At an early morning prayer meeting one Saturday with my fellow elders, I was presented with a book by Jerry & Mary White, entitled “UNFINISHED: How to approach life’s detours, do-overs, and disappointments.” The elders conveyed this to me: “We agreed that you are a piece of unfinished work being perfected by the good Lord with much love.”
There are so many areas of my life which are unfinished. Sins and weaknesses to overcome, projects half-done, others not even started. You may be able to empathise due to similar work-in-progress in your life.
As Har Lee and I recently started our 35th year of marriage, I was drawn to chapter 3: “Unfinished Marriages”. I found many lessons mirroring our struggles and I share what I learnt. Some of us may remain single, but many in YCKC are either about to be married, newly married or married for some years. Some marriages end due to divorce and others end due to an unexpected early death of a spouse. Other marriages which appear to last long are sometimes dogged by tensions which make life for both spouses intolerable. Finally some marriages get better with age, but still have their ongoing issues. Every one of our marriages is “unfinished” in some ways.
Dissension in some marriages may have started early. Constant bickering over the smallest things like which route to take on a car ride, spending on small items, giving to in-laws, un-kept promises, etc, can take its toll on our marriages, often resulting in isolation, disrespect and misery. “Since God chose you to be a holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave, so you must forgive others.” (Col 3:12-14)
Differing views will always be there, but Jerry and Mary White suggested a few strategies to keep them from making us bitter.
- Practise humility and patience – Instead of arguing with your spouse, say, “You may be right.” This way tension is defused and both sides can take a step back, preserve their dignity and look at the matter again later in a less heated circumstance.
- Pray together – Though this is difficult to do when in the heat of an argument, it works wonders. Be the first to suggest, even silent prayer together if neither partner is able to voice a prayer.
- Seek help – from friends, your pastor, or even a professional counsellor. Har Lee and I have done each of these at times, and there is no shame in it.
If your marriage is full of dissension, determine to change it; it is never too late. Whether you have been married for five months, five years or fifty years, God can intervene and bring change and harmony back into your relationship.
For all of us who agree that our marriages are unfinished, recognise that we are all “works-in-progress”. Accept that what has happened in the past is over and cannot be changed. Refuse to live with regrets. While you may review how things could have been done differently, don’t let those thoughts dominate your approach to life. Dwell on the good memories you had and be thankful what God gave you. May God help each of us married couples work at finishing our “unfinished marriages”.
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 15&16 November 2014)