Written by Evelyne Huston, Kenya
I never realized how adept I was at a cold war until I got married.
Recently, our caretaker requested to plant some fresh vegetables in our backyard, and my husband and I agreed to it. However, since we both preferred grassy lawns to gardens, we decided it’d only be a six-month project.
Nevertheless, once the tilling began and we could eat its produce, I fell in love with the garden. I realized how much we’d been missing out on, and was excited at the convenience of having a variety of fresh vegetables while saving money, and being able to bless our friends with fresh food when they visited us or when we dropped by their homes.
Enthralled by this discovery, I forgot about the initial agreement my husband and I had, and found myself looking forward to buying more vegetable seeds to increase the variety in our garden.
The Root of Our Disagreement
One Sunday, my mother visited us, and I took her to see the garden. I told her about my plans of adding to it, and she shared my enthusiasm. Once we came back to the house, she exclaimed over what a fantastic idea the garden is and that we should continue to invest in it.
But my husband’s immediate response had me sucker-punched. “We plan to have the garden for a few months, and then do away with it.”
Yes, that had been our agreement, yet I felt anger rising within me like hot lava. “Has he not seen the fruits of having this garden? Is he not the same person who constantly remarks on how amazing the vegetables taste?” I wondered silently.
It felt hypocritical for him to be buzzing about the benefits of having the garden and yet not want to keep it. I was not amused.
How Our Home Became Grounds for a Cold War
Still stuck on his sentiment, I found myself ruminating over his words. I wanted to voice my thoughts and share my change of heart. Yet, despite praying and practicing how I’d start the conversation, I was tongue-tied every time it came to initiating the actual discussion. Confrontations sap the joy and strength out of me, and I knew, without a doubt, that this would be one.
In the meantime, I was growing distant and cold towards my husband. He recognized my unusual demeanor and reached out by requesting for a conversation. Unfortunately, this irritated me even more. I’m not quick to share my feelings in the heat of a moment, and prefer to have had time to compose my thoughts. Furthermore, as I perceived that I was the ‘wronged’ party, I wanted to have the conversation on my terms.
So, rather than yielding, I stayed on my mission to make it crystal clear to my husband that I was mad at him. I displayed all forms of petty mannerisms: gave one-word answers, stopped my usual constant chattering, and would rarely greet him in the morning. Our house became grounds for a cold war!
The Godly Response to Conflict
Eventually, my husband, outdoing me in honor (Romans 12:10), approached me and apologized for not listening to my opinion regarding the garden. He also apologized for not being quick to hear and slow to speak. His humility in pursuing peace burst my angry bubble, and I shared my change of heart about the garden project being a short-term one. We agreed that since we did not have significant plans for our backyard, we could reconsider having a garden.
It was not my first time realizing that I tend towards being uncommunicative in conflict, but this episode served as a reminder of how sinfully stubborn I can be. Rather than allowing my emotions to create an environment of animosity in our home, I should have striven to pursue peace at all costs with my husband. By letting the sun go down on this unresolved issue in my marriage, I had given the enemy a foothold to sow discord.
My emotions shouldn’t have dictated my actions: they are a gauge and not a guide. A car’s fuel gauge, for instance, only indicates the level of fuel left in the tank, but doesn’t tell the driver what to do. Rather, the driver uses that information to make a decision about her next step: to add fuel or not.
Similarly, my feelings only report my heart’s state, but do not dictate my actions. Experiencing emotions like fear, anger, irritation, and doubt don’t automatically mean I have to hang my head low and trudge through the day. Instead, as they enlighten me about my heart’s state, I can soberly decide how I should respond.
As a Christian, the Bible should dictate my next course of action. I could pray and identify the root of my feelings, share my feelings with trusted friends for a new perspective, request for prayers, or work through these feelings with God’s guidance. In this instance, I should have explained my feelings to my husband without being prompted to do so. Open communication from the outset—either through writing (which I personally find more comfortable in times of conflict) or talking it out—would have been the godly response.
My sinful response—emotionally withdrawing from my husband, giving him the cold shoulder, and being tardy in my pursuit of peace—intensified my need for a Savior. I realized that only Christ can teach us to love selflessly in times of hurt and anger. At the cross, he looked down upon his murderers, and did not act out in pain and anger. He asked God to forgive them for their sins, even though He was innocent (Luke 23:34)! As believers, God’s power is at work in us, and we, too, can righteously live out this kind of selflessness.
I’m learning all these things with a repentant heart, so I can work towards a marriage that is God-glorifying. Not one without fault, but one where when shortcomings abound, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and repentance abound all the more (Romans 5:20b).