A tiny little wood/ coal stove stood in the family room of our former home. My husband loved to watch the fire burn. The snap and crackle of the wood soothed him, and its warmth surrounded him. He relaxed and enjoyed it so much. You know, marriage is a lot like that wood stove if you really think about it. When everything is all right in your marriage, its warmth will envelop you and surround your family with love as God intended.
When I was asked to submit this article, I began to pray that God would give me the right words to share. That night, I talked to my husband, David, about the opportunity; he encouraged me to write. Very early the next morning, God gave me the initial ideas. When I talked to David about what God had said, he enthusiastically shared all kinds of scientific input needed as a background for this article.
There was a time in our marriage that his input did not matter as much as it does today. I did not let him in all part of my life. By shutting him out of one area, it was easy to shut him out of other areas... until we began to have less and less communication about things that really mattered. We were headed for trouble, but that is getting ahead of the story.
David told me that in order for a fire to burn properly there are several things that are needed:
- togetherness ( and a need for space)
- fuel source (other wood)
Oxygen is essential to a fire. If the woodstove does not have proper ventilation, the fire will refuse to burn. At bedtime, David would do what he called, “banking the fire off”. He would restrict the airflow somewhat and add a lot of wood so that the fire would burn slowly overnight to keep the house warm. In the morning, he opened the air regulator a little and shook down the ashes to get to the live coals and slowly rebuild the fire.
Notice, he shook down the ashes. Ashes in a marriage are anything that will not allow the oxygen (love) to flow unhindered. Ashes are hurts that have never been dealt with properly, misunderstandings that have been swept under the rug, criticism, unkind thoughts... anything that is a hindrance has to be shaken down and taken out. We cannot do it on our own, but we have to allow the Holy Spirit to shake us up a little from time to time to remove that which is a hindrance in our marriage.
David and I went through years of difficulties that led to a cooling off of our embers. Oh, the spark was still there, but if we had not recognized it when we did, it would have destroyed our marriage. I had allowed him to hurt me, but I did not say anything about it for many years. He did not realize fully what he was doing because he was quite ill for a time. I tried to keep peace, but at my own expense. It wasn't God's plan for me to allow hurts and misunderstandings to go unresolved and unforgiven, but God has a way of awakening us.
The Lord brought a friend into my life who helped me to realize what was happening in my marriage. One day, she said to me, “If you lose your husband to someone else, it is your own fault.” WHOA! Wait just a minute here! I was the one working my fingers to the bone to keep the boat afloat. David was seemingly unconcerned about my needs...and my friend had the gall to say what she did. She was right, you know. She encouraged me to get honest with myself and God, then do what needed done...namely to forgive David and deal with the situations that happened because I never shook down the ashes, which in turn, led to a cooling off the marriage.
When I opened up and talked to David about how I felt, then he understood me better. When I forgave and did my part to understand him better instead of focusing on the negatives, our marriage began to change. We took out the ashes and God made something beautiful in exchange. Our marriage began to come to life. We began to love each other on a deeper level. We began to laugh again. I spent more time with him, and he began to respond positively to me...and that brought back the warmth into the relationship.
Warmth ( Heat) is essential to release the gasses from the wood in order for the fire to burn successfully. The heat is an external source --God. The wood could lie there all day and not ignite because it has to have the spark from the Ultimate Fuel Source, God. God places those burning desires inside of us. They are only satisfied through Him and through our mates. One of the indications of breakdown in a marriage is the lack of time spent together and the lack of time spent with God. When we spend time with Him, then our times with our companion will ignite the other one's flame. You have to have both to have a truly happy marriage. So, if you want your marriage to have the heat and the romance that it needs, and to maintain a relationship, you have to do your part regardless of the distractions.
There are many things that call out for our attention at every stage of our lives. Young mothers have crying children clinging to their skirts all day long. Overwhelming housework is a never-ending job. Older women are busy with their homes and careers...and may experience the joys of being grandmothers. Their lives are filled with different worries because their children are grown, no longer tugging at their skirts, but instead are tied to the heartstrings wherever they go. We can get so wrapped up in caring for our offspring that our priorities get all twisted out of shape. When the fire is untended, we will end up as a statistic in the divorce courts... and the ashes will still be there when all is said and done.
That brings me to my next thought-- togetherness! Actually, this was my husband's idea. He said that if you want a fire to burn well, you must stick together, side by side. The warmth and fire from one piece of wood warms the one next to it. Together, they put forth a flame. If one of the logs is left alone, it may burn for a time, but eventually it will burn out without realizing its full potential. Together, the fire shoots upward, warming all of those around it.
