Moving Toward Unity

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by Gary Smalley / Smalley Online

Like many of you, my wife, Norma, and I lit "unity candles" at our wedding ceremony. And like many of you, I had only a vague idea at the time of what those candles symbolized. Only recently have I understood.

If I was planning a unity candle ceremony today, I would start with two candles colored yellow and blue. When you enter the church or wedding chapel, you enter as singles, and you are very different from each other. You have your own personality, your own skills, your own opinions.

Blue and yellow mixed together will turn green, and that would be the color of the third candle. After using the blue and yelow candles to light the green one, the bride and groom would then blow out their individual candles. It all symbolizes the fact that, in a marriage, you are no longer singles. You are a couple. Genesis 2:24 tells us, "For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

I believe that conflict and argument can be the doorway to true intimacy in a marriage. Why? Because it can force you to learn what your mate is feeling and what your mate needs. When you both understand each other, you can blend them together and make a decision that works for both of you as a couple.

What often happens, however, is the conflict leads you to re-light your blue and yellow candles, so to speak. You act like a single again; you seek to win the argument rather than finding a solution that works for both of you. Any time you get into an argument, blow out those candles and say, "We're going to be a couple. It's not my opinion that matters, it's our opinion. We're a team now."

Inevitably, in any marriage, four germs will try to infect your relationship and lead you to revert back to acting like a single. These four germs are:

  • Withdrawing from an argument.
  • Escalating during an argument--raising the emotional pitch because you're trying to win your position.
  • Belittling your mate.
  • Seeing too many negative things in your mate.

After many years of marriage, Norma and I have finally realized that the greatest antidote to these four germs--and the greatest thing we could do to build a great marriage--was to honor each other. Take a look at the following three steps to honoring your mate, and you'll see how they counteract those germs.

Step #1: Make a decision that your mate is highly valuable. All of your spouse's differences--personality, interests, opinions, etc.--are priceless. God has put you together as a team to become one.

Step #2: Start making a list today of all the positive things about your mate. Write down the things you love about your spouse, the things you appreciate. This principle comes from Philippians 4:8, which instructs us to dwell on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right..."

As you start forcing yourself to find something positive in your mate almost every day, you start looking for it. And the more you look for it, the more you see it and the more you honor each other.

I have four and a half single spaced sheets of positive things I've written about my wife. When our relationship is strained from time to time I pull these out and start reading them. Within five minutes I feel so warm towards her; it changes my feelings and affections so rapidly.

Step #3: Tell one another these positive things on a regular basis. Make it a habit to praise each other. Use cards or sticky notes. Tell your children or your friends about how thrilled you are with your mate, and let them go back and tell your mate what you said.

Some of you are thinking, "I can't do this. I can't think of anything positive." If you can't do it, go to the Lord. He says He gives His grace to the humble, and the humble person is the one who says, "I can't do it!"

If you can't tell your mate anything positive, ask for His grace. It may not happen overnight; it might take six months. When He gives you His grace, it will change your life and your marriage. n

This article was adapted from a message Gary Smalley presented at a FamilyLife I Still Do event ( For more information about future events, call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can contact Gary's ministry at Smally Online.

2002 Smally Online. Used by permission.
2002 Family Life. Used by permission.