Tell me the Secret to a Great Marriage
Tell me your secret. How do you have a great marriage? If this answer were to be given in a nutshell, many would not want to crack it open. After carefully observing that nut, one may deduce that it is too simple. Another may say that it is much more complex than what meets the eye. It is a mystery! Surely if it were straightforward, everyone would rise to the occasion and enjoy the bliss of marriage. The philosophical mind may say it is indeed simply complex.
What do I say?
I say it is simple!
Why? The components of a great marriage are not hidden and are not unreachable but rather available to all.
The truth we do not care to hear is that the marriage we want will cost us more than we are sometimes willing to pay.
What will it cost, you say?
Let’s consider just one aspect of marriage…your right to be right. Sometimes our ultimate goal in a fight is to prove that we were right. Soaking in that victory still does not give you the feeling you want. To be right at any cost will leave you making an enemy of your greatest ally. So, what should your goal be in a fight? Let’s face it! There will be fights, but you must learn to fight right.
Your goal in a fight must be for the marriage to win!! I can’t state this enough! It’s quite likely that we were not taught to do so at any point in our development. We have instead learnt to justify our reason for being right and provide evidence, as if in a courtroom, as to why the other person is wrong. We pull out every proof we can find to make it abundantly clear that we are right! Then we gloat and enjoy a short-lived moment of victory. While you’re winning, your marriage is losing. There is now a wedge that slides in between the two. The two who are supposed to become one, now have a greater challenge in operating as a unit. Over the years this practice creates a major dividing force that can eventually end in divorce.
Fighting right requires having the right motive in the first place and being willing to lay down the trophy of being right in order to understand the other person, while carefully protecting his or her heart. This translates to choosing the right tone, the right words and the right place and time to have this discussion.
Do you see why obtaining a flourishing marriage is within reach but many refuse to reach for it because it requires sacrifice?
So back to the question. How do you have a flourishing marriage? A flourishing marriage requires self-sacrifice on both sides.
Chari had the bad habit of knocking while attempting to open Jala’s apartment door.
“Jala! You knew if you didn’t answer the phone I’d be coming over.” She knocked again impatiently and twisted the doorknob.
Eventually, Jala came to the door not saying a word. Chari came in with food in hand and proceeded to the kitchen counter to share it out.
“I stopped by benevolence after work, and they said you didn’t come by…Sunday you slipped out just before church ended. What’s going on, Jala?”
“I’m just trying to lay low and get these folks off my back. Ever since the gas station explosion and Ephraim helped me out of the building, I can’t get these people off my back! I wouldn’t be surprised if they were planning our wedding.”
“You take things too seriously, Jala. I would not care one iota if it were me. No! None of them would have anything to say to me. I would play with them and give them something to talk about when I turn my back.”
Chari laughed as she created scenarios to provoke the nosy church folks.
The two friends sat eating at Jala’s small round dining table. A flowery pendant light hung just above their heads. Chari knew her favourite Chinese dishes and sought to use food to get pass Jala’s walls. Canton Kitchen served the best kung pao chicken and noodles and they were near Jala’s apartment.
“On a serious note, though Jala, I think you are still reacting to the embarrassing situation you went through with Jonathan almost four years ago.”
“Oh no, you don’t! Chari, is that what you’ve come here for, to drag up my past and make me a counselling case?”
“Relax! We’ve been best friends longer than you and I can remember, so I think I should be able to point out a little trauma in my bestie’s life. Jonathon was a colossal mess! With his high tenor voice and pretentiousness, he had half the ladies in the church convinced he only had eyes for them. He sounds like one of the beasts in Revelation with eyes everywhere. He lured you into his web!”
“Ok, I was an idiot!
“No way! You’ve got to let that go and forgive yourself. The guy was like Solomon without the wisdom. Many women fell for him.”
“Why couldn’t I see that he was not interested in me? I was an idiot! A man who does not want to be seen in public with you, ignores you at church but calls you the moment you reach home to express his undying love, should raise many red flags. But, not to me he didn’t. I was smitten despite your caution. Well, no need to repeat that situation! I’ll make sure of that.”
“Girl, at the sound of things, you are not about to let any other man in.”
“Look at you! You’re a genius!” exclaimed Jala finally laughing. She felt empowered and in control.
“Oh, speaking of not letting another man in…guess who I saw when I stopped by the benevolence room? Ephraim. He was asking me for you.”
“Pastor Pruit must have let him in to work. I was so into my selfish slump I didn’t remember I was supposed to open up for him.
Jala suddenly stopped and looked at her friend. “You weren’t thinking that I had interest in Ephraim too?”
“Oh, no!” snapped Chari with both hands in the air. “I would never assume that you would even consider a handsome, mannerly carpenter of a man! No doubt he has no degree!”
Chari continued with great sarcasm. “After all, of what use is a man like that!”
“Firstly, I don’t know a thing about him.
“Secondly, even if did, I would not like to be in a relationship.
Thirdly, I could not take a carpenter home to meet my mom! So, let that set your mind at ease.”
