Communication is hands down the most important thing to Danielle and I in our marriage. I know, that is nothing new…communication, or lack of, has been the cause of many great marriages and the downfall of many failed marriages. For us, it has been so much more than just talking through issues or decisions, it has been a very intentional road of ensuring we do not harbor or hold any resentment for the other person. If something was done or said that offends the other person and that thing has the ability to eventually turn into something bigger, then you need to raise your hand and say something. Now, you MUST mix in a large handful of grace in the equation because we all do and say stupid things that need to be forgiven and moved past (mostly me). Danielle is amazing at this…me…not so much. That said, I am still learning 23 years of marriage later. And let me be clear, 99% of the time it is my own fault and stems from something that I did not clearly communicate or I just expected Danielle to put on her magic helmet and read my mind. As I write this, I find it kind of comical how much I do this. We know each other REALLY well; as Sidney so eloquently has said, “you two must share the same brain!” BUT, and I mean a big BUT, this does not mean we can read each others minds and know what the other person is thinking all the time…that takes good old fashion communication. And…remember, communication = a message sent (speaking) and a message received (listening).
So, now we go back in time to Sunday morning at church. I am sitting in my chair listening to Pastor Robert’s message about the fact that our “heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9a). The funny thing is this very thought and idea was on my mind from our previous Wednesday night men’s group where we discussed this very topic. My mind began to drift away (because I have already heard this…why do I need to hear it again) from the message and I started to think about Valentine’s Day and what could I do for the amazing women who I have in my life (this will come back to haunt me a little later…I should have kept listening to the message). As I began to think about Monday night, I realized Riley (oldest daughter) would not be around because she and her boyfriend were going out. At that point I had the great idea of rushing to the grocery store after church to pick up salmon, asparagus, all the ingredients to make some yummy horse radish coleslaw, and the most chocolatey gluten free brownies I could find. That way once everybody got home from second service we could sit down together and enjoy each other’s company at the dinner table…and all my Valentine’s would know how much I loved them.
Error Made –
Danielle did not read my mind and know the three of them needed to come home together right after church. I did not tell Danielle that it would be really awesome if all three of them came home after church because I was going to make Valentine’s lunch early. NO MESSAGE SENT!
As I was wrapping up dinner and getting ready for my family, Danielle and Sidney showed up at the house. When I inquired about where Riley was, I was informed that Riley was off with her friends to have lunch…because that is what teenage daughters do when there are not family plans. This is when the seed was planted in my mind and my heart began to deceive me. We talked, Danielle apologized, and I verbally forgave but continued to harbor feelings of frustration in my heart. Now I am going to speed this story up a bit because this is when the Lord began to work on me and get my attention of what was occurring in my heart…but as you will see I am slow and the heart is truly desperately wicked and works overtime to justify itself.
- About an hour later, Riley shows up at the house feeling horrible about the entire situation. This was flat out blame misplaced. I explained to Riley that this was simply due to a miscommunication between Danielle and I (really just myself) and that she should not feel bad. This was wake up call #1 from the Lord, but instead of seeing it as a MY ERROR, I spread the blame to Danielle and I. My flesh was seeking to justify the state of my heart instead of taking full responsibility.
- About an hour later I saw a Facebook post from a friend about one of my favorite books, Leadership and Self-Deception. Wake up call #2. This is a fantastic book and it planted a seed in my mind…”the flesh seeks to justify itself.” But that seed quickly fell on dry and parched ground, because instead…I read the post and commented that it was a great book. I am almost certain that in my heart, I was like “man, am I glad I learned that lesson a long time ago. I am so proud of myself for how I do not put people in a box any longer or allow my flesh to justify it’s own deceived thoughts. Man, I am such a great person now that I have read that book!” As for me and this mind…I need to reread books often because I am flat out dense, forgetful, and stubborn most of time.
- Fast forward to bed time. We crawl into bed and talk through some remaining frustrations. Danielle asks if I wanted to pray together (wake up call #3), as we fairly successfully attempt to do every night, and I responded with a half hearted “yes”, because I knew it was the right thing to do. The whole time I was just stewing on the question of why Danielle didn’t ask me before she told Riley she could go out for lunch with her friends. Halfway through praying, I fall asleep and let the day go without dealing with the issue!!! That was dumb…
- It is now Monday and Valentine’s Day. I am going to be super husband and dad, and go get cards and gifts for the best wife and daughters in the world! As I am doing this, I am consumed with the thought that men need Valentine’s Day too, why is it primarily about the girls? We need to know we are important and loved and valued and HOLY SELFISH THOUGHTS BATMAN…Alex, I will take “the heart is desperately wicked for $1000.”
- Monday afternoon I have the thought that I need to run over to church for a few minutes and drop something off. I unexpectedly run into a brother and we have an amazing conversation. Honestly, he had no idea about 90% of the thoughts that were flowing through my head at the moment and most likely if he would have said, so how is your marriage, I would have responded with, “awesome, thanks for asking!” Instead, we have an amazing discussion, he SIGNIFICANTLY encourages me in the Lord and speaks the exact words this mess needed to hear and we pray together. Wake up call #4. But, I still have not figured out this whole thing stemmed from ME!
- I run home and tell Danielle about this amazing experience I just had and then the crap hits the fan and now we get to confront Scott’s deceitful heart. Why does it take multiple people to say the exact same thing as my wife has been saying for it to finally click in my head? Why does the one closest to me, the one who loves me the most, feel the least significant? Why…because I allowed my heart to be deceived, I allowed my flesh to justify itself, I did not convey the message and expected my mind to be read, and because I did not listen when my wife was trying to apologize and encourage me. WAKE UP CALL #5, the final wake up call.
It took 2 days, 3 other people, and an exasperated wife to finally get my attention. She asked me some very pointed and direct questions (a whole other subject). What will it take for you to be happy? Do you not know that your emotions, your joy and happiness effects the entire family, not just you? There are a thousand and one excuses, reasons, etc. but it all comes down to our heart is full of deceit and works overtime to justify its own actions. It will seek to blame others before it accepts responsibility for the circumstances it caused, which in this case was a very simple statement. “Hey babe, will you make sure all three of you come home after second service, because I would love to make a special lunch for all of you.”
I share this because it is messy. It sucks. We are all susceptible to being deceived, and it is my hope that our transparency will help someone, because that is what the journey requires of me. It is also a reminder to give my wife my full attention when she speaks and realize her words carry weight in our marriage. It should not take 3 other people to repeat a message that she has been clearly communicating to me for a while.
We must remember…
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places”Ephesians 6:12
This battle is not between spouses and children, it is between the flesh seeking to justify its own evil actions and seeking to make everybody just as miserable as it is. But, there is so much hope and forgiveness to be found. Ezekiel prophesied in Ezekiel 36:26, that we would receive a new heart and a new spirit. Christ came to fulfill that promise and in him we are a new creation! We have everything we need to conquer the deception of the flesh…we simply need to be aware of the present battle.
I love you all and if I could summarize some marriage advice here…
- Send message – speak
- Received message – listen (do much more of this than speaking!)
- Pray together
- Make up (remember this is marriage advice, not dating advice)
- Our heart is deceptive and we need Jesus