But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. Exodus 4:25
Zipporah performed hasty surgery on her son when she realized God was about to kill her husband, Moses. While it isn’t stated, evidently God was about to destroy Moses because he had failed to circumcise his son. Zipporah took the situation into her own hands, completing the act of obedience Moses had neglected to do.
But there seems to be an air of resentment in her abrupt actions. Perhaps she was angry at her husband for shirking his fatherly duties. Or maybe Zipporah resented having to perform a spiritual rite she herself didn’t believe in.
Whatever the details of a disagreement, resulting feelings can drive a wedge between spouses. Resentment can lead to barbed words, sarcastic comments and actions that undercut one another. For example, children came early in our marriage. I used to get so angry when Dan would nudge me to get out of bed in the middle of the night because the baby was crying. Both Dan and I desperately needed sleep, but I resented the assumption that it was my responsibility to get up with the baby. Lack of sleep, combined with my expectation that Dan share in the 3:00 a.m. feedings, fueled resentment in me. In a huff, I would perform my motherly duties, seething silently as Dan snored and I rocked a cranky baby. It didn’t take too many sleepless nights like that before we had built walls of anger between us.
When you notice resentment creeping in or a disagreement escalating in your relationship, admit your anger and call an immediate cease-fire. Take some advice from marriage counselor Scott M. Stanley (Marriage Partnership, Fall 1995). Agree on a specific time when you can talk. Then sit down together and use a small object, such as a pen, to indicate who has the floor. The person holding the pen is the speaker. When the pen changes hands, the roles change. The speaker’s job is to get his or her point across. The listener’s job is to absorb information and give feedback by paraphrasing what the other has just said.
While this approach feels somewhat artificial, it greatly enhances communication by slowing things down and emphasizing listening and working together. It helps you, as James 1:19 says, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s a great tool for aiding interaction and understanding. And it helps to insure that resentments don’t fester or turn into full-blown arguments.
When you sense resentment growing within you, ask yourself what expectations you have of your spouse, particularly in a situation that’s brewing trouble between you. Very often, resentment grows from unmet expectations. Zipporah expected something from Moses. I expected something of Dan. Recognizing what your expectations are is the first step toward resolving resentment. Marian V. Liautaud
Is there some area of our marriage in which we feel that one of us has unmet expectations? Let’s talk about some of those expectations.
When one of us gets angry, do our arguments quickly get out of hand? How can we put a stop to that pattern?
Let’s try a pen-passing conversation on a nonthreatening topic. How does that approach differ from the way we usually try to resolve a problem? In what ways could this approach help?