Killing Spiders: Casting Out Fear From Your Marriage
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Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Gary Thomas encourages husbands and wives to love their spouses by eliminating the things in their marriage that irritate them. He describes what it takes to deepen intimacy in marriage.
Killing Spiders: Casting Out Fear From Your Marriage
Bob: For a marriage to really thrive, couples have to learn how to be transparent/how to be open and honest with one another. Here’s author Gary Thomas.
Gary: What do you want out of your marriage? Do you want to just co-exist? Do you want to just get by and maybe reduce the level of conflict?—but do you really want to be connected as a couple? It really comes down to: “What do you want? What do you want out of your marriage?”
So often, it’s just a fraud—that we get married to be known and accepted—and then we hide, and we pull back from each other. But the best marriages are the marriages, where each partner says to the other: “You know what? I am yours.” —
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 10th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We’re going to hear from Gary Thomas today about things we can do to deepen the intimacy in our marriage. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve had people, over the years, who have asked me—because I’ve been on all ten of FamilyLife®’s Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruises—
Bob: —so they’ve said, “What’s your favorite part of the cruise?” That’s hard to pick; because you go to some great ports; you’re on a great ship.
Dave: You’ve got soft-serve ice cream every day.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say! [Laughter]
Dave: —every day all day.
Bob: There are some people—that is it—whenever you want it. You can go get pizza whenever you want it. In the middle of the night, at three in the morning, you want a pizza?—you can go get pizza.
That’s all pretty great; but the speakers that we’ve had on the cruise over the years—the chance to hear from the best of the best when it comes to the marriage relationship—that’s what, ten years later, still sticks with you.
Bob: Well, the soft-serve is still sticking with me too. [Laughter] But those speakers—I mean, we’ve just had such a great lineup.
We’re talking about this, because we have just opened registration for the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. February, next year, we will be back on the boat, in the water, headed to some great ports. There’s information about the upcoming cruise on our website. If you are interested in going—and who’s not after this past year of being cooped up—
Dave: I can’t wait to go.
Bob: —you can go and register today—best opportunity to pick the cabin you want to be in. You save $400 per couple by registering this week.
But I remember—we’ve had so many great speakers. Gary Thomas, who wrote the book, Sacred Marriage, has been on the cruise with us a couple of times. He did a message, back in 2016, about the elements that go into building intimacy in your marriage. He’s talking, not just about physical intimacy; he’s talking about oneness, which is what we’re all about. It was just such a great message.
What I hope will happen, as listeners listen to this, two things. I hope they’ll get some fresh insight on how they can grow together as a couple. And I hope they’ll go, “We’ve got to go on that cruise and be on with you guys next year.”
Dave: —because this kind of teaching happens every single day.
Bob: Yes; so we’re going to hear Part One of Gary Thomas’s message on the four keys to becoming a more intimate couple in your marriage.
[Previous Love Like You Mean It Message]
Gary: The first one I want to talk about is simple: it’s honesty; it’s honesty. If you want to increase the level of intimacy in your marriage, increase the level of honesty. Jeremiah 8:5 warns of those who “cling to deceit.”
It is always amazing to me, as a pastor, that we get married so we can share our lives together; and then, we spend most of our lives hiding from each other. Well, that creates a great frustration; because we can’t be intimate with somebody we’re lying to.
Intimacy, by definition, is being fully-known and fully-accepted. If we’re not fully-known, we can’t be fully-accepted.
I know to men, in particular, this is terrifying to us. Just a little window to the wives—a lot of us guys are just astonished that we got a woman to marry us; right? I mean, we were cut from sports teams by coaches; we were ridiculed by our siblings; we never feel like we measured up. Somehow, we got this woman to marry us; and we’re afraid, if she gets to know us as we really are, she’ll be like the coach who wants to cut us, or the siblings, who said/or friends, who said we didn’t quite measure up.
