When I was 8 years old, I got caught playing in a mud puddle when my dad came home from work. He had told me repeatedly not to play in the mud puddle, but this time he didn’t say anything. He just took off his belt and whacked me with that belt all the way up the driveway. It was the last time I ever played in a mud puddle.
That is my first memory of behavior modification. I didn’t stop playing in mud puddles because I didn’t like mud puddles…I never wanted to be spanked like that again.
Over the next 20 years I would become and expert at modifying behavior. I acted a certain way at home; a certain way at church; a certain way on dates; a certain way around friends.
When I got married I quickly learned what Trisha liked and what she didn’t like. I learned how to alter my behavior to avoid conflict. I learned what would cause an argument and what would keep the peace.
We are great at editing our behavior aren’t we? It’s why some of us walk on eggshells when we get home from work, hoping we won’t upset our husband. It’s why some of us are dreading this weekend, because we know we won’t be able to get through it without our wife nagging at us for something we’ve done or forgotten to do.
A lot of marriage resources focus on behavior modification. Communication. Anger management. Work/Life balance. Money management. Improving your sex life. It isn’t that these aren’t important issues (especially improving your sex life) but most of the behaviors we struggle with are tied to a broken part of our heart.
We work really, really hard to improve our marriage by improving our behavior and it lasts for a few weeks or a few months, then we are right back in the same rut. Even worse, we try really, really hard to improve our marriage by trying to force our spouse to improve their behavior, and we end up frustrated and exhausted; and our spouse feels like they never do anything right.
You can behave your way into an improved marriage, but you can’t behave your way into a different marriage.
God doesn’t want to improve your marriage. He wants you to have a different marriage. God doesn’t want to modify your behavior. Wants to change your heart. Different comes when you as a husband or you as wife invite God to change you.
It is a dangerous prayer to pray: “God change me.” You know why it is dangerous? Because this is a prayer God will always answer. God longs to change you. As much as you want to change your spouse; as much as you try to modify your behavior; God wants to change your heart. This prayer is where lasting change starts.
The question is will you pray this prayer? Will you stop trying to behave your way into a better marriage and surrender to a God that longs to change you? Will you stop trying to change your spouse and trust a God that can transform them without your assistance?
God doesn’t promise improved, God promises new.
JUSTIN & TRISHA DAVIS KNOW ALL TOO WELL the dangers of settling for an ordinary marriage. Their own failure to recognize the warning signs almost resulted in the end of their marriage, their family, and their ministry.
Justin and Trisha are bloggers, authors, speakers and founders of RefineUs Ministries. Sharing their story of pain, loss and redemption, RefineUs is igniting a movement to build healthy marriages and families.
They are the co-authors of their first book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, published by Tyndale House Publishers. View the book trailer here, and follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/justindavis33 and https://twitter.com/trishadavis23
The Davises are bloggers and teachers who make their home in Nashville, TN with their three boys.
We are grateful to be able to send a copy of Beyond Ordinary to reader of A Deeper Family. To enter to win one copy of the book, please leave a comment below telling about an area of your own life that you would like to see become more than just ordinary. Giveaway open to readers in the United States and Canada only. Giveaway ends January 18th.