Honesty, Blessing, and Protection
About the Guest
You know your spouse better than anyone. Not only what they like and don't like, but also their deepest hurts and fears. Popular speaker and author Gary Thomas tells husbands and wives if you really want to love your spouse, you have to kill the things in your marriage that irritate your spouse or you will be disconnected in your marriage. Recorded on FamilyLife's 2016 Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise.
Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Gary Thomas tells husbands and wives if you really want to love your spouse, you have to kill the things in your marriage that irritate your spouse.
Honesty, Blessing, and Protection
Bob: If you love your spouse, you’ve got to be aware of the fears—Gary Thomas calls them “spiders”—that are a part of your spouse’s life. You’ve got to be a part of the perfect love that helps to cast out those fears.
Gary: Your spouse has a real past with real hurts and real fears. It doesn’t matter whether you think they’re silly or illegitimate or you should just think your way through them—if they motivate your spouse and you want to be close to your spouse—you’ve got to kill those spiders that irritate your spouse because it’s better to be connected than to hold onto those spiders and be disconnected in marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll spend time today exploring the things that differentiate an ordinary marriage from a life-long love. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. Tell you what—just hearing Gary Thomas’ voice there again is bringing back some nice memories.
Dennis: I noticed you started rocking. [Laughter] People are wondering if Bob’s rocking—it’s not a matter of rock music—it’s a matter of a big boat that just gently would put you to sleep each night. It’s not enough to cause you to be sea sick or anything.
Bob: I didn’t hear about anybody aboard the cruise who had any motion sickness. We had a nice time on the sixth annual Love Like You Mean It®marriage cruise, which was just a couple of weeks ago. It was a Caribbean cruise from Miami. We got a chance to be with 1,300 couples—we had the whole boat. I have to tell you—when you are on a cruise and everybody on the cruise is there for the same reason, with the same heartbeat, it’s a whole different experience than anything else you’ve ever done.
Dennis: It really is a lot of fun. Met a lot of Legacy Partners there, Bob—who are donors to FamilyLife—
—who keep this boat floating,—
Bob: You’re right.
Dennis: —moving forward. Over 93 hours of entertainment, programming, teaching, preaching—I admit I did a little of that! [Laughter]—worship, a comedian, ballroom dancing.
Bob: Our seventh annual Love Like You Mean It marriagecruise will depart from New Orleans next year—little different itinerary as we’re headed out February 13th through the 18th—it’s Valentine’s week. Paul David Tripp is going be joining us, Kevin DeYoung is going to be with us, H.B. Charles, Jeremy Camp will be onboard doing music. The reason we’re mentioning this is—at this point, next year’s cruise is already half sold-out. If you’re interested in attending, now is the time to give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY and find out more about how you can sign up for next year’s Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
We expect it will be sold out by May.
I asked the team, “Is there anything we can do special for FamilyLife Today listeners?” They agreed that, for the next two weeks, they’re going to make some special offers available. So call 1-800-FL-TODAY to find out what all of that is.
Today, we’re going to hear one of the messages that we heard on the cruise as our friend, Gary Thomas, was there speaking about the characteristics / the things that differentiate a marriage that goes the distance from a marriage that gets bogged down along the way.
Dennis: Gary is a warrior for the family. Many of you know him by his books—he has written a number of them. He is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston and is a great teacher and preacher. You’re going to love this devotional that was given by Gary Thomas on the Love Like You Mean It cruise.
Bob: Yes, this was Tuesday morning as we all got up and started our day at sea on the cruise. Here is Gary Thomas.
Gary: Some years ago, I was just about to go to sleep—
—you know, that twilight when you’re just about there. I heard one of the worst sounds in the world—it was this “beep”—“Ah! Smoke alarm.” Have you ever wondered why they don’t go off at 10 am or at 2 pm? They always go off at the worst times.
