The Talk Table-When Critical Things Need to Be Discussed

James 1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

During a stressful time in my marriage (raising young kids while taking care of aging parents with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) my husband and I had a series of less than ideal date nights. I knew date night was still important but I had so many logistical things to discuss with my husband in order to keep the family unit running on all pistons. When we were on a date I felt as if it was the only time no one else was requiring my attention. One day a lovely friend of mine heard my tales of woe about our horrible dates and she pointed out to me that my date nights sounded more like board meetings. I tried hard to self-correct and to keep date nights as a time for fun, recreation, relaxation, and reconnection.

However, I realized that in order to run a successful and Godly family, there had to be that occasional board meeting. The two problems I faced the most often were that when we talked at the couch, one of us would be distracted by the TV and when we talked at dinner, the subject matter (lack of finances, little arguments, scheduling the kids activities and such) could be a real downer at what should be a relaxing and enjoyable family time.

My brilliant plan? The talk table. What is a talk table? For us it is a small, wooden TV tray that can be put up and taken down to be stored away in a moment. When I drag out the TV tray and place 2 chairs opposite of each other, Jimmie knows it is time to talk. I chose this tiny table with a purpose. When you are facing each other at a tiny table, you are forced to have a face to face, heart to heart and soul to soul communication.

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As I am the talker in the family, (shocker, right?) I will usually lead with what is a concern for me. It may be something simple like wanting to go over the weekly schedule and see who is picking up which kid from which activity, or it could be deep like I was cleaning and I found an inappropriate magazine, or the property tax bill came and we were a bit short. No matter what the subject, the talk table is sacred for open communication and for finding solutions.

That being said, do not always expect the communication to be equal. Men and women are wired differently and often marriage counselors and therapists go out of their way to get the couples to communicate on a 50-50% basis. That will never happen. That’s ok. Women will tend to communicate more but never assume the man is not listening and taking it all in. Men hear more than we give them credit for, and most men really do want to make their wife happy.

When subjects are sensitive (like finances, health or sex) be tactful when sharing your feelings. Telling your husband that you don’t like a particular way he makes love to you or telling your wife that her weight gain has you concerned for her health are paramount to a healthy relationship, but blurted out in a callous way can cause more harm than good. Always check yourself to see if you sound judgemental or preachy. That simply will not go over well.

Do you pray before taking a test or giving a speech? Do you pray when your paycheck did not stretch far enough? I sure do. Consider praying before going to the talk table. It is just as important. A quick prayer may sound something like this: “Lord, give me the right words to discuss this sensitive issue with my man, with no anger or judgment. Let the words and the solutions we come up with be a blessing to our marriage.” If your mate is a believer too, hold hands and pray together before presenting your concerns. Always finish with a kiss and an understanding that marriages are worth the effort. Don’t forget to put the table away. Putting the table away is a physical symbol that we are done with “business” and can move onto playtime!

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will all grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Baby Steps in Ministry in the Home

In an ideal world a marriage would consist of a saved husband and wife, happily going to church each Sunday and sharing a love of God by also ministering outside of the church. More common, however, is a couple with all sorts of baggage that they bring into the relationship and often only one of the two is a saved Christian. In my case, I was a very new Christian when I fell in love with my husband. I had not yet grown up in my salvation (1 Peter 2:2). I had not read enough of the Bible to understand how difficult it would be to be unequally yoked. Now, as a woman a bit older in my faith, I see several verses about not committing to an unbeliever. Check out 2 Corinthians 6:14, Amos 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Ephesians 5:7 or Isaiah 52:11.

As I truly do love my husband, I am relieved to read that Paul told the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:12-14) that if you are married to non-believer to stay with that person unless the non-believer wants out of the marriage. If you stay and can be a Godly example to them, you may have an opportunity to bring them to their faith. Now here is where it can get sticky. What if you are active in your church and outside of the church as your ministry pulls your time and attention away from your spouse? Your husband or wife may feel resentful and neglected.

Early in my faith and my marriage I had a serious conflict. As Christians, we are commanded to tithe (Malachi 3:10) but also commanded to be submissive to your husband so that if they do not believe the word, they can believe by your example (1 Peter 3:1-6). I asked my pastor “Do I tithe or listen to my husband who thinks that 10% is too much?” He told me to listen to my husband. I felt like I was cheating the church and robbing God. I felt like I would never get the big blessings that the book of Malachi talks about. I am thankful that I trusted my pastor and continued to do my fool headed best at being a good wife. Years later, I am tithing with my husband’s knowledge and no guilt.

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My husband never stepped foot in the church to see our firstborn child get Baptized. For our second child, he came to the church and sat in the very back row. For our third child, he sat closer to the front. Baby steps. Eventually, he went to a concert where a Christian artist performed. More baby steps. He also began to come to church on Christmas and Easter. Later he attended more regularly if I would ask him to. Baby steps. Now, 30 years into our marriage, he attends without being asked, seems to enjoy the sermon and even stays afterward for coffee in the fellowship hall. He volunteered once or twice to serve breakfast for a mission group I am involved in and just this past Christmas he began to sing instead of staring blankly at the church screen that shows the readings and the Hymn lyrics. Baby steps. Perhaps, one day, he will come to the Lord as I have. I must always remember that his salvation is in God’s time, not mine.

So I ask you, is your ministry taking time away from your husband or your wife? Remember that although God should be first in your heart, your spouse should be the most important person you minister to. Make sure it is in a way that he or she feels comfortable with. Your ministry to your mate should be subtle and loving, not badgering or placing blame or guilt. If you ever find yourself saying things like “Why are you watching that show?”, or “When was the last time you went to church with me?” then you will fail epically. I know. I was always pushing self-help and religious books on my husband, and playing the guilt card. It never worked. When I understood that he was curious but skeptical, I took the pressure not only off of him, but also off of myself. I began praying that I would continue to be a good example, but also that some Godly man would come into his life and show him that it is not nerdy or weird to love God. Several years ago we met a lovely couple on our camping vacation. Although we live in different states, we became friends. The two men get together often for weekend kayak trips and I cannot help but to wonder if the time we all met was about the time Jimmy started attending church more often. As the old saying goes……..God works in mysterious ways. Allow your ministry to shine at home as well as outside of the church.