Fighting the Good Fight

Neil Armstrong, after his walk on the moon, went on tour around the world in the late 1960s. While visiting Japan, a school age child asked Neil through an interpreter what it was like to walk on the moon. Neil responded “I didn’t see the man on the moon and there certainly wasn’t any cheese.”  The interpreter translated these comments as “there was no mama rabbit or her babies.“ The question is, was this an accurate interpretation?

You might not think so but what the interpreter did was take into account both Neil’s culture and the children’s culture. In Japan, their fairy tails concerning the moon has to do with a mama rabbit and her three babies. In fact, the interpreter did a great job interpreting for the children.

You maybe asking yourself what this has to do with marriage. The difference between men and women are significant and the reality is we have to spend a lot of time interpreting, decoding, and generally trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s not an easy task especially when you are undermined by insecurity, fear, anger, and frustration.

In previous post I have pointed out that fighting is not a bad thing in a marriage. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs,  in his book Love and Respect, points out that it may in fact be God’s will. So how can we fight using a method that allows us to grow as a couple while not undermining our relationship. Here are a few thoughts:

DECODE

In general a person never says what they really mean when they are angry, frustrated, or feeling neglected. It is important for both parties in the fight to decode what the other person really means. When one person says to the other “You never pick up around here!” it is doubtful that’s what they really mean. It may be they are feeling taken advantage of or taken for granted. When a person complains about lack of sex they could be alluding to the fact they are missing intimacy. The challenge is you both have to remain calm enough to see the underlying meaning of the conversation.

LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND

Most people listen while at the same time formulating their response. Although they may be hearing the other person speak, they are actually processing a way to communicate how they are right or what they need. Listening to understand requires focus, empathy, and a heart that understands that it is often more important to be united then to be right. Using phrases like “as I understand it what you’re telling me is“ or “what you’re saying is“ may not be the most natural way to talk but it is effective. It does require some practice but is well worth it in the end. It bears remembering that we are called to treat other people as more important than ourselves, especially our spouses. That means we should eliminate eye rolling or any other dismissive gestures that communicate disrespect or undermine us giving people the dignity they deserve. Nothing expresses to another person that they are important more than being fully listened to and understood.

GIVE SECOND CHANCES

Because we often don’t say what we mean when we are angry and frustrated, it is important to give each other second chances in conversations and fights. Remember to look at the person‘s heart instead of just listening to what they say. When someone says something that hurts, you may respond by simply saying “ouch, that stung.” This simple statement can often bring a person who is reacting in anger and frustration back to the point of being able to have a good conversation.

COMMIT TO FIGHTING NAKED

This has a double meaning. First, it may be helpful for you to simply fight physically naked. I personally recommend you do this in your own house because if you’re doing it at the mall there may be a problem. It is difficult to stay mad at somebody over something silly when you are physically naked. The second meaning is be emotionally naked. This means being vulnerable and sharing what is really going on in your heart. This required you to be open with your perceptions and emotions. This is exceptionally difficult for many people. Men in our culture are taught to push down their emotions instead of evaluating them. Many women have been abused and simply won’t trust their heart to another person. However, the work you put into vulnerability is one of the key factors that allows you to have a relationship that reflects the “cleaving” relationship mentioned in Genesis. To this day I still struggle with vulnerability and it is one of the key areas where God is working with me. There are limits in our culture on expressing emotions appropriately, and rightfully so. However, within the marriage, being vulnerable and expressing emotions appropriately are the key factors in developing a deep, lifelong relationship.

Vulnerability, actually listening and decoding are often the keys to deeper relationship through effective fighting.

Affair Proof Your Marriage

I hesitate to provide easy posts on deep topics.  Podcasts like “10 ways to Divorce Proof Your Marriage” seem trite when a friend is going through a divorce.  Five ways to make your man happy seems a little shallow when depression, fear and anxiety are overwhelming a marriage.  We live in a complicated world where sin and selfishness press into our marriages unless we actively fight them.

However, I have been listening to the Fierce Marriage Podcast for some time now and have been reading their posts for over a year.   I have been very impressed with this couple.  Ryan and Selena Frederick have a great story, are solidly grounded in Christ, and have an excellent way of communicating the Gospel aspect of your marriage as a Christian couple.  They understand covenant which is more than I understood at their age.  Here is a great podcast on setting up boundaries in your relationship to protect against affairs.  It  goes deeper than just a 5 step program as does their book, Fierce Marriage, released a couple of weeks ago.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, everything I have heard from them has been well thought out, scripturally  based and presented from the view of both men and women.  Enjoy.

