This morning we start with a game of charades. I have three volunteers who will perform a charade of a cartoon character (Bugs Bunny), a TV show (The Price is Right), and a member of this congregation (myself).
Each volunteer will have two minutes to perform his or her charade. If, after two minutes, no one correctly guesses the charade, I will reveal the correct answer.
A couple of ground rules: 1.The performer will use no sounds at all. 2. The performer will be limited to actions only but can tell you the number of words in the title, person, or character’s name by holding up the correct number of fingers. Ready?
Since I was not sure how well you would respond to the clues, I made some assumptions. One assumption I made is that there would be recognition of a recognizable trait that would enable you to guess correctly the charade. Another assumption that I made is that you would assume because of the time element that the example would be easily recognized.
I also assumed that because of the ease of familiarity with the examples, that the charades would be easily communicated. This brings me to my main point for this morning – the importance and place of communication in marriage.
This is the final sermon of our three part series on marriage, “Marriage…For All the Right Reasons.”
We have spent the last three weeks looking at the Biblical story of Boaz and Ruth from the Old Testament book of Ruth. The first week we focused on “Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons” and we examined the important issue of character in the marriage (and potential marriage) relationship. We also noticed from the Biblical account that Boaz and Ruth’s character were strong and God-centered and out of that they had a strong base upon which to be build a great relationship and marriage.
Last week we focused on “Staying in Love for All the Right Reasons” and we examined the important issue of commitment in marriage. We noticed that through the customs and culture of that day both Boaz and Ruth expressed appropriate commitments to one another.
(Next Sunday is Memorial Day and while we will be honoring the memory of those who have died in service to county, we also will begin a four-week session on family life, entitled “God is in the Small Stuff of Families.” The first sermon is entitled, “God is in the Memories of Families.”)
Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “There are two kinds of people in this world: one who is always ten minutes early and one who is always ten minutes late.” He is quoted as also saying, “They’re always married to each other!”
Twain’s quote highlights the truth of opposites and the attraction that happens between them. Think about it for a moment. Think about your spouse or a good friend. What are some of the “opposites” or differences that are a part of that person’s make up?
Part of the attraction we have is due to the differences. However, those “opposites” after awhile can create problems and conflicts in the relationship. Which requires us to learn the important skills of conflict resolution and communication.
There were differences in Boaz and Ruth. Aside from the obvious ones of gender, they were of different nationalities because Boaz was an Israelite and Ruth was a Moabite. They had differing roles in their lives – Boaz was an employer and Ruth was an employee. (Which can create problems in the workplace.)
Communication is a critical skill that can be developed. In fact, in the grid of the twenty-dimensions of compatibility eharmony.com founder Neil Warren has discovered, communication is one of the twenty-nine labeled “Skills that can be developed.” There are two others as well in this group: conflict resolution and sociability.
(By the way, in an interview on usatoday.com this past Thursday, (May 19, 2005) Neil Warren indicated that he will put up and online marriage assessment sometime this fall for married couples to use.)
An important question comes to mind regarding communication, “What is it that needs to be communicated with one’s spouse (or spouse-to-be) or friend?” What do we learn from Boaz and Ruth? Some very important things that is critical for a healthy marriage.
In our text for this morning, we see that Boaz and Ruth:
Communicate respect and dignity to each other
Boaz speaks first and the words that come out of his mouth express respect and dignity to Ruth and her situation. “Stay here and gather from our fields… Follow the other women by watching where they go to harvest… I have warned the young men not to bother you… Take a drink from our water when you need it.”
Boaz, because of his character and faith, expressed that character and faith as he spoke to Ruth. He communicated that she was valued and valuable. In other words, she was viewed as a person not an object of sexual desire or just a worker.
How are you doing in communicating respect and dignity to your spouse, (not to mention your children, family, friends, and co-workers?) It is hard sometimes to communicate respect and dignity. The pressures of everyday life – work, finances, health, press in on us and we often react out of frustration, worry, anxiety, and a host of other emotions that eat at our relationship.
Yesterday at the Promise Keepers gathering in Fort Wayne, one of the speakers shared that he has put a sign over the light switch in his office. He placed it there to remind him as he leaves at the end of the day to ask the Lord with help in coming through the front door of his home with the right attitude toward his family.
Why would he do that? As a reminder of the dignity and respect, each of his family deserves.
Well, Ruth is taken aback with this act of dignity and respect. For as she herself says, “I am a foreigner.” Boaz did not have to show her such dignity and respect. He could have turned his back on her and her need and done nothing to help her.
