Women are endowed by God with the ability to nurture, which I would describe as the ability to take in and provide a hospitable environment for something to grow. We nurture children (our own and others). We nurture friendships. We nurture our husbands and our marriages. But sometimes, our ability to nurture takes a dark turn.
My husband and I tend to fight in the evening when the kids have gone to bed. (Mind you, we don’t schedule our disagreements.) When we decide we need to stop for the night, he’ll fall asleep less than sixty seconds after he’s turned off the light—no matter how heated the conversation was. I lie in bed for hours mulling over our words, refuting his argument, and nurturing my anger and hurt.
Our tendency to take in others’ words or actions presents us with a challenge. Will we nurture the things of God such as hope, forgiveness, and love or will we nurture their polar opposites such as despair, unforgiveness, and hatred?
How we dwell on things and what we choose to nurture has a direct impact on the health and enjoyment of our marriages.
Any of the gifts or character traits the Lord gives us can be developed to forward Kingdom values—or not. I misuse God’s gift if I dwell on my husband’s perceived deficits or nurture my anger. When I go down this road, the world gets very small and joyless. Even though I’m aware of this reality, it’s often difficult for me to stop my emotional bobsled once it starts down the track.
Recently, after we had an argument and lacked the time to reconcile, I stood in the kitchen making dinner and muttering under my breath. The Holy Spirit broke in and essentially communicated, “You know, you don’t have to do this. You can make a different choice in this moment.”
It suddenly became clear to me that I could put on a podcast or listen to worship music. I did not have to follow my carnal impulse which compelled me to nurture animosity and resentment. With God’s help, I could pull the brake lever and stop the bobsled. I could instead follow Paul’s advice to the Philippians:
By the time my husband walked through the back door, I was in a completely different mood. I greeted him warmly and did not press him to reengage.
I was not avoiding reality (which is generally never a good idea). I was simply choosing to dwell on God’s goodness, rather than my fickle emotions. A few days later we worked through the conflict and came to a place of peace and understanding. I’m certain it would not have gone so well if I had made a different choice that afternoon.
If you feel unable or blocked from loving your spouse well, try to discern if you are resisting God’s presence and nurturing pain, disappointment, resentment, or anger. If you get stuck, consider confessing any sinful thoughts (e.g. bitterness or rage) to your husband. If there’s too much heat propelling the emotions, it might be wise to confess to and process with a trusted same-gendered friend first.
By paying attention to what’s swirling through our thoughts, we can train ourselves to think on “excellent and praiseworthy” things and consistently nurture love for our husbands. In the long run, this will transform us and our marriages.
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