One of the questions we were asked was this: “What would you change in your life together if you had the opportunity?”
This week my wife and I celebrated our forty-seventh anniversary as husband and wife. That is not as long as some but a whole lot longer than many! They have been wonderfully blessed years, and I thank God for the wife and home He has given me. Because our wedding anniversary is in February, we tend to spend a lot of them in conferences that are dealing with marriage and the home. This year was no different. We had the great privilege of participating in the Crown Couple’s Conference in Gatlinburg, TN.
As part of the conference, we were on a panel that answered questions from those attending about our experiences as married couples. One of the questions we were asked was this: “What would you change in your life together if you had the opportunity?” Or at least, that was my interpretation of the question. I answered the question this way, “I would spend less time stressing over particular moments and try to enjoy the journey more.” Now again, those may not have been my exact words, but they were what I was trying to convey.
If we are not careful, we can take a short view instead of a long view of life together. I am a control freak - yes, there, I said it! I do not like surprises; I like scripts, and for everyone to stick with the plan, my plan! When situations would arise that were not perfect, not completely choreographed, I would object and obsess. As a husband, father, and pastor, I would quickly jump into “fix it” mode and try to manage and manipulate the circumstance. Now, do not hear me saying that we do not need to be observant and corrective of situations that need our attention. But some things are just life: they just happen because we are people - they are not nuclear existential threats to our lives. In the words of the wise millennials, CHILL! I look back from the forty-seven-year vantage point and realize how wonderful the journey has been and how insignificant some of those imagined stress points were. So, with a little more time to give my answer in this article than on that conference stage, consider three simple thoughts.
Process stressful moments with a long-term view.
Not every problem or circumstance can be fixed in the moment or even needs to be. As a matter of fact, we often make the situation worse when we react too quickly on the spot. I am reminded of how the Lord deals with us, as recorded in the Psalms, and the advice that we are given in the Book of Proverbs. Our marriages and our children are long-term projects. Just like our walk in the Lord, they take time to mature and to be perfected. Things need to be fixed, but they often take time. Do not ruin the journey in the moment.
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
Process stressful moments with love.
Now that seems like common sense, and it is; but sometimes there can be a gap between our knowledge and our performance when the stressful moment arrives. Paul tells us that we are, through love, to “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” We are going to spend our lives with our spouses and we are going to have a lifetime relationship with our children. Love will temper how we deal with every situation. Love always responds with a desire to help not a need to win the argument, prove our point, or to get our way. Love allows us to have the goal of edification and moves us to use words that bestow grace.
Process stressful moments with a little laughter.
I am an Independent, Fundamental, Separatist Baptist Pastor. Wow, that sounds like laughter should never be a part of my existence; but that would be wrong! We have all had the experience where what we first thought was just so horrible or even frightening brought laughter later. That is a common experience because it is a common occurrence. We are not perfect, our spouses are not perfect, our children are not perfect, we make mistakes, and we sin. We do not laugh at sin, but we can learn to laugh at ourselves. It is quite marvelous that the Lord took us on as projects, to make us over into Christ-likeness!
Learn to take the long view, learn to practice love, and learn to smile in the stressful moments of life - because they make up the journey with our Lord and each other that is meant to give us meaning and bring us joy!