“Jala, I knew all your numbers from one to three already. We’ve been here many times. I know…he’s a pleasant guy though.”
“Yea, I agree.”
“By the way, I gave him your number.”
“You said he was a nice guy! He wanted to check up on you and find out how your ankle was doing. He said from he dropped you off that night he never heard another word from you even though he gave you his number for you to call if you needed help.
“Precisely, I didn’t need help! I still don’t!”
“Ooooo, so edgy Jala!”
Jala sighs and admitted that poor Ephraim was not deserving of this harshness nor this situation in which he was involuntarily placed.
“To be honest, Jala, Ephraim is a wonderful human and we had a great time chatting. I can see us being good friends.”
“Wow, that’s big of you! We know he wouldn’t make it to the husband list because he’s a carpenter. Still, I’m impressed that he is worthy of friendship.”
There’s a knock on the door and Chari wastes no time parting Jala’s damask patterned curtains to see who’s outside.
“Speaking of forever friend zone,” she whispered loudly to Jala. “Hello Abe!”
Jala dramatically flung the door open freezing in a grinning pose.
“Oh, I forgot you live here. Hi Jala,” he said, passing Chari to hug Jala.
“Hey Abe. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming by?”
“Jala, you don’t answer your phone and besides, you may say no. What are friends for!”
“Indeed, what are some friends for?” chimed Chari looking at Abe. Their friendship has been much like this.
“So where is your new friend, Jala?” inquired Abe, who is known for his blunt and unfiltered communication.
“You know about Ephraim too?”
“Of course, not because I play the drums mean I don’t hear what’s going on. I hear that you and him have been an item for some time now. I’m just wondering how I didn’t hear about him as your dear friend who you love, by the way!”
“Here we go!” shouted Jala jumping from her chair.
Chari’s eyes opened wide. “Do tell Abe!”
“Do tell what! You already know the truth. I met the guy moments before the gas station explosion. That’s what you get when you go to a small church and everybody knows everybody and tries to marry you to anybody!”
“What does this remind you of? This was what happened when Jonathan was found out after leading all these young ladies on…including our dear Jala,” added Abe.”
“That is what it feels like! People nosing into my business and assuming a lot. That’s why I keep myself to myself. I hope God gives me a husband who is from a different church!
No one calls to find out the truth but continues to talk and build lies.”
As if on cue, Jala’s phone rings.
“It’s condescending Connie from core.
“Hi Connie, how are you?”
“Hi Jala, I didn’t see you at core yesterday so I just call to check on you.”
“Actually Connie, I’ve been missing core for almost a month, but thanks for calling I’m fine.
Yes, I did hurt my ankle, but the swelling went down.”
Yes…It was lovely of the gentleman to help.”
Both Chari and Abe were laughing uncontrollably at Jala, who was trying to maintain her cool.
No soon as Jala came off the phone with eyes rolling. It rang again.
“Let me answer her,” shouted Chari.
Jala looked down at her phone wondering who was calling.
“Let me answer!” Chari snatched the phone from Jala.
“You’ve reached the number of Jala McKnight, how can I help you?”
“Oh no! Just a minute.”
She motioned for Jala to get to the phone quickly while Abe whispered, “Who is it?”
The story began in Part 1 of the Church Girl Series. Look out for Part 3 soon. Find out how Jala confronts her deep rooted issues…including the meddling saints.
After many days of clearing out the benevolence room, with very little help, Jala could see her vision materializing. She had a passion for the poor and devoted every evening after work for the past month, to revamping the room.
Her vision was to ‘help with honor’ way beyond just giving the poor a few food items. She finally had the approval for the construction of a small office within the large benevolence room. Jala removed the dark curtains that blocked the sunlight and brought in a few sheer panels she had convinced her friend Chari she did not need. Chari was used to Jala pulling her into the benevolence Ministry to help at a moment’s notice.
In benevolence ministry, she had latitude and could avoid being upfront, yet serve the people she was passionate about. Chari often tells her that she hides in benevolence to avoid interaction with majority of the church.
This was Jala’s passion!
“Jala, you’re back there?”
Jala could hear a coarse male voice calling her as it drew closer to the benevolence room. It was Pastor Pruitt, who played a major role in Jala becoming a Christian.
“I’ve got some help for you! Where do you want the cupboards and the shelves?
“Pleasant evening Pastor Pruit,” said Jala as Pastor Pruitt steps aside.
“This is the help I brought you. Meet Ephraim who will be doing the cupboards and shelves for the room. Please tell him where everything goes.
“Oh Hello, Ephrem, E-phraaim?”
“That’s okay. I’ve heard it all. I’ve even had someone spell my name starting with an ‘F’ for Ephraim.
Jala laughed and ushered him into the room.
“I don’t know what my mom was thinking. If she wanted a Bible name, why not David?”
“Follow me, David!”
They both laughed. Jala explained the new layout and Ephraim wasted no time measuring up the space.
