Hard and smart are not mutually exclusive . . .
It is not an either/or situation . . .
Not for most things in life and definitely not for marriage . . . yeah, I’m back to that whole “marriage” thing. Whether you’ve been married two years or twenty years, or maybe you’re still waiting for “the one” (that’s another discussion for another day), I think we need to understand the value of both hard and smart work in all of our relationships, but especially in marriage.
We live in society that equates hard work with “bad”. We think if it’s hard there’s no way it can be good, and if it’s good, and especially great, it should never be hard. We say things like, “Work smarter, not harder . . . ” (credit: Allen F. Morgenstern) and use it as an excuse for not working hard. We’ve somehow twisted this saying (which is more about time management in the work place than anything else) and applied in ways it was never meant to be applied. How about we instead use our brains, our smarts, if you will, whilst also working hard? Working hard but not smart will just leave you spinning your wheels. But working smart while working hard will make a world of difference.
Circling back to marriage (because I have a point), I was listening to a marriage and family podcast the other day (and I honestly cannot remember which one), and the hosts were talking about the fact that if you see a great marriage then you see a marriage that was sometimes hard, sometimes easy, but has always had a lot of time and hard work invested in it.
Marriage is hard at times. Marriage is work most of the time. Marriage is hard work. Hard work done smartly is one of the most satisfying things on the planet. The issue we run into here is this isn’t a super romantic notion. When we walk down the aisle and stand next to the love of our life and vow our undying devotion and love and commitment for all time, we think that because we love one another it should all just magically happen. That this married thing should be easy. That the passion and romance and love should just flow. In essence we think the honeymoon should never end. To which I say, “Hahahahahaha! Ha!” Honeymoons never last forever, and the second things become hard, the second we have to put our hands to the proverbial plow in our marriages, many of us want to jump ship. This is most certainly not what we signed up for. And we’re left thinking maybe the person we thought was “the one” really isn’t???
If you’re married to him/her, barring abuse, infidelity, or abandonment (*as always, see my disclaimer at the end), he/she is “the one”. And temporarily sidestepping the hard work, and going shopping for a new “one”, isn’t going to set you up for success. In all honesty, it’s probably going to place you right back in the same situation in a few months or years once the newness and excitement wear off.
I could throw a bunch of scriptures regarding marriage and hard work at you here. But I’m just going to give you one.
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23
“Heartily” here means “with your breath/soul” (Strong’s 5590).
In other words give it all you’ve got and then give it more.
Which y’all, when your spouse is getting on your last nerve, and your kids are climbing the walls, and you really don’t feel like giving it one ounce of energy (that you probably don’t really have) much less pouring your soul into it, is HARD.
Hence the HARD in hard work.
And this is what it took me a super long time, like embarrassingly long, to learn. I often worked hard, but I didn’t always work smart. I have a good husband that I’ve always loved and who has always loved me, and for that I am abundantly grateful, but y’all, I can work hard at nagging, and whining, and complaining, and picking a fight with the best of them. And I typically felt justified in doing it. But the reality is, even if I’m justified in my feelings (because let’s face it sometimes we’re wrong, but sometimes we’re not), I’m never justified in behaving badly. And what God brought to my attention some time ago was that if I wasn’t going to put the effort into my marriage that it deserved then I was essentially putting “bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (from Isaiah 5:20), and I was working hard at tearing down what God had built and created.
So what’s the answer?
The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit . . . it’s that simple, and it’s that complicated . . . that’s the answer for everything in life, including marriage. Without God, we aren’t going to ever truly get it right, and that is 100% where the “smart” comes in because there is no way I’m doing this in my own power.
As my eight year can often be heard saying, “Help me Jesus to make good choices!”
Help me Jesus to respect and love my husband well. Help me Jesus to think before I speak or act. Help me to pour myself and my soul, my time and my effort, into my marriage. Holy Spirit help me to prioritize my life in such a way that it’s always God first and marriage second only to God. Teach me to be a good wife. And equip me and enable me to work both hard and smart.
Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no marriage expert. I’m often hesitant to write about marriage because I’m still learning and a work in progress. I still mess things up more than I care to admit. But I’ve lived it both ways. I’ve sown contention and reaped more as a result, but I’ve also worked hard, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to sow love, respect, peace, and joy into my marriage, and the fruit of that is so very sweet. And the more you do it, the easier and more effortless and enjoyable all that “hard” work becomes.
* Disclaimer: I will always cheer for, fight for, and champion marriage, but I feel like I have to say this because I’ve seen too many spouses (mostly women but also men) pushed to live in dangerous and unhealthy marriages by the church itself. When I talk about marriage, I’m talking about a marriage that, while it may be imperfect, is not one that is abusive or that has ongoing infidelity (and that covers more than just a physical affair). And obviously, if you’ve been abandoned, then the marriage vow and covenant has been severed, and you’re not responsible. This is not something that is going to work in an abusive marriage. A marriage rife with abuse and infidelity needs professional help to say the least. If you are living in an abusive situation (physical or emotional – and there’s a lot of ground with emotional abuse which is why professional help is so important) or with an unfaithful spouse, please, do everything you can to get to safety, and seek true, qualified help. Can marriages recover from abuse and infidelity? Yes, they sometimes do, but it takes two willing spouses, and that’s not always present or possible. Regardless, you are worth being treated with love and respect, and abuse is breaking the marriage vows and covenant with God. God does not intend for you to sit or stay in an abusive or unfaithful marriage with a spouse unwilling to change.
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