Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had something very particular on my heart. It’s something that has popped-up in so many conversations I’ve had with friends, in things I’ve read or simply in situations I see unfolding in front of me. Because of these lingering thoughts and observations, I felt stirred to write some of the things I’ve come to learn: The Importance of Guarding the More Important Things in Life.

In my mind I’ve made a list of a couple of things that are most important in my own life: my marriage, my children, my identity and my peace. Of course there are more, for example family, friends and career. For now however, these are the ones on my heart.

Guarding means to safe keep, to secure, to watch over. Notice how it’s a very definite action-word. It’s something we should constantly be doing. Guarding isn’t something we commit to once-off and then expect it to stay guarded all by itself. One has to constantly be involved and committed to the action.

There are two particular things I felt to focus on. Identity and marriage. If you are married – this is for you, if you’re not yet married – concentrate and take notes. Marriage is the one relationship that when it’s strong and healthy, forms an anchor for so many other relationships in your life.

A couple of weeks ago I had some tea with friends. You know the interesting conversations a bunch of girls can have together right. Someone was telling us about how a friend of hers caught herself completely absorbed into a world of physical conditioning (I’m not saying there is anything wrong with physical conditioning). However, she found herself spending more time at the gym than at home. At home she was merely fulfilling her duties as mother and wife, but at gym she was getting recognition and being applauded for her development – something that she may not have been receiving at home.

When someone gives you recognition for something you can do, it can often lead to a false sense of fulfillment. It’s false because it never satisfies. It always leaves you wanting more and more of that same thing.

I’ve seen this scenario play out in so many different contexts. You’re not feeling fulfilled in yourself. Your daily tasks can’t give you the fulfillment you’re longing for. One thing leads to the next and suddenly you find yourself in a place where you’re getting emotional ‘satisfaction or fulfillment’ in some place other than at home. Thankfully this girl was smart enough to realize it.

Deep fulfillment and satisfaction in life only comes when you’re stepping into the God-given identity He’s given you. For many of us, we still have to find ourselves before we know what to guard. Purpose and identity goes hand in hand – job description and identity don’t. Finding your identity means to recognize how God has made you unique. How He’s formed you for a specific calling, placing within in you exactly what you need to fulfill this. He knits you together in your mother’s womb, and within you He places the traits and characteristics that form your identity, uniquely designed and tailor made.

Once you recognize why you are who you are, you carry value for yourself. You carry significance. You become deeply satisfied. At this point, you have enough emotional capacity to truly become one with another person. The place from which you give of yourself, is whole. You cannot give into marriage if you don’t quite have something to give. I encourage you to find out who you truly are and what you have to give that’s ‘you’. It cannot run empty if it is true to who you are and what God’s placed in you.

Marriage. It’s the most sacred thing you can possibly guard.  It’s worth giving 200% for. It’s worth fighting for in every regard. Better yet, it’s worth protecting – before you get to the point where you need to fight for it.

Life is hectic. Pressures come from all sides and angles. How do we protect this bond between husband and wife? How do we circle it with a fire-wall an ensure it stays strong and nurtured? The answer is simple: You constantly pursue the goal of connection. Danny Silk, author of Keep Your Love On and Loving Our Kids On Purpose, has been a very loud voice in our lives.

Often I find myself asking the question he typically raises, “What is my goal for our relationship? Is it distance? Or is it connection?” To be honest with you, maintaining distance is often times far easier. Why? Because it feels safe. If you’re distant and closed-up, you won’t get hurt right? Keeping your spouse at a safe following distance won’t end up in a bumper bash right? Wrong! It’s the most dangerous illusion of safety we can ever let ourselves believe. The place of disconnect, can never be a safe place in any marriage. We were created to be one with our partners. We were created for connection at every level.

Arguments happen. Differences happen. ‘Things’ eat away from our time with each other. These are so often the things that fill-up the space between two partners. They fill the gap of disconnect. Danny Silk says, “if you’re not moving towards each other, you’re moving away from each other.”

Sometimes it takes twice as much energy to move towards your spouse. After a major argument, the only thing I want to do is run and hide. I want to shut the door and be left alone. I want to stay far away where I think I’m safe from any harmful words or accusations. It really is the easier way out. However that’s exactly the problem – it’s the way out, not the way back in.

In one of his articles Danny writes, “The only way to reverse course on disconnection is to bravely initiate a vulnerable conversation and invite the other person to reconnect.”

Bravely. Oh boy it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. This past week I had to make this decision: I had something bugging me for quite some time and chose to show my frustration on my face and in my voice, rather than to constructively share my feelings with my husband. Obviously he noticed – mission accomplished!

I realized I need to do this thing right because its enlarging the obvious uncomfortable space between us. I bravely decided to let my own guard down. I opened up and became vulnerable with this man I deeply love and who deeply loves me back. (Why it’s so hard is a mystery – I think the more we do it though, the easier it will get).

The important thing is to not accuse the other but to rather express your own feelings and needs. Give space for their feelings and needs. Decide to pursue the connection and get over your fears of vulnerability of pain. If you’re doing it right, you’ll reap the fruit of connection – a healthy flourishing relationship that bears fruit of satisfaction and fulfillment. Our conversation was long, but it was peaceful and constructive. We could see eye-to-eye again. The fruit of connection is peace, understanding and intimacy. God’s grace partners with you when you pursue His design. I’ve experienced it over and over again.

Here’s a quick challenge I want to leave you with for the week: Sometimes it’s easier to turn to your children than to rather first guard your marriage (I’m referring to a normal non-abusive context here). It’s too easy to accept disconnect with a spouse and then to pursue connection with your child instead. This is a harmful habit that avoids the responsibility to reconnect with your spouse. I’ve found that I’m the best mother, when I’m being the best wife. I challenge each one of you to go put this phrase to test. (Let me know how it goes)!

My deep desire is that you would be encouraged wherever you are in life – pursue God’s Design – within yourself and within your family. He’s design is perfect, flawless and always leads to victory. Happy Winnings!