Loving Your Spouse

Brent Aucoin June 12, 2016 Genesis 2:7-22

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If we were honest our functional “realistic” wedding vows would be more like this…

I promise to enjoy your unqualified support and admiration of me at all times.

I will appreciate you always putting me first and thinking of me.

I will be grateful for you laughing at my jokes and making me feel important.

I promise to enjoy how you perfectly make me feel secure and never sin against me.

I will accept your worship and strive to live up to your exalted view of me.

As long as you continue to do all of these things, I will continue to give myself to you.

Genesis 2-3

Adam created a hostile environment (of condemnation, judgment, superiority, and rejection) for his marriage because of his self-centeredness.

The opposite of a hostile environment for a marriage is a safe refuge where each other’s sin can be exposed and covered fully first by God’s love and where the offended partner grows in modeling God’s love in “covering” sin.

1. Recognize that the greatest problem in marriage is your own personal self-centeredness.

2. Seek to understand your own patterns of pride/idolatry/self-centeredness.

3. Cultivate regular repentance of these patterns in your own life

4. Gaze at how Christ has fully covered you and your sinful patterns as deep as they go in your life.

5. Respond compassionately to your spouse’s patterns of selfishness because you know how deep your sinful patterns go and simultaneously how deep God’s grace goes in your life.

6. Point your spouse to truth and grace in Christ (never you).

7. Thank God that you have become a safe place for sin to be exposed!

8. Romance, gifts, get-aways built on this foundation are truly “Garden of Eden’ish”!

Manuscript

This summer, we are going through a series called Loving the World Under Your Roof, and this series contributes to our annual theme of Loving Our World. I am Pastor Brent Aucoin, and this is my wife, Janet, and we have the privilege of speaking to you this morning on loving your spouse.

I have done over 50 weddings at this point in time, and I have seen soaring wedding vows, including my own, obviously, and Janet's. If we were honest and realistic about how we practically function in life, our wedding vows might go something like this, "Janet, I promise to delight and enjoy your unqualified support of me and admiration of me at all times."

Janet: "Brent, I appreciate how you always put me first and you're always thinking of me."

Pastor Aucoin: "Janet, I will be grateful for your laughing at my every joke and making me feel most important in life."

Janet: "I promise to enjoy how you perfectly make me feel secure, and you never sin against me."

Pastor Aucoin: "Janet, I will accept your worship and strive to live up to your exalted view of me."

Janet: "As long as you continue to do all of these things, I will continue to give myself to you."

Pastor Aucoin: All right. That’s many times how our lives tend to function in marriage relationship. Now I understand that getting a couple up here to speak about loving your spouse is filled with potential pitfalls. One danger could be personal hypocrisy, teaching on a topic that we are not regularly practicing. Another danger could be this, leaving an inflated view of reality of what's really going on in our lives. I don’t want anybody to go away from here thinking, "They have it all together," because we simply don’t.

First, let me address the first danger, personal hypocrisy. Janet and I plan to communicate to you what we have experienced and done, not about some kind of a Disney magical kingdom fantasy. While I wish I could say to you that Janet and I go on a date, a romantic date every Friday night where I arrange a carriage ride and sing Barry Manilow's I Can't Smile Without You. Now that’s not what I do.

Janet: I'm grateful.

Pastor Aucoin: Are there moments of that romance? Absolutely. When iTunes first came out, I did make a love song CD with a Barry Manilow song on it. Here it actually is, and it says "Love" right here. The CD is a little faded, although our love is not.

Janet: Aww.

Pastor Aucoin: I have not been singing Barry Manilow in Karaoke style to her.

Janet: I am grateful.

Pastor Aucoin: Yet, after 22 years of marriage, we have learned a little, a little about romance and learning to give to one another. I've learned that my wife enjoys it when I give thoughtful attention to her on special days like Mother's Day, her birthday, and our anniversary. I learned not just to have a Mother's Day, but now I have a mother's weekend, where it's all about Janet. I learned to make the best strawberry shortcake for my wife, which is her favorite dessert.

Janet: Then my husband enjoys having some time to think and some quiet and time to process when he gets home from a busy day of work that’s filled with people. I learned to hold off on reciting everything I've been wanting to say to an adult when I was homeschooling 2 little children. I wanted to give him some time before I launched into all the important things that happened to me that day.

