Being a human being can challenge a marriage. There are so many variables of change in our bodies—ailments and physical issues like aging and hormones, the list goes on and on—that contribute to the way we feel at any given moment. These physical changes in our bodies can lead to conflict with those around us, including our spouses, and they are all a result of patterns in our “flesh.” I like to think of our flesh as the undesirable not-so-wonderful traits we have. It is important to overcome these urges, to kill our flesh so that our spirit can flow through us to our spouses.
When you begin to recognize the signs of the flesh, you must realize it is about you, not anyone else. Your flesh is the enemy in the servant marriage, not your spouse or circumstances. You must take full responsibility, and once you do, you will be able to repent and heal. When you are one hundred percent of the problem, you are the solution as well. The flesh is our sinful nature, and once we recognize it, we can overcome those urges and establish healthy relationships. A few basic patterns of the flesh include sexuality, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, fractions, envy, and drunkenness. Let’s begin to reveal these patterns.
The sin of sexuality in a servant marriage can be pornography, masturbation, social media connections, and sex outside of marriage. Many times this sin is due to a struggle with sexual addiction. I encourage women everywhere to ask their husbands the last time they masturbated or used pornography. We live in the most easily accessible and perverted sexual culture in world history, and it is easy to fall to temptation. Keeping a secret is deadly. It is essential to stay honest and to catch sexual addiction as soon as possible in this time. Intimacy anorexia is something that goes hand in hand with sexual addiction. It is the withholding of spiritual, emotional, and sexual intimacy. Characteristics include signs like ungrounded blaming, undue criticism and withholding love, praise, sex, spiritually, and feelings. Be aware of your sexuality. This pattern of the flesh is damaging to both partners in the marriage, and healing will be needed on both sides.
When it comes to idolatry there are two kinds: external and internal. The external will include behaving or believing that things or objects have more value than people or God, while the internal is apparent when we worship ourselves, others, secular or ungodly ideas as idols in our hearts. You might recognize an idol if someone confronts you on this love and you are offended because you know it is wrong. Being right instead of being loving is another sign that you might have an idol in your heart. In this case, pride can be an idol, not admitting when you are wrong. Idolatry limits our life in many ways, including marriage.
The pattern of witchcraft is not meant in the traditional sense of magic and sorcery. The main idea here is manipulation. Some examples of witchcraft are: manipulating through anger, withholding sex or money or knowledge about certain things, and many more. The important thing here is learning to negotiate with your spouse. Imposing our will on someone without consent is no way to a healthy servant marriage.
Hatred, discord, and fractions are three more patterns of the flesh. Hatred is essentially your loss of value in the other person—when you deny your spouse value and respect. This act can destroy a person and is a despicable sin. Discord, problems and issues that are never solved, is what results after a constant presence of conflict between spouses. The key to overcoming this obstacle is communicating. Fractions run along the same lines—it is discord, with the addition of others into the conversation. With both, the enemy becomes the spouse, not the problem at hand. It is important to get creative and work out solutions for the real issues involved.
Envy can be an especially dangerous pattern of the flesh because it is slow and sneaky. You want something someone else has, and it can corrupt your soul and make you entirely ungrateful. It might come to a point when you can create an entire list of things to resent about your spouse. The key here is to keep an eye out for resentment.
Finally we have drunkenness and other out of control behaviors like gluttony, spending, debt, drugs, and anger. These are all crimes of excess and are damaging to a marriage as well. The person will usually be in denial about their addictions, but like with any of the other patterns the addiction can be healed.
So, how did you survive this rugged journey through the terrain of our flesh? Most of us have something to think about growing through, or actually get aggressive about moving past. Again, in Christ there is not only hope, but also strength, and practical applications you can make to have a servant marriage.