On The Job Training

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Weddings are so beautiful! Well groomed tuxedos, new shoes, glistening dresses, every hair in place, and every detail covered. We can’t forget the cakes, flowers, candles, gifts and great music. Every moment includes a great photo opportunity. Most brides have created a picture in their minds of the day before it even arrives. Many grooms are surprised at how emotional they become. A majority of the friends are excited. Everyone is in love with love.

These pictures of grandeur are not unrealistic unless they are carried into the marriage without balance. The reality is, every moment in marriage is not a photo opportunity. In many cases, every hair won’t be in place, the new will be replaced with the worn out and most details could get overlooked. The cakes no longer figure into the calorie counts, the flowers fade faster, the candles melt, and the music can become annoying.

The truth is, even with premarital counseling, books, conferences and mentorship, marriage is on the job training. That is, the training for marriage is happening while the marriage is taking place.

After loads of conversations, observations, reflections, and research, I am not sure that there is anything that is really comparable to actual marriage, that could prepare individuals for the nuances of marriage. That isn’t a dim perspective, but one of honest pursuit.

From a business perspective, internships, classes, and mentors can do a great job of preparing you for your new vocation and create systems that allow for on the job learning. We would be wise to approach marriage in the same way. In order to lessen our learning curve for marriage, while creating a system that improves the vitality of our marriage, the following suggestions could guide how we approach marriage:

1. Study It

Unfortunately, our culture makes individuals work hard to see honest pictures of balanced, healthy marriages. This limited exposure should not diminish the reality that there are millions of healthy marriages today. Many of them are right around you. Study those marriages! Read books of wisdom on marriage. Research scriptural stories. Strive to obtain an unofficial graduate level understanding of how marriage should evolve.

2. Submit To Wise Counsel

Many couples are challenged to have couples who can provide balanced, Biblical insight on everyday realities that may not be a crisis, but could easily lead to one. Intentional prayer, inviting God to bless you and your spouse with other couples who can provide godly wisdom, should be the prayer for every marriage. The challenge of having this kind of community is that it requires authenticity, humility, and accountability. Rejecting this is a formula to limit the potential growth and development of your relationship. Finally, how you engage with these couples must be done in a way that is healthy for both couples, honoring to your spouse and honoring to Godly commitment towards unity.

3. Share Your Heart

Your spouse is most likely not a mind-reader. They will grow to learn your habits and personal rhythm. The learning curve can be significantly reduced when you wisely, humbling and sincerely share your heart. Often, we share our hearts to change the other person. This is a wrong motive for sharing. Sharing your heart to provide understanding should be the aim. Armed with insight, you can empower your marriage to be a place for considerate action, appreciative support and empathetic engagement. Without contention or aggression, learn how and when to share your heart with your spouse.

4. Be Quiet

Finally, the hardest area is our ability to learn when to speak but also when NOT to speak. Often times we feel the pressure to respond, defend, correct, be a savior or offer our highly valued opinion. Sometimes, our words aren’t needed in the moment, can’t be understood in the situation or received along with the other things that may be more important in the circumstance. Gandhi said, “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” You want clarity on your spouse, your marriage, your future together? Sometimes, it is found in the quietness of the moment, the refusal to speak, but listening, and finally, in the resolve to quiet your emotions.

Christopher J. Harris, a native of Palatka, Florida, is Director of Ministry Operations of the historic mega-church Fellowship Church of Chicago. He is also Overseer of Youth for Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International. Harris currently resides in Chicago with his wife and children. www.ChristopherJHarris.com.

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