By Ashley McIlwain
I was watching my niece fight her nap. Her eyelids looked like they were packing luggage for a family of five, and yet, she would rather tote around that heavy load than to just close her eyes and let it slip away. She wanted to stay awake even though she desperately needed sleep. It was as though just closing her eyes and giving into the rest her little body needed was some sort of impending death sentence.
As we tried lulling her to sleep with every method known to man, she just kept on fighting us. She couldn’t understand that we weren’t trying to steal her fun, but rather, we knew that she couldn’t have fun if she was exhausted. Her little mind just couldn’t appreciate that. As an adult though, we recognized that in order for her to enjoy the rest of her afternoon, she needed to get some rest.
Once she finally lost the battle, her miniature body fell into such a peaceful state of rest, and my mom and I marveled at how hard children fight something like sleep that is so necessary for them. It doesn’t make sense really. Here we were worn out and wanting nothing more than to have the opportunity to take a nap, and the one person who could take it was avoiding it like a plague. So childish … right?
But here’s the thing … don’t we do the same thing as adults? We fight the good stuff. We think that rules, boundaries, and safeguards are the bad guys trying to steal our fun, when in fact they are the very things allowing us to have true fun and joy. Instead of listening to our loved ones when they are cluing us in on what we need, we derive a list of reasons why their advice is invalid, or we simply plug our ears pretending not to hear what they have to say. Rather than establishing some ground rules for our marriage to keep it out of harm’s way, we disregard it as nonsense and unnecessary. We do this kind of stuff all of the time like a bunch of immature children.
It’s time to grow up. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the childish ways behind me.” Just like naps are necessary for kids, there are things necessary for us to get the most out of life. Proverbs 4:1 says, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.” And just like parents aren’t trying to be cruel to their children when they discipline or instruct them, God’s boundaries and guidelines are to free not enslave us. We gain our understanding, wisdom, and rules as adults from God’s Word, our spouse, family, and trusted friends.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). This verse reminds me that I may think that I have the freedom to do as I please, but just because it seems right doesn’t mean that it is. That’s why we have a spouse who loves us and can help us stay on course. We need to spur one another on, keep each other accountable, and work hard to wisely establish that hedge of protection in our marriage.
Whether it’s handling finances, carefully examining friendships, planning for the future, making big or small decisions, or dealing with family dynamics, you and your spouse are a team. Together you need to work at creating a successful marriage. Establish what is best for both of you and your relationship.
Don’t fight what is good for you like a child. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” If your spouse tells you that you are headed for danger, heed those warnings. If the Holy Spirit convicts you to make some changes, do it promptly. It might mean cutting your spending, ending a friendship, having a heart-to-to heart with a family member who is overstepping their bounds, or avoiding potentially dangerous situations. Whatever it is, remember that “the man of integrity walks securely” (Proverbs 10:9).
Sometimes we want to resist what is good for us. We don’t want to make concessions, establish boundaries, or hear, “No,” but oftentimes those are the very things that protect us … our marriage. Just like a child needs correction and guidance, so do we. We don’t want to be those spoiled brats that are headed for isolation and self-destruction because we demand to always have our own way. Instead, we want to wisely, cautiously, and prayerfully consider what is best for us and our marriage even when it’s not easy, fun, or popular.