But men, when we give into that fear, we miss one of the most healing aspects of marriage. My wife married a very insecure man, who still deals with a lot of insecurity. I’m three of four kids. I had two older brothers that were—you know, you can’t compete with them—I had the younger sister who was the little princess. We’ve got three boys and you’ve got the princess.
One of the most healing things for me of all is: Lisa knows me, literally, better than anyone else; and she still likes me/she still respects me. I can’t believe it! I can’t tell you the healing that that brings into my life.
In fact, a couple years ago, we were with a couple. I had been away at work all day, and we were meeting a couple at a restaurant. Lisa was the last one to arrive—she had been at our home—she came in. It was November; she kind of just skootches in and gets close to me. The other woman says to her, “Well, are you cold?” She goes, “No, I just/I’ve been away from him all day; I really miss him.” I felt like a king! Here we’d been married almost 30 years at the time—had just been apart for one workday—and Lisa was eager to see me. I can’t tell you what that did for my soul.
But here’s the thing—if I know I’m lying to her—instead of that moment making me feel great, it’s going to terrify me—because I’m going to like how it feels—but I’m going to be afraid: “Well, she likes me; because she doesn’t know about ‘x’ or ‘y,’” “She respects me, because she hasn’t found out about ‘y’ or ‘z’.” So what am I going to do?—because I don’t want to lose that—I’m going to double down on the deceit; I’m going to build a wall. I’m not going to let her get to know me.
Men—if I could just tell you—most wives will tell me one of their greatest frustrations in marriage is they feel like their husband just won’t let them in. They feel like: “I never really get to know him. I feel like there’s always something up.”
I talked/this was a tragic situation with a rather young couple, married less than five years. She knew something wasn’t right in her husband’s life. She didn’t know all of his past; he hadn’t been completely honest about before they got married; and he hadn’t dealt with it, even though he was in the ministry. Things weren’t going well. She sat him down; and she looked him in the eyes, and said: “Look, I am the kind of woman who will work through anything—and I mean anything—but you’ve just got to be honest with me. I need to know what’s going on in your life.” He knew he was kind of in the spotlight; so he confessed to one of the weakest sins he could think of, leaving a lot of dark still in the dark. When it finally came out—as it will—she was done, and their marriage is over.
She was calling for him to be honest, and he refused. One of the things I understand about what she was saying is: “You can’t be intimate with a woman you are lying to.” Deception becomes a part of that relationship, and it’s terrifying. But when we have a God of grace—when we know forgiveness/when we know, as we talked about last night, James 3:2, that “We all stumble in many ways…”—we have the context to be honest with each other, to accept each other, and to grow.
Justin Davis was a pastor, who also had a really tough background; but this has a much happier ending. He got involved in a lot of things—pornography; ended up having an affair with his best friend’s wife—it came out. It took weeks and months for them to really be restored.
But coming out of it—and this is the thing I’d say to the guys—he realized: “Deception has ruined my whole life. It’s ruined my relationship with God. It’s ruined my relationship with myself/I’m disconnected from myself. I’m disconnected with my wife. I can’t believe I did that to my friend, cheating with his wife,”—I mean, all that he did. He lost his ministry/everything.
Here are the four questions that he now regularly asks himself, because he’s so committed to the truth:
- Is the fear of the consequences of the truth greater than my commitment to tell the truth?
Isn’t that what makes us lie? We’re afraid of the consequences more than we’re afraid of being dishonest.
- Am I telling myself the truth?
We can lie to ourselves.
- Is there a truth I’ve distorted or am distorting right now?
- Is there something I’ve withheld or am currently withholding from my spouse?
Get before the Lord this week—you’ve got a great time/you’ve got some opportunities—and say, “Lord, how honest am I being with my spouse?” Understand that whatever is most painful to share with our spouse is something that God probably wants to work on.
I’ll be very honest—I would be much less of a man if I wasn’t worried about my wife finding out about certain things. The danger of giving into that fear and living in deception before your wife is—what Satan says is: “You know what, Gary? There’s a way you can have—this action, or this sin, or this attitude—and still have your wife and still have her esteem; and that’s lying about it.”
