Confession: After almost 10 years of marriage, I still fail at it plenty!
Now that this is out of the way, let me share openly (with Tricia's blessing) something I've learned from the Lord through our marriage witin the last few months.
Guilt does not bring change! Condemnation will not breed transformation. Beating yourself up will not lift you out. Guilt may help you make a change for a day or a week, but it will be a cover up, not a real repair. Feelings of condemnation and failure can be inspiring-- for all the worng reasons-- and none of the changes you make will really last-- not if guilt was their motivation.
Let me prove my point with some transparency about my own life. I cannot count how many times Tricia (my wife) has let me know that I was not making her feel like my priority. She has found many ways to say it through the years, but it always comes back to the same things-- I want to feel like the most important relationship in your life, Noah! I want you to SHOW me that what you SAY about me is true." If I have heard it once, I have heard it 300 times.
My reaction almost every time: I feel like a loser and a terrible husband. I feel guilty...becuase I am. She is right. And out of my feelings of regret and sorrow, I launch a campaign to DO better.
It never lasted. Becuase guilt ≠ change.
A few months ago, while laying in bed it was : "Noah, I want to feel like number one to you after Jesus AND I really want you to lead me more spiritualy. You seem to be able to lead everyone else spiritually. What about me?" Now, stop here! This was the exact place where, for the last 10 years, guilt would enter the scene. Not this time. There was some pain. It would be hard for anyone to hear this from their spouse. But something wild happened....
I felt LOVE! I felt Jesus loving on me. I felt him accepting me. I sensed him hugging me. I heard him speaking to my heart and saying..."I love you, Noah, and the best motivation for change is love for me. When you love your wife, you love me." It was a powerful moment! And it was one my first real tastes of love-motivated change.
Since that night, things are different. God's love for me is inspiring me to love Tricia more. The love and acceptance of Jesus is the engine that is propelling me ahead these days. Not guilt! And it has felt WAY different and WAY more lasting than anytime before.
Guilt ≠ Change!