Good Fences

Early in our marriage, I felt something was missing. It wasn’t money, a big house, or children, though we didn’t have those either. No, it was something a bit more straightforward. I wanted a puppy. After much begging, Daniel finally agreed to get me a miniature dachshund, and we named her Maggie. I loved that little pup! She was only nine months old when Daniel and I began looking to buy our first house together. Naturally, a good fence was one of the “must-haves” on our list.

We found a cute white house that was just perfect for us! Much to our delight, it already had a fenced-in backyard. The week before moving in, we turned Maggie out in the yard to play while we started painting. I’ll never forget meeting our next-door neighbor for the first time as she rushed over to bang on our back door to tell us our dog was out of the road. I thought she was just warning us to bring her to safety. Unfortunately, it was too late. Maggie had already been hit by a car and was gone before Daniel even got to the street.

Fast forward over twenty years, and we moved into another new house. But this one didn’t have a fence around the yard. Knowing now what I didn’t even think about back then, I was determined to put up a fence that would not only keep predators out but a strong and secure one that would keep our little Charlie dog in. 

Sometimes we think the fences we have put up around our marriage and family are enough to keep us safe and on track. We have a few “no brainer” boundaries we’ve discussed that we assume will be all we need to keep the enemy and predators away. But what if, like puppies, we are the ones who innocently stumble upon cracks or holes under the fence and are prone to wander and stray? If we aren’t careful to build solid and fortified walls around our marriage, we may find ourselves being devastated by the very car in the road that seemed so appealing. 

So, what are some of the materials we should use to build a good fence? In our book, The Marriage Adventure: Discovering Mission for Your Marriage, we talk about some of the DOs and DON’Ts that can protect your marriage from the enemy. Here are a few things we should all DO to ensure our marital boundaries are secure.

  • DO learn to resolve conflict. Conflict in marriage isn’t bad. It’s inevitable. One of the factors in long-term satisfaction for couples is their ability to confront issues in love and work together for a resolution. When things get heated, and you begin to attack each other instead of the problem, don’t forsake the powerful words, “I’m sorry.”
  • DO forgive each other readily. When you live with each other, you will unintentionally and sometimes intentionally hurt each other. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful healing agents and protection from the enemy that can be implemented in relationships. It’s not easy, but it’s crucial if you are going to be healthy and happy. Remember that the enemy wants to pit you against each other, so you mistakenly view your spouse, rather than your real adversary, as your enemy. It’s a brilliant tactic, really. 
  • DO enjoy each other. It’s not difficult to understand the concept that whatever you feed grows. Invest time in your friendship like you did when you began dating. Do fun things together and have plenty of sex! The more positive experiences you have together tip the scales favorably when you walk through the tough times in your marriage. 
  • DO show each other lots of grace. At some point, both of us are going to mess up. When our spouse blows it, our first reaction is usually to punish or hold it over their head for a later win. But when I am the offender, I desperately want my spouse to offer me grace. We kick the enemy in the teeth when we realize the undeserved grace God has shown us and extend it in that same measure to our spouse even when they don’t deserve it. At some point, we have to realize that our spouse is just as human as we would like for them to view us and give them a break. Marriage isn’t about who is ahead or behind, but about how we can show each other the love of Christ. We say this all the time, but marriage is about grace, grace, and more grace! 
  • DO serve each other humbly. When you serve your spouse, you follow the example Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room shortly before his crucifixion. Not only did he give himself up through his death, but he also placed himself beneath them as he served them with his life. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil. 2:5-8

We all seem to recognize the obvious boundaries we should put up. There are some lines we know are just plain stupid to cross. But there is an enemy of our soul that prowls around, looking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He knows how to use the subtle things on the other side of the fence to lure us out, where it seems easier than doing the hard work on the relationship we already have. Not enjoying your spouse, unresolved conflict, unforgiveness, and the lack of grace and humility can create gaping fence holes that leave you vulnerable to a wandering spirit. It’s time to put up some good fences my friends!

Protecting the Adventure,
Bonnie Hoover

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