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  • Shawn Thornton

30 Years of Dancing in the Minefields

Tuesday - June 30th Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: Ephesians 4:26-27

Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 6:19-24

Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry,

for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Ephesianss 4:26b-27 (NLT)


Thirty years ago today, Gwyneth Lesli Russell and I got married in the Baltimore suburb of Elkridge, Maryland. We were married at 11:00 in the morning on that hot, humid Saturday in 1990. Everything went perfectly. Well, almost everything. I was so hot and ready to leave for the reception held in a much cooler hotel ballroom than the sanctuary of Lesli's home church that I forgot to kiss the bride. Yep, the one thing every groom says they will get right and will not forget. Over my pastoral career, I have now officiated 96 weddings. None of those grooms forgot to kiss the bride!

Still, that day was a great start to an incredible marriage! Don't get me wrong. Marriage requires intentional efforts on the part of both husband and wife to grow in love for each other in a world full of woe. Lesli has had her work cut out for her for over 30 years! We have grown so much in the Lord together since we said, "I do," to each other on June 30, 1990. Our love is stronger now than it was on that day! We pray it would be even stronger as the Lord would graciously give us another three decades together.

Christian singer and songwriter, Andrew Peterson, wrote and sings my favorite song about the beauty of marriage. The title says a lot about Peterson's experiential understanding of what the marriage journey is - "Dancing in the Mine Fields." While the title sounds incredibly negative, the song is super uplifting. He sings about how young he and his wife were when they got married and how much they did not know then. The song speaks of how the dance in a world with so many pitfalls and heartaches can be beautiful despite the minefield in which the dance takes place. Click the title of the song a couple of sentences above. When you do, you can enjoy the sweet music video with elderly couples dancing and sharing their wedding photos from decades earlier.

Peterson's song suggests that all healthy, thriving marriages actually reflect the wonder and beauty of "Dancing in the Minefields." Marriage like a sweet dance has rhythms and movements that involve two people moving together in harmony. The dance floor is a world full of challenges, highpoints, temptations, successes, and uncertainty. Over my twenty-five plus years of pastoral ministry, I have dealt with marriages that have exploded or imploded because of adultery, infertility, abuse, addiction, prodigal children, economic hardship, apathy, neglect, and so many other things. From my perspective, the number one landmine that has done the most damage to the union of a husband and a wife is unresolved anger.

Anger breeds unforgiveness, regret, bitterness, alienation, loneliness, insecurity, resentment, and even more anger. Unresolved anger, anger that exists but is not dealt with properly, spreads destructive, viral emotions, misunderstandings, confusion, and mistrust. It is no wonder that God tells us in Ephesians 4:26-27 not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. The New Living Translation of verse 28 says, "for anger gives a foothold to the devil." That is a strong statement!

Satan has been looking for footholds in marriages since the very first marriage. God had presided over their wedding as he presented Eve to Adam. Satan soon went to work. He brought a wedge between humans and their God by convincing Adam and Eve to believe a lie. He drove a wedge between them as husband and wife with the same lie. He continues to seek ways to destroy the beauty and wonder of what God intends for marriage. His main foothold today seems to be unresolved anger. How long should we let our anger go unresolved? How long should we let it simmer in our hearts and minds? God says no more than 24 hours. Actually, considering we may sleep 6-8 hours, we should not allow our anger to simmer longer than 16-18 hours. We need to settle it before we go to sleep.

Why are we to seek resolution to our anger before we go to sleep? The night and a night of sleep (with the end being a fresh new morning) provide a perfect physical and emotional restart of whatever the anger broke or strained. The new day begins with a new outlook and attitude. What happened the day before has been confessed, forgiven, and released.

This principle of not ending the day with anger works in our relationships with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. But, it especially works within marriage. We naturally get into bed at the end of the day with our spouse - not the kids, the neighbors, or co-workers. While it has not happened often, the times when Lesli and I have gotten in bed with unresolved anger toward the other, we have a terrible night's sleep and a horrible next day until we work through what needs to be addressed. Getting in bed with unresolved anger creates physical, relational, emotional, and even spiritual tears in the fabric of marriage. God knows we need to confess to Him and each other what upsets us and we harbor in our hearts.

Try it this week. Check-in with your spouse before you get in bed. Do some dancing in the minefields and ask how you both feel toward each other. See if there is built up anger that needs addressing. Think of others in your life toward whom you may have been harboring bitterness or rage. Deal with them during the day - before you even get home. Don't let Satan get a foothold in your life because of anger you harbor in your heart! Anger is perhaps the most dangerous of all the mines in the minefield of this world.

Even after 30 great years, Lesli and I still have to make sure we do not let resentment build up. We have to keep dancing in the minefields together. I look forward to the next 30 years of this dance! By the way, after an awkward second prompting by the pastor marrying us, I did kiss my bride at our wedding thirty years ago.

Whatever you do, don't let the day end with anger in your heart!

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