Pastor Aucoin: For our 22nd anniversary this past January, I did take my wife on a magical Disney cruise, where we had an awesome time of reconnecting and praying and listening to some messages on marriage and just having a lot of fun together as companions. I am glad to have a companion in life to share these last 22 years of life attempting to practice marriage God's way. The Disney cruise was so much better than our honeymoon.

Janet: Which is another story, but it did include Brent angrily walking away from me, getting in the shower, and informing me I'd better be ready to talk about why I was crying when he got out. We've come a long way.

Pastor Aucoin: This week, I got an e-mail from Jan Sherwin. This is her e-mail. I have permission to share this. She said, "Hi there, if you're looking for material for your sermon on loving your spouse, you should talk to Ken. Seriously, Lorna trained him for 40 years before she died, and I married him and he's amazing to be with. His goal, he says, is to make me feel like the most cherished woman on earth, and he does. Jan."

I love this. If you want to hear older men who have had 40 years of trial and error and successes and cherishing their wives, I would encourage you to sit under someone like Ken Sherwin. I also think of Rafe, who always calls his wife ... Can you say it? You all know it, "Precious Pam." While I've learned a little bit about how to have romance and cherish my wife, my wife has also learned how to give to me in ways that are just delightful as well. Last year, my wife bought me probably the coolest Father's Day gift ever. Now what do men and boys love? What do we love?

Congregation:[Inaudible 00:05:56].

Pastor Aucoin: Dinosaurs? Did I hear ...? No, not dinosaurs. Toys, and when you get older, you like bigger toys, gadgets and cool things. No romance here. Give me some fun stuff. My wife ordered at a huge discount ... she loves to get good deals as well ... one of the coolest toys ever for me. She ordered it last June in Father's Day, and it finally came in around January. Are you ready to hear what this is? Wait for it. This is the coolest thing ever. It was a very legitimate Stormtrooper suit from the movie Star Wars, you know. Who doesn’t want one of these?

When I got it in January, I couldn’t immediately cut it out and put it together, but after the counseling conference in February, I set my mind to building this in 2 months' work. I got to use it for the first time at the Faith last picnic with little children coming up to me for an hour, little children and sometimes big children as well. It was a great time. However, there was one problem. My homemade voice digitizer, or voice changer that you have to have with this suit, was not quite working as I hoped. My wife said to me some of the most endearing and romantic words for a husband that I have ever heard. She said this, "Honey, you really need to put some investment into your voice digitizer." What wife on earth would fully support her husband in something like this? An excellent wife who can find, but she's right here.

Janet: Guess what he'll be opening this Father's Day.

Pastor Aucoin: A voice digitizer.

The first danger, hypocrisy. We are attempting to not communicate to you beyond where we are living. Yeah, there's some fun things in romance, but the second danger also is a false impression of reality. It would be not our desire today to rob you of hope this morning. Several of you, as we have, struggle in marriage. It is not helpful for Janet and I to present something to you that is out of reach, or not in line with reality in our lives. If you leave with the impression, again, "Oh, my, I could never be like them," we have failed if that’s the impression you leave with. We have failed because we have made this about us and we have robbed you of hope. We're not any better, and we also have many struggles.

Today, we want to really convey a single concept to you about loving your spouse that is within the reach of all of you, married or single. I did say single as well, because I think the concept that we'll develop here is something that you can do in any relationship, although it is highly important and essential in your marriage relationship, but you can cultivate this in all relationships that you have.

What we're going to talk to you about today is loving your spouse by being a safe place for your sin to be exposed. Now Janet's going to stand here as a beautiful trophy wife as I do a little bit of scripture exposition for you in just a moment. If you will, please, turn in your Bibles to Genesis Chapter 2 and 3, which is on page 2 in the front section of the Bible in the chair in front of you. Loving your spouse by being a safe place for his or her sin to be exposed. Whether single or married, you can be providing a safe place for sin to be exposed and dealt with in your relationship.

Genesis Chapter 2, we'll start together in Verse 7. Hear what the word of God says, "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground, the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food. The tree of life also was in the midst of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."

