(This article was first published in March 2019).
It’s hard to believe I was in Bangkok last week attending a course “Mastery Coaching Certificate”. It was fantastic. Not only was the teaching, content, facilitation, and interaction brilliant but I enjoyed some great conversations with folk from different nationalities in a variety of ministries. Good future contacts.
One evening I enjoyed a leisurely dinner with a young woman in her twenties who had launched a ministry to coach Christian workers who were not getting member care from their ‘sending’ organisations. During our meal she asked me a couple of relationship questions. I was tempted to coach her through them as that was why we were at the conference 🙂 but as someone who specialised in relationships she was seeking my input.
She said something like…..
“If I was seeking a life partner what would be your top three values to look for in someone – let’s take it as a given that we share the same faith?”
I said to her “That’s easy” as I had shared these with my daughter Olivia when she was dating Asher and I still stand by them today.
Teachability is at the top of my list.
“Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you get, get insight. Love wisdom, and she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will bring you honour. She will be your crowning glory…….(Proverbs 4:7-9)….Always remember what you have learnt. Your education is your life – guard it well.” (Proverbs 4:13)
Having a teachable spirit in marriage is crucial. It’s a core foundational quality for any couple, but particularly when you are young. There’s nothing worse than living with a ‘know-it-all’, with someone who is stubborn and inflexible, and who is determined that their way is the right (by their definition) way. Marriage can be a wonderful journey, if we are willing to listen and learn from one another. If we choose to gain insight and wisdom from one another our relationship will flourish and deepen over time. I have to say that I have great respect for my daughter and son-in-law as they learn to love each other to the best of their ability. They recognise their faults and are willing to receive feedback, even when it’s unsolicited. They both have teachable hearts and so I know that even though life will throw them curveballs, they have the spirit to respond to them well.
Kindness is my definite number two, and underrated in my opinion.
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”. (Ephesians 4:32)
I read a quote from a book a few years ago which I have always remembered. It said “Whenever faced with the decision between being kind or being right always choose kind”. I like that a lot.
Someone who is kind hearted will not only make an incredible life partner but also a wonderful parent. I remember that when I first met Andy it was his kind smiley eyes that first attracted me to him, and they definitely reflected what was in his heart.
Being kind doesn’t mean being meek, or refusing to confront the hard stuff. But if kindness is a characteristic then the person will value the relationship above the issue. It means that during tough conversations they will take the time to express themselves in a way that doesn’t crush the other person. We could all do with a little more kindness in this world – and especially in our interactions with one another in marriage.
I guess the reason I say forgiveness is because when we live in close proximity with one another we have the power to hurt one another unintentionally. If we hold onto grudges then we are in for a rough ride.
“Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
It’s a command, it isn’t optional. I’m sure one of the reasons God told us we must forgive is because it’s counter cultural. Our culture will tell us to get even, to fight for our rights, and to seek vengeance. I remember when our daughter Natasha died, all of a sudden the struggle was very real; everything I knew in my head about biblical forgiveness had to suddenly be worked out in my heart. My battle was a hard war to fight, but every time I chose to forgive, a little bit of the pain was released until it didn’t have the power to control me.
In marriage it’s the same. We make mistakes, we get tired, stressed, grumpy and we do and say things that truly wound. We need to learn to both seek and grant forgiveness so that we can live in freedom and grace.
I hope my new friend will find these three values helpful.
As I reflect on our conversation I wish I’d added a fourth – look for someone who can make you laugh. Life is hard. Life can be serious, and having someone who can lighten the load by having a laugh, and not taking things too seriously is a gift indeed.