How Participating in Lent Could Change Your Marriage
I was talking to a close friend recently and he asked me what I was planning to give up for Lent. I confessed that I have never participated in Lent. It wasn’t something that my family observed when I was kid and in fact, I only really learned about it five years ago. He went on to tell me that was planning to give up drinking [beer] during Lent.
For those of you that don’t know, Lent, according to Wikipedia is ‘a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial.‘
A lot of people seem to use Lent more like a good excuse to diet so they give up things like chocolate, fast foods or booze, like my friend Jon. To be fair, he admitted that his motivation wasn’t totally spiritual and I get that. None-the-less, his question to me made me think a lot about what I could give up in the spirit of self-denial. It made me think about my marriage and how I may be able to use this idea of ‘self-denial’ to better my relationship with Erin.
Here are 6 things I am going to give up during Lent to make my marriage stronger:
1. Defensiveness: Ironically, I really want to say “I do NOT get defensive!” but this is a constant struggle for me. Even after blogging about it HERE, defensiveness is my default mode. Just ask my wife or boss, they have both called me out on it recently.
2. Selfishness: Yes, I’m 41 and selfish. Sometimes, I even pout when I don’t get what I want. Maybe I’m the only one who acts selfishly in marriage but I’m pretty sure this is something that I should give up for Lent.
3. Trying to change/fix my wife: So many of our fights would be avoided if I would just let Erin be Erin. God designed she and I as unique individuals so that means He made her to be my perfect match. If that’s true, why would I want to change her?
4. My need to be right: I’m giving up my need to be right for Lent. I am right sometimes but usually, I am surrounded by people who are way smarter than me, especially Erin. Besides, it’s exhausting trying to prove myself as often as I do.
5. Self-sufficiency: Even God said “it isn’t good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), so why can’t I ask for help from Erin more often? I know (deep-down) that she is for me and wants to be part of even the smallest details of my world, so for Lent, I am going to drop the “I can take on the world” act and invite Erin in to my thoughts and emotions. It’s scary but having done it from time to time, it’s safe and also the greatest possible form of intimacy.
6. Anger: I have a tendency to lose my temper pretty quickly with Erin. Why? She loves me and she’s also incredibly patient with me. If I’m honest, most of my anger is rooted in pride. For Lent, I am going to try to “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” like the Bible says in James 1:19.
If Lent really is about self-denial then it lines up perfectly with a healthy marriage. Don’t misunderstand me, marriage isn’t as much about denying yourself as much as it’s about putting your spouse first, but either way it isn’t natural for most of us. In fact, that may be one of the single hardest things to do in a healthy marriage. We are all selfish by nature so the “grind” in many for many of us is our inability to look beyond what we want for ourselves.
Romans 12:10 says this —
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. [underlined for emphasis]
Another way to say that in the context of marriage is — Be fully committed to your marriage and do everything you can to out honor your spouse!
You will find that when you and your spouse try to ‘out honor’ one another then it’s really hard to stay angry at each other. You will also find that it’s nearly impossible to be selfish when you are focused on how you may be able to out honor your spouse. In fact, I know that if I when I am determined to out honor Erin, it’s REALLY hard for me to be angry, self-sufficient, defensive or any of the six things that I want to give up for Lent.
I suspect the same would be true for you. What struggles in your marriage would likely disappear if you and your spouse were trying to out honor one another?
What do you need to give up for Lent to make your marriage stronger? Maybe you need to give up beer like my friend Jon or maybe you need to give up something much more meaningful.
Whatever it is that you need to give up, remember Lent is only 40 days so use that as an opportunity to do things differently. See what happens.
You and your marriage are worth the fight!