Stop for just a second. The picture that God is painting there of this first account of Adam and Eve and the first man and woman is of a beautiful paradise sanctuary that God made for Adam. Now, jump down to Verse 15, "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" There are some verses there about how God then paraded the animals by Adam to demonstrate to him that he was alone and there was not a companion for him.

Now, look at Verse 22, "Then the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man, and the man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one, this one as compared to the animals, she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man.' For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh, and the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."

Now lock onto that final statement there, "They were naked and not ashamed." In the first paradise sanctuary that God created for the first married couple, that final description of the relationship is that Adam and Eve, naked and not ashamed, what does that mean? That imagery has many implications, but at least one implication is that there was nothing between Adam and Eve, not even a garment of clothing, nothing between them. Nakedness indicates that they were fully exposed. Imagine that, fully exposed to each other and to their environments and to God. In their full exposure, there was no fear, no hiding. There was no thought of what would happen if, okay, she sees that he doesn’t have a 6-pack but a 2-liter right here. There was no thought of that fear.

Just for a moment, imagine if you were fully exposed right now, all of you, not just your physical body, but all of the ugliness inside of you and me. Just for a moment imagine that. Imagine being fully known now, but also fully loved. Wouldn’t that be a safe place to be? Not being rejected, but loved. Not being condemned, but cherished. Not being shamed for your nakedness or the problems of being exposed, but in some way the other person covering you and just loving you. If that were true in your life, full exposure but fully loved, there would be no shame, no fear, but simply you would be able to love others as well.

Let's continue now and see what happened to that safe place for Adam and Eve. Now, if you will, look at Genesis Chapter 3, Verse 1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Indeed, as God said, you shall not eat from the tree of the garden.' The woman said to the serpent, 'From the fruit of the tree of the garden we may eat, but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it or surely you will die.'

"And the serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die, for God knows that in the day that you eat from it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was delight for the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruits and ate and she gave also to her husband with her. He ate."

At this point, folks, at this point, Adam and Eve ceased worshiping God and put themselves on their own personal throne to do what they wanted. They became interested in their own desires and not God's. Verse 7, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings."

Right there, the first sin of pride and exalting themselves resulted in an inherent recognition that something was wrong. Notice now how they had something to hide. They were broken, and they set themselves and all of us on a path of covering ourselves, because we know something is wrong. There is no safe place to hide anymore, well, not until we get to something in the New Testament. Where is the safe place to hide for safe? "Then they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God." There was not a safe place now.

"Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?" Verse 10, "And He said 'I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.'" There now is the fear of exposure. I have something to hide because I'm imperfect, I'm flawed, I'm broken and I'm guilty. Verse 11, "Then He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?' And the man said, 'The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.'"

Then continuing their focus on self-right then, you see right there in Adam's words a crucial problem in our marriages today. Adam, in order to exalt himself, had to put down his wife and attempted to rescue himself at the expense of his wife. "She did it." Remember in Genesis Chapter 2, he was saying, "This one is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones." In Genesis Chapter 3, he's saying, "That one, that one, she did it." Right there, you have condemnation from Adam when he should have been owning his own sin and pointing her toward God. Right there you have rejection from Adam when he should have been accepting because he saw that he was just like her.

Did Adam think that his course of action of blaming his wife would result in romance that night or a new Stormtrooper outfit? Will a date night solve that problem? Will a carriage ride cover them so they have no place to hide anymore? Will a box of chocolates remedy this problem? Romance would not solve this problem. The greatest problem in our marriages is not that we are not having romance, although those are delightful things. Marriages are not built on romance. The greatest problem in our marriages is that we are sinning and not recognizing it and blaming the other person.

Adam created a hostile environment of condemnation and judgment and superiority and rejection for his marriage because of his self-centeredness. The opposite of a hostile environment for a marriage is a safe refuge where each other's sin can be exposed and covered fully by God in his provision and then where each of us or each of you is learning how to grow in modeling God's love for us.

In the time we have left, Jan and I are going to talk to you about just 6 ways to create a safe refuge in your home for your sin to be exposed as you learn to love your wife or your husband.

