Hi, this is Pastor Ken, welcome to the Monday Marriage Message…Hearing the Heart

Each day there are people who come into my office with heavy hearts because they know their marriages are not as they should be. They may say the problem is a lack of communication. They may even feel that they try to communicate with one another but they just don’t seem to be able to do so effectively. They may feel as though they are “growing apart”. They feel distance in their relationship, but don’t know what to do about it. They often tell me that though they once felt close most the time, now those occurrences seem fewer and farther apart as time goes by.

What has happened to so many couples to cause such feelings to exist? Perhaps your marriage has experienced some of these same thoughts and emotions. The problem that is troubling so many couples is a slow loss of hearing. I’m not talking about the inability of soundwaves to cause vibrations on the eardrums of these couples, although it may sometimes seem like there is a failure in that area as well. The hearing loss I am referring to is the increasing loss of ability to hear the heart of the other. Just as most people in their youth have little or no problem hearing soundwaves, most couples while dating and even during the honeymoon phase of their marriages, hear each other’s hearts loud and clear, and respond in loving and respectful ways. However, just as many people also become hard-of-hearing in older ages, often times couples lose the ability to pick up on the heart-cries of their spouse as the years go by.

My paternal grandfather succumbed to an inner ear disease in his late fifties. Over the course of several years, the soft tissue and bones in his ears became depleted to the point of becoming useless for their intended purpose. As a result, he became as he described it, “Deaf as a post”. In actuality, though one of his ears was completely deaf the “good ear” retained about 10% of its former ability to hear sound. One day while they were visiting I was attempting to tell him about something that was going on in my world, and he was doing his very best to hear me with limited success. I was nearly yelling into his good ear, trying my best to communicate with him. This process which took about two or three times as long with him as with any able hearing person was underway when my grandmother walked into the room and in her small voice which wasn’t much bigger than she was, asked, “Eddie dear, would you like a cup of tea?” His head turned as he looked her way and answered, “Yes Mary, I would love some”, and turned to face me once again as we tried to continue our difficult attempt at a conversation.

I was mind-blown. If I had not just witnessed it, I would not have believed what had just taken place. How was it that I was so difficult for him to hear even while shouting, but she could walk into a room filled with family, say a few softly spoken words and get right through to him on the first try? Simply stated, he was used to listening to her. At that point in their marriage, He had been tuning into the sweet yet raspy sound of her voice for nearly 75 years. Though he was physically deaf, he had not lost the ability to hear her. They had also not lost the ability to hear each other’s hearts. Their story was of two young kids meeting and falling in love during the waning years of the depression. Their tough upbringing and a newfound faith in Jesus Christ had highlighted their ability to choose to be grateful for anything and everything they had…especially the Lord in their lives, and each other. They determined early in their marriage that they had seen enough heartache and difficulty already and that they didn’t need to add to it. One day while offering me some marital advice, my grandfather told me that because of their life experience before meeting Jesus and each other my grandparents had decided nothing would ever be big enough to fight about, or to allow to come between them. They probably would not have articulated it this way, but they determined early on not to ever lose the ability to hear each other’s heart.

So why is it so easy to lose the ability to hear the heart of our spouse? I believe it is important to recognize that it is a choice to do so. This is vital because otherwise we might not realize we can also chose to remedy the problem by beginning to listen carefully once again. Grandpa couldn’t simply choose to hear with his physical ears once again, He had not chosen to stop hearing in the first place, disease took that from him. Hearing our spouse’s heart is a different matter. We can as just like my grandparents, choose to never stop listening for each other’s heart. If we fail, and soon recognize the problem, the remedy is within our control.

Many things precipitate the choice to stop listening to the heart of our spouse. Marital hurt can instigate it. Ungratefulness can be the cause. It can be motivated by pride. Selfishness is often the culprit. Too much outside life-noise can also begin to drown out the ease of hearing another’s heart. There are many causes, but thankfully there are also just as many solutions.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4, When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others. (New Century Version) Here we see examples of pride and or selfishness being possible causes for losing the ability to hear another’s heart. Paul also offers the solution to restoring our hearing…Humility. Paul instructed the Philippian church to be humble and honor others above themselves. This is wonderful marital advice as well. Choosing to see your spouse as more important than you are will help tune your heart’s ears into their heart’s cry. When we approach another, especially the one with whom we are intended to enjoy a oneness condition, with a heart of humility, it becomes easy to hear what is troubling or causing their heart concern. When we desire to be interested in their life over the interest we take in ours, the condition of their heart will become as easy to hear as if it were shouting in our direction.

Paul also wrote to the church in Ephesus instruction that can help us regain the ability to hear our spouse’s heart. Ephesians 5:20-25 in the New Living Translation says,  And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. The first part of this scripture speaks to the action my grandparents chose to take in their attempt to keep open lines of communication between their hearts…gratefulness. Paul exhorted the Ephesians as well as us by extension, to give thanks to God for everything…including our spouses! I find in my practice that a failure to regularly thank God for one’s spouse (especially when we disagree or are displeased with them) is often the cause of a decreased ability to hear their heart. Proverbs 19:14 tells us that our parents leave us land and money but the Lord gives us a good marriage as our inheritance. Since our marriages are a part of our inheritance from God, we certainly should be grateful to Him for giving us our specific spouse. Paul went on to say that because of our reverence and love for Jesus, we are to submit to one another. He continued by telling us just how to do that. He instructed wives to submit to the leadership of their husbands, to be a support to them. He also instructed husbands to lay down their own desires and dreams and to lift up their wives and regard them as more important than anything else, even life itself.

When we accept in our heart the instruction of the Holy Spirit as penned by Paul, it becomes exceedingly easier to hear our spouse’s heart. Listening for what is important to them, hearing their cares and concerns, joining in with them in their happiness and joy increases us. My faith and personal experience bears out this biblical principle. When we choose to hear our spouse’s heart, that loving concern motivates them to want to know what ours is expressing.

Questions to answer:

  • Do you find it easy or difficult to hear your spouse’s heart?
  • What things help you do that well?
  • What things hinder your ability to hear their heart loud and clear?

Actions to take:

  • Decide what changes you need to choose that will help you hear your spouse’s heart more clearly and in response to God, enact those changes going forward.
  • Ask God to help you recognize more quickly when your ability to hear your spouse’s heart is waning, and to help you desire to make the adjustments necessary to remedy the problem.

So now, reflect God’s character in your marriage, re-learn to hear your spouse’s heart as readily and clearly as you once did, and…Go Be Awesome!