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A Valentine Message–“Seven Ropes to Tie Two Boats”

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“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” — Matthew 19:4-6

It is not unusual to discover magazines and newspapers with advice for romance and marriage-building in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Lately I have been pleased to notice how this secular advice has lined up with advice shared in Christian communities. That’s because it works!

I recently read a newspaper article espousing marriage-enriching habits of holding hands, having regular date nights, going to bed at the same time . . . and thought, “That’s exactly what Jim and Barbara would advise!”

Jim and Barbara Grunseth have been teaching and counseling couples for years. Their advice is sound, biblical, and practical. So I decided to get out my dog-eared and well-worn copy of one of their books, Remember the Rowboats: Anchor your Marriage to Christ, to share some of their timeless advice. You won’t find these points in newsstand copy, but you will find them encouraging and helpful—and true:

In this particular book they speak of “Seven Ropes to Tie Two Boats”—as if you and your spouse are two rowboats and you don’t want to drift apart:

“In addition to the essential requirement of the Lord Jesus being the faithful, strong Anchor of your marriage, Barbara and I want to get real practical with you. Couples that come in for biblical counseling have none of the following seven ropes tying their two rowboats together. To keep from drifting, you need the seven ropes that will tie your two rowboats tightly together. Couples with teachable and humble hearts that tie their marriage with these seven ropes do not break up. They have disciplined themselves in obedient surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. They have chosen to hold fast together and let nothing get in between them. Nothing!” (p. 65)

What are these seven ropes? Let me summarize from their writing:

1. “First RopeHold Hands Everywhere”

The Grunseths add: “Some people think this concept is shallow and silly. It does not matter what they think. It works! . . . When you hold hands, you are telling the world: you are in love; God was right in bringing you two together; you are fulfilling God’s plan by filling each other’s gaps (hands clasped together); you need each other’s strengths and weaknesses; you want to honor God by your commitment to each other.” (p. 66)

When you are together again after this deployment, consider holding hands everywhere you go!

2. “Second Rope—Same Bed Time”

“Remember if the devil has a middle name it would probably be ‘isolation’. Going to bed together at the same time promotes oneness, togetherness, and marital love.” (p. 67)

But you say—“we’re in the military and experiencing deployment right now . . . so how in the world do we go to bed at the same time????” Of course this is a legitimate question—and getting creative with “staying connected even though worlds apart” is a challenge military couples must face.

One Guardsman currently serving in Afghanistan shared with us that he Skypes with his children before they go to bed—reading from the Bible and praying with them. Then, after they are in bed, he Skypes again with his wife—reading from the Bible and praying with her. This takes intentionality, especially with the time difference. Obviously not all of you can do this—perhaps very few. We understand that. Internet availability, band-width challenges—not to mention mission demands are real. But keeping up some form of communication, if possible, can bring about a spiritual intimacy which can help a couple bridge the distance while apart. Check out other devotions on Excellent or Praiseworthy for ideas.

3. “Third Rope—Cuddle Pray at Bedtime”

The Grunseths are big on this—a couple holding each other and praying together at the end of the day, at bedtime. My husband and I hold each other and pray together in bed first thing in the morning. Some couples do both—morning and night. Some couples kneel in prayer by their bed at night. The key word is together. They write, “In Christian marriage, the most important level of intimacy is your prayer life with God and your mate.” (p. 68)

Again—how do you do this if deployed? I believe the best way is to ask each other, when you can, “How can I pray for you today?” And then do it—yes, pray out loud on the phone, or write out a prayer on email or text. Or pick out a time each day when you have agreed to pray for each other—if possible. And during reintegration this is especially important. A couple reuniting after many months apart needs to connect physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Prayer can bridge a chasm which has been created by this time away from each other. As simple or difficult as these suggestions may sound, God honors and answers prayer.

4. “Fourth Rope—Insist on the Weekly Date”

Time together alone is special time. Dedicating time together in your busy schedule can be difficult, but it may also spare you from becoming so “schedule oriented” or “child-centered” that you neglect each other. Jim and Barbara recommend a weekly date to renew and refresh your relationship. It might just be 15 minutes alone—away from the house, if possible. But together in a special place.

If deployed, this is going to be difficult, but not impossible. Be creative and think of ways you can open a care package “together” by Skype; write each other describing a favorite date; plan dates when you will be back together; spend Facetime together—some couples even watch movies “together”. Something that says to the other, “You’re special. I love you.”

5. “Fifth Rope—Return Blessings”

When conflict arises, and it will, Scripture is very clear that we are to return insults with blessings (I Peter 3:8,9). Easier said than done. Jim and Barbara write, “The worst thing a couple can do is leave conflicts unresolved. Decide right now that no sun will ever set on your unresolved conflicts and anger. . . As soon as God convicts you (gets through your tough hide of pride), do three things: pursue the offended person; admit your failure; request their forgiveness.” (p. 75)

It is very easy for misunderstandings to arise with email, Facebook, texting, and cell phone conversations during deployment. Be careful. Make sure you are clear in your communication and always seek to compliment and encourage each other. Deployment is difficult for both of you!  Make sure you speak kindly towards each other!  And if you need to apologize, do it sooner rather than later.

6. “Sixth Rope—Establish Talk Times”

The Grunseths describe in their book one busy couple with twelve children who demonstrated this discipline very well. They even lit a candle each evening and set it between them to signal to the children that this was special “Mom and Dad” time. “This husband and wife just took turns sharing their High Point and then their Low Point of the day respectively. While the one was sharing, the other just listened and comforted and affirmed. They did not try to fix one another or correct one another. They just loved through quiet, tender listening.” (p. 76)

Can you do this while deployed? When you have the chance to listen to your spouse, just listen. Ask good questions, comfort, affirm.

7. “Seventh Rope—Serve in Church Together”

Here is what the Grunseths suggest: “Remember, if God has you married, then He intends to shine His truth and love to others through the oneness and togetherness of your marriage. Barbara and I encourage you, if possible, to not just go to church together, but also to serve together. We know in some cases this will be difficult but we find it a great way to be together and to be a witness as a team. We recommend you serve God together just like you should take vacations together and sleep in the same bed together. . . We know there are exceptions but we believe you should strive to serve together.” (p. 78) A deployed service member can maintain accountability with his/her church and thus stay “connected” while serving overseas. Also one can pray for the church—and keep in close touch with the congregation’s prayer concerns.

We believe military couples are the most resilient and strongest couples in the world. Your commitment to mission—and to each other—is demonstrated in sacrificial ways each day. The recitation of these “ropes” is meant to encourage you to grow in commitment to your spouse—and to bring glory to God as you live out the Gospel in the context of covenant marriage.

Jim and Barbara close this section in their book with this blessing, “We trust that God will bless you as you implement these ropes into your marriage.” (p. 79)

Work Cited:

Grunseth, Jim and Barbara, Remember the Rowboats: Anchor your Marriage to Christ (Minneapolis: River City Press, Inc., 2008).

Go to MarriageAnchors.com for free book downloads. The Grunseths want to share!

Questions to Share:

1. Do any of these 7 “ropes” surprise you?  Which ones?  Share with your spouse how you can implement one or more even while deployed.

2. Have you known a married couple who has grown in their love and commitment through the years of military service?  If you can, share this devotion with them and ask how they have seen the benefit of any of these “ropes”.

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