Like many of you, I have followed closely everyone’s blogs, statuses, pictures and news articles on the 21 Martyrs of Libya. So many wonderful lessons and meditations. All for these brave men that stood firm and refused to deny their faith until the very gruesome end. They have completed the race. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). They are Victorious. Gaining crowns of martyrdom.
While I could not muster enough courage to watch the video, I read many articles. One article describing the video, however, really struck me. It was the mention of the Coptic Orthodox Priest’s wife, Camilia Shehata. In their video, ISIS used her example and others like her. They said they wanted to “avenge” them. I vaguely remembered what happened to Camilia back in 2010 but as I researched more, it appeared to me that it was completely a marital dispute between her and her husband. I do not believe that she was trying to convert to Islam. What started as an ugly dispute between husband and wife ended up being an even uglier sectarian riots and violence between Christians and Muslims in Egypt.
I felt sadness at the stories of marriage problems between this Priest and his wife. So many problems that it was to drive the wife out of their home for many days. So much silence until they couldn’t even stand to be in the same house together. Godly men and women could not keep up the “picture” of a happy home.
Recently, I read a lovely blog on emotional stability and what “appears” to look like a family and a marriage put together. We all carry emotional hurts and baggage into our relationships. However, if we keep quiet and do not seek help and guidance, we will only suffer deeper and deeper. Our significant other, with his or her own limitations, cannot carry our baggage.
My fear is that in our church communities it is very taboo to show that we have any “problems” in our marriages. Especially if you are a servant or even a Priest. We keep silent about our issues. Silence drives us to isolation, resentment, and sadness. Silence kills. Slowly.
In our Orthodox families in Zambia, we are faced with numerous marriage problems. Damages that continue to emotionally and physically harm the younger generations. Recently, for Valentine’s Day weekend, we sponsored a lovely lunch for couples only. We focused our talk on the importance of spending time together with your spouse. No distractions. No children. No business. No running errands. Just enjoying each other. Laugh together. Have fun together.
There are a number of reasons why spending time together is important.
- Healthy marriage = Healthy children
We often think when we focus on our children more than our spouses; we will have healthier, less needy and demanding children. However, this is the opposite. When our marriage is healthy, our children feel secure and safe. Even our 5-year-old loves it when my husband gives me a hug. He gets excited and joins in the fun. He feels safe. Daddy loves Mommy. Mommy loves Daddy.
Therefore, when Daddy and Mommy spend time together, this strengthens the marriage.
- Spending time together dispels the bad thoughts.
We naturally have bad thoughts. We think the worst in others. We assume the worst. When we spend time together, those thoughts are buried or eliminated. This is important because our bad thoughts are dangerous.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
- Protects against extramarital affairs and divorce.
You may be thinking that this is extreme. And it won’t happen to me. Divorce does not happen overnight. It is a gradual distancing and separation between two people. Even extramarital affairs are not just physical but could be emotional cheating as well. When you compare your spouse to others or admire another husband more than yours (Exodus 20:17).
In Africa here, we are faced with many extramarital affairs from both men and women. There is a lot of research out there that sub-Saharan Africa ranks as one of the highest percentages for extramarital affairs.
For husbands, they feel a lack of respect from the wife, loss of playfulness and lack of flirtation.
For women, they lose the priority, admiration and care from the husband.
So gradually the two drift apart.
When you spend time with your spouse, you give those feelings back to each other that happen when people get too busy or distracted.
- Remember our Instructions from the Sacrament of Matrimony?
Here is a quick summary:
Husbands are to do all that is good to your wife; have compassion on her and always do that which will gladden her heart; take care of her as her parents did; look after her – and in doing all this – God will grant you blessed children. You receive blessing when you honor and love your wife.
Wives are to honor and respect him; obeying him because he is responsible for you instead of your parents; receive him with joy and cheer, not frowning in his face – then you will receive blessings.
It is important to spend time together to fulfill the instructions given to us in the Church.
- Husbands and Wives are ONE.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
There is a cultural saying among Africans here that the wife can leave you but your children will never leave you, as they are part of your flesh. They use this saying to justify why your wife does not have to be a priority. However, the Biblical teachings are very different. It says that the two are one.
Therefore, your spouse comes before all other things in your life – before children, work, friends, and service.
What Works for Us
When we were first married, we were advised by our Father of Confession to do this “Quality Time” together once a week. Even after 9 years of marriage, we have continued to keep this tradition alive. We need it.
If you can’t manage, once a week, do it once a month or whatever you can do. (And not just on your wedding anniversaries and birthdays.) Be intentional! It doesn’t just happen. Our lives are busy. Our time is stretched in so many different ways.
Finances a problem? There are 100s of free date ideas. Just Google it! Be creative! Don’t have a babysitter? Find a couple that will be willing to watch the kids. Then when they want to do their date, you can watch their kids.
For us, I make sure the kids are in bed and if we have no babysitter, we have a great “date” just from our living room. Our date usually starts off with a Bible study together and prayer. Then, we have fun, which could be a number of things like popcorn and a movie, board game, read a book together, or chatting with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows!
The key is to be consistent! We each take turns planning our date and stick to it. Lots of things come up but we protect it. Consistency is key to spending time together. It makes a statement that we matter to each other.
Now, I don’t want you to carry guilt if you are in a season of your marriage where you can’t do this. When we go through those seasons, we even spend 15-20 minutes every evening just chatting together. TV off. No Facebook or email. Kids in bed. And chat.
We never want the other to feel that we are just taking each other for granted.
With the demands of a priest’s schedule, I feel for priest’s wives like Camilia. I pray they are doing fine in their marriage now. And I pray most importantly that we do not keep silent. That we speak to our spouses, our Fathers of Confession, our spiritual mentors. Whoever it may be. But that we do so in Wisdom (James 1:5). And in Truth.
Husbands, put aside your busy lives and make your wife feel like a priority. Precious. Admire her. Love her.
Wives, set aside your children’s wants and meet your husbands needs. Respect him. Care for him. Give to him. Do we desperately want to win the “Mom of the Year” award that we forget to try and win the “Wife of the Year” award?
Pray for my marriage. Your marriage is in my prayers.
Let’s Chat: How do you make spending time with your spouse a priority?