Michael Youssef - Crafted, Marriage God's Way - Part 3
Through the years, I have really come to comprehend and understand the truth of the statement that "opposites attract". Perhaps there is no greater manifestation of this truth between married couples than in the area of communication. And today, we come to what I call, "Conversation," or conversing in marriage. Let me tell you why I don't like the word "communication". This is a personal quirkiness on my part. I don't like to use the word "communication" simply because it's overused. You know what I mean? It's a catch-all phrase now because it's the very word itself sometimes denotes, "I am imparting information to the other person who's receiving it," and that is why I prefer the word "conversation" or "conversing".
But if you look closely at any blessed marriage, you're going to find that both husband and wife are able to converse with each other, even at times without words. This conversing may vary from couple to couple, so this is no cookie cutter here. This conversing takes different form, but I also want to emphasize what I have been saying in the last two messages, and I want to emphasize it for the third time, so I don't want false guilt or somebody sitting down and saying, you know, "What about this and what about that"?
I have said, and I repeat that when the sin of adultery or abuse is continuous, nonstop, no repentance, no fruit of repentance, that is, according to the Word of God, is a marriage killer. And so I wanna make sure that you understand me and you heard me correctly. But today, I want to focus on conversation because it can be marriage saver. I said, "It can be". Did you get that? It can be. We want to share with you three things that we have discovered in our lives that can be a conversation killer, a conversation destroyer, and it impacts the power of conversation, which must take place in a marriage, and they all start with the letter C. It's calendar, children, and conflict, calendar, children, and conflict.
I'm going to talk about calendar and a little bit about children, but then I will have the one who has done a marvelous job with children to speak. What do I mean by calendar? Please listen carefully. Young moms and dads, I want to tell you, as God my witness, and you've probably heard me say this before, I stand in awe, I stand in awe of how young couples are running haggard. I don't know how they cope, honestly. I mean, their schedule is wall-to-wall with activities, and they're running around from this to that to the other things, and if the mother is working outside of the home, you add long hours of work, running errands, driving children from one activity to another, driving children from one sport to another. And it all seems to be endless.
As I watch, I am amazed of how they even cope. There are some who have confused busyness and activities with happiness. The truth is, there are many couples who found themselves to be so drained of energy, they are so emotionally exhausted, they never schedule time out for themselves just for the two of them. They never schedule time just for conversation between them. They reserve no time for talking and listening and acting and reacting to each other. They never set aside time where they actually exchange some thoughts and, yes, feelings. You see, I'm not against feelings. Feelings are important. I know I'm surprising some of you. They never set aside a time of unhurried time to focus on each other. And the fact is, without that healthy conversation, and again, I don't mean just in words, but in every aspect of it, there are gonna be problems. I'm gonna get back to this at the end of the message.
So, calendar, if it is not managed rightly, correctly, if it is not planned well with a time in the middle for conversation with each other alone, it raises a problem. Secondly, children, especially small children. It's not a secret or a surprise to anybody who knows me, I love children. But there can be no doubt that children can be one of the most important results of intimacy in marriage. I wanna emphasize this. But the truth is, small children can be, as I said, can be, one of the biggest hindrances in intimacy and conversation in marriage. Hear me right, please, on this one. Kids are very innocent, and they do not know their proper role in the family. And by nature, kids think that the world revolves around them.
In fact, they think that their parents' world revolves around them. And they need to be trained that the spouse is number one in their life, not their children, but there's more. Security in children's lives stems from seeing that Daddy is Mommy's number-one priority, and that Mommy is Daddy's number-one priority. But when parents allow their children to be the decision makers in the home, when they grow up, they grow up not understanding boundaries. Perhaps this is why Elizabeth and I will focus on this more than the others, this issue of children today. Because, like many young couples, we made the mistake, as I said, of placing our children first, until God so graciously opened our eyes in time to take corrective actions.
I often hear parents say, "We want to do what our children want to do". "We want to go where our children want to go". "We want to please our children". And to be quite honest, now that I'm older and wiser, I wince, I really do. And in a minute, Elizabeth will come up and share her testimony on this subject, but I want to share mine first, and it's a very small part. When our children were very young, like many young parents, we wanted to be good parents. Listen, I watch you guys. I mean, I know every one of you. You wanna be good parents, it's wonderful. And we began, our focus, all of our attention, not on each other, but we placed them squarely on our children.
Now, don't misunderstand me, please. Don't misunderstand me. Taking very good care of the kids is of vital importance. I am not minimizing that at all. Now, the question is, how do you create a balance? How do you create a balance? I don't have much balance. I really do, I struggle for balance, but the one who is truly a balanced person, the most balanced person I know is gonna come up. And again, I just want to thank her for letting me do this. This is not easy for her, and she agreed to do it.
Elizabeth Youssef: We had three children between the ages of 4 and 7, and we were involved in a really hectic schedule. Not only that, he was heading up a international ministry, which involved 4 overseas trips a year, and each trip was at least 2 weeks. More often than not, one of the three kids would be sick, and, you know, the pressures seemed to be on me, and on all of us. And the same goes, but the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the attention. And for me, it was my children. It's not to say they demanded the attention, because in actual fact, they didn't. They were great kids. But over time, I realized they had become my focus. There was also the regular interruption of the transitioning.