We had these high ceilings at the time, where we lived. I’d have to go down to the garage, get a ladder, and get the 9-volt batteries. “It’s just not worth the hassle. I’m just going to will myself to sleep.” So I’m—“beep” —and I’ve got—after two or three times, I realize that it’s not going to work. I go downstairs, I get the ladder, I get some 9-volt batteries, rip off the smoke alarm, put the battery in, get back in bed—“beep.” It’s the wrong one! So I go out in the hallway; alright? I had the bunch of batteries—so I put the ladder into the hallway. I take that one out—I get it in / get back in my bed—“beep.” Rrrr! It was in my daughter’s bedroom! I mean, six linear feet away! Didn’t even know my daughter’s bedroom had one, right next to the hallway. So I do that—I take it out / I get it in—my adrenaline is just pumping right now.
I know because I got in bed and Lisa was catapulted about two feet up in the air. She goes, “D-Did you get it?” I go: “I didn’t just get it, I conquered it. I am lord and master of this house!” And you know what happened next? “Beep.” Lisa had been married to me long enough to know something was going on. She goes, “Gary, whatever you’re thinking of doing, please don’t!” I gave her my favorite line from Rocky 2, “Honey, I never asked you to stop being a woman, please don’t ask me to stop being a man.” I got out my ladder, I ripped off every smoke alarm upstairs, threw them all in a box, took them downstairs—
Lisa is appalled. She said, “What if there’s a fire?!” I said, “As long as the fire takes the smoke alarms, God’s will be done!” Alright? “I want to get some sleep.” I threw them all in, and you can guess—a couple minutes later—“beep.” I just put up with it for another couple beeps; and then it was about midnight, by this time. My son was in high school. He had a midnight curfew—so he came in. He had to check in and tell us he was in.
So he’s talking to us. While he’s talking to us, the “beep” goes off. He goes, “Huh.” He walks over to my dresser, where I had this brand-new thing called the flip phone: “Hey Dad! Did you know that you missed a call?” [Laughter] I wanted to toss that thing across the street! But I just signed up for a two-year plan so—I wasn’t able to do that.
But I had spent a furious hour of my life, trying to treat the symptoms without dealing with the underlying cause. So often that’s what we do with marriage. We treat the symptoms and we don’t go for the underlying cause. When I talk about the underlying cause, I’m talking this morning about the heart. How do we shape our hearts to become a more intimate couple?
Now the four things I want to share are difficult / they’re scary, but they work! They really can change your marriage. If we will let our heart move in these directions, we can have radically different marriages if we’ll just embrace them.
The reason I like it is because often we talk about the physical things we can do—date night / which is good, scheduling sex / which is fine—all of these things—love languages—those are wonderful things to learn about, but how do we shape our heart? Because, ultimately—if we want to become one / if we want to be reconnected as a couple—how do we get in there and shape our heart?
These are four spiritual practices I’ve found that really can do that. If you’re taking notes, I encourage you to take them down because these are great discussions how you can grow in this first area. The first one I want to talk about is simple—it’s honesty. It’s honesty. If you want to increase the level of intimacy in your marriage, increase the level of honesty. Jeremiah 8:5 warns of those who “cling to deceit.”
It is always amazing to me, as a pastor, that we get married so that we can share our lives together, and then, we spend most of our lives hiding from each other. Well that creates a great frustration because we can’t be intimate with somebody we’re—we’re lying to.
Intimacy, by definition, is being fully-known and fully-accepted. If we’re not fully-known, we can’t be fully-accepted.
I know to men, in particular, this is terrifying to us. Just a little window to the wives—a lot of us guys are just astonished that we got a woman to marry us; okay? I mean, we were cut from sports teams by coaches, we were ridiculed by our siblings, we never feel like we measured up. Somehow, we got this woman to marry us; and we’re afraid, if she gets to know us as we really are, she’ll be like the coach who wants to cut us, or the siblings who said or friends who said we didn’t quite measure up.
But men, when we give into that fear, we miss one of the most healing aspects of marriage. My wife married a very insecure man, who still deals with a lot of insecurity. I’m three of four kids. I had two older brothers that were—you know, you can’t compete with them. I had the younger sister who was the little princess. We’ve got three boys and you’ve got the princess.
One of the most healing things for me of all is—
—Lisa knows me, literally, better than anyone else; and she still likes me / she still respects me. I can’t believe it! I can’t tell you the healing that that brings into my life.
