Do you want a strong, vibrant and dynamic marriage?
Do you have hedges established protecting your marriage?
Do you anticipate compromising situations and temptations with a plan to avoid dangerous footholds?
The thoughts in this blog and its companion podcast are written with the idea that God designed marriage as a gift. As a Christ follower I want to treasure and guard this gift of covenant marriage. This content is directed toward married couples. However, if you anticipate marriage in your future, this might be very handy to listen to now. Learning how to establish hedges around your marriage and determining to do it will be invaluable.
One of the most solid truths we can hold onto in life is that God gave us the intensely sublime gifts of marriage, family and, dare I say, intimacy! To protect and enjoy thoroughly this benefit should be paramount in any married person’s mind.
Much of the material in this blog is taken from the book by Jerry Jenkins “Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It.” This book is aimed at giving men practical, Biblical advice on exercising faithfulness in their marriages at all times. With divorce rates continuing to climb, infidelity common and friends with benefits widely popular, the practice of creating a hedge around marriage has never been more needed.
A solid, happy marriage is now an anomaly, an exception.
Jerry unpacks practical ways to avoid compromising situations and giving temptation a foothold in your life. Enemies of marriage are everywhere. Genesis 4:7 NASB reminds us that “sin is lurking at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” The ESV version communicates that “sin is crouching at the door.” Clearly, an active plan must be initiated if a marriage is to survive.
Unchecked sin stemming from within leads to devastation without.
Temptation is unavoidable with internet porn, unlimited porn on all screens, dating sites, prevalence of sex outside of marriage in entertainment and life, and the normalizing of numerous partners. Failure to weigh risks and consequences places marriage in imminent danger.
Being a Christian does not eliminate temptation in your life. The moral fabric of our society has been torn apart.
Many laugh when you suggest marriage – why bother? This is a question worth discussing. Children are in danger as adults other than their parents are frequently Brought into their home for periods of time standing in the roles of faux parents.
The stakes are high. These concepts work.
Jerry speaks of prudish rules that he is embarrassed to speak to others except to his wife. To her, they are a gift of love. He says, “They are intended to protect my eyes, my heart and my hands.”
“The fact is that most Christian men do not have victory over lust. I have a theory about that. Scripture does not imply that we ever shall have victory over lust the way we are expected to win over worry or green or malice. Rather, Paul instructs Timothy, and thus us, not to conquer or stand or fight, or pray about or resolve, but to flee lust…. The little boy in me will have to flee lust until I flee life…. Head for the hills. Run for your life.”
The idea is that lust does not need to be managed. I need to flee. You need to flee.
There is wisdom in planning ahead…planting hedges. Jerry suggest that men plant hedges to protect themselves, their wife, their ministry, their reputation, their family and ultimately the reputation of Christ if they call themselves a Christ follower. While this book was written for men, its principles apply to men and women.
This book is about providing handles… something to grab onto.
How many marriages do you know that have imploded? How many Christian men or women do you know that have fallen into sexual temptation? My hedges may not be your hedges. You may need to plant some where I never dreamed of needing hedges and vice versa. No one thinks he needs hedges until it is too late.
Sometimes a situation occurs that requires careful reverse thinking. Posing the question of what would I want my husband or wife to do in this situation gives a prompt response.
1. The NEED for hedges has never been greater. The rapidly changing moral climate invites more openness to interaction between the sexes. Truly, we need to be afraid of some things. If we play in the street, if we touch a hot stove, if we hold a firecracker once it is lit.
Fear is a good motivator. Looking at the Bible for patterns of response, the story of a moral man named Joseph in the Old Testament in the Bible demonstrates for me that my action in the case of temptation is to RUN.
Jerry tells of a survey by Christianity Today International of 1000 male readers – fully 23%had engaged in intercourse with someone other than their wives. You can be married for years, even decades and still develop a crush on someone else. We all know this to be true.
Ground rules have to be set. Go into protective mode. Nip marriage-threatening relationships in the bud.
A Pew Research survey reveals alarming statistics. “Many Christian traditions disapprove of extramarital sex. And even though Christians in the United States hold less permissive views than religiously unaffiliated Americans about dating and sex, most say it’s acceptable in at least some circumstances for consenting adults to have sex outside of marriage. …Among those who are religiously unaffiliated, meanwhile, the vast majority (84%) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable…” This survey contains some very concerning results which would be worth your attention.
2. The PRICE of not establishing hedges is likely to be infidelity, violated trust, breaking ones marriage vows, being unfaithful and ultimately, the end of a marriage. Undoubtedly, the cost to the children of a broken marriage will reverberate for decades. One recent situation ended by the husband admitting a mistake. He stated that his mistake was not adultery, but marrying the wrong person. Wow. How’s that for public humiliation of his spouse. Clearly, the price of not establishing hedges is incalculable.
