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An offer to help, a smile and a kind word will reduce the heat of everyday responsibilities

The first command God gave mankind was to be fruitful and multiply (see Gen. 1:28). But fruitfulness involves more than merely growing physical fruit.

As a Christian, the Spirit of God has already been planted within you, now it's your job to cultivate the seed of His nature. And it is not going to be an easy thing to do all the time.

The farmer's seeds must push through a layer of dirt in order to reach the sunlight. That dirt outweighs that little seed, and it will have to struggle hard to break through. In the same manner, God's Spirit has to push through the dirt we call our flesh.

Our flesh may be innately selfish, rude and indulgent. The Spirit of God inside of us is none of those things. Thus, there is resistance; there is conflict. And in marriage, these can pose numerous problems in the way we communicate with our spouse.

Take the case of James, who comes home after a rough workday. The computer program he'd worked on around the clock for weeks wasn't running. After a tense meeting with his concerned boss, James headed home exhausted.

When he opened the door to greet his pregnant wife, he was confronted with the words, "I hope you won't work all hours of the day when the baby is born!" Without saying a word, James watched his wife set out the meal she had prepared hours earlier. He knew he was desperately in need of something, but couldn't put his finger on it.

Then there is Charlotte, a homeschooling mother of four, who also had a tough day. Shortly after her husband left for work, one child developed a fever combined with nausea.

After a stressful day of serving as both impromptu nurse and schoolteacher, Charlotte was preparing dinner when her husband entered and said with a smile, "This house looks like a disaster area. What did you do today?" Not returning the smile, Charlotte became defensive as she set the table. She also needed something, but felt too overwhelmed to express it.

What James and Charlotte needed was an act of kindness. James needed a hug and a "Boy, I'm glad to see you, you hard-working man." Charlotte needed her husband to notice her overwhelmed state and come to her aid.

Every spouse needs kindness daily. Many of us feel that life is like an overworked, fast-moving engine. In mechanical terms, an engine receives a constant supply of motor oil to prevent friction and overheating. Likewise, random and intentional acts of kindness lubricate marriage relationships, easing life's friction.

An offer to help, a smile and a kind word will reduce the heat of everyday responsibilities. Knowing that someone cares enough to notice and say thank you makes the day-to-day routine a little easier to handle.

Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and when it's displayed, it can make anyone feel special. Think about the last act of kindness your spouse did for you, and how it made you feel. The fruit of kindness is sweet to the soul.

You've Got It In You - Through the Spirit of God, the power of kindness dwells within you, ready to be released. Any act of kindness you show to your spouse plants a seed that will eventually grow into a fruit-bearing tree of kindness. Will you reap a plentiful harvest because of your continual planting and nurturing, or will your harvest be small?

In Colorado where I live, huge trees grow right through rocks and boulders. It's amazing that the power of a tiny seed is greater than the power of the large surrounding rocks. Similarly, your decision to exhibit the fruit of kindness is not hindered by the attitude of your spouse. Even the strongest will cannot weaken the power of the seed.

In marriage, you have been given the strength to be kind in order to fortify the spirit, soul and person of your husband. He, in turn, will grow because of your encouragement. King David, one of the greatest Bible characters and a friend of God, referred not to God's power or wisdom, but rather to His gentleness as the thing that made Him great (see 2 Sam. 22:36; Ps. 18:35).

In essence, kindness is shown when one person chooses to use his or her strength in a gentle manner toward another. Take note of the following ways in which kindness can be expressed in your interaction with your mate:

Spoken kindness. The first seeds of kindness we can sow in the heart of our spouse are in the thoughtful words we speak. Often, out of laziness or familiarity, we begin to be gruff, sarcastic, or demeaning in our responses to normal questions. Our answers seem sharp instead of seasoned with grace. We should respond as though every question our spouse asks is an intelligent one. We should take time to listen fully and give a sincere answer.

Spoken kindness is expressed also in the tone of speech we employ. It's possible to never say a wrong thing yet communicate an unkind attitude when we speak. Next to God, you are the loudest and most consistent voice your spouse hears. It's your choice to use a kind voice that supports and encourages your spouse, or a gruff voice that discourages, degrades and minimizes.

Speaking thoughtful, gentle words to your spouse in front of your friends and your children is yet another expression of spoken kindness. Always thank your spouse when he or she is serving you in some manner. But instead of just saying, "Thanks, Honey," be specific. Saying "Thank you, Honey, for getting the butter; that was kind of you," communicates that you actually notice your spouse's acts of kindness.

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