Imagine being in a storm out at sea. You’re close enough to shore for that lighthouse ahead to reach out with its 1 million candlepower light and bring you hope, direction and reassurance amidst the high seas. That’s a great picture of what God’s word, love and reality does in our day. It cuts through all the chaos and darkness of our time, particularly in this COVID world.
The Blessing Begins with Helping Your Couples Make a Choice
Let’s move back to dry land, to a time when the nation of Israel was just about to step into the Promised Land. At that time, and by application in our day as well, Almighty God sets before His people a choice. It will define who they are to be in this new land. How they are to “reflect” His love and life as they step forward. It’s a choice, set before the whole gathered Nation, as Joshua through God’s great megaphone, tells His people:
“I call heaven and earth to witness that I have set before you life or death. The Blessing or the curse. So choose life. You and your descendants … ” Deut. 30:19
That’s one choice with two parts. We’re actually given the “right” answer. We’re to first choose “life” that God offers us, now through His Son. That word “life” literally means “movement.” Jesus, in addition to being the “light of the world,” is also “the way, the truth and the life.” So in choosing Jesus, He not only comes into our hearts and lights us up with His light, but He also “gets us moving” with His life!
Let’s apply that to all those marriages you see in your church family. When couples “choose” life in Christ, they have a new capacity to “get moving” toward the One who calls, seals, and sanctifies them. (Eph. 1) But they also, as new creatures in Christ, can now draw on Jesus’ love and life to “get them moving” toward their spouse.
How two very different people, can now in Christ reflect a “oneness” reflecting His love and light, is indeed a mystery (Eph. 5) and a powerful picture of the gospel.
But going back to Deut. 30:19, it’s important for our couples to realize that “life” isn’t our only choice. We can also choose “death.” That word literally means, “to step away.” Obviously, in our relationship with Christ, we have Jesus’ promise, that “He himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He doesn’t step away from His children. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13) We can emotionally step away from the Lord, but the great news is He’s not going anywhere. He is always ready for us to step back toward Him.
But in our marriages and earthly relationships, when you stop “stepping toward” a spouse or loved one, you will begin to see that relationship emotionally start “dying” inside.
This National Marriage Week, remind your couples they were first chosen by God. But that He sets before them a “choice” as well. To choose “life” in Him. A life that gets us moving toward him and toward our spouse, whom God has “placed” us with to complete, not defeat us. (Read 1 Cor. 12:18)
But then comes that second choice. The choice of “Blessing or curse.”
In the original languages, these are singular words. It’s not “blessings and curses” as is sometimes translated. It is “the” Blessing and “the” curse.
So what is “The Blessing?”
The word “bless” carries two pictures. First “to bow the knee,” as if the person in front of us were someone of great worth and value. A second word picture is of someone “adding” to another’s life – like adding a coin to a scale. The Blessing is first an “attitude” of high value, but it is also to be lived out with our actions.
Once we have Christ’s life inside us, He gets us moving toward Him and our loved ones. It is that second choice – “to bless” or “add” to another’s life – that points us toward what to do. We’re to “bless” that person, like adding coins to a scale.
Yet there is also that last terrible choice. To “curse,” which means we’ve chosen to subtract, not “add” to someone. We’re going “to dam up the stream,” meaning we purposely choose to cut off that life-giving water from someone. Even our spouse.
How many times have we seen in our counseling wonderful, God-loving couples who have chosen life in Christ. But then circumstances and challenges happen, and they choose to start “stepping away” from their spouse. Instead of adding to their loved one’s life, they start subtracting emotionally and physically from each other. They leave the person they’ve stepped away from with nothing but a muddy trickle of what they need for growth, health, life and love.
Three Ways to Call Your Couples to “Bless” Their Spouse
With that “choice” in front of us, let’s get really practical on three ways you can “Bless” or “add” to a spouse’s life, based on an attitude of Blessing that says, “You are so valuable to me! You are enough! I’ll be there for you to reach back when you reach out!”
First, every time a “blessing” was given, it came with appropriate, meaningful touch. A hug (Genesis 27) or the laying on of hands. (Genesis 48) Don’t forget the “appropriate and meaningful” part, but call your people – yes even in this no-contact, COVID world – to provide their spouse that meaningful touch.
A good friend, Kevin Lehman, years ago wrote a marriage book called, Sex Begins in the Kitchen. It was a picture of how intimacy begins with those small acts of service – and touch outside the bedroom. A touch that says, “I’m reaching out to you. You’re attractive and important to me.” And if they reach out to you, you reach back with your touch as well. You don’t dam up the stream.
Second, “say it.” I can’t even count the number of times in my 40 years of counseling couples that I’ve heard someone say in a session, “I know I was loved … but I never heard it.” That person or spouse may have been loved, but they never got their loved one’s “blessing.” When a Blessing was given, it was always put into words or into writing. People weren’t left to guess or fill in the blanks. It always involved someone choosing words to speak or write. Not damming up the stream, but saying it.
In The Blessing Challenge, we set before people a first step as they learn how to speak or write a blessing. (See The Blessing book1 or go to TheBlessing.com to find The Blessing Challenge). It starts with picking ONE character trait about that person you love, then writing out why you value that gift or strength or ability God has given them and why it “blesses” you as well. We coach people that their words and Blessing are a gift, not something earned or conditional.
That takes us to the third way to call couples to Bless – which is to live out “genuine commitment.” A key part of the Blessing was it wasn’t just a one-time, throwaway line. The Blessing reflects words of a lifetime commitment.
The person we Bless with our touch and our words hears that we “bless” them. But we back it up with actions. With a commitment to them. Even in marriage, vows that were spoken can be reviewed and renewed. Commitment spoken and lived out gives a spouse a picture of a special future. It helps them when they most need someone in their life.
Clinical studies show that when people get ready to climb a high hill, they view it as even higher and harder to climb than it is. But when they have someone they’re “attached” to – who cares for them – walk up beside them, the high hill shrinks.
That’s illustrated in Jesus coming up out of the waters of Baptism and getting His Father’s spoken Blessing. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17) Jesus hadn’t even started His ministry and yet He gets the “gift” of the Blessing from His Father. Unconditional words of love and acceptance. If you remember that amazing scene, the Holy Spirit also comes down from Heaven, in the form of a dove, and lights on Jesus. Those spoken words and appropriate touch, say, “I’m with you.” And I’ll be there, always. Even when it’s time for you to climb that “high hill” to the cross.
May you, during this week of celebrating marriage, remind each couple that we indeed have a “choice.” Life or death. Blessing or curse. And call them to get creative and caring as they choose to live and give the Blessing.
1 John Trent, Gary Smalley and Kari Trent Stageberg, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2019 edition and visit us at TheBlessing.com and at the home of Dr. Trent’s ministry, strongfamilies.com.
© 2021 John Trent and Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.