All glory to the Lord as we come to the last article in the series “Marriage and Vision”. Up until this moment, we have gained understanding on the following subject matters: As an introduction to the series, we unraveled some values in the society today that are hostile to marriages emphasizing the need to beware and ensure they do not sneak into our marriage In the first article “The crucial place of a common-vision in sustaining a fulfilling marriage”, we studied a number of partnerships in the bible and were able to see that it took a common-vision to sustain the partnerships and that when a common-vision is compromised in marriage and parties begin to pursue their own selfish ambitions, division sets in The second article “Preserving a common-vision in marriage” dealt with a common-vision in marriage as a seed that needs to be nurtured and uncovered things to be done to nurture this common-vision
In “Threats to a common-vision in marriage” we emphasized that marriage was of high value and for that reason needs to be guarded against the enemy’s attacks and devices. What tools/devices does the enemy deploy against marriages? We attempted answering this. In this concluding article, the focus will be on “intimate and consistent” communication in marriage – a vital lifestyle that must be if the common-vision of a marriage is to be kept alive. What purpose does communication serve in marriage? Beyond the psychological and emotional nearness that communication brings into a home are there some things that can go wrong spiritually when effective communication is missing in a home? How can effective communication be used to reinforce purpose in marriage? In order to extract maximum value from communication, what should be the characteristics of effective communication? NOW! Let’s seek answers to these by the help of the Holy Spirit. ISAAC AND REBEKAH - When only one spouse knows about the destiny of the children ‘Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” ’ Genesis 25:21-26, NIV Quite an interesting story leading up to the birth of Esau and Jacob! It is amazing how God works – one would have thought the destiny of the children would be revealed to the father who prayed and caused God to terminate the barrenness. However it was revealed to the mother. What should Rebekah have done? Was the revelation for her alone seeing that it takes two parents to raise a child? Could things go wrong when God reveals a thing to one of us about a child and he or she fail to share and communicate this revelation? The battle for the blessing ‘Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” ’ Genesis 27:5-13, NIV It becomes obvious at this point that Rebekah never shared with Isaac what God had revealed with her concerning the children. She lived with him for several decades but never shared this secret with the person who needed to know it most – the husband who had the patriarchal blessing; whose words would determine who comes first among the two children. Things went well in the home while this secret was hidden but a moment came that required that the secret should never have been made a secret. Let’s learn something deep from Jacob. “Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn” Genesis 48:12-14, NIV The purpose of God concerning the kids was revealed to Jacob and he put aside tradition by setting Ephraim ahead of Manasseh. It ought to have been this easy in Isaac case if only Rebekah had opened up and disclosed what God had revealed to her (as we would soon see in Manoah and his wife – parents of Samson). As a result of the non-disclosure by Rebekah, the family was almost destroyed because of inheritance. Summary of Lessons from the case God can decide to speak to any vessel in a family – husband or wife However execution power and patriarchal grace is placed on the husband and father For this reason, it expedient that the wife communicates clearly what God is telling her to her husband and vice versa This communication is not an imposition but a sharing of inspiration and divine instruction with faith that the Lord, who has given the instruction/revelation, will give understanding to the other party When there is misalignment (difference in understanding) concerning vision (the purpose and promises) in a home, peace will be affected and confusion will eventually set in SAMSON’S PARENTS – Models of Intimate Communication “A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name” Judges 13:2-6, NIV Very similar to the case of Rebekah we just studied – God revealed the purpose of Samson to the mum. However she was wise: after the encounter, she (the woman) went to her husband and told him. When you study this couple, you can clearly see intimate communication, oneness of heart, unity of purpose between husband and wife. ‘God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!” Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the one who talked to my wife?” ’ Judges 13:9-11, NIV Again we see Manoah (the husband) praying yet God appearing to the wife instead. Immediately, she (the woman) hurried to tell her husband. As a spiritual leader in a home, God reveals a lot of his purposes to the husband, BUT it is crucial to see here that God also shows things to the wife – very important things for that matters. The lives of the Manoahs teach us that if God’s purpose is going to be fruitful in a home, the husband and the wife MUST BE IN UNITY and COMMUNICATION MUST INTIMATE, CONSISTENT WITH NO HOLDING BACK. JACOB AND RECHAEL – When one party secretly brings strange gods The home is such an interesting place with all manner of events taking place. Some people come into marriages hiding the secrets of their family background from their spouse only to establish afresh a cycle of oppression that existed in their lineage in their homes. Some others secretly get involved in strange relationships and evil associations only to make other innocent family members suffer from things they have no hand in. There is so much interdependence in family life that parties in marriage need to live their life with great caution realizing that the consequences of their action affects not only them but all other family members. Now let’s learn from Jacob and his wife Rachael. “And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’” Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.” Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan. When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods.” Let’s break down these verses of scripture: God reveals to Jacob his plan for the family – they needs to return back to his native land (Canaan) Jacob discloses God’s plan for the family Both wives buy into the new direction and prepare for the journey Something strange happens – Rachael secretly brings along with her strange gods Many today are embarking on a God ordained journey with the company of strange gods. This company of strange gods could be conscious – the person takes them along as a source of extra support and backup should in case God fails. These strange gods could even be people (friends, family members, boss at work etc.) that we have put our trust in instead of God. The company of strange gods could also be unconscious – issues, covenants, curses and cycles of oppression that a person imports from their family background into their marriage unknown to the other party in the marriage. This kind of unconscious company often happens when a party in marriage hides things about their family background because of “family pride” and as a result, even though as Christians, they are equipped to deal with these challenge they never get to unite forces in prayer to deal with these limitations. One party knows and hides it while the other party thinks all is well – a perfect environment for the devil to continue and perpetuate evil in the family. Now what happens when people go with the company of strange gods on a journey ordered by God? ‘Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” . . . Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-by. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s house. But why did you steal my gods?” Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. But if you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.’ Genesis 31:24, 26-32, NIV I can imagine Jacob with so much confidence and faith in God as well as in his integrity as a person, whereas there was someone in his household who was carrying strange gods. Why did Laban pursue Jacob to destroy him? Because of his gods that were stolen. If not for God, Jacob’s life would have been terminated. Imagine the great risk that Jacob was exposed to simply because his wife carried along with her strange gods. It confirms the adage “It is the enemy within that harms a person”. Very likely Rachael had good intentions for her family (because the possession of the household gods in her culture signified legal right to take over the family inheritance) BUT her action was against the principles of God. It is crucial to lineup right intentions with the right actions. She wanted financial security for the family but went about it the wrong way. Faith in God must be absolute and requires total dependence on Him – no backup or alternative. God said go back to Canaan, the response should have been absolute faith. I agree firmly with Bishop Oyedepo “Anything that God cannot give me, I don’t need it. Anything that God cannot do for me let it never be done (paraphrased)”. In His time, He makes all things beautiful. Going forward with the narrative from scriptures, you would realize that despite the harassment and intense searching of Laban, Rachael refused to release the strange gods – rather she feigned she was menstruating and could not stand up; she deceived her dad. Observe what happens afterward? Esau and his men came after them (Genesis 32:6) They became a potential prey for the Shechemites (Genesis 34:30) Despite the fact that God has ordered the journey, there seem to be an unending chain of problems and challenges: (Laban) to (Esau) to (Shechemites). Eventually God intervened in the life of Jacob and the intervention reveals the source of his family problems – strange gods. “Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.” Genesis 35:1-5, NIV As long as they had strange gods, enemies kept pursing them BUT when they exposed all strange gods and buried them in worship of God, the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that NO ONE PURSUED THEM. It now becomes clear the reason why some couples are serving God fervently but the circumstances of their lives falls out of place with their kingdom service. In some cases, they are strange gods hidden in such homes, which the couple or a party in the marriage is aware of or in some cases none are aware of. Lessons from the Case In marriage there must be total nakedness, no hidden works, hidden sin, hidden ungodly lifestyles Sin in a life can open up the life of a spouse to danger and compromise the safety of the entire family Spouses must be very open about their family background – are we bringing a negative influence from our family background into our marriage? In Jesus name as we live in total openness with each other, every negative influence from our family background shall be exposed and flushed out of our home.