Jesus said Satan is the father of lies. Lies never serve a marriage; because Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” To bring Jesus into our marriage is to bring the Truth into our marriage. If you want to increase the level of intimacy in your marriage, increase the level of honesty. It’s tough to get there; it’s scary to get there, but it helps bind us together.
The second thing that will really help us is the blessing mentality/the blessing mentality. There are really two different dimensions that we can live in. This is a cognitive change, and it’s a hard change. It sounds not that profound; but when it’s practiced, it changes marriage enormously. It comes from Genesis 12:2 when God is saying to Abraham, “I’m blessing you”—why?—“to be a blessing.” That’s the way it works. First John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” The biblical model is that God pours Himself out for us so that we pour ourselves out for others. We’re to be a blessing to others.
Every day of marriage, I live with one of two questions; these are the two dimensions: “How can I get my needs met?” or “How can I bless you?” It’s that simple. Every time we’re in a disagreement, I have a thing: “Do I want to win this argument, or do I want to bless my wife?” Only one of those two motivations will prevail. James 4:1-2 says this: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? You want something, but don’t get it.”
I believe most divorces could be stopped if every couple would wake up every day and their first thought is, “How do I bless my spouse today?” It just puts everything into focus; it changes the color of the day.
It is just our selfish desire: “How do I get my needs met today?” “How do I get my husband to finally do this?” “How do I finally get my wife to do this?” But if we wake up and say, “How do I be a blessing to my spouse today?” that involves going to God first, getting the blessing from Him. We need His affirmation; we need His encouragement; we need His empowerment. When we do that, it’s just natural then—or I could say supernatural—that we want to bless others. The more we receive from God, we are just compelled to pass it on. That’s the second thing that we do.
The third one we’re going to talk about is what I call “Killing spiders”/killing spiders. I don’t have a problem with spiders, but my wife really does. If I see a spider in the house, it’s dead; I kill it. There are good things about spiders; they actually kill other insects—that can be good—but it freaks Lisa out. If she sees a spider, unexpectedly, she wants me to kill it. Now, because I’m married to Lisa/because I want to love her and bless her, there are certain spiders I have to kill.
Let me put this in a relationship metaphor. If Lisa’s dad had been an alcoholic—he surely wasn’t—but if he had, I think I would just kill alcohol use. Theologically, I don’t believe there is an absolute prohibition against alcohol. But if I knew that she had grown up with that in her childhood—every time she smelled it on my breath/every time I maybe had just a little bit too much to drink—she couldn’t help it; she’s a real person with a real past. All those feelings are going to come up from her childhood. To protect her, I don’t want her to have to face that/I don’t want her to have to overcome that. I can choose: either this on this side, drinking; or I can choose: “Do I want to be close to my wife?”
Now, so many times when I work with couples, they say: “But I enjoy that. Why do I want to give it up?” Because a connected marriage is so much more fulfilling than a disconnected marriage with hobbies. It really is! That’s what we want; we want a life of intimacy. And to grow closer together, there are certain things we have to kill that might not be morally problematic; but they keep pushing our spouse away. We have to choose: “Do I want to maintain my independence and live in a rather disconnected marriage?” or “Am I willing to kill just about anything to have a life of true intimacy and oneness?” I think, if you could experience intimacy and oneness, you would choose that.
If Lisa and I were on our second marriage—we’re not—surely, this is our first one/our only one—but if her first husband had basically wrecked their marriage with video game playing too much, I think that is something/it’s a spider I can kill; because I think, every time I pick up that controller, all of that is going to come back from her past: “Oh no. Here we go again. I lost my first husband to that.” Maybe I get a little too into the game, and a little too excited, and I forget that maybe two or three hours have passed; I just say: “You know what? I chose her/I want to be close to her. This is a spider I need to kill, and I’m going to kill it.”
