My friend Harry has the kind of marriage that single and married folks would envy. If you spend any time with Harry, you’ll immediately notice how frequently he brings up his “honey”, his wife to whom he’s been married for over 30 years.
If you take Harry out for a meal he enjoys, he will leave some of his food to take home so she can enjoy it too. When he speaks of his “honey”, he does so with a kind of reverence and awe. His face lights up with joy. He is excited by her.
He honours his wife in a myriad little ways. He constantly makes sure she is okay and comfortable. He listens to her concerns and considers her advice before making major decisions. They operate as a single, unified unit cemented by love, submission and respect. Harry’s love for her is sacrificial- he makes sure she has what she needs, even if he has to do without.
One day, I had to satisfy my curiosity about his love-filled marriage. I asked:
“Harry, you’re so happy in your marriage, what’s your secret?”
Harry didn’t hesitate.
He immediately replied:
“I’ve been married for 34 years and every morning of those 34 years I pray and ask two things.”
I was intrigued. “What two things?”
His answer informs this article.
Living at peace
Harry said “First, I pray and ask God to help me to live at peace with my wife.”
What struck me was that Harry didn’t pray and ask God to help his wife to be a better person, less annoying or act in a way that would please him. He didn’t pray that she would live at peace with him. That she would see things his way and not be stubborn, nagging or miserable or have a better attitude. Instead, he was focused on his own actions.
In his prayer, he is acknowledging that living at peace with someone is dependent on his own actions, words and ways of thinking. He is taking accountability and responsibility for the success of the relationship.
The Bible says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This is an instruction from God found in Romans chapter 12 verse 18 (New International Version). The verse immediately preceding this, verse 17, says “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody.”
It is a natural human temptation to want to pay back a wrong done against you. We may manifest that in different ways. It doesn’t have to be physical action, it would be harsh words, angry thoughts, gossiping to assassinate the person’s character or having a cold or indifferent attitude towards the person. Harry has chosen to obey God’s command. He has chosen to live at peace with his wife even if her actions don’t justify it. This looks like saying ‘sorry’ and making amends even if you are not the one to blame or you feel forgiveness is not deserved.
But why should we do that? God forgave us when we didn’t deserve it. Romans chapter 5 verses 7 to 8 (NIV) says:
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Never withdraw your love
Harry said: “The second thing I pray and ask him every morning is that He never lets me withdraw my love from my wife.”
Loving somebody doesn’t always feel good. It is uncomfortable having to forgive and not bear a grudge, to love sacrificially, to be kind and loving when it isn’t convenient, or you’re in a bad mood, tired or would rather not or the person does something to displease you.
It is easy to withdraw your love in those moments but loving someone is a choice to not withdraw your love. This choice is a deliberate act. It is intentional. Read about what it entails in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
Putting it all together
I admit I have a personal struggle. I am a meticulous perfectionist with very little patience for people who don’t listen or act foolishly. I read this verse in Proverbs in my devotion today and can totally relate:
“Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding them like grain with a pestle, you will not remove their folly from them.” (Proverbs chapter 27 verse 22, NIV).
I have a very clearly defined sense of right and wrong. I can easily zero in on areas of flaws and mistakes. I get frustrated with people at times.
Yet, I have to ask myself: “where is room for grace? Where is room for the fact that people are complicated and flawed, just like you?”
This is where Harry’s daily prayer comes in. The principles I learnt from Harry are not just for a marriage context. They can be applied at home, at school, workplace or business.
We need to ask God’s help to live at peace with everyone, no matter how difficult a personality you find them to be. We need to ask God to help us not to give into the temptation to withdraw our love from people.
Here are some questions for you to ponder on:
· What would your life look like if you treated Jesus the way Harry treats his wife? What if mention of Jesus infuses every conversation you have? Can you talk about Jesus like that?
· What if you sought out ways daily to serve and honour Him?
· What if, this week, in how you relate to your family, friends and co-workers you ask God to help you live at peace with them instead of asking God to change their attitude?
· What if, today, you make a choice to never withdraw your love from others when they make you angry or you feel they don’t deserve it or loving them is not easy?
I guarantee you’ll have a greater measure of joy than you otherwise would. Just ask my friend Harry.
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She won the 2017 Basil Sellers International Young Writers prize in the Press Service International young writer program, the 2019 Tronson Award (International) and the 2021 Basil Sellers award for International Senior Writers. Every day, she loves experiencing the beautiful surprises that God has stored up for her and longs to keep cultivating a servant-heart.