If your house is anything like mine, you have more than one entry and exit point, in legal jargon its multiple points of ingress and egress. At my house the door from the garage is where you enter and exit to use the car and if you have dirty shoes; the front door is for arriving and exiting guests and the sliding glass door in the kitchen area is primarily the dog’s exit and entry point, unless she has dirty feet, of course. In fact, most everywhere you go that has multiple doors, those doors or gates have a designated purpose. Well the city gates of Jerusalem were no different in that each of the ten gates listed needed to be repaired by Nehemiah’s crews and had a name associated with them which in some way described it’s purpose (Nehemiah, chapter three).
The sheep gate was for sheep entering and exiting the city and the fish gate was for the fishermen coming in from the Sea of Galilee. My favorite name is the dung gate and it was used for, you guessed it! It was also the gate from which all the refuse of the city passed through on its way to the dump outside the city. One might surmise that odor might have had something to do with their designation and separation from the rest! Just like your house or the gates of Jerusalem, you have multiple points of ingress and egress in your marriage relationship and it too will be impacted by what you let in and what is allowed to leave. The walls you have built around your marriage are only a protective barrier if you closely monitor what comes through its doors and gates.
Let’s take a look at what was coming into and out of the city gates of Jerusalem and how it applies to the marriage relationship. It won’t involve sheep, fish or dung but instead, things that are far more important. All the effort that has been expended in rebuilding the walls and gates is of no value and only a temporary fix, if the wrong things are allowed to enter and exit.
In chapters two and four we read that Nehemiah’s work was being opposed by Judah’s three closest neighbors and the tool or weapon they initially chose to employ was “ridicule” and as we all know, ridicule only works if those who hear it accept it and decide to lend it credence. If you allow it in and decide to become an accomplice or participant, don’t be surprised when things start to escalate out of control. It probably started off innocently enough since, at least from your perspective, it wasn’t ridicule but only a small but sharply pointed teasing or just making fun. Or maybe it was something you over heard and decided that you’d use in retaliation. Hey, you didn’t start it, someone else did. But does that make it any less hurtful and derisive? Even if it is done with no derogatory intent, is it worth the risk, just for a good laugh? The apostle Paul reminds us multiple times that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up and as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” Wouldn’t you suppose that your husband or wife deserves no less? Ridicule is certainly something we shouldn’t let enter through the gates.
There are three things that should be allowed through every entry point of our marriage and never allowed to be forced out by anyone or anything. They are spoken about in both chapters eight and nine of Nehemiah chronicle. They are the reading of God’s word, the practice of regular worship and sacrifice to and for God, and prayer. We are all going to make mistakes when it comes to letting the devil in the door, face it, sometimes we do it intentionally, thinking it will be OK, just this once… saying to ourselves “I can control it.” Being able to rationalize the irrational is something we all engage in from time to time. Ironic isn’t it, since our ability to make rational and thoughtful decisions is a gift from God and what separates us from the rest of creation and testifies to the fact that we were created in His image. It is by reading God’s word, worship and prayer we are able to keep our focus on God, who provides all that we have, including the security we have through Christ our Lord.
Regular worship, sacrifice for the sake of others and prayer are welcome additions to the regular and necessary activities that make up the lives of those who fear God and wish to enjoy His blessings. They are for the purpose of building each other up in the love and admonition of the Lord. But if we allow them to slip away out of negligence or rebellion, they will be replaced by those things that will tear our families apart and separate us from the love of God.
What are those points of ingress and egress in your marriage? You know what they are, your thought life, your computer, your television, your recreational pursuits, your friends, your children’s friends, your career, and your finances. Should I continue with the list? Did you notice that none of these are things you shouldn’t have, utilize or enjoy? The problem is how you use them and for what purpose. Is it to build each other up for the purpose bringing each other closer to God in Christ, or is to gratify your own selfish desires that only separate you from those you love and the love of God in Christ?
Tool #285 Simple awareness is the first step in making good choices and informed decisions. Being aware is about being wary of those things that are always trying to enter the gates of your life and knowing what to let in and what to keep out.