1. Recognize that the greatest problem in marriage is your own personal self-centeredness.

The first step is this. Recognize that the greatest problem in marriage ... Here it is. Recognize that the greatest problem in marriage is your own self-centeredness. Janet can start on this one, okay?

Janet: I got this one.

Pastor Aucoin: Oh, good.

Janet: Okay.

Pastor Aucoin: I will have my turn in just a moment.

Janet: Before I was married, I believed that when I got married I would finally have someone who understood me. I would be known. I would be loved, and I would never be lonely. Just a bit self-centered. When we got married, I brought that same selfish, insecure pattern into our marriage. The first years included a lot of crying, which is Brent's favorite.

Pastor Aucoin: Yes.

Janet: We were growing and working through problems biblically, and I'm very thankful for that. It wasn’t always horrible, but I did have a lot of sin that the closeness of our relationship surfaced. I remember, and I do distinctly remember when God allowed me to begin to understand that I wasn’t truly loving Brent when I was trying to make him happy all the time. I was trying to make him my god. I was functionally behaving as if I needed Brent, and that didn’t allow me to actually love him. I was too busy clambering for him. I couldn’t love him or help him. He couldn’t have flaws or weaknesses because he was my god.

You know what that was? That wasn’t really trying to please him. That was really clambering to get him to love me. Total self-centeredness. That was eye-opening and it began a journey on the path of learning what would it actually mean to just need God and then love Brent. It's not easy, but it's actually much easier than trying to make him a god. What a cruel thing for me to do to anyone.

2. Seek to understand your own patterns of pride/idolatry/self-centeredness.

Pastor Aucoin: Secondly, we would encourage you, and what we have tried to see in our own marriage is seeking to understand our own patterns of pride and idolatry and self-centeredness. The more Jan and I grow in Christ, the more we see the depths of our sin. Twenty-two years ago, I could not have told you the way that my sin manifests itself. Yes, I knew I sinned in my behavior. I did bad things occasionally, but I did not understand the roots of it, the heart behind it.

Now, I'm more aware than ever of my pride of wanting an easy life and it manifests for me in patterns of worry and fear in my life, particularly when it comes to how my ministry responsibilities are going or not going, and you put yourself in this position as far as your responsibilities, men. In moments of worry and fear I am more distant from my wife. In moments of worry I become more critical and unthankful for all that she does.

Many of you have heard the story about one day when my PhD work wasn’t going well and I came home and I was upset, so I was worried and fearful and then I was unthankful for my wife, but you’ve heard this story possibly that there were no bacon bits on the salad. I love bacon. I really loved me, but the root of all that was my prideful worry and fear over hard things in my life. Janet now knows my patterns, and while she didn’t have bacon bits that night, instead of judging me, the next night she had like a 5-pound bag of bacon bits from Sam's the next night. She knows me.

Also, in the early years of our marriage and my ministry here, my fear and worry would result in what could be termed sometimes despair when a member, a church member or a regular attendant that I had invested in heavily discipling would reject my counsel or reject me and may even reject the church and move on. Notice where my focus was, on myself. What I did not say was that my despair was over them rejecting Christ. Essentially, my despair was a self-centeredness focused on me being perceived to be rejected. My despair would also make life very difficult for Janet when I was not attentive to her but consumed with my own ministry problems.

God used these kinds of incidents to show me my patterns of pride, selfishness, and idolatry. We all have the patterns. You may only recognize, okay, I occasionally sin. All of us have patterns of pride and selfishness. How many of us? How many of us?

Congregation: All of us.

Pastor Aucoin: All of us. If we are not aware of our patterns of pride and selfishness, we will continue in the same patterns. If you are not aware of your spouse's patterns, then how can you possibly help them? One of the resources that has helped us both in seeing our patterns is the teaching that we have received on the heart. You can watch a 3-part video series, if you want to. The teaching that has helped me probably the most in seeing my patterns is the teaching in The Heart of Change. Free downloads, free watching right there at the website faithlafayette.org/heart. You can write that down if you want something that will help you understand those patterns in your life.

3. Cultivate regular repentance of these patterns in your own life

Thirdly, what do we do when we see these patterns?

