We are continuing seeing how Jesus wants to strengthen our marriages through the wisdom of the Parable of the Soils. This time we learn we need to learn to say no to others and yes to our husband for a beautiful bloom in our marriage.
Jesus said, “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants…The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:7,22)
Jesus identified another cause of the good news about Jesus not being received: a person’s heart soil was full of thorns. The seed landed on their consciousness but the busyness and concerns of providing for their own lives or their families—whether or not a person became rich—caused a person to focus too much on making a living or being involved in activities.
The same thing can happen in marriage. The breadwinner of the family may spend so much time and energy on earning a living that he doesn’t have any energy left to focus on building the relationship with his spouse. If a husband or wife doesn’t work, he or she might get so involved in volunteer work or the children’s school or sports activities, that they fail to spend time paying attention to their spouse.
Even church work and activities can become a hindrance to focusing on the marriage. “Working for the Lord” may seem noble, but if God’s emphasis on marriage isn’t being upheld, our labors for the kingdom will be disgraced through an unhappy or failed marriage.
Most of us have a hard time saying “no” to the many opportunities we are offered. There are a number of reasons why we most often say “yes” even when we wonder if we have the time or are concerned that we’re not spending enough time and energy on our marriage or our family. Here are some of those reasons:
- Being asked to participate makes us feel needed and important. If we say no to the present opportunity, that person might not ask us the next time. Then we won’t feel needed and important again.
- We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Saying no makes it seem like we are rejecting that person and we want to make everyone happy! Besides, they might be angry with us for not going along with their plan and we think we need their approval.
- We don’t want to appear to be less than “Super Christian.” We fear that turning down an opportunity means we can’t handle it. We could incorrectly think that if we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we should be able to do everything asked of us.
- We see a need and we think we are capable of doing a good job. We fear that if we don’t take charge or participate, the job won’t be done or it won’t be done perfectly! Our perfectionism can make us feel compelled to say yes because seeing something done less than perfect makes us feel tense.
- Some of us are motivated to say yes because we don’t want to miss any of the social fun that the group could have without us. Thinking that others are enjoying themselves and we’re not a part of it is reason enough to say yes—even when we don’t have the time or energy.
- Some times, being involved in too much is a smokescreen against taking the time to be honest with ourselves or facing our problems. Busyness keeps the hurt and pain anesthetized so that we don’t have to deal with needed changes in our personal lives or our marriage.
In order for us to make wise choices and avoid busyness that depletes the energy spent on building our marriages, we can:
- learn humility. We are not God. We can’t do everything. Even Jesus didn’t meet all the needs of everyone around him while on earth.
- promptly reply to a request: “Thank you for thinking of me. I’ll be glad to pray about it and get back to you.” Don’t feel obligated to make an immediate decision. Pray about it first, talk it over with your spouse and give an answer later.
- count the cost of supporting the project. Most of the time, involvement takes more time and energy than was originally described by the person inviting us to participate. Find out what is really involved before saying yes.
- become secure enough that we don’t have to say yes to something in order to feel needed, important and valuable.
- diminish our perfectionistic thinking that “I am the only one who can do that job well.” Instead, allow others to grow as we delegate or as we allow others to participate—even if it’s not done as well as we might have done.
Spreading ourselves too thin because we want to be of service to others can be detrimental to our most important relationship: our spouse.
Yet, it can be hard to know how much to help others when they are needy. Our neighbor might need help building his fence but our spouse is complaining that our own yard isn’t cleaned up. Or that couple at church who has a sick baby needs meals, but our husband wants us to go away for the weekend. Maybe a friend who is devastated because her husband left her wants to talk on the phone every evening but we really should be paying attention to our husband who is having troubles at work. When we allow the needs of others to take precedence over the needs of our mate, that’s allowing thorns to choke out the goodness and closeness in our marriage.