Relationship Weeds Day 1: Apathy
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16, ESV)
After a morning of exploring the beautiful beach in Siesta Key, Florida, we walked back to our chairs, seeking shelter from the hot sun. Settling in our loungers, we reached into the bag, desperate to quench our thirst after a few sad attempts at snorkeling where we gulped in mouthfuls of salty seawater. What had been packed away initially were a few bottles of ice-cold water, but they had grown warm in the Florida sun. It’s all we had, so we drank it, but it held little appeal when it lost its refreshing coolness. Lukewarm water isn’t very appealing to most of us and we would rather spit it out than drink it.
The Scripture reference above from the book of Revelation shows us how God feels about lukewarm Christians. A church that is coasting and just going through the motions is distasteful and fruitless. No passion. No desire to grow or learn. No outreach work. No fellowship. No leadership or interest in using and cultivating spiritual gifts. Spiritual apathy is, sadly, common, and it leads to spiritual ruin. Being apathetic in our marriages will have the same sad result: it will pull apart what God joined together.
Apathy, defined as a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern, is suicide to marital oneness. It’s the complete opposite of being intentional, which is a crucial component to a great marriage. It means, “I don’t care enough about you, or about us, to put in the work to make our marriage successful.” It results in disconnection, and while it sneaks in slowly, it will quickly dismantle your unity and even your commitment to stay.
A successful marriage must be guarded, protected, and cared for. You can’t coast in relationships, because coasting leads to drifting. We’ve all likely had periods of time when life was too busy and we fell into the rut of just doing life side by side. There are seasons when we feel ourselves “growing apart,” a phrase people often use as an excuse to walk away from their marriage. The truth is that life is busy and can be demanding, but failing to take inventory of how you’re spending your time and prioritizing your spouse is a costly mistake. This can hopefully be corrected when we stop and evaluate our priorities and goals. Maybe it’s not something you are doing regularly, but may I challenge each of you (myself included) to make it a regular habit to review your attitude toward your spouse?
Being intentional is key to building your marriage. If you see areas where you lack enthusiasm, concern or interest in your spouse, make a plan to change. Starting today, begin tuning back in—asking questions, sharing your heart, and paying better attention. A tuned-in spouse will notice fatigue, stress, discouragement, and depression. A tuned-in spouse will know when encouragement is needed or when a simple heartfelt word of thanks is in order. You’ll notice what brings them joy and what causes them stress. You may even notice a new outfit or freshly colored hair, and be able to pay a compliment.
If apathy is present in your relationship, pray that God will give you whatever it takes to plunge back in. Oftentimes, our own increased awareness and verbalization of what we appreciate about our spouse will be the catalyst they need to tune back in themselves. Say the good things you think, and try to bite your tongue against critical words. Be bold in bringing up sensitive issues you have been sweeping under the rug and refusing to discuss. Be present. Engage in conversation. Touch your spouse. Let them know you’re all in. But whatever you do, resolve today to remove apathy from your relationship, because it is a deadly weed that will choke the life out of your marriage. Don’t be afraid to take the first step—God is always with us and offers us His strength to see us through.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, ESV)