The thing is about this—this is something that goes on throughout our life—because different spiders crop up when we’re in different stages of marriage. Lisa and I are rather recent empty nesters. So now, we’re travelling together a whole lot more than we used to when the kids were young and at home. It’s amazing to me—because when we come out of the hotel elevator, or when we go out in the parking garage, Lisa would always turn the wrong way; alright? If the hotel room was right, she would go left. If the rental car is north in the parking lot, she would go south. I kept thinking, “You’d think she would guess right half of the time”; alright? [Laughter]
But she’s the extrovert. She had all these great conversations, and she wants to recount them to me, and she’s got the energy going, and just talking. She doesn’t have to worry about it, because she knows I paid attention; so it doesn’t even kick into her. I’m letting her out of the elevator first so she’s always the one ahead. I was just kind of laughing about it; because we’d been in this hotel for several days, and she went the wrong way again. I thought, “Really?!” [Laughter] That wasn’t the best way to make her feel close to me, men; alright? I wouldn’t recommend that response; okay? Well, that didn’t work out.
So the next day, she did it again. I just stopped where I was; she went 20/25 yards away. She looks, and she saw what I was doing. That didn’t go so well either; alright? [Laughter] Typical guy/I said: “Well, what am I supposed to do? If I say something, you say it makes you feel stupid. If I don’t say anything, you think it’s an act of disrespect. I can’t win!”—right?—that’s the guy perspective. She goes: “It’s easy. Just say, ‘This way, hon,’—with exactly that tone.” I thought, “Alright.” Next day, I get to try it out. [Laughter] She goes right; I go, “This way, hon!” She turns around, gives me a gorgeous smile; we laugh; we have a good moment; and we go off down the way; right?
Men and women, it’s just this—if there’s this life situation that’s pulling the two of you apart—how about if you just say: “Then tell me what spider I need to kill. I don’t want you to feel disrespected; I don’t want you to feel stupid. I honestly don’t know what to do though; I think I’m at an impasse. Show me how to kill this spider.” Then kill that spider. Now, whenever that happens, it draws us closer together rather than pushes us away; because we want to be closer together.
My youngest daughter, Kelsey, has been in three automobile accidents on the freeway; and none of them was her fault. A couple of them were pretty serious. One, her car was completely totaled; and she was shaken forever. It’s not her fault. When you’ve been in car accidents, and they weren’t your fault, it’s not like you can take—I mean, what are you going to do differently if it’s not your fault?—it just happened.
So when she is driving with me, particularly if she’s in the front seat—I’m Grampa Gary—you know, there’s 100 yards between me and the front car. I’m not driving aggressively/I’m not coming right up on somebody; because she’s a real person with a real past. To honor her, and to protect her, and to love her, I’m going to kill that spider of aggressive driving. She can’t help it; it’s who she is.
What I’m saying is—your spouse has a real past with real hurts and real fears. It doesn’t matter whether you think they’re silly, or illegitimate, or “You should just think your way through them.” If they motivate your spouse—and you want to be close to your spouse—you’ve got to kill those spiders that irritate your spouse, because it’s better to be connected than to hold onto those spiders and be disconnected in marriage.
Now the fourth one is this—it comes from Proverbs 17:17—I could label it as this: “I Was Born for This”/“I Was Born for This.” Proverbs 17:17 says this: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Now, if that’s true for a brother, you could say a spouse is married for adversity; because here’s a challenge: We get married because we love this person: they’re beautiful; they’re full of energy; they’re full of life; and we have a good time together. Then, they get sick; or they get discouraged; or they get depressed; or they get addicted; or they have a problem. It’s so easy, spiritually, to say: “Boy! This isn’t very good. I have to put up with this? I didn’t get married for this! Why did I do this?”
But if we believe that we were born for our spouse’s adversity—whenever they face a challenge—we have in mind, “I was born for this!” This is where we rise to it. Rather than collapsing into resentment, and self-pity, and feeling sorry for ourselves, we feel empathy for our spouse: “I was born for this!”