You know, when Michael was gone, I sort of took the leadership role, took control of all aspects of the family. And then, of course, when he would come back, I was very relieved to hand over the reins, but it kind of created a little tension. Well, all of this did not happen overnight. It was building up gradually over the years. We were actually, if you think about it, on two different tracks. And we'd lost the focus of serving each other in marriage, of being selfless and, you know, it was just totally not right. And it wasn't until we had reached a point of crisis in our marriage that the Lord graciously revealed to both of us that we had failed to build each other up in communication. And it was obvious, certainly to me, but I think to both of us, that we needed to take radical steps.
So, for me, I was convinced it wasn't just a matter of saying, "I'm sorry," but it's what the Bible talks about, repentance. And, you know, when you repent, you do an about face. So we purposed in our hearts with the strength of the Lord that we would set aside each week for building time. That's the issue, time to build up our relationship. And then, two or three times during the year, we'd go away. It's so easy to fall into this pattern of life as a mother because, obviously, you're responsible for all their basic needs for the nurturing. The problem is when you place these above what really should be the first priority, and that's looking to the best interests of your mate. My prayer for all of you is that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you those areas in your relationship that need to be changed, that need to be restored, the little idols, perhaps, you've created, will be torn down, that you will actually purpose to take time to work, you know, on that relationship with your mate. God bless you.
Michael: Thank you so much. Thank you, honey. We saw later, as we helped other young couples, that when the last child leaves home, the husband and wife discover that they have nothing in common. The kids were the only subject of their conversation. The kids were only subject of their planning. The kids were the only subject of their time and energy and effort. And so, when they become empty nesters, they discover that they have nothing to talk about. I pray to God that this will change. I have seen it again and again and again, and that's why Elizabeth said that when we speak to young moms and dads, we strongly urge them that they must get away from their children for a time alone without the children. And even when you're away, the temptation, at times, is that the conversation would veer toward the subject of children. But then you have to really stop and intentionally change the subject. Develop common interests for both of you.
Calendar, children, finally, conflict. More to the point, fear of conflict. Listen carefully, fear of conflict. One of the great fallacies says that good marriages do not have any conflicts or that conflicts are bad for marriage. Let me remind you of what I said in the first message, that in our home, we're too spiritual to call it, "Conflicts or arguments," so we call it, "Vigorous discussion". But hear me right on this one, conflict is neutral. Say that with me: "Conflict". If you handle conflict wisely, they will lead to greater joy and intimacy. If conflicts are handled foolishly, they will lead to further isolation. And I can tell you with a certain degree of certainty that if a husband and wife never have any conflicts at all, chances are, they are not conversing with each other.
Here's my personal advice, for what it's worth. If you make conflict to be your ally, you will both learn to grow in leaps and bounds. Why do I say this? Because in most conflict-avoidance situation, you will find that one or both are stuffing their emotions and their feelings into that deep sock that's inside all of us. And you don't need me to tell you that this is not very healthy. So what's the answer? You learn how your wife or your husband is wired. Learn how your spouse is wired. We're all wired differently. Often, you're gonna find that one spouse, mostly men, are problem solvers, and women are peacemakers.
Here's what both should do about conflict, three things again. First of all, agree to identify the conflict issue, the points of conflict. Identify them, you can write them down if you want to. Secondly, discuss together, come in agreement on how you should deal with them. And then develop a procedure. That just sounds like a business, but I really, it's much simpler than that. Develop a procedure about how you're gonna do this. Then absolutely determine to deal with those conflicts as soon as they arise. But before you do all these three things, if you haven't already learned to pray together, hold hands, and start praying together. It is the most spiritual intimacy that I can recommend, praying together. Invite God into the situation. Pray, confessing your sins, not your spouse's sin. Are you with me?
All right, pray, surrendering to your agenda, not, "Dear Lord, help my spouse to surrender their agenda," no, no, yours. Pray for God to reveal to you your own inadequacies, your own weaknesses, your own failures. And then pray for the love of God to be poured into your hearts toward your spouse. As I conclude, I'm always conscious of the fact that somebody here might say, "Michael, in our marriage, conversation doesn't even exist". Or, "In our marriage, our conversation has stopped long time ago".
Wherever you are, you can jumpstart the conversation in marriage, amen? You can jumpstart it at any point. Think of those romantic times when you were dating, that helps. Think of the tender moments that you had in the early days in marriage. Then make some strange-sounding words, strange-sounding words, such as telling your spouse that he or she is God's gift to you. Tell your spouse how much you really love them. Above all, don't forget that there are hundreds of ways by which you can converse, even more than verbally. A smile, paint it any way. It may crack your cheeks, but do it.
The adoring look... Serve the need of your spouse. Pray something important to them, not to you. Pray something important to him or her. Try to find out your spouse's love language, and speak that language, not yours. We all love to speak our language. I know that having crossed languages, it's hard to practice speaking another language, but you can, under the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. After all, he is the one who spoke our love language when he left the glories of heaven and came and identified with us. He identified with our deepest longing, seeing that our deepest need and our deepest longing is to know that we are forgiven, healed, and restored. He did exactly that on the cross.
Every time you feel that you are angry or rejected or lonely, you will hear in his Word that was authored by his Spirit that he would say to you, and you hear him over and over again saying, "You're loved by me, that you'll never be rejected by me. I am always with you. You are never alone with me. I love you. I can meet you at every point of your need. My everlasting arms are underneath. My plans for you are for good and not evil. You are engraved on the palms of my hands. You are carried on my shoulders. And he who touches you, touches the apple of my eye". That's our language. He spoke our language, and he said all of this when he hung on that cross and then rose again on the third day. Now, imitate him, imitate him in your relationship.