Janet: Now the first years of our marriage, I don’t know that we had learned a lot about how to help each other to know that our marriage was going to be a safe place for the exposure of our sin. Instead, we functioned more like competitors and not teammates. Not that we didn’t enjoy each other, but if one of us needed to confront the other, which is going to happen, immediately instead of repenting, we would get defensive and point out the other person's flaws as well. Being confronted was not only uncomfortable; it wasn’t safe or it didn’t seem to be.

I also remember a time when we were meeting with another young couple, helping them with some conflict in their marriage. Brent brought up an area that I struggle with, with my permission, and then he said, "She'll probably always struggle with that, and that’s okay." I remember at first thinking, "I'm not really sure how to take that. Did he just say she'll never change?"

Really, it was freeing. He was seeing that I may never be free of that pattern of sin in my life, and instead of being impatient, as I can so easily be, how many times are we going to talk about this, he was going to help me in the same area over and over. He was acknowledging he's ready to do that for the rest of his life as I seek to repent daily and moment by moment as I see it. What a picture of God's help to me.

Pastor Aucoin: Often, we think of sin and repentance as something that we do once in a while. Repent, I repent over the ... Kind of like I sinned last year, so I repented last year. Oh, yeah, I remember repenting once when I was in college. I repented a couple of times. Let me put that in a more biblical context by a historical example here. Next year is the 500th anniversary of a famous event. Don’t say it's my birthday or anything like that, 500th anniversary. Does anybody know that 500th anniversary of a famous event? Five hundred years ago, something happened. Next year, something happened.

How about this? October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, Castle Church. Okay? That was on the tip of your tongue, wasn’t it? Okay. To begin the dialogue about heretical practices in the church of selling indulgences. Martin Luther was helping or trying to stimulate thoughts about what true repentance was. His first thesis was this. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent, He willed that the entire life of a believer be one of repentance, the entire life.

As we have said, a safe place is where you recognize that the biggest problem in our marriage is me, and then we're growing in our understanding of our patterns of sin, not only year by year, month by month, day by day, but also moment by moment. Christians are to repent and live a lifestyle of repentance, turning from selfishness to love moment by moment, when you wake up in the morning. That has been a growing feature of how we have been able to create a safe place in our marriage.

That means more often now, more often, not perfectly, when Janet and I are in a tense moment and not seeing eye to eye, we can quickly ask ourselves the question, "Is this the typical pattern of Brent's worry and fear or pride, or is this the typical patterns of Janet's struggles cropping up again? More often, the answer is, "Yes, and I can see it now," and then we turn. Janet and I are now quicker to repent moment by moment than shift blame, which was our tendency and Adam and Eve's tendency in the Garden of Eden there.

4. Gaze at how Christ has fully covered you and your sinful patterns as deep as they go in your life.

Fourthly, you see on the screen, gaze at how Christ has fully covered you and your sinful patterns as deep as they go in your life.

Janet: I know it sounds silly, but I actually used to think that needing Brent is what made Brent and I close. If I actually got to the point where I had such a close relationship with Christ that I didn’t need Brent, I feared that that would mean we wouldn’t be as close to each other, but I have grown in recognizing I need Christ and to realize I don’t need Brent. That has freed me. I'm freer to see him as he is, not in what I want him to be. I'm freer to love him more and help him and not be angry that he's just a fellow traveler. We're closer now than we've ever been, and that just makes sense. We're on the same path. We're desiring to walk toward Christ, and then we get to help each other draw closer as well.

Pastor Aucoin: Remember earlier when I said just for a moment imagine if you were fully exposed, all of you, not just your physical body but all the ugliness inside of you, how terrifying is that? Entering into any relationships, marriage, when you're reaching out here at church, any time you enter into a relationship, a relationship by nature of you have 2 people together has virtue of exposing our sin and bringing us face to face with our lack of genuine love for others. That’s why some people choose to be alone all the time and not be in community because they're afraid of being exposed.

