This book is for private use
Intended for Pleasure by Dr. Ed Wheat in pdf format
Intended for Pleasure by Dr. Ed Wheat in pdf format
What colors would you use to describe love? Walk through the romance section at any bookstore and you’ll find yourself surrounded by shades of purple and red. Each cover advertises the passions waiting for you on its pages. They use a lot of silky legs and bared male torsos, too.
Red and purple have their place, but in marriage, that palette is far too limited. Marital passion does include sex, but only as a part of a much broader picture.
The Colors of Life
If I were painting a marriage, I would use many colors to express passion. Bright yellows for those glorious days that glow with joy. Shades of green to show the growth and life that passion brings. I would even add some browns and greys – colors that represent the usual days with their down-to-earth duties and quiet endurance, a background showcasing life in all its hues.
And, I think I would need a little black, too. Black, like the darkness that surrounds us when a loved one is ill. Black, like the despondency that chokes us when life is unfair. Black, like the fear we feel when we must make a major decision, but have no idea what to do.
One master painter, Vermeer, was a genius in using white. Combined with his amazing perception of light, his whites gave his paintings luminescence, as though they had some hidden source for their radiance. Yes, I would add white to my marriage painting, to represent the hidden radiance that lights up all healthy marriages and makes them shine. You have seen it, and when you see it you wish for it.
In marriage, passion is far more than romance and sex. Passion is a deep, abiding desire to experience a lasting, satisfying, edifying marriage. That’s why you need so many colors to portray it. Passion is much more than emotion. But popular culture never separates the two. In that fantasy world, passion equals emotion. In real life, passion can motivate us even when our emotions feel flat.
The core for this kind of passion – the force that keeps it throbbing in a marriage, comes from a combination of commitment and determination. I love to see that in couples. I know that with those qualities, and some patience and forbearance, they will paint their own masterpiece, full of grace and subtle beauty.
Sadly, some marriages seem to lack color. It’s as though the couple never learned how to make all the moments, with all their hues, part of their painting. They exist. But do they live? For them, every day is gray.
I watched a man of eighty-eight, still healthy, caring for his wife, who has Parkinson’s Disease. They are all out of red and purple. They know that the time for those colors has passed. But how they paint! In kind words and thoughtful actions, I have watched them love each other. Even black days have points of light where their love shines through.
In marriage, we paint by moments on a canvas of days. Our brushes are actions and words. Our colors are attitudes. Stroke by stroke, dot by dot, the painting grows. Each husband, each wife, adds to the canvas. And each canvas can become a masterpiece.
This is the last article in the Growing a Great Marriage Series. You may want to return to the English Home page to see what other materials are available.
After 34 years of marriage and ministry, Diane and I were right in the middle of one of the biggest changes of our lives. We had to sell our house, most of our belongings, say goodbye to our friends and families, and move to another country, nine thousand miles away. You can imagine the stresses.We had done it before, a few times actually. But somehow such moves never get easier.
Some marriages breakdown during major changes. That usually means that they had little relational strength before the challenge came. You’ve heard the stories. The children marry and move away. Now the couple, alone with years of disappointments, see no reason to stay together- only a long list of unmet needs and unresolved conflicts. So they go their separate ways. If you do not want a future like that, you have to start preparing for a different future right now. No matter what the change, it always puts stress on your relationship to your spouse, your children, and others. Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared.” My friend Tom says, “You never know what’s around the next corner.”
Diane and I have built our life on trusting God- staying close to him and to each other. Have we had frustrations? We have, we do, and we will. But we face them together. We have long lists of answered prayers, forgiven offenses, and incredible joys, all because of God’s faithfulness.
Total confidence in God comes from total commitment to God. But partial commitment brings partial confidence. Remember Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .”
Watch for God’s wisdom and provision at every turn. These instructions from Proverbs 4 have been a great help to me recently:
“Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” — Proverbs 4:25-27 (New Living Translation)
Be open to any revision or adjustment he wants you to make.
Tell God that you will willingly change anything about the decision that isn’t wise. If you have missed his direction in any way, readily change or even stop. God will help you get back on track.