In fact, a couple years ago, we were with a couple. I had been at work all day, and we were meeting the couple at a restaurant. Lisa was the last one to arrive—she had been at our home—she came in. It was November—she kind of just scootches in and gets close to me. The other woman says to her, “Well, are you cold?” She goes, “No, I just—I’ve been away from him all day—I really miss him.” I felt like a king! Here we’d been married almost 30 years at the time—had just been apart for one workday—and Lisa was eager to see me. I can’t tell you what that did for my soul.
But here’s the thing—if I know I’m lying to her, instead of that moment making me feel great, it’s going to terrify me because I’m going to like how it feels but I’m going to be afraid: “Well, she likes me because she doesn’t know about x or y.
“She respects me because she hasn’t found out about y or z.” So what am I going to do because I don’t want to lose that? I’m going to double down into deceit—I’m going to build a wall. I’m not going to let her get to know me. Men—if I could just tell you—most wives will tell me one of their greatest frustrations in marriage is they feel like their husband just won’t let them in. They feel like: ‘I never really get to know him. I feel like there’s always something up.”
I talked—this was a tragic situation with a rather young couple, married less than five years. She knew something wasn’t right in her husband’s life. She didn’t know all of his past—he hadn’t been completely honest before they got married—and he hadn’t dealt with it, even though he was in the ministry. Things weren’t going well. She sat him down, and she looked him in the eyes, and said: “Look, I am the kind of woman who will work through anything—and I mean anything—but you’ve just got to be honest with me. I need to know what’s going on in your life.” He knew he was kind of on the spotlight / so he confessed to one of the weakest sins he could think of—
—leaving a lot of dark still in the dark.
When it finally came out—as it will—she was done and their marriage is over. She was calling for him to be honest and he refused. One of the things I understand about what she was saying is: “You can’t be intimate with a woman you are lying to.” Deception becomes a part of that relationship, and it’s terrifying. But when we have a God of grace, when we know forgiveness, when we know—as we talked about last night / James 3:2, that “We all stumble in many ways…”—we have the context to be honest with each other, to accept each other, and to grow.
Justin Davis was a pastor, who also had a really tough background; but this has a much happier ending. He got involved in a lot of things—pornography, ended up having an affair with his best friend’s wife—it came out. It took weeks and months for them to really be restored; but coming out of it—and this is the thing I’d say to the guys—he realized: “Deception has ruined my whole life.
“It’s ruined my relationship with God. It’s ruined my relationship with myself—I’m disconnected from myself—I’m disconnected with my wife. I can’t believe I did that to my friend,”—cheating with his wife—I mean, all that he did. He lost his ministry—everything.
Here are the four questions that he now regularly asks himself because he’s so committed to the truth:
- Is the fear of the consequences of the truth greater than my commitment to tell the truth?
Isn’t that what makes us lie? We’re afraid of the consequences more than we’re afraid of being dishonest.
- Am I telling myself the truth?
We can lie to ourselves.
- Is there a truth I’ve distorted or am distorting right now?
- Is there something I’ve withheld or am currently withholding from my spouse?
Get before the Lord this week—you’ve got a great time / you’ve got some opportunities—and say, “Lord, how honest am I being with my spouse?” Understand that whatever is most painful to share with our spouse is something that God probably wants to work on.
I’ll be very honest—I would be much less of a man if I wasn’t worried about my wife finding out about certain things. The danger of giving into that fear and living in deception before your wife is—what Satan says is: “You know what, Gary? There’s a way you can have this action, or this sin, or this attitude and still have your wife and still have her esteem—and that’s lying about it.”
Jesus said Satan is the father of lies. Lies never serve a marriage because Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” To bring Jesus into our marriage is to bring the Truth into our marriage. If you want to increase the level of intimacy in your marriage, increase the level of honesty. It’s tough to get there / it’s scary to get there, but it helps bind us together.
The second thing that will really help us is the blessing mentality—the blessing mentality. There are really two different dimensions that we can live in. This is a cognitive change and it’s a hard change. It sounds—not that profound—but when it’s practiced, it changes marriage enormously.
It comes from Genesis 12:2 when God is saying to Abraham, “I’m blessing you”—why?—“to be a blessing.” That’s the way it works.
