Will you begin the new year in a castle or a palace? In days of old, a castle was a place of war where battles were fought, and a palace was a place where the royals went to find peace and refuge. I don’t know about you, but I would rather wake up in a peaceful palace than a castle this year. How do we get a palace? As with any building project, we can start from the ground up. The first step is to pour a foundation that can stand the test of time, building your relationship on solid ground. The foundation of every marriage consists of the covenants or promises made on your wedding day. A covenant is defined as “a formal agreement that brings about a commitment to a relationship, which if broken, requires serious consequences, sometimes unto death.” Covenants throughout history symbolized an unshakable, trustworthy promise never meant to be broken.
Foundation = Covenant
If our dedication to the covenant is strong, the foundation won’t crack. If our dedication to the covenant is weak then the foundation will crack and develop holes, and the walls can come crashing down. The ideas in these covenants are the concrete we can pour into the foundation of our marriage.
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.” Proverbs 24:3 (NIV)
Even if your marriage has been built for some time or if you’re just getting started, we all know from time to time a palace needs refurbishing and remodeling to adjust to the elements and storms that will come. If you’re like me, you love to paint and remodel and a new year is a great time to start.
As I did my research on old historical covenants, I learned a lot about the kinds that existed during the age of kings and queens. We first heard about the covenant I'll be sharing in this blog at The ONE Marriage Conference years ago. After learning about it, we decided to dig deeper and learn more. In “Chaos in the Castle or Peace in the Palace?", I teach on three covenants that are foundational to every marriage. I wanted to share this one with you because it's fitting for the new year.
The Salt Covenant, which was a business agreement was historically marked when the two people entering into the agreement each brought their bag of salt to the negotiating table. Once they reached an agreement, they took turns taking a pinch of salt from their own bag and dropping it into the bag of the other person. They were committing to the business deal they had agreed to. Next, they would shake up their bags of salt, sealing the covenant. It could never be broken since it would be impossible to retrieve the grains of salt exchanged from the other party’s bag.
How does this covenant relate to marriage?
When we enter into a marriage covenant we are entering into a business agreement. That might come as a surprise if you thought it was all about the romance and intimacy. We’ll talk about that in February! Marriage is a business agreement where both parties are saying “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” and “we will never be able to separate our stuff again.” That's why many historical marriages were arranged in the days of castles and palaces. Many kings married and chose their queen based on what their union would mean to the kingdom’s future.
How does the business deal in marriage work?
Here are some of the things Dan and I do that help keep the business side of our palace in order. At the beginning of each new year we come up with a financial budget for the next twelve months. If you don’t have one yet, now is a great time to do one since January is the first month of the new tax year. Keeping a balanced budget is crucial to the success of your marriage business. Staying in the black versus the red is what guarantees a business will float above the moat. Also, keeping an account of your stuff and its condition is a part of keeping the assets of a business in order. We do this every few years at our house. Aside from keeping the monthly budget, we take an inventory of everything we own, kind of like those people in department stores with bar code readers after the start of a new year. We go through our palace using our video camera and take an account of our large assets like furniture, musical instruments, electronics etc. As a part of that inventory, we assess what needs to go, what needs to stay, and what needs to be repaired. Then we make a list of the repairs, rank them in order of importance, and get to work on fixing those things over the next year.
This same kind of inventory is then taken of the marriage relationship itself. For the last twenty-five years Dan and I have gone away to take inventory of our relationship to see what needs to go, what needs to stay, what needs improving, and what needs repairs. This yearly event has been crucial to making the business covenant we made with one another work. The great news is, it’s never too late to start repairing the foundation of your marriage or to renew your commitment to the promise you made the day you said “I do.” Light some candles, put on some jazz and get started. You might even consider getting a sitter or enlisting your parents, if you have children, and doing an over night or weekend date. If you can’t afford to get away yet, then plan special dates for the entire weekend after the children are all in bed. You can each take one night of the weekend and plan the events with the goal of addressing the business side of your marriage.
What should you bring to the table?
A book on budget planning from an author like Dave Ramsey is a must. He has several available but consider "Financial Peace" as an option. Try to look over it some before the planned date so you’re prepared to discuss your ideas with one another on budgeting. Take two zip lock bags and a container of salt, and a note-book to record your plans for the coming year. Take the time after dinner to pray together and then take the "salt covenant" with one another. Renew your commitment to the business side of your marriage. Talk about some of your ideas on how to plan a budget. Refer to the book when in doubt or stuck at a cross roads. Don’t let a disagreement get in the way of a great weekend together. If you start to disagree, take a bathroom break, skip that line item and come back to it later when you’re calm. Your goal is to make a budget by the end of the weekend and both sign it as a part of your commitment to the plan.
Next, take an inventory of your relationship with one another and make a list of what needs to stay, what needs to go, and what needs to be repaired. Write down ideas of things you can do to repair the problems that you have identified and commit to working together to make the repairs. For example, if it’s not spending enough quality time together, brain storm about activities you can do to develop more fun in your relationship and set aside one night a week to do this for the year. Or, if it’s a parenting problem, come up with agreeable ideas on how to deal with any problems you might be having with a child and commit to staying united in your efforts to alleviate the issue. Remember problems take time to repair. They won't be fixed in a weekend. This "Salt Covenant" renewal is about identifying what needs repairing, not repairing it all. This is your outline for the year. The problems might take the entire year to fix. The great news is you are moving in the right direction.
The last and final part of your "Salt Covenant" is an inventory of the assets in your marriage business. Do this by making a video of your belongings. Start at the front door and go room to room. This is a great time to reminisce and share funny stories about the things you own. We've determined this year to label each thing that has an amazing story behind it so that our children will know how God has provided should something ever happen to us. As you take the inventory, decide what needs to stay, what needs to go to a donation sight, and what needs repairing. Write down the repair plan for the year and decide which months repairs will be done and who will do what to make it happen. For example, if the dishwasher needs to be repaired decide if it’s something you or your spouse can do. If not, you might call three appliance repair companies and get quotes then pass them off to your husband so he can choose who should do the job based on your new budget. Then you can place the call and set up the repair appointment. Wallah, it’s done! If there’s something you or your spouse can do together, decide on a date to complete it and mark the calendar with the determination to get the job done. By the end of the weekend, and as the grand finale', load up any items you determined needed to "go" and take them to a donation center. You will feel great and you will have used your weekend to bless someone else.
2016 is a new year and you can build a new foundation for your palace! Choosing to renew your commitment to the Salt Covenant is the beginning of the most important building process of your life. It can get your marriage off to a great start this year! To learn more about the covenants related to marriage check out the book, “Chaos in the Castle or Peace in the Palace?”—Every woman’s guide to happily ever after. You can find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
*If you are looking for a great Valentines gift check out the ONE Marriage Conference. It's an annual event and couples come from all over the world to strengthen and renew their marriages. It sells out quick, so here's the link. http://onemarriageconference.org/
It's a great weekend to take the "Salt Covenant"!
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