Both Diane and I have struggled through our own insecurities and fears. At times it seemed that we were on different sides with different viewpoints. But we have stayed open to persuasion, and have tried to be patient with each other. Because of that we move as one, and the changes draw us even closer.
Depending on our emotional makeup and experience, different aspects of a change will challenge us. I hope you will always be able to say, “My spouse was there for me, encouraging, listening and supporting.” And I hope that you will be that supportive encourager that your husband or wife needs right now.
Remember: Isolation: bad! Involvement: good!
Changes affect everyone . . . even people you might overlook. Our neighbor wept for two days when she heard the news about our move. She and her family had felt very safe with us next door, and my wife has been a friend and a support to her. Many years later, we are still good friends, though we rarely see each other.
We discussed the changes with our sons and their wives, our parents, and our church leaders. Informing and consulting show you care, and lead to better decisions. True, too many voices can cause confusion. But it’s also true that several wise counselors can enhance our safety. Friends, family members, and leaders have given us important insights during our seasons of change. Yours will do the same for you.
“What if” statements are what David Burns, author of the book, Feeling Good, calls fortune-telling. No one knows the future, but we can know God. Use wisdom, plan appropriately in proportion to the scope of the decision, and you will do just fine.
“If only . . .” That’s the way second-guessing starts. Once you know you have made a wise decision that pleases God, stay on course. When tests come, affirm your faith in God.
Change can really wear us down, even if it’s a good change. So here are a few ways to stay fresh.
That’s it, friends. As for us, Diane and I have come this far by faith, in a faithful God. And like that old song says, “He’s never failed us yet.” He won’t fail you, either. Believe it!
Nick and Nora had an attractive home, two cats, two trucks, and two hard, one-hour commutes. In their five years of marriage they had many opportunities to feel isolated in their personal struggles. Though they love each other, they often felt disconnected. Both of them were frustrated, but didn’t know how to break the cycle. It took a trip to another culture to do that.
With twenty-eight others, they journeyed into a remote area of the Central American mountains. They built houses, taught children, fed the hungry. Little did they know that God would choose that remote place to reignite their love and pour fresh life into their struggling marriage.
It happened on the last night they were on the mountain. The whole team met for several hours to pray, and to cement the lessons they learned while they were away from the familiar. That night Nick and Nora experienced a breakthrough.
Let me interrupt their story to do a little explaining. There are breakthrough moments in our lives. They can come gently and gradually, like the dawn, or with the intensity of a sudden thunderstorm. But they come. When they do, change begins. We’re like one of those “before and after” commercials, except that our “before and after” is real, not a Photoshopped fantasy.
Breakthroughs are usually emotional. Sometimes, very emotional. That is normal and, I think, necessary. For how can we have any transforming experience in life without emotion?
People in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, wept, laughed, jumped for joy, and fell down on their faces . . . all in response to God and his Word. It’s an emotional book, this Bible of ours.
Even so, emotion is the catalyst, not the core of a breakthrough. The core is a change of heart and direction. That’s why breakthroughs are wasted without follow through. Seeing God’s truth can stun us, unsettle us, and bring us to repentance and new resolution. But we have to continue living in the truth to experience real and lasting transformation.
Now back to Nick and Nora. That night on the a remote mountain, Nora began weeping. Nick crossed the room and put his strong arms around her. In that one moment, Nick stepped out of an emotional and spiritual isolation that had lasted since his youth. Breakthrough? You can count on it. Both of them will tell you that they are radically different . . . closer, and together in ways they never before experienced.
Best of all, they’re trusting God together. Before the breakthrough they attended church, but they had little spiritual intimacy. Now they pray together and are believing God together for their future. They hope that future includes more trips to other countries. But they know that whatever God has in their future, they will embrace it together.
We learn to submit to each other without defensiveness. Isolated in our own separate worlds, we defend our positions, and are not very open to our partner’s opinions or concerns. Trusting God together, we can hear each other and respond in positive ways.
We learn to help each other when one of us feels down. When we aren’t trusting God together, we don’t support each other. More isolation. Here’s one of Nick’s recent insights: “I discovered that when Nora has a low day my job is not to walk away, or yank her out of the problem, but come near and help her up. I have a long way to go, but I am learning.”
