~ Today we have a guest post written by my friends Patrick and Ruth Schwenk .
The change from marriage – to marriage with kids in the house – brings added responsibility and pressure to every part of life. Having kids in the house creates unexpected stress, tension, and conflict. When we’re exhausted and running on fumes, we tend to feel as if life is out of control. We feel tense, vulnerable, and more on edge. This can make us more volatile. With kids in the mix, our fuse can be short—really short. It may not take much for us to “pull the trigger” on each other.
While on vacation in northern Michigan, we became firsthand witnesses to a showdown. We were shopping and noticed a three-year-old girl standing at the door of a store. Her glasses were a bit cockeyed and her hair was wild from the wind. She was looking longingly into the store. Her mom was just inside, shopping, presumably attempting to enjoy doing so with some peace and quiet. Then the three-year-old broke her silence!
“Mooooooom, can I give you a hug yet? Mom, I want to give you a hug! Mom, can I come in and give you a hug now? Mooooom?” Finally, unable to control herself, she burst into the store and ran to her mom. Wrapping herself around her mom’s leg, she squeezed tight. Mission accomplished
Then Dad enters the story. Placing one hand on her daughter’s back, the mother raised her other hand and pointed to her husband to get his attention. Our eyes followed her finger. He was sitting on a bench just outside the door minding his own business, which was the problem.
Trying to mouth her frustration but unable to contain her emotion, the mother finally yelled, “Alan! Alan! Can’t you watch the kids for just five minutes? Come get her!”
Alan was busted. He had been looking at his phone, unaware that his daughter had rushed into the store. Feeling the heat of embarrassment of being publicly shamed by his wife, he threw his hands up. Then he attempted to throw his daughter under the bus.
“What are you doing? Get over here and sit down!” he yelled. “You need to sit right here next to me while Mommy is trying to shop.” The look from his wife made it clear she was not buying it. Not only was the three-year-old in trouble, so was he! The story ended with an angry husband, an irritated wife, and a sobbing child. It’s probably not exactly what they envisioned when they set out for a day of shopping and walking along the beach.
We both had to laugh. The scene was not just funny, it was all too familiar. We couldn’t help but see ourselves in that moment.
Just wanting a little time alone.
Then something small and innocent sends us over the edge.
Kids have a way of applying just enough pressure to send us headlong into conflict with each other. We don’t even want to imagine what the rest of that family’s afternoon was like. Moments like these, when we find ourselves stretched, stressed, and ready to attack give us an opportunity to bring life to each other by bringing grace to each other.
Grace means taking our finger off the trigger.
Grace brings protection rather than punishment.
Grace offers patience and relief from taking everything too seriously.
Grace allows us to stop to breathe and to learn to laugh.
Grace doesn’t make assumptions.
Grace extends understanding and offers forgiveness.
The Bible gives us the ultimate example of grace. It is one we can learn from.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The saving activity of God through Jesus on the cross accomplishes for us what we could never do for ourselves. God’s grace meets us in our need. It blesses. It forgives. It literally saves us, making relationship possible and beautiful. Without grace in action, no relationship can maintain its existence. A marriage without grace would too easily nosedive into conflict, bitterness, resentment, and isolation.
If we are to be like Christ in marriage, we must move toward each other in grace.
Grace brings life into our relationship and helps sustain a marriage through its difficult seasons.
If you are like us, learning to walk in grace is toughest when we have kids in the house. But this is also one of the most important seasons in life to extend grace toward each other. Every relationship needs grace—lots of it. In what area of your marriage is God asking you extend grace today?
Patrick and Ruth Schwenk
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, and pastor. Ruth Schwenk is a wife, mom, and blogger. She is the coauthor (with Karen Ehman) of Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe & Why We All Need to Knock It Off and Pressing Pause: 100 Quiet Moments for Moms to Meet with Jesus. She and her husband are the creators of FortheFamily.org and TheBetterMom.com. Patrick and Ruth have been married for more than seventeen years, have four children, and have been in full-time ministry for over fifteen years. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their first book together, For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House releases July 12, 2016.
At some point, a loving, hopeful, and energetic married couple find themselves in a minivan loaded with kids and littered with Cheerios, crusty sippy cups, and dark banana peels. Amidst a baffling array of new sounds, different smells, unpredictable schedules, competing preferences, and unusual demands, you can’t help but think, What just happened? We are in way over our heads!
For Better or For Kids is a book packed full of our personal stories of marriage and parenting over the last 18 years, practical help and biblical wisdom that will enable couples to:
- Build a God-centered marriage instead of a Child-centered or Me-centered marriage
- Avoid the dangers of spouse-neglect and self-neglect
- Effectively communicate in the chaos
- Explore ways to parent together as one team
- Find balance in the busyness
- And soooo much more!
For Better or For Kids is about taking a new vow. A vow to love your spouse with kids in the house. It is possible to have a loving and intimate marriage regardless of the season of life you find yourself in and we want to show you how!
If you are ready to make a vow to love your spouse with kids in the house, for just 5 more days you can pre-order For Better or For Kids and receive Chapters 1 & 2 directly to your inbox, along with an incredible resource for your family: Family Map FREE. For all the details CLICK HERE.