reading for granted, assuming this would be added. Perhaps a bit idealistic on my part. And I love your other points

  4. Thanks for the good reminder!

  5. Thank you for the reading challenge. Off to collect those books.

    I would add to that list

    The Bible

    It’s great.
    It’s alive.
    It’s life and marriage changing.

    🙂

  6. I love this. I have been an avid reader since I could start reading and always have two or three books I am busy working through. This makes so much sense to me. I do enjoy Netflix though, I must admit – but nothing can compare to a good book!

  7. First, congratulations about Graham, it is a double brag since Lisa homeschooled! Kudos to you both!
    Next, this post is spot on and deals directly with the issue deep down in my heart personally. It is frightening how a little agitation can build up to a full on battle in a short period of time. It doesn’t take a ton of dedication to reading and meditation on God’s Word (or any other literature) for the Holy Spirit to align my heart and my thoughts back to a grateful and humbled position. It’s there, in that place, the battle is lost!
    Thank you for the reminder Gary!

  8. This is an awesome reminder to keep our focus in the proper order in our lives. When we do, not only is there more joy and peace between us, but God can accomplish more through us. Thank you!