Discernment in Marriage

We met Bob on our family vacation living next door to our house rental. We invited him over for coffee one morning, and he told us about his sixty years of life before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He mentioned how his wife left him after five years of marriage because he wouldn’t change. As he retold the succession of women that came after her, he said, “Yea, they all tried to change me, but I would never let them.”

And here we have the age-old paradigm of a spouse not wanting to change, and the other partner trying desperately to change them. Listening to Bob’s life story helped me reflect on the two most important factors that both spouses need to keep in tension: change and acceptance. Typically, we see these two camps divided. Either we must unconditionally accept everything about the other person, or we can’t accept anything about them and it becomes our mission to conform them to our own image. But really, neither has to be exclusively true. In my own marriage, I’ve learned it’s best to keep these two sides running parallel to each other and asking God for discernment and wisdom to know when to employ each one.

Bob had his heels dug into the ground and wouldn’t move. He was not letting marriage change him. But we must go into marriage expecting and desiring to be changed. God uses it as a means for holiness in our lives. Both husband and wife must listen to each other and always consider (even seek out) the other’s viewpoint and advice. When we seek ways to grow and change for the glory of God and the good of another, our marriage will prosper.

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