"Don’t Provoke Each Other – Love!

Fresh Manna© by Pastor Tim Burt

Prov 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel”

Whenever I have had a married couple in my office for counseling, there is always a scenario that takes place. Both the husband and the wife list a series of grievances that they say they have been requesting their spouse to change in for years. The husband lists the three or four things that he has pleaded with his wife to hear and change in and likewise she has her list. I always have to ask the question? Did you know this bothered him? Did you know this bothered her? Do you still do it? Why? This is usually a good time for them to attempt to go off on a rabbit trail of blame working to avoid dealing with the question. “Why do you continue to do these things that so bother and hurt your spouse? “

Excuses fly and blame erupts but few ever get down to answering the question. “Why do you keep doing these things?” I’d say the average couple has less than five reoccurring grievances each. Some are petty and stupid and leave you scratching your head asking “why didn’t you just stop doing this?” In the Song of Solomon 2:15 we are told that it is “…the little foxes that spoil the vine.” It is so true. That’s what bothers the husband and wife so badly. Their cry of desperation groans, “I just don’t understand why they can’t understand what I’m asking and do it, it’s not that big of a thing?”

There were many little things I did that provoked Renee earlier on in our marriage. If I was going to be late for dinner she’d request, “Please just give me the courtesy of a call so I know.” That was not unreasonable. It was more than reasonable. Yet it took far too long for me to accommodate that request. It was only after me watching her cry about the issue that I finally made the change. That’s stupid on my part. There have been other little requests over the years. “Please don’t leave the shoes in the entryway by the door – put them in the closet.” “Don’t splash the mirror by shaking your hands after you wash them,” and so on. None of these are earth shaking but can be very provoking when they are important to the one that’s asking you not to do them. There are a few bigger ones that may be a little harder to change but, if she is important to me and if I love her the way I say I do, why don’t I make the effort to do them? There could be many reasons; indifference, laziness, selfishness, or just not listening and understanding that these things are important to her.

I’ve also had my ‘little foxes’ – my requests of change for her to make around the house. “Don’t hang your purse and clothes on a closet door handle.” “Don’t pull the car up so far in the garage that I can’t get by it,” and others over the years. Don’t they just seem stupid when you think they cause ongoing martial conflict? It comes back to listening to the request of each other and honoring them by making the adjustment. Again, I realize a few of the foxes are harder than others to make changes in but at the cost of eroding the love in your marriage over something that can be dealt with – they are worth working on!

This is also true even with children. When my son Peter was in college yet living at home, I was tempted to still play the parent role monitoring his homework and classes. That was really unnecessary since he had more than proven himself trustworthy as a hard worker and excellent student. I’ve would occasionally provoke him with through this kind of behavior. Eph 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children – do not provoke them to wrath; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” I had to come to grips with my need to back off so I wouldn’t hurt our relationship. He also had to satisfy my little fox of keeping his room clean. Those two simple requests satisfied on both our parts help guard and bless our relationship.

We see the Lord saying the same thing to His people (and us) in Jer 25:7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the LORD, “and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.” All the Lord was asking them to do was stay away from false gods and false support systems that did not help them. He wanted them to put their faith and trust in Him but they didn’t listen. They provoked Him instead. Be clear on this. Provoking someone is sinful. It is setting someone up to stumble. It is helping to create the spark that leads to anger and strife. Love does not operate like this.

Want a quick change in a contentious relationship? Find out immediately what two or three things you can change or do differently that will bless the one you are having trouble with. Ask them if you can do an exchange – a trade. Two changes for two changes. Then do them. You’d be amazed at how much of a difference it can make. When you’ve knocked off two, you can take on two more. This is one good way to turn around a relationship and take it to another level. I’m not saying it’s easy. You have to remember not to violate someone in a way that may seem silly to you. If it’s not silly to them, don’t let it be silly to you. Honor them and demonstrate your love by fulfilling their request. You’ll find it’s an amazing tool of peacemaking!

In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt

Published by Pastor Tim Burt
Copyright© 2007 Tim Burt
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