My husband declared he wanted a vista. “A vista!” I cried, “you said you wanted a view!” His declaration was my undoing.
In one day, Tom and I had sold the farm where we’d lived for 23 years. What resulted was a flurry of activity to thin out the possessions we’d collected and downsize. We both agreed on our top priority for the new home: We wanted a view.
After a month of looking, I found the sweetest stone cottage. It was centrally located between the families of our three children. It had everything we wanted, including the view. And the price was right. Done deal! Or so I thought.
Tom wasn’t impressed. He visited the property during rush hour and saw that the road was a main thoroughfare and heard the constant traffic noise. He also said he wasn’t keen about looking at a cornfield. He wanted a vista!
I’d like to say I went with the flow, but I grew resentful and believed Tom’s opinion was keeping me from getting the charming stone cottage.
I began to stew.
I’m susceptible to the same issues that challenge many of the women I mentor. During one hour-long session, a mentee named Amanda unleashed a litany of complaints about her husband. She was agitated that their dream of pursuing ministry together seemed to be stalled. She noted that her husband procrastinated, he didn’t participate in parenting and he seemed unwilling to pursue her sexually — despite her advances.
I understood Amanda’s frustrations and empathized with her, but she needed more. When I was a new mentor some 20 year ago, I would have begun to offer biblical or practical answers to fix everything. Sadly, this approach rarely works for anyone, and by this time I knew it held no life-giving answers for Amanda.
While I couldn’t offer a step-by-step solution for change, I had something better to offer: hope in God. I have found through mentorship experiences that the key to a fruitful marriage relationship is abiding in the Christ-Vine.
I showed Amanda Jesus’ words from John 15:4: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (NKJV). John 15:1-10 describes exactly what we hope to receive from a relationship with God — a harvest of fruit, more fruit and great fruit.
Abider’s secret No. 1: Listening
Even an earthly vinedresser doesn’t neglect his vines — unless he’s not interested in grapes. Similarly, God doesn’t leave you to figure things out on your own, but, instead, He cares for you tenderly and watchfully. He wants you to experience a fruitful life, especially in your marriage.
He tenderly observes your innermost thoughts, words and deeds. Then He often shares His observations in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV). If you listen and respond to that voice, you’ll experience the fruit of the Spirit, more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Carving out time to humble oneself and listen is an abider’s secret to getting the most out of a relationship with God. I challenged Amanda to make space in her day to listen to all that God desired to reveal. Amanda and I sat in silence after I suggested we quiet our minds to listen to what God wanted to say about her frustrations right then.
After a minute elapsed, I asked her if she’d heard anything. Amanda nodded. She’d heard God ask, “What’s the next step you can take toward Me?”
The Spirit was urging Amanda to shift her focus away from her husband and move toward the One who could meet her needs. This message filled Amanda with the knowledge that her heavenly Father was near and desired her presence. She felt loved and encouraged, and she sensed hope for her marriage.
Abider’s secret No. 2: Letting go
Pruning is essential to experiencing a bumper crop of spiritual fruit. It’s necessary to remove all the distractions such as bitterness and resentment if you want more of the good stuff in marriage.
Amanda was willing to move toward God. She decided to let go of the negative thoughts parading through her mind long enough to thank God for the good in her husband.
It’s easy to misunderstand God’s ways when, after a long season of abiding, you fail to experience the breakthrough in marriage that you long for. You may wonder, Where is God in all the pain?
I’ve learned that He’s right there holding the pruning shears. Yet the process is painful! Expect that some people, places or things that you’re attached to will need to be removed.
Abider’s secret No. 3: Remaining
If the storms of life threaten you, continue listening and trusting in God, holding onto hope for dear life! Find a mentor or friend who can encourage you to respect the process of pruning, and, above all, remain patient.
God’s answers to Amanda’s prayers didn’t come quickly. Yet she remained hopeful. Over time, Amanda’s husband began pursuing her sexually. And better yet, they began to pursue their mutual goal of ministering to victims of sexual abuse by opening a retreat center. Is everything perfect? No. But she senses God’s movement in her life.
The secrets of abiding continue to help me get the most out of mentoring and also in my relationship with God. Listening, letting go and remaining have produced a harvest of goodness in my life and marriage.
I started the abiding process by listening to God’s voice through Psalm 27:13-14: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (NKJV).
I let the Vinedresser prune my resentment at losing the stone cottage and forgave my husband. I would wait for a better house. The result of my remaining hopeful is a fabulous home my husband picked out that has a grand vista. Every time I see the expanse of hills and forest, I thank the Lord for the improved view of my husband and marriage.
Sandy Ralya is the founder of Beautiful Womanhood, a Christian marriage mentoring ministry for wives. She is the author of The Beautiful Wife: Focused on Christ, Fulfilled in Marriage.
Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family’s Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you’ll love!