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION - Amplifying the voice of love and unity above other voices “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King There are so many voices seeking a place in our hearts. Some directly contend against God’s Word in our heart. Some indirectly seek to lure our heart away from God’s vision for our marriage into a path of carnality, selfishness and worldly pursuit. Considering this battle for attention in our hearts, we must consciously leverage communication to amplify the voice of love and unity in our home. A couple must consciously identify what matters to their homes and then emphasize those things and de-emphasize what will not help the home. One cannot afford to be silent about what matters to the sustenance of the family. A wise man once said that for a life to be complete – such a life needs to have something to do (career), something to love (an object of love), something to hope for (purpose for living). In marriage a couple should leverage communication to speak to these three things. When a couple is silent about these three key things, then the marriage begins to lose its life and vibrancy. As a spouse, are you speaking into your spouse’s career? How often do you as a couple emphasize the place of love for God? How often do you let your spouse know that he/she matters and that you share your heart, love and life with him/her? Are you constantly discussing the issue of purpose in life and in marriage? Are you making declaration about what God has said concerning your marital purpose? If a couple is not constantly talking about a shared purpose, the love they share for each other and their career pursuit then one wonders what they talk about. Any pattern of communication in marriage that leaves out these three vital areas is highly deficient and deprives a marriage of the requisite nourishment it needs to grow and get stronger each day in preparation for the storms that often hits marriages. Uniting Forces in Marriage “Communication is depositing a part of you in another person.” – Anonymous I strongly believe that they are three uniting forces in marriage and I succinctly present them as below: Constant Shared Communion with Holy Spirit (Word/Prayer) – Unites the spirit Intimate and Consistent Communication – Unites the soul An Undefiled Selfless Sex Life – Unites the body It all begins with a fervent consistent shared devotion to God by the help of the Holy Spirit, which unites the spirits of husband and wife. When the spirit is one, the propensity for intimate and consistent communication is higher, which unites the soul and ultimately leads to a more enjoyable sexual life. Some authors have emphasized that the most important sexual organ of a woman is her brain. This is not far from saying that when a woman heart is not right towards (single with) her husband, she finds him sexually less attractive. Another author puts it this way, if two hearts touch, it does not take much effort for their bodies to touch. The lesson for people who try to fix marital problems from bottom-up is that instead of focusing on immediate symptoms (he does not love me, she is stubborn, our sex life is dying etc.) go higher into sorting out spiritual oneness and emotional intimacy and then things will work out at the physical realm. PURSPOSE OF COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE “When two persons can share from the very center of their existence, they experience love in its truest quality. Marriage is a venture into intimacy, and intimacy is the opening of one self to another” David Augsburger Have you asked, why do I communicate with my husband or wife? What is the intent that drives my speech and my listening? Is there something we as a couple have set out to accomplish through communication in marriage? It is expedient that a couple answers these questions. Effective communication in a marriage can be such a powerful tool to drive intimacy, inspire each other and to fight divisive forces that oppose marriages – however understanding is required. It is lack of understanding that cause couples to entertain the thought of “not talking/keeping malice” as an option when a period of little misunderstanding and disagreement shows up in the marriage. No matter what, a couple must determine that communication will never be sacrificed in marriage to score cheap points. As long as the objective is to operate marriage according to the plan of God, intimate communication is not a choice, it is necessity. Now let’s probe deeper into the specific purpose of communication in marriage. Share Vision: Every vision is as good as dead if there is no one to run with it. God gives a vision to an individual but never gives a vision for an individual. A vision is deposited in a person for the benefit of several others. The bridge between the initial carrier of a vision and subsequent runners with the vision is effective communication. People can only run when the vision is communicated clearly to them. Paul the apostle puts it this way: “Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you.” 1 Corinthians 14:7-8, NIV
“Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.” Dr. Laurence J. Peter Anger must be controlled, emotions must be managed and nothing but wholesome words must come out of our mouths. A Christian couple needs to live intentionally i.e. live life choosing (in fact determining) to speak wholesome words. Consciously craft a program to speak inspired words into the life of your spouse, prophesy good things, declare the mind of God over the life of your spouse rather than emphasize past mistakes and weaknesses to no positive benefit. Taking it even further, a conscious step to leverage communication in marriage as a tool for building up your spouse must start from the purification of the heart. “Speech is the mirror of the soul; as a man speaks, so is he.” Publilius Syrus Little wonder Paul did not just say speak wholesome words but went further: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesian 4:30-32, NIV A heart that is filled with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and all forms of malice will necessarily speak evil. The control of the tongue is not in the tongue but in the heart. It is the purification of the heart that cleanses the tongue. Address the needs of the listener (emotional/psychological and others) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesian 4:29, NIV Notice wholesome speaking is not just for building up people BUT for building up our listeners ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS. In marriage, spouses need to tailor their communication to suit the needs of the other party. A woman needs emotional security, she wants to be appreciated, commended, encouraged, complimented etc. which varies to a large extent from the needs of a man. Therefore, the husbands needs to “speak to these needs” using communication as a tool to satisfy those needs in the life of his wife, likewise the woman. A man desires loyalty, respect, elevation in high esteem, honour and obedience. A wise wife needs to learn how to speak to these needs. One has to target his or her communication to satisfy his or her spouse’s needs. “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered” I Peter 3:7, NLT From this scripture, you begin to realize some communication problems in homes today is not because the persons involved intentionally desire to harm their spouses. The main cause is lack of understanding: lack of understanding of the other party’s emotional and psychological needs. Peter acknowledges the difference between a female vessel and a male vessel and emphasizes understanding in the way the man relates with wife. CHARACTERISTIC OF INTIMATE/CONSISTENT COMMUNCATION IN MARRIAGE Purposeful: Communication in marriage should be with clear objectives. The clarity of objectives will go a great extent to help us define the content of our communication. The objective goes beyond just expressing yourself to much higher aims such as to build the other party up, to meet needs, to share and reinforce vision etc. Consistent: Communication is not a one off thing. It needs to be an integral part of life. One should be uncomfortable living in the same house with a spouse and not speaking with him or her for a whole day. If there is misunderstanding, it should be solved quickly and while misunderstanding is being solved, never close the lines of communication (even though the lines maybe affected in some way) Planned: Communication needs to be a lifestyle and our daily routine. One has to make a conscious effort to ensure consistent communication. How often do you want to share the scriptures with your spouse? How often do you want to send a romantic SMS? How often do you want to communicate love through a gift? Don’t wait for convenience to do it, do it as a planned lifestyle. Sincere: It must be without deceit. One has to be completely naked not trying to create an image before his spouse. It is this kind of communication that breeds trust. It is communicating without fear of vulnerability. Open (No holding back): A party in marriage should not be speaking yet holding back relevant information that the other party in the marriage needs. Rebekah held back information that Isaac seriously needed in blessing Esau and Jacob and it almost destroyed her home. When such secrets are eventually revealed, trust can be badly damaged. And please note that the secret need not be something bad. It may even be something good. The issue is not the content of the secret but the poor management and non-disclosure to your spouse – particularly when they need it and it is important to them to know. Edifying and Encouraging: Communication should edify, it should be seasoned with grace making an impact in the life of the listener. Communication should stir up latent potentials in the life of the listener; it should strengthen and build up. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting . . . In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44, NIV PRAYER POINTS (Couple) 1. In this marriage I will use my tongue as tool for good works in Jesus name 2. My heart and tongue will never be instruments unto sin but instruments unto righteousness in Jesus name 3. In Jesus name, the predominant voice in my home shall be that of God’s Word, the voice of love, the voice of unity, the voice of mercy and forgiveness NOT selfishness, bitterness and hatred 4. Father cause your Word to take a deep place in my heart leading to gracious words in Jesus name 5. In Jesus name as we embrace effective communication, your vision for our marriage will get clearer and clearer – it will never be lost. 6. Every tendency to keep secrets to the detriment of intimacy in my marriage, I uproot from my life in Jesus name.