[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
As we sat around the fire last night as a family –I am sure a scene familiar to so many families around the world in the winter — we watched as the flame started small and with each log added grew bigger and bigger. With each log added we felt the cold begin to disappear as we began to feel the warmth of the fire. It is a scene I have seen countless times but last night the image of a flame being fanned brought a realisation to me that I must admit I was not consciously aware of until now. As my husband kept on adding more and more wood and as the flames were growing bigger and bigger, we were all thankful that he was doing that for us as we welcomed the warmth as it was very cold. The realisation is that it is no different with our relationships. There are times when we feel the cold in our relationships and we continue to feel it until someone does something about it. Whether it is to an offer an apology first after a conflict or to forgive your spouse after they have done you wrong, someone has to initiate an act for the atmosphere of your home to change.
I recently read a book ‘The 4 Seasons of Marriage’ by Dr Gary Chapman in which he outlines how each marriage goes through four different seasons. He describes each type of marriage; the winter, summer, spring and autumn marriage. Maybe that was the catalyst to why I began to see the act of fanning the flame differently this winter.
What to do about the cold
It is winter! Everywhere you go in South Africa people are complaining that: “It is very cold!”. What does one do with the cold? While some love the winter season because they get to sit around the fire or heater, make soup, sleep more and keep warm, others absolutely hate winter. How you view winter is up to you. When it is winter in our relationships we need to fan the flames for warmth to come. Warmth does not just come. You can sit there and pretend that all is well and experience the cold when you know that you are slowly drifting away from each other as a couple. Or you can choose to do something about it and “fan the flame of love”. You can continue to feel the cold and sit. Nothing will change; you will have a winter that drags on; instead of having a moment of cold in your home you can have days, weeks, months and even years of cold. The atmosphere in your home will change to warmth when someone decides to do something about it.
It amazes me that so many people whose relationships and marriages are in winter choose to go about their lives in constant exposure to the cold elements. Cold words, cold attitudes, ignoring each other, giving each other the silent treatment, being disrespectful, distant and not engaging with each other; just remaining in a non caring environment and constantly complaining that the they hate being married. Well you can hate winter but if you do not dress for it and put on warm clothes you will eventually get sick because the body was not made to be exposed to the cold for a long time without relieving it with warmth. You are not doing the body any good if you are exposing it to cold when you have access to warm clothes.
Relationships are no different. We have to keep them warm. It is not something that happens automatically because you are married. Being “in-love” is not a guarantee that your will always feel that way. No, you have to make an effort to keep the flames of love in your relationship.
Dress according to the weather conditions
Recently we went on a family trip to KZN. Gauteng, Western Cape,the Eastern Cape and other parts of the country were experiencing cold but in KZN we were at the beach enjoying the sun. You would think we had left the country and gone to another part of the world where it is summer. Many people were dressed in shorts and typical summer clothes whereas in other provinces people were dressed in jackets and winter clothes. Why? The weather dictated the choice of clothes. It would be foolish really to be at the beach dressed in jackets and coats and visa versa, people in chilly Gauteng would think that there was something wrong with you if you went outside dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. You have to judge the weather of your relationship; the weather of your spouse. You and I have to judge daily. Just as you judge and seek information about the weather, so you can find out how your loved ones are feeling and “dress” accordingly. Don’t take it for granted that your spouse is feeling the same way that you are feeling. Your partner might be discouraged, irritated, worried, angry, disappointed or hurt. There have been times when I have asked my kids: “Aren’t you cold?” At those times I was feeling cold enough to want to wear a jersey or a coat but they were playing and laughing. It is important to extend the questions: “How are you today? How are you feeling?” and to really mean it.
Fan the flames of warmth in your house. Fan the flames of love in your family and the people that you live with will appreciate the effort and will appreciate the acts of kindness, gentleness and love that you are extending towards them. Fanning the flame is an ongoing effort to keep warmth in your relationships; in your family in your marriage; in your home. As the fire burns away the wood one has to constantly keep feeding the fire for it to remain warm. So many of us take it for granted that when we are “in-love” or when we experience those fuzzy feelings of love that it will always be that way. Love has to be constantly fed to be kept alive. If you constantly pour water on it, the fire will bit-by-bit fizzle out and die.
You have to be constantly on the lookout. “Is it cold today? What is the weather like in my home today? What is the weather like in my marriage today? How is my wife? How is my husband? Do I need to speak more words of warmth? Do I need to be more considerate; more kind? Do I need to put on the warm clothes of gentleness; encouragement; compassion; understanding; grace?” When the kids are involved it really does not matter who gets up and “gets the wood”; the children will appreciate the effort made and their well-being is worth fighting for.
Not the time to sleep
Typically when it is very cold the bed looks so inviting. One just wants to sleep. You might feel too lazy to do the work of making the fire; fetching the heater and making sure that everyone is warm. In a relationship, it might be more tempting to just “go to sleep”. It might be a more enticing option to ignore the state of your relationship and do nothing about it. But the danger is that while you sleep the enemy sneaks thoughts into your family. “He does not care about us! He only cares about himself! How can she leave me like this? She only cares about herself!
Get up and fan the flames of love and keep fanning them to drive out the coldness in your marriage; to drive out the discouragement in your family! Do not ignore the warning signs in your marriage. This is no time to be sleeping while the enemy comes to steal; kill and destroy your marriage and family.
FAN THE FLAME OF LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!