The above question is often addressed in premarital counseling. Answering it gives you both the chance to share the traditions and expectations you would like to incorporate in your new family. Reflecting on the festivities of our youth is a good starting point, but it is important to remember that our expectations are not only passed down to us from our family, but they can be influenced by our ever-changing culture.
In my marriage, our holiday conflicts have less to do with childhood experiences and more to do with a self-imposed rule of participating in social norms. See if you can relate to any of these confessions: Choosing “the perfect” Christmas card takes up more time and energy that I care to admit. I am panged with guilt on Easter morning when my children aren’t dressed in fancy new Easter clothes. I wallow in pity when we aren’t attending a grand fireworks display on the 4th of July because my husband has to work. Can you relate?
I wrestle with disappointment on holidays because I inevitably feel that we aren’t celebrating like everyone else. My husband never seems phased by our lack of proper protocol and so I usually grow irritated with him for not sharing in my disappointment. I pout, he tells me there is no need to pout, and thus an unnecessary conflict is born.
Not long ago, I felt the Lord speak very clearly to me about this area of my life. He said, “My child, you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Your family doesn’t have to look like the family next door… in fact, it shouldn’t!” Reality is, the only thing of importance is that our family is making Biblically sound decisions.
Referring to Jesus’ birth in a Christmas card is much more important than the family photo I choose to incorporate. What my children wear to church on Easter has little eternal value, but how I have prepared their hearts to celebrate His resurrection makes ALL the difference. Missing out on a fireworks show so that my husband can glorify the Lord through his occupation is nothing to pout about. Yes, traditions are fun and special, but when I believe that traditions are standards to be upheld, they quickly become idols.
Idols, by nature, bring tension and struggle into a marriage.
As Christians we are called to be in the world, not of the world (John 17:16). We are called to live in such a way that when others see our good deeds they will glorify God (1 Peter 2:12). We are not to hold onto human traditions while letting go of God’s commands (Mark 7:8). I know my spirit and my marriage would be much more peaceful if I would let go of my desire to do things like the rest of the world and focused only on loving the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30).
How will you handle the holidays now?
With stress from comparisons and expectations or with true peace knowing that as long as you are living for the Lord the rest is unimportant? If we are mindful to keep the above Scriptures in mind as we celebrate each holiday, we will have less outside pressure to please the world, and our marriage will benefit.
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