Change

In Romans 12:2 Paul begs us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I remember talking to a couple that had been married for about forty years and asking what advice would they give to a young couple. The husband paused for a moment and gently responded, “Expect change”. I have often reflected on how profound that response truly was.

I’ve heard our Pastor, Chuck Smith, remind us: Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken. I used to think of “expect change” in the same light. In other words expect change to happen and be flexible when it occurs so that you are not overwhelmed.

…expect change to happen and be flexible when it occurs so that you are not overwhelmed.

But as Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, I’m encouraged by the expectation that I’m going to change and change for the better. Not only am I going to change, but it is reasonable for me to expect my wife to change.

The two of us are going to look more like Jesus in the days, months and years to follow than we do today. The apostle is telling us that as we grow in our experience and understanding of Jesus that we are being molded shaped and changed into His image. This is one of the essential foundations of a fruitful marriage.

The two of us are going to look more like Jesus in the days, months and years to follow than we do today.

Communicate

Peter encourages husbands to dwell with their wives with understanding [1Pet.3:7]. Nevertheless, until we start to communicate we cannot understand each other. Sometimes we don’t communicate our feelings at all and, other times we don’t accurately communicate.

One day as our family was driving up the California coast, my wife Karen asked how I would like to decorate the living room? As we drove past a building with yellow and green trim I pointed and told Karen, “I thought those colors would work.” I thought about our limited budget and then hesitantly asked how she would like to decorate?

While anticipating the Country French pitch, Karen threw me a curve ball. She presented to tell me about the leopard and zebra pattern theme {visions of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland dancing through my head}. When Karen asked: “What do you think?” I made a communication mistake and said, “Whatever you want to do is fine honey”. Needless to say, I was surprised when I came home the next day and discovered that our living room had been decorated in neo Tarzan.

I really wasn’t thrilled with the idea when it was first presented, but I didn’t communicate clearly. Fortunately I’ve grown to love {really like} the room, but if I had spoken clearly in the first place things would have been better understood.

Often we fail to realize that we have different communication styles.

Often we fail to realize that we have different communication styles.

One style, I’ll call the dry creek, has minimal flow. Imagine that one spouse leaves the house at 6:00 a.m. and on the way to work is involved in a car accident. They are not really hurt too bad, but three cars are involved and the fire department and paramedics strongly urge a visit to the local hospital emergency room.

After being discharged from the emergency room at twelve p.m. they contact a rental car company that picks them up. After calling the insurance company and attempting to complete a full day’s work in five hours they arrive home at 6:00 p.m. As they arrive home their spouse asks, “How was your day honey?” And the response comes: “fine.”

The dry creek would frustrate a spouse who is thirsting for some meaningful communication. Often, the dry creek communicator is well intentioned. For example, they may not want to worry their spouse about the wrecked car and the hospital visit. Nevertheless, their spouse doesn’t feel satisfied because they have not had a chance to partake of their partner’s life.

One of the best ways to live with a dry creek is to prime the pump. By asking questions, we can obtain information that our spouse may not have initiated. Simple questions may become illuminating. For example, what was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day?

Sometimes a person is not generally a dry creek in regard to communication style, but when they are overwhelmed or upset they shut down and become a dry creek. In this case, we might find that priming the pump is not successful. Here, the person might not be ready to speak about their feelings.

We can be confident that if our spouse is generally a flowing stream of information that the water will once again flow. Perhaps giving them some space and allowing for a brief period of time to pass will allow the ice to melt and the stream to once again flow.

It may be helpful for us to initiate the communication. For instance: “I want to understand what you are feeling, can we talk?” Go back to the stream when the normal flow has been halted and try to remove any dam.

Another communication style is the babbling brook. Imagine that our first spouse comes home from his car accident ordeal and says their day was ‘fine’. The dry creek than asks the babbling brook how their day was?

The babbling brook begins: “Well I woke up at 6:00 a.m. just as I heard the door close. I don’t even remember you saying goodbye. When I got out of bed it was cold so I went to put on my slippers, you know the fuzzy warm ones, but it took me forever to find them. Then I remembered the dream I had last night about being chased through the jungle by a lion. The jungle was dense and the lion was huge and scary but I got away when I climbed up a vine into a house in a tree. And Jesus was there and you were there and there was a dwarf or maybe it was a midget and they were wearing a strange hat…”

The babbling brook will continue to recount the events of their day from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.. Often including great detail. Unfortunately, the dry creek was looking for a response such as ‘fine’. Essentially, before the babbling brook has gotten past the play-by-play through 7:00a.m. the dry creek is ready to pull hair – either their own or their spouse’s.

Just as a dry creek does not satisfy the thirst for communication, the babbling brook can drown a desire for communication. Here, a babbling brook needs to learn flood control so that they limit some of the communication flowing out and their spouse needs to learn to be more of a reservoir to receive the information.

It is necessary for couples to recognize that God has cut them from different cloth and that there are differences in communication styles. Regardless of our tendencies we need to become more effective communicators for us to better understand one another. Which brings us to the next area of communication… listening.

At Calvary Nexus we are blessed that the assistant pastor, Nick, is one of the most gifted listeners I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. He is attentive and is patient as the day is long. People are really ministered to by Nick… sometimes simply because he has listened effectively.

In order to communicate well we must learn to listen well.

In order to communicate well we must learn to listen well.

I know a man who is married to a babbling brook. He wears hearing aids and his way of dealing with it is to turn down the hearing aids so he can’t hear her. She keeps talking and he occasionally nods. She thinks he is listening but he doesn’t hear a word!

I have to admit that I’m learning that listening is more than just hearing. Sometimes when my wife is talking to me, I’m busy doing something else at the same time. Karen will ask “Are you listening?”.

I’ll often repeat back word for word what she had said because I really was paying attention. Unfortunately, even though I heard, I’ve ripped her off because I didn’t give her the undivided attention she deserves when we are talking.

Have you ever talked with someone on the telephone and heard them typing on the keyboard while you are speaking? Sometimes you feel that they are not really paying attention because they seem to be busy with something else. Sometimes we are guilty of doing the same or similar things in our relationships. In the marriage relationship, it is important to learn to listen so that we can communicate better.

I am slowly learning the need to spend more time trying to listen patiently. I am realizing my tendency to want to quickly offer solutions rather than simply listening. Sometimes people don’t even want solutions at all they just want to be heard.

Sometimes people don’t even want solutions at all they just want to be heard.

The same principle is true in our marriages.

We will consider the subject of communication more in the section “Intimacy”. Suffice it to say we cannot underestimate the need to communicate in a fruitful marriage. And, to communicate and understand one another we need to speak and listen effectively.

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