Back when I was single and on the prowl for an acceptable life partner, spirituality was my absolute #1 most important quality I was looking for. I felt like it was the gateway quality into all other qualities I wanted in a spouse: kindness, humility, loyalty, selflessness. So I was going to take no chances on some sub-par non-spiritual plebeian. No sir.
I wanted to be led spiritually by my spouse. When I fell short, I wanted him to pick up the slack. I wanted HIM to lead in family prayer and scripture study, teach our kids the gospel, schedule our temple trips and be able to teach me things about God I hadn’t considered before.
Yeesh, a bit of a tall order, eh? Before I even MET my spouse, these were some mighty high expectations of mine to fall into. I had created my spirituality measuring stick.
MAJOR disclaimer to this post: Rich is actually one of the most genuinely faithful men I’ve ever met. When we met, the was the very first thing that attracted me to him was his goodness. He oozed goodness and I knew I could trust him. He’s been an inspiring leader and teacher many times to countless others inside and outside of church. He sincerely loves others and wants to help those who need it most. His belief in God and Christ is strong and if you’ve ever met him you already know that. This post is not about him, but about me and my need to change my perception of him as I outline in the story below. And I’m going to be vague about the details of what our specific spiritual expectations were … that’s not the most important thing here.
I’d like to report that once I got married I realized the danger of judging another’s spirituality. Nope. Sadly, it’s taken me quite some time to learn the lesson of measuring my spouse’s spiritual side according to HIS spiritual priorities rather than mine.
I sort of unconsciously put God on my side and by default not on my husband’s. DANGER ZONE!!!
And I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have been doing it for years. 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁
This is actually embarrassing to type out, but I think it may help some people, so I’ll trudge on. Anyway, last month, I was going to fast for Rich for fast Sunday. Although before I started, I felt a strong feeling that instead of fasting for Rich, I needed to fast for myself. To change how I saw the situation instead of changing him. Hm.
Interestingly enough, Rich was fasting for the same thing (that I would understand him).
God answered both our fasts in a very powerful way.
I can’t think of any other time I had been so sure I was right about something (for years) and then discover that I was very, very much wrong. Dead wrong.
It kind of floored me to be honest. I saw that I had been sorely misjudging him. I saw Rich as the spiritual leader that he is, I saw his goodness, his love of others, his passion for helping the underdog, his ability to see things from other’s perspectives and his incredible patience with me. I saw that I had for years been using MY spiritual measuring stick and ignoring his. Our spiritual strengths are different its true. I’m good at scripture reading and praying about loving people, Rich is good at actually loving people.
I saw Rich in a totally new light that week. I respected him. I cherished his opinions and input on things I’ve been struggling with. The whole thing made me wonder, “Gosh, what else am I wrong about??”
Anyway, here are some of the lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way through the years as I’ve had to learn to appreciate and encourage my spouse’s spiritual side:
Put away your spiritual measuring stick
Trust me on this: judging another’s spirituality can be a mighty slippery slope. No good can come of it. Particularly since ‘spirituality’ can be measured in a million different ways. When we focus on our standards of measurement, we are blinded to our spouse’s strong points and how THEY define and prioritize spirituality.
Do not point out their spiritual inadequacies
Ever have someone nag you for something you’re not doing? Does that ever make you want to do that thing? No, it makes you bitter and defensive. And when you do it to your spouse, it makes them feel undervalued, unloved and unappreciated. Focus on loving and encouraging, not guilt-tripping.
Love without conditions
We can’t wish our spouse’s spirituality higher, but we CAN encourage. And the encouragement is ALL about letting go- letting go judgments, righteous condemnation, nagging, etc. Replace all the energy you’ve been spending doing those things and replace it with love, hope and encouragement. Believe in your spouse, like really, truly believe in them. Do not make your love conditional on their progress. Love them without conditions.
Cling to all of their good points
Cling to every good thing they do. Remind yourself of those things often. Relish them. Cherish them. The good points are there! Pray to be able to see them.
Remember you are not in charge of growing their testimony
Remember, you are not their parent- you are not in charge of growing their testimony- THEY are. Free yourself from this responsibility. Your job is to love, to encourage and to believe in them.
Don’t go looking for faults
If you look for faults or sins, YOU WILL FIND THEM. You will absolutely, hands down find them. They are oh-so easy to find. So don’t go looking. If you find yourself noticing and noticing some more and some more, try your gosh darned best to notice all the ways they ARE spiritual.
The best advice I’ve ever heard on prayer applies well here: pray not to have your circumstances changed, but that you in your circumstances might be changed. Pray for your spouse yes of course, but also pray for you, that you might be able to see, appreciate and encourage your spouse’s spiritual side.