First John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” The biblical model is that God pours Himself out for us so that we pour ourselves out for others. We’re to be a blessing to others. So every day of marriage I live with one of two questions. These are the two dimensions: “How can I get my needs met?” or “How can I bless you?” It’s that simple. Every time we’re in a disagreement, I have a thing: “Do I want to win this argument or do I want to bless my wife?” Only one of those two motivations will prevail. James 4:1-2 says this: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? You want something but don’t get it.”
I believe most divorces could be stopped if every couple would wake up every day and their first thought is, “How do I bless my spouse today?”
It just puts everything into focus. It changes the color of the day. It is just our selfish desire: “How do I get my needs met today?” “How do I get my husband to finally do this?” “How do I finally get my wife to do this?” But if we wake up and say, “How do I be a blessing to my spouse today?” that involves going to God first—getting the blessing from Him. We need His affirmation, we need His encouragement, and we need His empowerment. When we do that, it’s just natural then—or I could say supernatural—that we want to bless others. The more we receive from God, we are just compelled to pass it on. That’s the second thing that we do.
The third one we’re going to talk about is what I call “killing spiders”—killing spiders. I don’t have a problem with spiders, but my wife really does. If I see a spider in the house [splat], it’s dead—I kill it. There are good things about spiders—they actually kill other insects—that can be good, but it freaks Lisa out. If she sees a spider unexpectedly, she wants me to kill it.
Now, because I’m married to Lisa / because I want to love her and bless her, there are certain spiders I have to kill. Let me put this in a relationship metaphor.
If Lisa’s dad had been an alcoholic—he surely wasn’t / but if he had—I think I would just kill alcohol use. Theologically, I don’t believe there is an absolute prohibition against alcohol but—if I knew that she had grown up with that in her childhood—every time she smelled it on my breath / every time I maybe had just a little bit too much to drink—she couldn’t help it. She’s a real person with a real past. All those feelings are going to come up from her childhood. To protect her, I don’t want her to have to face that / I don’t want her to have to overcome that—so I can choose either this on this side / drinking or I can choose: “Do I want to be close to my wife?”
Now so many times when I work with couples they say: “But I enjoy that. Why do I want to give it up?” Because a connected marriage is so much more fulfilling than a disconnected marriage—with hobbies. It really is! That’s what we want—we want a life of intimacy.
And to grow closer together, there are certain things we have to kill that might not be morally problematic but they keep pushing our spouse away. We have to choose: “Do I want to maintain my independence and live in a rather disconnected marriage?” or “Am I willing to kill just about anything to have a life of true intimacy and oneness?” I think if you could experience intimacy and oneness, you would choose that.
If Lisa and I were on our second marriage—we’re not—surely, this is our first one / our only one—but if her first husband had wrecked their marriage with video game playing too much, I think that is something—it’s a spider I can kill because I think every time I pick up that controller, all of that is going to come back from her past: “Oh no. Here we go again. I lost my first husband to that.” Maybe I get a little too into the game, and a little too excited, and I forget that maybe two or three hours have passed. I just say: “You know what? I chose her / I want to be close to her. This is a spider I need to kill, and I’m going to kill it.”
The thing is about this—this is something that goes on throughout our life because different spiders crop up when we’re in different stages of marriage. Lisa and I are rather recent empty nesters. So now we’re travelling together a whole lot more than we used to when the kids were young and at home. It’s amazing to me—because when we come out of the hotel elevator or when we go out in the parking garage, Lisa would always turn the wrong way; alright? If the hotel room was right, she would go left. If the rental car is north in the parking lot, she would go south. I kept thinking, “You’d think she would guess right half of the time”; alright?
But she’s the extrovert—she had all these great conversations, and she wants to recount them to me, and she’s got the energy going, and just talking, and she doesn’t have to worry about it because she knows I paid attention so it doesn’t even kick in to her. I’m letting her out of the elevator first so she’s always the one ahead. I was just kind of laughing about it because we’d been in this hotel for several days, and she went the wrong way again. I thought, “Really?!” [Laughter] That wasn’t the best way to make her feel close to me, men—alright? I wouldn’t recommend that response; okay. Well, that didn’t work out.
