My name is Lillith Bear and Brother Flade asked me to speak on Strengthening Our Marriages. Brother Flade is my home teacher, as well as Brother Wadsworth and the problem with having two members of the bishopric home teach you is, it puts you on their radar. Before I moved into this ward, I hadn’t talked in Sacrament for a solid 13 years and this will be my third time speaking in this ward. They are really messing with my percentages.
I have to say, I was a little intimidate by the subject matter of my talk. It didn’t help that every time I told my friends and family what I was speaking about, they laughed. I’m not sure why. Anyway, most of the speeches I looked up on strengthening marriages addressed things like praying together as a couple, reading scripture together, etc. My husband has never been active in the church and as solid as this advice it, it doesn’t really help me too much and since I feel like I was asked to speak for a reason, I wanted to find advice and answers that would apply to everyone, no matter the relationship.
When it comes to matters of love, I have an interesting history.
I have been a Rosaline-Who’s that you ask. She’s the girl Romeo was waxing on about, until he saw Juliet and forgot all about her.
I have been an Eponine-A hopeless romantic that fell in love with a guy that was just not that in to her. I wore unrequited love for years, the way most girls wear make-up, every day and all over my face.
I have been a Jo-A best friend, a good buddy, a confidante that you could spend countless, effortless hours with, but then I had to stand by and watch them all marry their Amy’s. Yes, high-maintenance, fussy, date-demanding Amys. I didn’t get it.
I loved in so many imperfect ways. I made vast improvements to my track record, when I fell in love and married Robert Bear, but I didn’t get everything right. We are far from perfect and our marriage has a lot of room for improvement and that is okay, because as Elder Holland stated….
Christ is the only one who got it all right, did it all perfectly, loved the way we are all to try to love. But even though we fall short, that divine standard is there for us. It is a goal toward which we are to keep reaching, keep striving—and, certainly, a goal to keep appreciating.
So how does Christ love and how can it help us improve our marriage?
In his BYU address, Elder Holland turned to the scriptures to teach us how Christ loved. We have all heard that Charity is defined as the pure love of Christ. Moroni 7:45 says…
Charity suffereth long, and is kind- Suffering is defined as undergoing pain, distress, or hardship and long suffering is defined as being patient during hardships. The Love that Christ models for us comes hand in hand with suffering and apparently not for a short amount of time either and as a kicker, we’re expected to be kind throughout it. We’re not supposed to scream and shout, threaten, abandon, call names and blame. We are supposed to suffer, for as long as it takes and be kind.
I read an article recently titled…
THE MOST OVERLOOKED CHARACTERISTIC OF WHO YOU WANT TO MARRY by Kevin Thompson and he stated that you want to marry someone who suffers well. I definitely fall into the category of people that did not have suffering well on my list of what I was looking for in a spouse. He says suffering is part of the human experience, and when life falls apart, you want someone you can run to, not someone you want to run from.
- You want someone who believes in you.
- You want someone who instills faith, not causes doubt.
- You want someone who hopes no matter the circumstances.
In the Bible, Job’s wife responded to his suffering by saying, “Curse God and die.”
Had he not suffered enough?
Was life not difficult enough?
Enduring hardship was enough, yet Job was also forced to rebuke his wife during his time of struggle.
Life is hard enough; there is no need to make it harder.
Choosing a spouse who does not suffer well makes life harder.
It makes every grief stronger.
It makes every sorrow more painful.
It makes every hurt deeper.
when our spouse knows how to suffer,
when they have don’t live in denial, but confront the sorrows of life,
when they don’t live in despair but know how to laugh and cry at the same time,
when they offer support and hope in all of life’s challenges,
when they can see the big picture of life,
every grief is wedded to hope
every sorrow is matched with love
and every hurt is paired with healing.
So here’s the deal…. Don’t be Job’s wife. (That includes you fellas out there.) If you recognize some of those negative qualities in yourself, realize they don’t serve you and they definitely don’t serve your loved ones. I saw a poster on Facebook that said, Negative people have a problem for every solution. Don’t be that person. If this is you and it’s probably been most of us at some point, desire to change and pray for help. I have a major pet peeve when people say, that’s just me… I’m a pessimist, or I’m sarcastic or critical and I can’t change. Of course you can change. Changing for the better is the whole purpose of life.
We can change ourselves, but we can’t change other people. Ladies, you can’t make your husbands into Mr. Darcys, or Edwards. There are a lot of Edwards in literature, so I’m going to pretend like I’m not talking about Twilight, but if you know me, you know the truth. So what to do if you are married to, or in a relationship with a bad sufferer. I definitely don’t have all the answers to this one, but some ideas I had are; Set a good example, be one yourself. Discuss how important the quality is in times where you are not currently in a hardship. Cuz ain’t nobody like to be lectured to in the middle of an argument. Forgive a lot, pray specifically for help in that area, read together in the scriptures and if they aren’t religious, read other stories, or watch movies involving both good and bad examples of this trait and discuss what that quality means to you. My little boy plays cops and robbers all the time, but the other day, he was running around calling himself Nephi and calling my husband Laman. He knows, even from a young age, who the hero of the story is and who he wants to cast himself as. We want to be heroes and develop the characteristics of our heroes. Maybe suffering well is a trait they haven’t really even thought about and just discussing it will help bring it to the forefront of their minds. Also and this one is a little out of the box, you can do family history work. Sister Nelson just spoke in our stake and said if we need help, we can ask for specific angels by name to help us, but many of them need their work done.
