Pain lines: the lines between the comfortable and the uncomfortable and safe and not safe. Pain lines divide those who want God’s best, from those content to live within the scope of the mediocre. It’s the difference between the high road and the comfy road.
Most people avoid pain lines by attempting to skirt around them—much like a halfback in football tries to skirt around a linebacker. Yet, growth and maturity in a relationship are often on the other side of a pain line. We live in a culture that socializes us, from birth to death, to seek comfort and avoid pain—at all cost! Pain and struggle are often viewed as the enemy, while peace and ease is seen as a friend.
But the truth is that pain is not always the enemy and peace is not always the friend.
The truth about pain lines can be applied to many areas of life, but I’m going to address the issue of crossing pain lines as it relates to marriage here.
What Are Pain Lines?
I’m not sure pain lines is the best name, but that’s what Ruthie and I call them. You may have a more suitable name for them depending on your relationship. Pain lines are the lines between what is comfortable and uncomfortable, routine and change, merely surviving and flourishing, good and God.
Pain lines divide those who are content to live within the comfortable parameter, or mediocre, from those whose pilgrimage strives for better and best. The latter realize that each step of improvement may involve, and often does, a rendezvous with discomfort.
Why I Talk About Pain Lines - Reason 1
There are two important reasons why I encourage people to cross pain lines: First, we see many, many couples who are not experiencing the full blessing of marriage, simply because they have not chosen to address issues in their relationship. These issues have prevented them from experiencing growth in relational intimacy, their mutual walk with God, their effectiveness as parents, and their fruit-bearing in God’s Kingdom.
Hand Grenade Love
The reason why many couples do not address these issues on the restricted side of pain lines is because they know that addressing them would be the same as pulling the pin on a hand grenade and watching to see what happens.
For example, one side of the couple may desire to confront the other side with a suggestion for improvement in the relationship, but unfortunately, this partner knows that the other will take any suggestion as a put-down, attack, or opportunity to level the playing field by counter-attacking.
The circumstances in crossing pain lines may vary—perhaps the one initiating the crossing— crosses with anger, a holier-than-thou attitude, or at an insensitive moment. On the other hand, the one addressing the issue may approach the situation with wisdom at an appropriate time, only to find that their spouse still takes offense or doesn’t desire to hear their entreaty. Many variations and scenarios exist, but the issue is that, whatever the variation, certain do-not-enter zones are established in marriages that keep them in ruts, prevent them from growing spiritually, and deter them from enjoying the fullness of the blessing of oneness and romance in marriage.
One wife says, “We can work through anything—as long as I always take the blame. I do, just to keep the peace.”
Another says, “Whenever I make a suggestion to help improve our relationship, he says I need to learn to submit.”
A husband says, “I see some areas that I could help my wife with some of the problems she is having, but I’m afraid of hurting her feelings.”
One couple confessed, “For years we swept all uncomfortable issues under the rug. We learned to stuff our feelings, adjust our behavior and fake our love. Now, there is no more room to stuff them anymore, and the problems are manifesting. If we don’t work through these issues our marriage is done.”
Why I Teach About Pain Lines - Reason 2
The second reason I teach on crossing pain lines is that crossing them, throughout the years, has helped Ruthie and me to experience steady growth in our marriage and family—growth we never would have experienced had we not tip-toed over the line into the uncomfortable. We have found that the pain of addressing and overcoming delicate issues is far less painful than living day-in-day-out with the pain endured from NOT addressing those issues.
My Marriage and Pain Lines
Our marriage has flourished largely because Ruthie and I have, time and again, been willing to cross pain lines. Simply put, a mediocre marriage was not what we made our covenant for. We embraced the simple facts about true love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.
“Love suffers long…bears all things…endures all things” the suffering of love ceases to be a negative issue. When we embrace the view that certain pain and suffering is a healthy part of life, it often diminishes much of the effect of the pain, simply by removing the fear of the pain.
Crossing pain lines is somewhat like my morning runs—I torture myself, pushing my body beyond comfort, in order to strengthen and maintain my body and my health. When I cool down, I often want to do it again because of the nourishment it gives me. I go to bed anticipating the grueling event the following morning.
Coming to Grips with That Word
That word that sends lightning bolts of fear through many is confrontation. Some people erroneously believe this word to be a synonym of conflict. Confrontation may involve conflict, but it may also be a wonderful dynamic to help avoid pending conflict.
- Some issues are for the future
- Some issues are nit-picky
- Some issues will never change
- Some issues are bound by an unreceptive heart
First: Make a commitment together to be the best you can be.
Second: As you’re working together to be the best you can, accept your partner’s and your own shortcomings. Remember, love hides a multitude of sins.
Pain lines will always be, well, painful! Getting to the root of problems is not always pleasant, but the joy experienced from dissolving the problems at the root will be worth the effort!
What you need to ask yourself is this, “Am I experiencing God’s best in my marriage or am I merely content with mediocrity? If you want to see your marriage flourish, crossing pain lines will be a necessary part of your journey. The beauty is, you are not alone in this, the Lord will guide you each step of the way. And on the other side of the pain, awaits a stronger, healthier, and thriving marriage.