On a video screen at my wedding reception, God gave me a gift I'll never forget. I saw footage of my wife, Christi, at 3 years old. With her mom by her side, this innocent little girl sat in the bathtub splashing water and singing as if she didn't have a care in the world:
Oh, the Lord is good to me. And so I thank the Lord For giving me the things I need: The sun and the rain and the apple seed. Oh, the Lord is good to me.
Two weeks later, on the last day of our honeymoon, we found ourselves in the middle of the biggest argument we have had to date. As I sat across from her at dinner defending my perspective, Christi's eyes welled with tears. Without warning, my mind replayed that precious footage of my wife singing in the bathtub, and my defenses melted. My argument no longer mattered.
How had I allowed myself to become hardened and insensitive to the person I loved most? Rather than being "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19), I was quick to defend myself, quick to cast blame and slow to be gentle.
So how do couples develop an attitude of gentleness toward each other?
The famous preacher A.W. Tozer wrote that one of the five keys to a deeper spiritual life is to never defend ourselves. When we do, we put up emotional guards that make us hard and self-centered. In turn, we cast blame in an attempt to protect ourselves.
In my case, my defenses dropped when I remembered the innocence and purity of 3-year-old Christi. The image of her as a child gave me a new perspective. Because she had given me her heart, she was emotionally vulnerable — just as I was vulnerable to her. Once we understood this reality, Christi and I began learning how to treat each other with gentleness. We found that gentleness did not depend on who was right, but on lowering our defenses and handling each other with care.