As a successful college football coach, Bill McCartney rode the wave of accolades from years of hard work. In the process, however, his family was left in his wake. He went to church, but was inattentive to the spirit of his wife.
In an interview with pastor Mark Ellis, McCartney said:
“My last year as a coach was in 1994. My team was undefeated and was ranked third in the nation —we had a great team. The pastor in our church said, ‘We’re going to have a visiting preacher next week. And he’s coming with the single-most important thing he’s learned in 41 years of preaching.’ And I wondered, what could be the single-most important thing?”
“So here’s what this preacher said: ‘Do you want to know whether a man has character or not? All you have to do is look at his wife’s countenance, and everything that he’s invested or withheld will be in her face.’”
“I turned and looked at my wife, Lindi,” McCartney said. “I didn’t see splendor. I saw torment. I didn’t see contentment —I saw anguish. And I tried to defend myself to myself but I couldn’t. That’s really the reason I stepped out of coaching. I realized that before God I was a man without character.”
When you look into the eyes of your husband or wife, what do you see? A joyful spirit? A countenance that radiates hope? Or is there sadness, detachment, and mere co-existence?
As a spouse, you have to be the guardian of the spirit of the one you married. Is their spirit alive or crushed?
Here are three enemies to your spouse’s spirit from which you are to protect them:
1. Angry outbursts
We know that there can be cases of righteous anger. But angry outbursts tend to be aimed at hurting our spouse, not as a response to an injustice.
In the Bible, Proverbs 27:4 says, “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming….” Generally angry outbursts are used a form of control or punishment. They fail to do the very thing you promised to do.
You made a vow to honor and protect. If this is an issue for you, begin by confessing it to your spouse and ask their forgiveness. Seek professional help. It is worth the investment financially to protect your marriage. And ask the Holy Spirit daily to give you gentleness and self-control.
Marriage is built on a foundation of trust. “White” lies, exaggerations, shading of the truth are all forms of dishonesty. Proverbs 15:4 says that, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”
Even if your spouse doesn’t know you lied, you know it and so does God. You are choosing to erode the bond of trust between the two of you.
Make a commitment, right now, to be honest with your spouse. You have to trust them with truth. They have to trust you to tell it. And always, always, speak the truth in love.
3. A critical attitude
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are only to say “…what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Often we criticize to create conformity to our needs. We want out mate to fit our mold, our standards, or our model of behavior.
If God is gently convicting you of a critical attitude, repent of it. Make the decision that you are going to re-train your mind to think the best, speak the best, and encourage your mate according to their needs and benefit.
As you become vigilant in protecting your spouse’s spirit from these three enemies you will make great strides to build your marriage.