The testimony of two

This Sunday was Mother’s Day. So Saturday was a great day to spend undermining S’s ability as a mother with my words and actions…

You can imagine that when I sat down to write a card on Sunday morning, even though words normally flow from my pen quite freely, this time I couldn’t do it. Not because the words weren’t there, but because my words weren’t backed up with my actions.

What’s the point of me writing “You do such a great job at x,y,z…”, when just the day before, everything I did screamed “You’re doing it wrong, my way is better…”

John 8:17 says “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.” Why the testimony of two? Well, I can write or say whatever I want, but unless S. bears witness to my words through my actions, that testimony is worthless. Until it is worked out and seen, it is purely words.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

– James 2:18

James is writing here about faith – but I believe this applies to love as well – our written or spoken expressions of love must be backed up by our actions. In fact, if our actions speak loud enough, we sometimes don’t even have to use words!

So here is the question I’m beginning to ask myself: How does she know? and the answer can’t be ‘because I say so’

  • How does she know that she’s valued?
  • How does she know that she is more important than my work?
  • How does she know that I respect her words?
  • How does she know that she is appreciated?
  • How does she know that I trust her words/actions/judgement?
  • How does she know that we’re on the same side?
  • How does she know that she is loved?

And the list could go on… Food for thought? I certainly have plenty of chewing to do…

 

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Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? (aka. bricks vs. mortar)

What really set the little piggy’s brick home apart from the others – was it the bricks?

Or was it the mortar?

I think this question touches on the real reason why I’m trying to go through this whole exercise of blog writing – I think I’ve been pretty ok over the years at working on the ‘visible building materials’ – the straw, bricks and wood – these materials are all different in quality, but produce a similar result on their own… A substandard home…

What are these in my example? I guess I mean the visible gestures, the birthday presents (just about?), Christmas when it comes around, and all the things I probably have to do in between, plus a bit more when I’m feeling committed – but essentially, ‘keeping up appearances’, keeping her happy, ticking the boxes…

As far as I’m concerned, we have a ‘decent’ marriage – we communicate, we give each other time, we fight, we forgive… But as I wrote here, something still isn’t quite there yet.. I’ve been wracking my brains over the last couple of weeks about how to describe it, or what I can do to ‘fix’ it. (Because that’s what us guys do best, right? Spanner, hammer, saw – it’ll be better, surely? And if I’m not too handy, I’ll call my handyman, give him a few bucks and job done…)

What I’m beginning to see is that to have a truly healthy marriage, it’s like building something that will last. All of the ‘visible gestures’, these are like the building materials – they’re essential – they’re what our joint memories are made of – the happy times, the moments, the dates, the holidays, the gifts – the things we hang on our walls. Sometimes I might do something simple, like straw, sometimes I might splash out on a few bricks…

But have you ever wondered what set this little piggy’s house apart? How did it stand up against the might of the wolf?

piggie

You guessed it…

He used cement.

Take a look at this English country garden wall:

dry-stone-wall

Take this beautiful English country wall, for example – it looks beautiful, but try to put any pressure on it, try to put a roof on it… And it will fall apart.

What about our marriages? I’m pretty sure our marriages are meant to provide ‘shelter & cover’ for each other, for our families, for those that come into our homes, for our community. But a marriage built without mortar will struggle to stand the test of time & pressure.

So what is the mortar?

Good question. Why do you think I’m on this journey? I don’t have the answer fully… yet.

I’m sure there is much more that can be said, but what I am learning at the moment is that all of the ‘less visible’ communication that goes into our marriage creates a picture. The way I talk to my wife, the way that I treat her in front of the kids, the way that I support her choices, her decisions… The way that I  stand up for her in front of our friends (and even my family?).

How do I look at her when she comes in with the shopping? Do I say thanks for a job well done or jump straight to the bill to see if she’s overspent?

Whose side do I take (even if I disagree with how she’s gone about doing something?).

What about the little things? The thank you’s, taking time to actually kiss her goodbye before she leaves the house for the day? The coffee in bed, the flowers for no reason? What about serving without pulling a face? Or helping with the jobs that somehow have become hers for some reason?

This picture, even though it is not always communicated explicitly weaves its way between every single visible gesture, and feeds the bigger picture. She may not be able to put her figure on why, but if we take the time to do this well, one day she will know without question, whatever storm may come:

“I am loved. I am valued. I am honored. I am appreciated. I am respected. I am safe.”

There have been days of my life when I have given a grand gesture and undermined it entirely with every single other bit of communication – this is like laying the most precious stone into the brickwork of your home and cementing it in with acid!

And this is something that takes time – if you (like me) haven’t started very far down this path, it can’t be fixed overnight. It can’t even be subcontracted to a handyman. There needs to be mortar between every single brick in a wall. It needs to be even & consistent.

So here I stand, before a challenge, to get mix cement!

I once told a dear family member on the day of his wedding: ‘God has called you to build a home for your wife and for your family – make sure you build it well.’

I knew back then what I thought the picture should look like. I guess now I feel I’m learning what skills it takes to get the job done excellently.

Am I happy with building a shack that can barely protect us against English drizzle? Or will I actually take the time to invest in crafting a shelter that can open its doors to my piggy brothers when the wolf comes blowing, or even my community when it gets really stormy?

I guess I know what my answer is. But turning that into day to day life is probably something else altogether.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

1 Cor 3:12-14

The Love Book

This one is a tried and tested tip that I just wish I remembered myself most of the time… The Love Book. Yes, it does involve getting in touch with (and communicating) your more sentimental side, but also yes – it does make a difference!

It is really what it says on the tin – a book. It can be any kind of book, big, little, lots of pages, no pages – anything you can write in. And it’s purpose? To write things in! Encouragements, verses, kind words, praise, prayers, thank yous, pictures, art work, love poetry, songs, whatever takes your fancy… We’ve even used ours to deliver the odd surprise present, or start a good old fashioned treasure hunt…

My saddest admission right now is that the book that we started writing in when we got married almost 10 years ago… Has only just been finished. In 10 years. One measly book. Not proud of that.

So – in my new found desire to be a better husband, I went out and bought not one, but two today!

(That’s a double whammy – gifts and words in one. Jackpot)

I even wrote my first entry… My aim is to write in it at least once a week – it shouldn’t be too hard to say something nice that often, should it?!

Couple of nice words, tactically placed book on the pillow, and hopefully Bob’s your uncle and you have one blessed, loved & valued wife.

Simples.

Oh, and word of warning. Don’t. Ever. Use the book to try and give some ‘constructive criticism’. It is NOT the right place for it.

Practicing Empathy Before Feedback

Empathy is certainly something I know God wants to teach me in this season – empathy with S, empathy with my kids, empathy with my colleagues – seeing things their way before (I mean rather than, ahem…) I impose my opinion.

This is emphasized even further if you know that your significant other’s love language is ‘words of affirmation’ – your (or in my case), my desire to impose my opinion doesn’t just cut across what they were feeling, but actually significantly harms their value of themself, and serves to damage rather than build up in love.

I wrote about empathy just a minute ago, regarding trying to see things the way they see things – even when doing something you think is an act of service – but this covers a whole different area, when in conversation, when in daily life.

So, this may become a mantra for me too…

“Empathize, empathize, empathize!”

This little video was really helpful to me – as I know this is an area I constantly stuff up in!

Source: Practicing Empathy Before Feedback