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I know the title is redundant, but it makes perfect sense. We have a choice: We can intentionally do nothing, stick to the same old routine and not help our marriage or our spouse grow one bit. Or we can be intentionally intentional in growing our marriage every day that the Lord gives us together. The saying goes that those who fail to plan can plan to fail. This is so true in our marriage relationship. Our responsibility is planting and watering our own marriage vineyard, but it is God, alone who causes the growth. Let’s be sure we’re providing the richest soil possible.
Here are the nutrients needed to enrich the soil where your marriage vineyard grows:
Be intentional in growing in your love for the Lord. Following Him is the first and most important step in keeping our priorities right in marriage. He is our closest friend and our best advocate for a successful marriage. Our marriage mirrors Him, so it matters to Him more than we realize.
Intentionally carry your spouse in your heart everyday. Whether they’re at home doing chores around the house, or at the office working hard to provide means for the family. Let your love for them be what motivates all you do each and every day. And make sure they know this is your motivation. There’s a song that says, “You know it’s true…everything I do…I do it for you.” Let this be your anthem as you do the mundane tasks each and every day.
Be intentional in knowing your spouse well enough to know the things that are weighing heavily on their heart. If you don’t know, then ask good questions like, “How can I pray for you today?” “What is one thing you’re asking God to help you with today?” Questions like these open the door for quality communication that goes a long way in helping you enter into your spouse’s world. We offer an iPhone, iPod, iPad app that provides over a hundred questions to help you know what to ask.
Intentionally pursue their input and help in your own life. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life–doing the things you know you need to do–without considering there may be a better way to do it. Talk to your spouse. Ask them if they have any observations about your routine that they think would help you grow and change? You might be surprised when they actually say they do. And be ready to listen and try their suggestion. No one has a better view of our blind spots than our spouse. And if we’re open and humble about their input we may grow in ways we didn’t know we needed to grow. Kind of like a plant that’s outgrown its pot. It’s still green and has life, but imagine how much better it would do if the plant was given a bigger pot in which to grow.
Be intentional in romancing your spouse. I’m not only talking about sex here, although sex is a very good thing to be intentional about. Romance is the pursuit of pleasing your spouse in lots of meaningful ways. Be sure you know your spouse’s likes and dislikes in this area. It benefits no one to romance them in a way that they won’t notice or appreciate. Find out their love language and do all you can to romance them to the hilt in this regard. But I offer a caution–the love languages can limit our ability to grow and understand our spouse on a different level. Imagine a husband who goes out of his way to express his love for his wife by writing a long, detailed love letter to her and mails it through the USPS. If she prefers acts of service to words of affirmation, she may be tempted to disregard his unselfish act of love towards her. We don’t want to cling to our love language as the only way we’ll appreciate our spouse’s affection. This is selfish and wreaks of pride. Instead, let’s be grateful for any intentional expression of love that our spouse gives us. It is a gift we never want to take for granted.
Finally, be intentional in pleasing your spouse’s sexual desires. God intended for you to be the only one who would know your spouse in this way. We realize many marriages come with baggage, like finding unwanted weeds in your vineyard. Certainly, we must be intentional in being honest, confessing failures and sins, and pursuing forgiveness at all costs. Sometimes the weeds are so many that it’s hard to find the vine. If this is the case in your marriage, then be intentional in getting help. Open up the gates of your vineyard and invite others in to help you remove the weeds of past sins, unforgiveness and uncharitable judgments. These weeds are like the little foxes that want nothing more than to destroy your marriage vineyard. Let’s be intentional in identifying who our real enemy is–it’s not your spouse! You are on the same team fighting a common enemy. Realizing this one fact alone will do more to help you both be more intentional in all the areas we’ve listed above, than anything else will.
An intentional marriage requires a willingness by both the husband and wife to get dirty in cultivating their relationship for God’s glory and for the good of the family and society at large. It’s good to remember the big picture of why our marriage matters to God especially when we’re spending so many days plowing up the dirt and don’t see a lot of growth. God has promised He will provide the growth. You can be certain He was intentional towards you when He gave the following promise:
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:19-21 ESV)