So the next day she did it again. I just stopped where I was. She went 20/25 yards away. She looks and she saw what I was doing. That didn’t go so well either; alright? [Laughter] Typical guy—I said: “Well, what am I supposed to do? If I say something, you say it makes you feel stupid. If I don’t say anything, you think it’s an act of disrespect. I can’t win!”—right? That’s the guy perspective. She goes: “It’s easy. Just say, ‘This way, hon,’—with exactly that tone.” I thought, “Alright.” Next day I get to try it out. [Laughter] She goes right—I go, “This way, hon!” She turns around, gives me a gorgeous smile, we laugh, we have a good moment, and we go off down the way; right?
Men and women, it’s just this—if there’s this life situation that’s pulling the two of you apart, how about if you just say: “Then tell me what spider I need to kill. I don’t want you to feel disrespected. I don’t want you to feel stupid. I honestly don’t know what to do though—I think I’m at an impasse. Show me how to kill this spider.” Then kill that spider.
Now, whenever that happens, it draws us closer together rather than pushes us away because we want to be closer together.
My youngest daughter, Kelsey, has been in three automobile accidents on the freeway—and none of them were her fault. A couple of them were pretty serious. One, her car was completely totaled and she was shaken forever. It’s not her fault. When you’ve been in car accidents and they weren’t your fault, it’s not like you can take—I mean—what are you going to do differently if it’s not your fault? It just happened.
So when she is driving with me, particularly if she’s in the front seat, I’m Grampa Gary, you know? There’s 100 yards between me and the front car. I’m not driving aggressively/ I’m not coming right up on somebody because she’s a real person with a real past. To honor her, and to protect her, and to love her, I’m going to kill that spider of aggressive driving. She can’t help it—it’s who she is.
What I’m saying is—your spouse has a real past with real hurts and real fears. It doesn’t matter whether you think they’re silly or illegitimate or you should just think your way through them—
if they motivate your spouse and you want to be close to your spouse—you’ve got to kill those spiders that irritate your spouse because it’s better to be connected than to hold onto those spiders and be disconnected in marriage.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to Gary Thomas with Part One of a message that he shared on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise a couple of weeks ago, as we were out in the Caribbean, Valentine’s week—a great reminder that we need our agenda to be other-focused in marriage.
Dennis: Yes. I was thinking, as Gary was speaking there—it’s really 1 John, Chapter 4, verse 18—this is the spider passage, Bob: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all [spiders].”
Bob: There’s a reason that you gravitate to that verse; isn’t there?
Dennis: It’s inside my wedding band and Barbara’s as well.
I’ll tell you—it’s the mandate for every marriage. You really have to find out: “What is your spouse afraid of? What, maybe—as Gary said—has damaged or hurt your spouse deeply and wounded them?” Maybe it’s a scar / maybe it’s not a wound today but you just have to respect it. You have to love them and give them love in a way that communicates to them: “You know what? Perfect love does cast out all fear.”
Bob: You know, we had a chance to talk with Gary about some of these same things in an interview we did with him right after his book, A Lifelong Love, was released. I would point our listeners to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, where there’s more information about Gary’s book. You can listen to the interviews we’ve done with him on this subject.
Let me also mention the brand-new FamilyLife app. If you go to your App Store for either your iPhone or your Android phone and you type in the FamilyLife—as one word—you will find the FamilyLife app. You can download it for free.
It gives you easy access to today’s program, to past programs, to articles, to additional content available from us at FamilyLife. You can order resources from us here.
And finally, let me just encourage you—if you’d like to join us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in 2017, we will set sail from New Orleans on Monday, February 13. We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day together at sea—we will head to the western Caribbean. We’ve got Kevin DeYoung joining us. Paul David Tripp is going to be onboard. H.B. Charles will be with us. Jeremy Camp is going to be singing. Michael Jr. will be on board doing comedy. We are excited about the cruise and so are many of our listeners because it’s about half-filled right now. So if you would like to be a part of the 2017 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, get in touch with us.
The best way to do it is to call 1-800-FL-TODAY. In fact, we’ve got some special rates available this week for balcony cabins—it’s actually good this week or next week. You need to call to get the information—
—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” We’d love to have you be along with us on the 2017 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.
We hope you can join us again tomorrow when we’re going to hear Part Two of Gary Thomas’ message from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, as he explores four ways that we can demonstrate our love for our spouse. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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