The marriage relationship, in particular, exposes the core of our being as hypocrites. When we make these soaring vows to love forever and we don’t, that is pretty ugly to see. Again, just for a moment, imagine all the ugliness externally and internally in you. Imagine being fully known through and through and yet not being rejected but loved, not being condemned but cherished, not being shamed for your nakedness of soul but being covered and cherished through the garments of salvation in Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we are more wicked than we could ever know, but we are more loved than we could ever imagine. There is no safe place for exposing the patterns of our sin without something to cover the guilt and shame, and that’s the gospel. Here is what I would ask us to pray in our relationships, married or just in general. Father, through our relationships, expose the depths of our sin, but, Father, don’t do it without showing me afterwards the depths of the grace that you cover me with in Christ.

Jan and I have grown in our understanding of the gospel over the last 22 years together, and one of the things that has been helpful to us is Milton Vincent's resource on A Gospel Primer. There are many little meditations on there as we have grown that we have found helpful in pointing us toward Christ so that we rest securely in Christ and are safe there first. We find that meditating on how Christ has loved us in the depths of our wickedness allows us to humble ourselves and more quickly repent.

Janet: When I understand the gospel, I'm not shocked by my daily need to repent. Each time I repent, it's not self-pity. I actually grow in my gratitude for the gospel and for Jesus and what he did. Today, when I'm not abiding close to Christ, I still sin in the same way that I always have. I've not changed. I'm just covered. My sin is not any prettier than it used to be, but the hope is that we can see it early in each other and just point each other back to the cross. Not judge each other, not appease each other, not try to impress each other or compete with each other, but see the sin pattern, come alongside, reassure each other of our love and commitment and take each other to the cross.

5. Respond compassionately to your spouse’s patterns of selfishness because you know how deep your sinful patterns go and simultaneously how deep God’s grace goes in your life.

What a privilege, and we get to be a taste of the gospel of grace to each other as we learn to, number 5 there, respond compassionately to each other's patterns of selfishness, because I know how deep my own sinful patterns go. I also know how deep God's grace goes in my life. That enables me to show compassion when I see it in myself. We see the sin in each other far more than anyone else does. What are we going to do with that? Will we use it against each other? That’s what competitors do, but a safe place is not for competitors but for companions. We're on the same team.

We actually had family shirts made to remind ourselves that we're on the same team. We picked our favorite colors. We have a verse there, Ephesians 4:15, "Speaking the truth in love, we grow up in Christ together." We did that for our children as well. It's just a reminder that we're on the same team. Teammates can show each other's weaknesses. They’ve got each other's back. Not that we excuse each other's sin, but we're a safe place for it to be exposed. That has been so freeing for our family.

One day I remember coming into the kitchen from our garage, getting out of my car, walking into the kitchen and I was really mad. I don’t even know what it was about. It was so important, I have no idea what it was, but it was horrendous at the time. Poor Brent is standing in the kitchen. It wasn’t even about Brent. I don’t even know what it was, but he happened to be standing there and he had no idea what was coming. I came in and I started complaining angrily about whatever it was. I don’t know about you, but there are times that I can justify my sin. I can actually convince myself that this is righteous anger. This wasn’t even one of those times. I knew.

Have you ever been there? You hear it coming out. You know how sinful and petty and wicked it is, and I couldn’t shut up. It just kept coming and it's ugly. Now, I'm mad at Brent because he sees it. He hasn’t even done anything yet, but I'm sinning profusely. I can't stop. I'm really mad, and I'm looking at him, thinking, "Yeah, I bet you're judging." Now I'm mad at him, and he hasn’t even done anything yet, because I know he has every right to confront me. I'm mad that I am so exposed because I can't even justify it with, "Well, you don’t understand." It was just, I had nothing.

I finally took a breath, and when I did, he just said, "Come here," and he hugged me.

Pastor Aucoin: Aww.

Janet: Aww. I know, I know. I started sobbing because I knew I was wrong, and I asked forgiveness. Now he doesn’t always do that, because some people are going, "Oh, well, if I had a husband like that." He doesn’t always do that. I know how to provoke him, okay? I know him well enough to do that, too. In that moment, he was a safe place for my obvious sin to be exposed. He loved me anyway. He prayed with me. He helped me go to the cross and repent.

