A pattern is a kind of method, sequence, style, system, type, or order. By definition, it is a repeated kind, method…. you can study just about anything and find a pattern in it, even marriage types; but, definitely in all marriages are patterns. Most patterns are learned either by example, repetition, or in reaction to certain stimuli. Some patterns are good and create good habits. But we live in a fallen world and we are fallen people and we have patterns in our lives that effect not only ourselves, but our marriages and these patterns are not for the good and are not healthy.
Do you know the patterns in your marriage? Do you find yourselves repeating over and over the same hurtful words and/or actions toward the person you love? Patterns are behaviors that stem from our thoughts, actions and beliefs about ourselves, about God and about God’s Word. They are manifested through our personality and are usually, without realizing it, the motivations for the behaviors that we do.
After almost 41 years of marriage, I am working on some patterns in my life that affect my marriage. Certainly, my husband’s patterns are a part of our common patterns. So, what can we do?
Here are a few steps I am using as I come before the Lord with these patterns that have not been a God glorifying part of my life, my marriage.
I sit before the Lord, I ask Him and myself and I honestly write down: What triggers the emotions and feelings I have in the pattern I am working on? What are my thoughts about me, about my husband, about God when I am feeling what I am feeling? What do I do, the good and evil when I am feeling what I am feeling when this pattern presents itself.
My lists are very revealing because God reveals to me what is in my heart - He knows what is in my heart. The most rewarding part is when I come to the end of myself and it’s no one but me and God. When I sense the Lord leading me to repent of ungodly beliefs, thoughts or actions. When I sense His everlasting and faithful love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. He is a patient God who is still working on me, transforming me. I had a conversation with a friend recently. We shared when we were younger and we’d look at the older, more mature believers in our lives and think, “I can’t wait ‘til I’m older and I won’t struggle with….” I realize now what an immature thought it was.
God is good and He is very patient. He allows us to choose our actions, the thoughts we dwell on and our beliefs. He also allows us to suffer the consequences when we choose to live according to our feelings and thoughts instead of His Word.
Until the Lord calls me home or He returns, He is working on me. His goal is holiness, holiness in my life, in my marriage, in me. For all the processing and evaluating I do (which are good things to do), I must caution myself to remember, behavior modification is not what God is asking of me. Yes, changing behaviors that do not reflect the glory of God is good. But let us not change the behaviors for the sake of change. Better yet, ask yourself, What is God moving your toward? C.S. Lewis in his book A Testament to Freedom, reminds us of Matt 25:40: “what you did to the least of these, you have done to me…" He goes on to explain that Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality. He comes in the form of a beggar, a friend in need, the sales person on the other side of the counter…. He confronts us in every person that we meet. Christ walks on the earth as our neighbor in the form of every person we relate with”…and I’ll add, especially our spouses.
Christ is knocking. He is not only asking us to consider meeting the needs of or to serve others/our spouses; He is also inviting us to move toward Him to meet our needs to be loved, genuinely and purely loved—something neither we or our spouses can do to one another in our own strength. Will we let Him in to clean us up? Will we let Him in the deep recesses of our hearts, into our patterns and let Him do His transforming work?
Each new day is filled with new mercies to repent, turn and choose to obey and follow the Lord instead of the patterns embedded in our souls. I am grateful for His loving hand that leads me over and over again to repentance, trust, dependence and joy in Him! I am grateful that He uses everything and everyone in my life to draw me closer to Him. I need Him every day of my life to live the life He has called me to live.