We have to have the attitude of a fireman; right? A fireman doesn’t resent it when there’s a fire; does he?—“Oh, man! I wanted to finish my meal!” or “I was playing Scrabble®!”—he goes out, because that’s what he was trained to do—that’s why he’s given a paycheck/that’s why he’s there—to put out the fires.
But in marriage, we think, “No; we’re there for the good times”; we don’t want to have to put out the fires. But if we have the attitude of Proverbs 17, and we’re saying, whenever it arises, “I was born for this,”—that’s what creates great connectedness with a couple—because when you meet your spouse in their weakness, and need, and hurt, they’re just naturally drawn to you.
These are tough things; but if you write them down, and if you apply them, they work! They draw us together. They take a lot of courage. But you’ve got to ask yourself: “What do you want? What do you want out of your marriage? Do you want to just co-exist? Do you want to just get by and maybe reduce the level of conflict?—but do you really want to be connected as a couple?” It really comes down to: “What do you want? What do you want out of your marriage?”
So often, it’s just a fraud—that we get married to be known and accepted—and then we hide and, spiritually, we become resentful; and we pull back from each other. But the best marriages/the best marriages are the marriages, where each partner says to the other: “You know what? I am yours. Before I’m my kids’ mom or dad, before I’m my boss’s employee, before I’m my company’s boss, before I’m my parents’ child, before I’m my hobby’s addict, I belong to you. I’m going to make those choices to stay connected to you. I’m not going to put anything above you.”
If you’re frustrated in a disconnected marriage, the solution isn’t to kill your marriage—that’s what Satan likes—“See how frustrated you are? See how distant you are? Here’s what you do: ‘You kill your marriage/you destroy your family.’” What does Jesus say Satan comes to do in John 10? [Audience response] “Satan, the thief, comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.” Whenever that’s the solution to your problem, you know who you’re listening to. Jesus told us that is his[Satan’s] motive; that’s his operation; that’s his solution.
But Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life and you might have it abundantly.” God wants us to have life-giving marriages and abundant marriages. In His Word, He’s given us these four things, all out of Scripture, where we can reconnect/we can direct our hearts to have a more connected marriage. When we do, it becomes so powerful.
You don’t have to destroy your marriage if you feel disconnected. You might love being married if you can get reconnected, and I believe these things will help you do that.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a portion of a message from Gary Thomas, the author of the book, Sacred Marriage. He’s written so many great books.
Dave: Yes, he has.
Ann: And he’s a great communicator.
Bob: This was just a portion of the message. In fact, I’d encourage listeners: go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can download the entire message; because what Gary’s talking about here is what I think couples want but don’t know they want. If you say to a couple, “Do you want oneness in your marriage?” I think they go, “I do, but I’m not exactly sure what that means or what it looks like.” We know we want it; we’re just not sure how to pursue it: “What are the elements that go into that?” Gary maps it out for us here.
Ann: Well, how about when he said the adversity of your spouse is your calling?
Ann: Some of us are thinking, “What? What does that mean?”; yes. But he explains it.
Bob: He does; again, you can go get this message on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. While you’re there, check out the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise—February of ‘22.
Ann: Come with us!
Bob: We will be back on board for a great getaway. I mean, everybody who has felt cooped up this year—
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Bob: —I mean, we’re all counting on the fact that it’s going to be masks off and a clean boat. I’ll tell you—it’s starting to fill up; we are hearing from people, who are so, so ready to reserve a stateroom for the 2022 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Right now, between now and March 22nd, the best opportunity all year for you to reserve a stateroom on the cruise; because we make a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners in March; we call it Cruise Madness. It’s your opportunity to save some money and reserve your spot for the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise in February of 2022.
If you have any questions about what happens if there is another wave of the virus, or you know, call us; and we can talk through all of that with you; okay? 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. You want to check out more information online; go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there that will give you everything you need to know about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise for February of 2022.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear a powerful message about the biblical priority of forgiveness. It’s not an option for forgiven people to forgive other people; it’s a biblical requirement. Voddie Baucham has a message for us on that that we’ll hear tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team; got some extra help from Bruce Goff today. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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