My beautiful wife, Christi, is Canadian. If you know anything about Canadian weddings you understand the reception north of the border tends to be more elaborate than its American counterpart, often full of skits, family speeches, dancing and games that keep everybody laughing and crying—often at the same time.
In the months prior to our wedding, Christi’s mom (or Mum, in Canada) put together a lifelong video highlight of the two of us for our reception. As dinner ended our attention was turned to the video screen, where footage of Christi at 3-years-old filled the display. It was an image I’ll never forget—this innocent, precious little girl sitting in the bathtub with her mom by her side, splashing water, and singing as if there wasn’t a care in the world, “And so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed, the Lord is good to me.”
Just two weeks later, on the last day of our honeymoon, we somehow found ourselves in the middle of the biggest argument we have had in our two-year marriage. As I sat across from her at dinner defending my perspective, I noticed Christi well up with tears. Without warning, and through those tears, I saw that precious video of my wife singing in the bathtub. My defenses suddenly diminished. My argument no longer mattered.
Why is it that our natural tendency is to become hard and insensitive in our interactions with the person we love the most? Rather than being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19), we are quick to defend ourselves, quick to cast blame, and slow to be gentle.
So how can we develop gentleness?
Never defend yourself. A. W. Tozer wrote that one of the five keys to a deeper spiritual life is to never defend yourself. When we do, we put up emotional guards that make us hard and self-centered. In turn, we cast blame in an attempt to protect one person—me.
Protect Your Spouse. We see our spouses at their most vulnerable state—in their emotional, physical and spiritual nakedness. And it’s that very nakedness they try to protect in conflict. When I saw the innocence and purity of 3-year-old Christi during our argument, I began to understand that that little girl still lives inside of her, and it’s not her mom’s responsibility to care for her anymore; as her husband, it is now mine. You are called to treat your spouse with the same gentleness and care as a mother (1 Thess. 2:7). Go back and watch childhood videos or look at pictures of one another as a way to instill gentleness with the innocent little girl, or little boy, that still lives inside your spouse.
Follow Jesus’ example. The Bible describes Jesus as gentle, meek, and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29). Peter used the same word to describe Jesus when he instructs wives to adorn themselves, not by clothes or make-up, but by their gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4). When you dress each day, prayerfully put on clothes of gentleness toward your spouse and ask yourself,
What is one thing I can do today to show my spouse a spirit of gentleness?”