This struck a chord with me, because for the last year I have had the impression many times I needed to do the work for Bear’s grandparents. This is weird to me, because I have never done temple work for family members, so it is not something I think about a lot. I have never met my husband’s grandparents and I have grandparents of my own whose work is not complete. During Sister Nelson’s talk, three things became abundantly clear to me; our dead, may have died, but they are not dead. Bear’s grandparents, Jackie and Noble are ready for their work to be done and finally, they want to help us.
Before I move on, I think it is important to clarify that it is not charity or kindness to endure any type of abuse or unrighteousness that may be inflicted on us by others. Aileen H. Clyde said, “God’s commandment that as we love him, we must respect ourselves, suggests we must not accept disrespect from others. It is not charity to let another repeatedly deny our divine nature and agency. It is not charity to bow down in despair and helplessness. That kind of suffering should be ended. If you are in that situation, please seek help from the Bishop, or another trusted authority.
The second part of the scripture describing how Christ loves in Moroni 7:45 says that true charity—real love—”is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.” Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, how many cold shoulders and silent treatments could be ended, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked and if we thought no evil of one another.
Thankfully, I have never been a Desdemona. Just think of the pain and suffering that could have been spared if Othello had not let Iago sway him to see evil, where there was none. I know a murder/suicide story is a harsh example of this principle, but in reality marriages die, relationships are snuffed out and friendships perish every day, because we can so easily be provoked.
Elder Holland says, “Temper tantrums are not cute even in children; they are despicable in adults, especially adults who are supposed to love each other. We are too easily provoked; we are too inclined to think that our partner meant to hurt us—meant to do us evil, so to speak; and in defensive or jealous response we too often rejoice when we see them make a mistake and find them in a fault. Let’s show some discipline on this one. Act a little more maturely. Bite your tongue if you have to. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city”. At least one difference between a tolerable marriage and a great one may be that willingness in the latter to allow some things to pass without comment, without response.”
I read a great book about disciplining children called, “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey and one of her main tenets she teaches is to apply positive intent to your children’s misbehavior. It will immediately diffuse an over-reaction on your part and allows you to teach your children, without making them feel like they are bad, or evil, or stupid. A quick example is if one of your children hits his brother or sister, because they don’t want to share a toy. Most of us would probably say, stop, hitting is mean, why would you do that? Would you want them to hit you? All of these put the child on the defensive and communicate you are bad and mean. By simply creating a positive intent for the situation, like I know you hit your brother, because you didn’t want him to play with your favorite toy, you may not hit, hitting hurts, we teach them without putting them down, or on the defensive. We model empathy for them and let them understand we know where they are coming from.
So, I have been trying to do this with everyone. Not for their sake, but for mine. I am a happier person when I don’t believe that everyone is out to get me. It has been pretty easy to do with strangers, if someone cuts me off in traffic, I think, he must really need to get home to take his insulin. It’s been challenging, but doable for my children. They’re just so dang cute… if I take a second to breathe, I can usually see things from their perspective and just why they thought the world was ending, but for some reason, the hardest person to apply positive intent to is my husband. I am sure he leaves the slimy mess in the sink strainer, just to gross me out and I completely forget to be thankful for all the dishes he just washed. The good thing is, I have an eternity to practice applying positive intent and so do you.
Thirdly and lastly, Christ’s love “beareths all things, believeths all things, hopeth all things, endureths all things” Elder Holland says, Bear up and be strong. I’ve been looking for a family motto that incorporates our last name and I might have to use this. In Wyoming terms, since my husband is from Wyoming… Cowboy up! Marriage is not for wimps. No relationship worth having is for wimps. Everyone will let you down at some point. It is part of the plan. If someone could be everything for you, all the time and never let you down, what incentive would you have to turn to Christ and as much as you love your spouse, and your children, and your siblings and you strive to be everything for them, you will let them down, or hurt them in some way, because you’re not perfect either. It’s okay. Bear up and be strong. We can endure almost anything if we have someone at our side who truly loves us, who is easing the burden and lightening the load.
I know this line is said by a woman, to a woman, but I think we would all benefit in our marriages, guys included, by being Ruth’s. She was such a great example of loving Christ’s way when she said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following thee, for wither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge, thy people shall be my people and thy God, my God, where thou diest, I will die and there will be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. How romantic is that, when those words are applied to our marraiges.
We can all strengthen our marriages, no matter our circumstance, by first-being long-suffering. It takes patience, forgiveness and kindness to this, but it is within our power. Second, not being easily provoked. To do this, apply positive intentions to the other person’s actions. Set limits, hold them accountable for misdeeds, but try and see things from their perspective. It does way more to foster cooperation and a sense of unity and security, than seeing the worst in our loved ones and lastly, by bearing up and enduring when it is required. Have hope and believe good things will come and learn to be on each other’s team. We’ve all heard of Team Jacob, or Team Edward, or Team CoCo… make it a goal to be on Team Bear, or Team Oler, or Team Price, or whatever your last name is.
To end, I wanted to quote Elder Holland one last time. He says, “I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can’t always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command—such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them.
I bare testimony that this is true and that our Savior loves us and with practice we can love more like him each day. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.