In learning how to love each other, we've been able to understand the gospel just a little bit better. When I remember that day, I think, "That’s what God does for me all the time." Brent can't do it perfectly, because he hasn't seen it quite like me, but God, when I'm throwing my spiritual tantrums over something ridiculous, is going, "Come here." God was such a help to me. I understand that. Then I get the opportunity to incarnate that truth for Brent, to be that safe place of refuge for him.

6. Point your spouse to truth and grace in Christ (never you).

Pastor Aucoin: Number 6, as you respond compassionately, then point your spouse to the truth. When the kids were younger, it was not easy for me to handle a lack of full night's sleep. In addition to loving bacon, I love sleep. Children at an early age, they struggle with bad dreams. They struggle with being scared at night. When they were scared, I was angry. Janet learned how she could help me by handling many of those incidences in the evenings, but when I did get up to help a child, she helpfully reminded me of truth. She pointed me toward Christ during those times.

Going through some of the memorabilia in regard to my son Joshua's graduation recently from high school reminded me of my struggles a while back ago. I found a note from my son, it was precious, when he was 10, "Dear Daddy, thank you for putting up with me. I can tell sometimes you get impatient. God will strengthen you. Love, Josh." Out of the mouths of babes. Josh, too, is learning that we can see each other's sin and help each other because we're on the same team.

Also, I mentioned to you about my fear and my worry and my occasional despair. Janet has learned to speak with truth to me and love. I don’t always want to hear, "Brent, what is required of you, to have a growing ministry? To have people always respond to truth? No, Brent, what is required of you is to be faithful." That's the truth. Often, Janet, in a moment of my fear and worry responds by saying, "Brent, let's pray," which is exactly what she should do and that’s exactly what I don’t want to do at the moment in my flesh, but grudgingly, I say, "Okay." That is the solution as she directs me back to Jesus. There is a truly safe place.

7. Thank God that you have become a safe place for sin to be exposed!

When we're growing, in numbers 1 through 6, you will have a safe place when you thank the Lord that you have become a safe place for sin to be exposed. Spouses, if you're doing this right now, sometimes the reason why marriages are struggling is because nobody is doing this, but if both people are doing 1 through 6, you will truly have a taste of Eden, free to be exposed.

If only one person is doing this in a marriage, over time, if one person is doing it, the one person is providing a safe place that will soften the other person, possibly, safe place to be exposed. Then truly romance, gifts, getaways built on that ...

8. Romance, gifts, get-aways built on this foundation are truly “Garden of Eden’ish”!

We don’t build our marriages on romance, we build it on numbers 1 through 6, truly is a Garden of Eden type of experience. Marriages are not built on romance, but God's righteousness. The reason for a lack of God's righteousness in our marriage is because each of us, each of our sins. Loving your spouse in this way creates a safe place for sin to be exposed and then we together lock arms and point each other toward Christ.

Let me give you in closing just a few resources. A book that kind of captures what we talked about is When Sinners Say I Do, so if you're interested in just going deeper, maybe check out that book. Also, go to the Faith website and some other just very, very practical resources if you just want a list, How to Love My Spouse, How Do I Begin to Cultivate Understanding My Spouse More. 50 Questions, search for these terms. Write these down if you want to, 50 Questions to Ask Your Spouse, Ways a Husband May Express Love to His Wife, Practical Ways to Show Love for Your Husband. Capture those on our website and you'll find some helpful resources there.

Now thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about loving your spouse today, and let's go to our Lord in prayer. Father God, we thank you for this opportunity. Thank you, Father, for the blessing of marriage. Thank you, Father, that you have designed it to be an exposing place for our sin so that we might learn to grow in our appreciation of how Christ has covered our sin and then we can learn to love as Christ has loved us and make a safe place for one another.

Father, for singles here and their relationships, I pray that they would help to be a safe friend to those around them so that their unbelieving and believing friends will find a safe place for compassion and truth with their friendship. Father, we pray these things. We pray that you would help us to individually be a safe place for others. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Brent Aucoin

M.S. - Engineering, Purdue University
M.Div. - Central Baptist Seminary
Th.M. - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Ph.D. - Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Brent Aucoin and his wife, Janet, came on staff in July of 1998.  Pastor Aucoin serves as overseer of Faith Seminary and Soul Care Ministries at Faith Church.

View Pastor Aucoin's Salvation Testmony Video