When we left you yesterday, both of us were sitting on the couch on a Thursday evening in a state of shared fatigue. The question we asked about this situation was: Do you notice these types of moments as vital to your marriage? How should you think about them? What is their significance?
First, these types of moments happen nearly every day. They happen during car rides, trips to the grocery store, over dinner, while cleaning, before you leave for work, etc. They are the small points of intersection that are spread throughout the entire marriage relationship. They occur when a husband and wife have the chance to communicate—however brief the period of time.
As you might suppose, these moments are very easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things. We don’t notice them because they are often short, unscheduled, just plain ordinary. But as Paul Tripp wisely notes in the book “What Did You Expect?”,
“Your life is shaped by choice-points. No, I’m not talking about those huge moments of epic decision that we all know change our lives in some way. I’m talking about the thousands of little decisions in the mundane moments of daily life that almost go unnoticed but are actually what shape and direct our lives. You see, the quality and character of a marriage isn’t set in two or three grand moments of choice. …No, the character of a marriage is formed in thousands of little moments of saying yes to one thing and no to another.”
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that these moments are really that important. We want to trade on the really memorable moments of marriage—that time when I was extraordinarily sacrificial, or that time you really went out of your way to be kind and gentle—and use those as excuses when we have a relational snafu. Surely, those grand gestures of love and sacrifice should be enough to sustain a relationship. Seriously, could the herculean effort of moving off this comfy couch or putting away the internet surf board really be worth that much?
But relationships aren’t static. They are always changing. Tripp also notes, “One thing we are all tempted to do is back away from the power and influence of the things we do and say.” If we apply the concept of sowing and reaping (we reap what we sow, after we sow and more than we sow [Gal 6:7-9]), we realize that small, everyday moments will influence the identity and character of a marriage. When taken all together, they paint the true picture of the relationship.
So, say we agree on all of that? What then, makes it difficult to recognize these moments?
First, one thing that makes it hard to recognize a “little moment” is our general tendency towards self-preoccupation. We naturally trend towards investing our thoughts on ourselves (Phil 2:3-4). My tiredness, my to-do list, my irritants, my goals, my worries, all of these types of thoughts factor other people out. Paul Tripp would call this the “anti-social nature of selfishness.” In other words, my needs and wants trump and obscure your needs and wants.
Second, relationships tend towards complacency. As stated before, we tend to trade on yesterday’s grace. Small offenses are dismissed as unimportant, and small virtues are given more credit than they really deserve.
Now that we notice these uber-important “little moments” what exactly do we do with them?
Well, if selfishness is anti-social, a “moving away,” then our goal should be the opposite. We should be finding a way of “moving towards” our spouse. That moment should become a means of infusing the marriage with greater grace and Christlikeness (Eph 4:29). Don’t let weariness or the frenetic pace of life prevent you from engaging in these moments. (In fact, those types of stress should drive you towards each other!) Avoid venting, giving needless criticism, or just ignoring (like we were doing that fateful Thursday night : ). Rather, take the time to intentionally create moments to encourage, to give hope, to express love, to show kindness. After all, this is what a conversation with Christ would do for you!
So on that Thursday night we looked at each other and one of us said, “We should really talk for a little while, right?” And with a bit of regret (and tiny sigh of resignation) Paul decided to put down his phone and I decided to turn off the TV and we made the conscious choice to converse for an hour. And what had started with a sense of duty quickly changed into a time of encouragement, laughter and contentment.
As you go through your week, take some time to find those elusive moments. Recognize their importance and purposefully invest in them for the sake of your marriage.