We were meant to be together. God thought it was a good idea. Gen 2:18 says, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”...one who comes alongside the other one and stays right by his side.
God is talking about more than the physical relationship here. He is referring to every aspect of our lives. It is so important to find the right mate in the first place. A couple needs to be compatible in marriage, not necessarily the same personality type. However, if you have a team of horses pulling a load, they have to be yoked together and pulling in the same direction with the same destination... or chaos reigns.
At the same time, a couple has to recognize the individuality of each other. My husband is mechanically inclined; I don't have a mechanical bone in my body. That does not mean that I prevent him from talking about the mechanical discoveries that excite him...and he allows me to talk about what I am passionate about. One has to respect the need for the other's interests and allow them to be who they were created to be. Marriage is a balance between togetherness and individuality! You don't have to quit being who you are when you marry. Instead, you enhance your mate's qualities. Together, you can be an unstoppable team-- which brings us back to the togetherness idea. Together, yet separate, in a triangular relationship with God-- the source of our relationship.
This next area is a difficult one for couples to navigate, and that is the fuel source. A lot of marriages struggle with others piling wood onto their fire that does not belong there.
This is called “wet wood”.
Gen. 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
In short, this means that you have your own little fire and let everyone else have their own fire. No one else should try to add to your fire. Their wood, “Wet Wood" will slow your fire down and cause your marriage to fall apart. Your fire that was healthy and strong will fizzle out. “Wet wood” was never meant for your fire. It has to be respectfully and carefully removed. You are one with your mate, not with the in-laws or anyone else. Your wood alone must be put on your fire.
“Little Wood”--Dry twigs and debris will make your fire burn furiously for a short time, then fizzle out. “Little Wood” represent the extra activities that come along with having a family. “Little Wood” has its place, but with limitations. You can't maintain a healthy fire if you are only burning the “Little Wood”. It create a lot of smoke, but doesn't last long. We have to set limits on extras, and keep priorities in the right place or “Little Wood” will adversely affect your marriage.
Another type of wood is “Sandy Wood”-- driftwood from the beach. Sandy wood represents time spent on things that distract you from spending quality time building a healthy relationship with your mate. This can be computer time or a hobby that you enjoy very much, but if you let it get out of control, you will be too tired. (And the Sandman does come early!) Your mate needs your attention just as much as your children do. After all, he or she will be there when your children are grown. If you do not recognize the need for quality uninterrupted time with your mate, even when you are “too tired” to listen or be to your husband or wife when they need you, your time could easily be replaced by someone else who will listen...and this is a very dangerous path to tread. Someone else will drift across your mate's pathway who will meet the needs that are your duty to meet. “Sandy Wood” is so preventable if you take the time to meet the needs of your lifetime companion.
What happens if your fire has gone out of your marriage? Is there any hope? Absolutely! There is always hope! With God's help the fire can be rekindled and the warmth of your love can definitely be restored, but it may not be easy.
According to my husband there are several things that you must do when the with a fire that has died out.
First of all, you have to remove everything from the firebox and clean it all out. All of the half-burnt, scarred wood and ashes have to be taken out. This requires complete honesty with yourself, with your husband or wife and with God. You can't do this on your own, but as you call out to God, He will show you what to do. However, for complete restoration you must be willing to do all that He asks of you.
Secondly, you have to start anew with the two of you (and God) as the foundation of your fire, then begin to rebuild it with His help and His fire.
Next, You add the small twigs...kind deeds, thoughtfulness, gentleness, faithfulness, godliness and especially self-control. You cannot expect to re-ignite the fire immediately. It takes time and patience and a whole lot of grace, but it is worth ever ounce of effort that you put into it.
As you work on the small things that God shows you, changes will happen. It won't be long until you will notice the flame growing taller and taller. Laughter returns. Surface level connections happen and the relationship will begin to heal, but it takes diligence to add the right fuel to the fire. There has to be limits in place to keep out wood that does not belong in your fire...but the end results of your hard work will be a wonderful warmth and glow of Heaven on your marriage and the godly influence for future generations.
Keep the love flame going in your hearts!
Donna McHugh has been married to David for over 26 years. They have 2 grown sons, Samuel and Bradley. She has been actively writing articles and other works since 1996. Several of her works have been published by Allegheny Publications and Country Pines Printing, Inc, and through self-publishing. These works include: Easter, Christmas and VBS programs and various articles and short stories.
Her newest writing venture is in the form of blogging at mchughministries.blogspot.com.
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