We learn to trust God patiently, through the process, through the questions, through the doubts. Trusting God together doesn’t always bring quick solutions. It does mean we can discover the right way to go, and go that way in step. Like Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, and his wife said, “We don’t know where we are going, but we are going there together.”
So, where are you right now? Are you, as a couple, trusting God together? If so, keep it up, and spread the joy. Perhaps you once trusted God together, but you let some disappointment or irritation break that link. Now, you’re full of tension and isolated. Why not restore that broken link? Joy awaits!
Maybe you have never trusted God together. It’s possible. Many couples, some of them even longtime followers of Jesus, have never become a spiritual team. They’re like two kids in the same sandbox, but building separate castles. Lots of competition, lots of comparisons, but no cooperation, only an underlying desire to make their castle the biggest. God didn’t call you to such separation. He called you together, to serve Him together, to trust Him together. If you never have, you know little true joy in your marriage.
In Amos 3:3, the prophet asks this question: “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” Nick and Nora have a life of challenges ahead of them, but they have resolved to trust God together. Let’s follow their example and watch for the positive results.
God always entrusts his treasures to ordinary people. One such person is a man I would love to meet in heaven. He was a craftsman, a carpenter, but he could have been anything . . . plumber, farmer, shepherd, or even a scholar. His occupation isn’t the important thing. His character is. It’s not what he did, but how he lived that makes him Mister Right.
This man lived at a time when many people used religion as a cosmetic. It was useful for hiding blemishes and giving an imaginary glow of righteousness. But Mister Right had no use for cosmetic religion. He truly believed in God and tried, in every way, to orient his life with God’s commands.
You would have liked him, respected him, and trusted him. I know God did. For he chose this everyday man, this carpenter from Nazareth and Bethlehem, to be husband to Mary, and the guardian of Jesus, the Son of God. Joseph is Mister Right.
As a husband and a father figure, Joseph has much to teach us. Looking at his life in the few verses that describe him, I see why God trusted him with his treasures. I see the kind of man every wife and child needs, and I see the kind of man God makes us, if we’ll let him.
Joseph was fully devoted to God, therefore, a righteous man. (Matthew 1:16ff). He centered his life on pleasing God. As I have said so often, to so many groups, it is the center that matters, because your center controls your thoughts, actions, and relationships.
Joseph may have been ordinary, but he had the qualities that always make a man a true success:
Faithfulness. Faithful men are reliable, dependable, predictable, and consistent. They make promises carefully and keep the promises they make.
A sense of honor. Matthew tells us that even when Joseph had the legal right to shame Mary, he would not. That’s quite a lesson for those of us who make the slightest offense an excuse for retribution.
Responsiveness. Joseph listened to messages God sent through the angels, and adjusted his plans to God’s plans.
Self-control. Joseph didn’t have sexual relations with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. Yet how many men become sullen, pouting like little children, when, for some good reason, their wives are not sexually available to them?
Humility. It wasn’t all about him. He wasn’t the star, and didn’t need to be.
Support. If they gave awards for the best man in a supporting role, Joseph would win the Oscar. Yet his role satisfied him. Mary could feel secure with Joseph, knowing she had his full support. Supportive men make secure wives.
Adaptability. Some of us are so rigid. Everything has to be done our way or we become uncooperative. I know two causes for rigidity: pride and fear. Both harden our hearts and make us hard to live with. Joseph had the sense to know that God was doing something greater than his five-year plan, and the wisdom to adapt. I am sure he is not sorry. Surrender your agenda and discover God’s higher purpose.
Preparation. God trained and prepared Joseph for this extraordinary responsibility. He probably didn’t know it at the time, for his training occurred in everyday ways. We, too, are in preparation for something bigger than what we know, so we might consider how we can pay attention and live purposefully.
No doubt, Joseph was an imperfect man. He had his struggles, but always yielded to God’s will.
It is an honor, the greatest honor, when God trusts us with a treasure, and that honor always makes us thankful people. Feeling any other way would be wrong for Mister Right. Like his young wife Mary, he could say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he who is mighty has done great things, and holy is his name!”
“Father God, thank you for men like Joseph. We acknowledge you as the very center of our lives. Make us right men, living in right ways, for the right reasons, to the honor and glory of your Name. Amen.”