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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Good Marriages Require Some Serious Assembly

Four-part harmony
One of the metaphors I've come up with for relationships is that of a jigsaw puzzle. There are lots of puzzling parts to put together to create a beautiful finished work. Fortunately, all of the needed parts are there, and with the exercise of diligence and God-given perseverance we can eventually fit them all together. But good marriages don't come already framed and fully assembled.

When it comes to putting a puzzle together it's important to keep checking the picture on the cover of the box. The "Shalom Marriage" shown above is one in which spouses are in a close and equal relationship and in which each is taking full responsibility, with whatever help they need, for their own personal growth and respectful behavior. They don't expect their marriages to be healthier than the wellness each brings to them.

Shalom couples also spend as much time as possible together in their problem-free area--working, playing and being affectionate together. They never minimize whatever gets in the way of that happening, but are able to file those issues for later times of regularly addressing them (in their mutual problem area) and to arrive at win-win solutions.

The Hebrew concept of shalom suggests a harmony in which nothing is marred and nothing is missing. That's the God-given picture we need to keep in front of us.
Dissonance, discord, disconnection

In the "Disordered Marriage" shown here, partners are still having some assembling to do. In times of stress their relationship seems to be in disarray and they may find themselves detached and distanced from one another. At such times ones partner is often perceived as having more stature and power than the other. Also, much of what should be being celebrated in the couple's problem-free area is overshadowed by the many unresolved conflicts in their mutual problem/growth area.

At such times problems, both personal and shared, may come to dominate and define a couple's relationship, and they enjoy less and less tension-free and problem-free time together.

In summary, in shalom marriages each partner gives top priority to fixing what is in their own problem/growth area rather than focusing on trying to fix the other person. Each recognizes that not all problems in their marriage are marriage problems, but are individual problems and bad habits that negatively impact their relationship. And if, God forbid, the marriage were over, each would take those problems with them.

Shalom marriages also accept shared problems as normal, and see working at them as having potential for bringing about positive growth and change that may have never happened had there been no challenges to deal with.

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So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness.       
- Colossians 3:12-15 (the Message)
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