As Ephraim worked, he and Jala chatted away as if they had known each other for years.
“So, what is this church like, and how long have you been a Christian?”
“Wow! That’s a lot of questions…let’s see…vibrant church, not without issues and 5 years.”
Stopping to process what Jala said, he added, “That works.”
“You might consider me a baby Christian, but I’m excited about my new life. I got saved at a church not far from here about a year ago.”
Jala was standing on her desk trying to hang a few frames, while Ephraim continued measuring outside the office.
The light flickered…
“Did you see that?
“I’m glad you did,” replied Jala.
Soon there was an explosion and the electricity was out. Hardly any light came through the window now.
Jala, frighten, tried making her way off her desk and twisted her ankle in panic.
“I’m here… I’m here. Are you alright?”
Ephraim pulled out his phone flashlight and found Jala trying to get off the floor. She was embarrassed. Jala hated to admit her need for help to a complete stranger, no matter how kind he appeared.
“Did you fall?”
“No,” she snapped. By this her ankle was pounding and painful. The tears were rolling down her cheeks and she was grateful for the darkness.
“How embarrassing,” she thought.
Realizing that Jala could hardly walk Ephraim offered to help. She reluctantly laid her pride aside and held on to David, hopping out of the room.
“What was that?”
Ephraim understood that the bubbly personality he met only hours ago was now very uncomfortable. He shifted the attention to the incident at hand as they walked down the hallway.
Upon approaching the exit door, they could see lights. There were lights of fire trucks, ambulances and a fire at the gas station across the road.
A crowd had gathered outside the church, as many prayed for those who were being placed in ambulances.
Jala realized that her pride being hurt was insignificant to the dire situation before them.
“Jala we had forgotten about you and Ephraim around the back,” said Pastor Pruitt. “Are you okay?”
By this Jala was standing on her left leg, while Ephraim braced her from the side.
As soon as Pastor Pruitt asked the question all eyes gazed puzzlingly to Jala and Ephraim. Jala knew what that meant. She could only imagine their conversations and thoughts.
“Didn’t she just meet him?”
“What’s his arm doing around her?
“They wasted no time.”
“Is he even saved?”
Again… Jala felt a covering of embarrassment. It was what she wanted to avoid the most…giving church people something to talk about. Her swollen right ankle left her no option. She had to take the help and risk being falsely accused. It only got worse when she got in her car and Ephraim drove her home.
Jala had a few things to say to GOD.
“God how could you do this! You know I have maintained a clean reputation. I’ve stay away from unfruitful relationships and things that fuel gossip. Now I seem to be caught up with a man I know nothing about…a baby Christian at that. The poor thing has no idea what he just stepped into. I will have to live this down. Why, me? I hope this guy doesn’t get any ideas in his head.”
Follow us on the next blog to find out how the guarded Jala handles the unwanted attention from her church family and poor Ephraim.
Here’s a little secret…If you’re not healed from the thorn-bush experiences that you’ve repeatedly tumbled through, you’re probably not in the best shape to know your type of guy. Will you not choose from those who do not threaten the unhealed areas of you? Well that would mean that your past pain is ruling your future.
If the right one comes along, will your scarred lenses detect him as you look through windows of pain? I would never dear to kick you while you’re down. No I am here to administer medicine you may likely think you don’t need.
It’s time now to purposefully return to the scene of the crime. Where they hurt you. Where they abandoned you. You know that place you erased from your memory in order to cope. Little did you know that you’re daily reacting to that trauma. Making decisions based on it… choosing friends based on it….viewing life based on it.
If only we could go there and remove the fears you found and carried from there. There were some decisions you made as a result of the heavy disappointments that your heart could hardly carry. They were vows intended to protect you against that terrible scenes but instead the vows built chains binding you to your unwanted past.
Again…I’m only here to administer medicine for a soul that can be healed. I need you to cooperate. Aaah…open your mouth and denounce those vows.
Open again…keep it open and repent of becoming so self sufficient, that you can hardly receive help from anyone – your defense mechanisms employed to protect the wound, but it shut you out of living.
Open up again and forgive the perpetrators of that penetrating pain. Please can I ask you once more to cooperate with me as you denounce hatred which sprung to existence taking advantage of your awful situation. Father’s arms are opened for you to collapse in it and surrender…
Did I say, “Father?” Now you don’t want to hear me since much of your pain came from him. This FATHER is not like that one. HE says He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. His love is forever…yes steady…like a credit card it’s maxed out on you…He wants you healed and whole…flourishing from a prosperous soul.
The healed you is amazing with strength and resilience. You’re telling your story as people wonder if it’s even possible to rise from such dark places to the light of the platform you stand on. Your soften heart embraces the many who are where you were. You only know to love them to life after Father poured his love all over your life. Look at you!
Now confident in GOD’s love, you have permission to fearlessly receive and give love. So who is your type? I’m holding his description against the one you once had and they are looking drastically different. With cleaned heart and cleared lenses, love finds this “good thing.” You know now that you had to be healed to even known and receive your type.