Leaning In v. Pulling Away

Posted by Naomi Vacaro on

Time with God Equips Us for Conflict
Arianna Li

Valentine’s Day has become somewhat of an inside joke in our household. Last year on February 14th I was in the thick of wedding planning and stress was at an all-time high. Since we were recently engaged, I had some high expectations for the holiday…flowers, dinner, gifts, the works. Yet, when it came to dinner, I was disengaged. Upon exchanging gifts, I burst into tears because the leather jewelry tray I gifted Dawei was too small to fit all of his watches. (I know… at the moment it seemed very heartbreaking). The evening ended with Dawei consoling me and us talking through my seemingly endless stresses.

If you’re in a relationship, this probably doesn’t sound very foreign to you. Conflict, hard feelings, and misunderstandings are natural parts of relationships.
My husband and I have been joyfully married for 10 months and together for almost 3 years, so I’m no expert on conflict resolution. But over the course of our relationship, the Lord has provided gracious revelations to help us navigate those moments of “intense fellowship”, as my dear friend C calls them. Particularly, we’ve been able to witness a game-changing development in the way we approach conflicts. I summarize this method as “leaning in v. pulling away”. 
For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
(Ephesians 5:31 NIV) 

In the beginning stages of our dating, conflicts would generally look like both of us on opposing sides approaching each other with our own feelings, opinions, and desired outcomes. This led to a tangible sense of pulling away from each other. However, in marriage, God has made us one. (Eph. 5:31) How then, do we shift the approach from two individuals fighting against each other to addressing conflict as one flesh against a common enemy? I have found the key to making this shift in our quiet times. 
For both my husband and I, our goal is to approach hard conversations with humility, gentleness, and understanding, rather than offense, harshness, and selfishness. We lean on the Spirit to equip us to lean into each other.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NIV) 
The “soul tools” we need to come out of conflicts with more fortified marriages are only sourced from God. So, naturally, to build that soul toolbox, we need to go straight to the source. This is where quiet times come in.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
(Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV)
Time in the Word, time in prayer, and ultimately, time with God, opens the door for the Holy Spirit to soften your heart. He uses these times to equip us for conflict by:

  • Tuning our Ears
    • As we spend time with the Lord and read his Word, we become more familiar with the tone of God’s voice. Now, if you’ve been forever perplexed by Christians saying they “heard God tell them something”, let me clarify. For some, yes, it may be a physical voice. But most of the time for me, God places thoughts in my mind. However, in our humanly sinful nature, we also have many thoughts that aren’t from God. The enemy can even place deceptive thoughts in our minds. Spending quiet time familiarizing ourselves with God’s voice by reading God’s words helps tremendously in allowing you to identify God’s thoughts from others. In real-time moments of conflict, you’ll be equipped to decipher God’s promptings and insights to help you navigate your conversation. 
  • Softening our Hearts
    • Jesus, in His incredible grace, died so that the veil of the temple could be torn, and the Holy Spirit could dwell in our body rather than a physical temple. This means that God is present and working within us. Time spent with God is part of surrendering to God’s transformation. On my own, I am not forgiving, patient, or loving when I feel hurt. However, the Spirit has worked within me to renew my heart and grants me the ability to act with love towards others, including my husband.  

As we continue to deepen our relationships with the Lord by spending time with Him, He miraculously and graciously gifts us with revelation, peace, and victory over our conflicts. Jesus wants us to delight in our spouses and He is with us every step of the way so that we can!

  Arianna Li lives with her husband in Nashville, TN. She currently works as a teacher in a homeschool co-op, has a strong passion for community building, and is regularly involved in her church. Arianna can also be found hosting friends for dinner, baking for loved ones, and going on neighborhood walks.


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