Many persons have experienced that, unfortunately, in marriage and family life. I was struck by that reality again during the PK conference. Several presenters shared how they grew up with parents who abused or abandoned them.
Well as the conversation between Boaz and Ruth progresses, we see that:
They communicated gratitude to one another
I recently read an article from ChristianityToday.com entitled “Gratitude: Pathway to Permanent Change.” Written by Michael Zigarelli Dean of the Regent University School of Business, it was study of 5,000 Christians. This is what he said, “What I found surprised me. Of all the possible explanations for why some Christians look more like Jesus than others, one explanation, one characteristic, clearly stood out above the rest: gratitude.”
He goes on to discuss the results of other research on gratitude that shows “that gratitude is positively related to such critical outcomes as life satisfaction, vitality, happiness, optimism, hope, empathy, and the willingness to provide emotional and tangible support for other people, while being negatively related to anxiety, depression, and overall disposition.” It seems to me that gratitude is very important in marriage.
Ruth expresses gratitude at Boaz’s unexpected care and kindness. Boaz expresses gratitude at Ruth’s love and kindness toward her mother-in-law. As a result, their relationship grows and thrives and so does their individual lives. How’s the gratitude quotient in your marriage? Are you grateful to God for your spouse and have you recently expressed that gratitude?
Let me offer some suggestions:
Make sure the dirty clothes get in the hamper.
Take out the garbage without being asked.
Do the dishes one night a week.
Tell them “thank you” for the evening meal
Give him time to relax for a few moments when he walks through the door after work
Put an extra snack in the lunch pail or on the dinner plate
Praise him to your mother
Tell him “thank you” for getting the dirty clothes in the hamper
Finally, Boaz and Ruth communicated something else to one another that helped their relationship, and their marriage, blossom.
They communicated their feelings.
Most men I know have difficulty communicating their feelings or, if they do, they communicate in such a way that creates a wall instead of a bridge. It reminds me of the commercial in which men were late on their responses to women. Such tardiness created problems for them.
I am ashamed to say that early in my marriage to Susan, I did not communicate my feelings very well. Most of the time it was through angry outbursts or sarcasm that I let my feelings be known.
This created an emotional distance that took its toll on our relationship. Only when I started to face, through counseling, the issues that I needed to address, did I find the appropriate words and way to express my feelings.
We read in this text an appropriate expression of emotions at the right time. Ruth shares her feelings of gratitude and Boaz shares his feelings of respect and dignity. When we express our feelings in the right way and at the right time, they turn into nutrients that enrich our marriage. They help us to understand our spouses at a deeper level and they strengthen the bonds of love and commitment.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to communicate and communicate well. We need to communicate respect and dignity to all people, especially our spouses and families.
We need to be thankful for our spouses. Gratitude is a great attitude to have for all of life. After all, are we not grateful to the Lord for His offer of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ? Such gratitude for our salvation should and must motivate us to express gratitude in every area of life.
Finally, as followers of Jesus Christ we need to communicate our feelings in appropriate ways. Jesus expressed emotion in appropriate ways. He wept. He grieved. He got angry. He affirmed. So must we.
I conclude with some interesting and insightful ways to improve your communication skills in your marriage from the pen of Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz in their book God is in the Small Stuff for your Marriage. Here are six suggestions:
See how good you can get at learning to speak the language that your spouse understands.
See your differences as endearing rather than annoying.
Sit down with your wife after dinner, look her in the eye, and say, “Let’s talk.”
Sit down with your husband after dinner, look him in the eye, and say, “Let’s have sex.”
(Now if any you with kids call our home this week and ask if your kids can eat with us,…Susan and I know what’s going on!)
Thoughtful intentions don’t count for anything unless you follow through on them.
Sometimes the best way to say, “I love you” is to pronounce it, “I’m sorry.”
In the beginning, God created us male and female for a very good purpose – to love and be loved in the very deep and sacred bond of marriage. Marriage is still very important, it is vital to our existence, it is vital to our nation and our families.
May the Lord strength us in our marriages and our love for His honor and glory. Amen.
God is in the Small Stuff for your Marriage, Stan and Bruce. © 2000 Promise Press.
Neil Clark Warren, Falling in Love for all the Right Reasons. © 2205 Center Street Press
Gratitude: Pathway to Permanent Change
by Michael Zigarelli, Regent Business Review, Issue 17 found ©http://www.christianitytoday.com/workplace/articles/issue17-gratitude.html