3. The REASONS are impossibly lengthy to list. Many reasons are never known even to the offender. Women, by their own admission, rarely leave their spouse for reasons of sexual attraction to someone else. Women are more attracted to an environment, atmosphere, tenderness (kindness), romance and touch. Many, maybe most women are thought to be repulsed by male nudity… like men running nude (streaker) or baring their backsides (flashing). A woman is attracted to his voice, his smile or his manner. If a male is attracted to her, he is usually light years ahead. Men often give a reason after they cheat or decide to leave. They respond to the physical attraction without needing a mental or emotional justification.
Suddenly, a woman we all know as a wonderful person – not perfect, maybe a bit dull, maybe harried and overworked, maybe not as dazzling as she was when they first married – is now painted as a monster. This from a man who is really no prize himself.
We must all fear our own potential and plant a hedge around our marriage. Refraining from flirting as a married person is critical. Flirting can be considered foreplay with no payoff. However, in a healthy marriage, there should be flirting.
What are some HEDGES that I can build?
1. Flirting with your spouse.
- Even when you have been married, you want your spouse to flirt with you.
- Wink across the room.
- Blow her a kiss
- Play footsie under the table.
- Give a squeeze, a pinch or tickle that no-one else sees.
- Have a secret message for let’s make love as soon as we can. We have one, but we are not telling you what it is. It is a “secret” sign without words. It is the quickest way to get Tim to turn red and smile insanely BIG.)
Is this a crazy idea? Would you not want someone to make a pass at you with the ability and intention to deliver? It can be a game, a diversion. If you are married and you flirt with someone other than your spouse, it is emotional and mental unfaithfulness. Flirting with someone you are not married is dangerous. It can be a lesson in illusion vs. reality.
2. Avoid adultery.
There is a price for adultery. Adultery causes chaos. Adulterers lie. Victims get angry. There are human limits to forgiveness. You can’t have a person of the opposite sex as a close friend if you are married. Many choose their affair and lose their wife, their children, their job, their ministry and their property. Entertainment communicates that cheating is similar to breaking the speed limit. All actions have consequences. If you don’t want any from adultery, create hedges to avoid it. Years ago, Tim and I decided to eliminate any TV or movies that promoted affairs or highlighted cheating on marriage for any reason as one of our personal hedges.
3. Preventive Maintenance
- Plan a response to temptation. It will come – daily. 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Many respond too late.
- Never tell someone that you are attracted to them. Just don’t.
- Talk about your spouse positively in front of them.
- When you FIRST sense the attraction, that is the time to act. (Act before you feel the heat from sitting next to that person, making eye contact or having a private conversation.)
- Refrain from being alone with person you are attracted to, don’t touch, flirt, no jesting.
- Don’t say anything you would not say if your spouse was right there.
- Get out of there. Don’t stand at the edge of a cliff wondering IF you might fall in. Back away fast.
- Don’t be unaware of self-deception.
- Carry pictures of your wife or husband or family. Use them as a screen saver as a reminder of what you value most. This also gives you an excuse to brag on them. (Both of us have these sorts of screen savers.) This might serve as a safety net. Jerry tells of a time he was seated to a very attractive woman who looked over to see a picture of his wife. This served as a safety net to create a conversation honoring her instead of responding to the mutual attraction.
4. Stay away from all pornography.
Our favorite accountability filter for all screens is Covenant Eyes. Select this service for your spouse and yourself. Invite your children to be accountable in this way too. Avoiding pornography is becoming increasingly difficult given the illusion of privacy via the internet and pervasiveness of this everywhere. Ladies, avoid reading porn through novels. I mention this because there is an ever growing popularity of such material. i.e. “Shades of Gray” and an extensive section of romance novels in any bookstore and internet.
5. Two’s Company; Three’s Security.
According to Jerry whenever he meets or eats out or travels with a woman that is not my wife, I make it a threesome. Should an unavoidable last-minute complication make this impossible, his wife hears it from him first. I Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to keep from the appearance of evil. It is human nature to think something concerning about people who are alone. Don’t allow for any suspicion to arise.
6. Don’t touch. When I might shake hands or squeeze an arm or a shoulder in greeting. I embrace only dear friends or relatives and only in front of others.
7. Avoid flirtation or suggestive conversation, even in jest. You might imagine that you would be looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. You might get what you are asking for. Keep humor in its place.
8. Quality time vs quantity time.
Leaving work at work as much as possible. Focusing on spouse and children in off hours. Marriage is a gift, but it takes hard work to keep promises and intimacy.
It is important for you and me to win at our own marriages.
We lean into the strengths and challenges of our own generation.
In closing, we know that home was God’s idea. marriage was God’s idea. Sex was definitely God’s idea.
Satan is not a creator. He can only distort something that God has created. So, porn, in any form, is a distortion of the beauty of sex inside marriage. Sex is not the same as intimacy. Clearly, it can be seductive.
As you walk through your every days, choose the very best that God has for you. Plant hedges deep and wide and tall.
“Telling your story, speaking openly of the hedges in your marriage, protecting yourself and your family from insidious new sources of unacceptable media, and truly practicing the Golden Rule at home will give your spouse and your children a deep sense of love and security.”
What are your hedges?
Listen to the Embracing Your Everyday podcast for popular podcasts on marriage.
This week’s podcast on Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It