As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
Are you afraid of sharpening? Does the pain and discomfort negate the vision for potential fruit? Does the risk that it may not bring the fruit you hope it will keep you from pressing in when you are feeling pressure from the chisel? I wish I could say that I have always answered those questions positively with brave certainty, but the truth is that I haven’t. And sometimes I have believed one thing to be true until it was tested and I realized that I was drawn more to what was familiar and safe than being willing to walk confidently into the process of sharpening. What I can say, though, is that part of my process of maturing in Christ has involved repeatedly seeing that the process does in fact always produce godly fruit if we have are looking to find God in the situation. If we have rebellious and resistant hearts, then any fruit is not usually lasting.
So why am I talking about this on the CN blog? Because marriage is one of the best ways to see this iron sharpening in action. In fact, my husband and I are in a season of sharpening at the moment and even though we are not even through it yet, I am seeing the hand of God in it. And I am seeing that the fruit of it is good. The fruit is deeper intimacy. I am finding that one of the things which contributes to a trial without fruit is fear. Fear of upsetting your spouse. Fear of being honest and admitting an error. Fear of failing your spouse’s expectations. When we are operating out of a place of fear, it causes us to feel the need to hide as Adam and Eve did in the beginning.
Up until recently, I had been encountering people who were trying to convince me that conflict was a positive thing. The problem is that, for some reason, the people telling me that were more highly combative than myself in conflict so what they were saying seemed like it had some truth in it, but to receive it was like trying to grasp the air. It has been in the safe and maturing relationship with my husband that I have finally been able to begin to understand. You see, I have a husband who has dedicated himself to integrity and submission to the process of sanctification so the result of him maturing in Christ is that more and more with each passing year God gives him revelation and insight into my heart. He sees me as God sees me. And because I have committed myself to the same character development we are finally, after over a decade in marriage, beginning to be able to enter a conflict without our own perspective on the world being the only one we see. For the first time in my life, my husband and I are in a conflict (not with each other, but with a stressful circumstance) and I do not feel negatively about it. It’s hard, but I don’t feel the anxiety that I used to during conflict.
With my growing confidence that it is safe to fail my husband and know that he will extend me grace, I am becoming free from fear. As we become more aware that we have different instinctual ways of communicating and work to honour the other’s natural response to conflict, the sharpening process between us is a lot easier. It’s getting less important to me to try to change my husband’s natural tendency to be someone who processes his thoughts by talking. And it’s getting less important to my husband that I process my thoughts internally first and then speak them out. The times when I am silent are less of a mystery to him now.
The longer I walk with God, the more I feel optimistic about this sharpening that he allows in our lives. It’s never pleasant. He doesn’t enter the scene on a white horse and take all our troubles away, but when He enters He does redeem what we offer Him. So the next time you begin to feel the pressure from the chisel, press in a little bit and invite God in.
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