 

Dial Back the Anger

A few weeks back I wrote to wives about the need to stop nagging.  It was amazing how many scriptures addressed the issue of nagging and I started thinking to myself, “Is there anything that the bible addresses equally that men need to be aware of?”  I was convinced there was not until a few hours later when I opened a devotional and found an entry concerning anger.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  Proverbs 29:11

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.  Proverbs 14:29

Put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.  Colossians 3:8

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  Proverbs 15:18

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to anger; for the anger of a man does not achieve righteousness.  James 1:  19-20

Yep, five scriptures…to start.  If you do a Google search for “scripture” and “anger” you will find at least 25 scriptures dealing with this topic.  I think it is safe to say that if nagging is a problem faced by many women, anger is a problem for many men.

Doug Flanders describes it this way:

My wife describes it as living on an island with an active volcano. You’ve seen the pictures: lush, vibrant, and beautiful, it’s a tropical paradise in all directions. Yet there, at the top of the rise, you spot the glowing mouth of the volcano, ready and waiting to spew forth it’s a molten lava at any moment, unbidden and unexpected. Sometimes there are little tremorss that let those who live nearby know it’s coming, but it’s usually at its worst when it blows without warning.

Yep, been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

I think most men can relate.  Just as nagging is often the result of fear; anger is usually the result of another issue.   Anger is always a secondary emotion.  For me, it surfaces when I feel frustrated or inadequate.  For others it surfaces as a result of fear, loss of control, or a feeling of injustice.  While anger in and of itself is not a sin (In your anger do not sin) it most often results in sinful activities.  When angry a man might yell and scream at his children, act in a demeaning way with his wife, and more often than we would like to admit, it may result in emotional and physical abuse.  While it may not be sinful in and of itself, we must always guard against its harmful effects.

If your anger is a problem for you and your family, there is a way out.  However, it requires prayer, insight, and often times help from the outside.  If this is an issue think about taking some action as follows:

  •  Pray – Seriously, ask God to reveal to you why your anger is such an issue.  Is it a feeling of inadequacy?  Is it an issue of impatience?  Is it a fear of loosing control?  Most often anger comes from believing a lie about yourself or others.  Ask God to reveal what it is that you are believing that leads to your angry outburst.
  •  Pray – Once God reveals the source of the anger, ask him to reveal the truth about the issue.  Renew your mind by meditating on this truth.  For instance, if I believe I am inadequate I remember that God has told me that in Christ I am adequate.  (2 Cor 3: 5 New American Standard.)
  • Pray – Then pray for the ability to believe the truth and reject the lie.
  • Reach Out – Find a group of guys to work with on this issue.  At Colonial Hills we have SPAR groups where men meet with other guys and work on issues such as this.  This is a common topic in those groups.  If needed, you may also reach out to pastoral staff or a counselor.
  • Apologize – When you slip back into the old way of dealing with the issue that causes anger, apologize humbly and quickly.

Of all the challenges men face I would say anger and pornography are the most common and most destructive.  While man was made to be a warrior, we must always remember the fight is out there.  Your wife is not your enemy.  Don’t let the sinful activities caused by anger destroy your marriage or your family.

The Role Model

This verse from Ephesians takes on a different tone when we read it today, the day we remember the price paid by Jesus for His church; for you and me.  Almost any man will step in front of his wife instinctively when someone threatens her with harm.  Most men I know would take a bullet for the one they love.  But our calling as Christian husbands is a higher calling.  We are sometimes called to suffer.  When we look at what Jesus did for us before and on the cross, we see a man who was willing not only to suffer for us, but because of us.  This was a man praised and celebrated one day, and spit upon and cursed the next.  A man who had thousands commit to him, and then had those same thousands scream for his crucifixion just days later.  He was a man whose Bride one day adored him, and then, just moments later, turn their back on him while he was tortured.

The Passion of the Christ haunts me.  I have seen it a few times and may not be able to watch it again.  The image that most haunts me is the beating Jesus took with the cat-of-nine-tails.  The sound of the whip slipping through the air, the sound of the blow to his back, the tearing flesh as it is withdrawn for the next strike that was sure to come.  Jesus was crushed for my iniquities.  He was pierced for my transgressions, over and over.  This is the model I am called to follow.  I am called to stick it out with my spouse, no matter what the challenge, no matter how I feel, no matter what she has done.  I know there are some exceptions but if I am called to love her as Christ loves the Church, I am called to steadfast faithfulness and love no matter what.  It is an impossible order.

That is why before he left Jesus promised us a “helper.”  The spirit of the living God who has the same power, authority, steadfastness, bravery, passion, perseverance, patience, sacrificial nature, and self control as the Father and the Son.  That Spirit is part of me and it is only when I rely on him that I am able to love my spouse the way I am commanded to love her, regardless of her behavior, regardless of our curcumstances, regardless of my feelings.  It is because of this spirit, this new nature that I can commit to steadfastness, I can commit to sacrifice, I can commit to real love.  You can to.  We may not have what it takes in and of ourselves, but we certainly have Who it takes.  I hope you spend some time today giving thanks for His sacrifice.

But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

Shalom aleikhem.

Put it Away

I Love/Hate my Phone

Like most of you I have a love/hate relationship with my phone.  It has become my memory as I am constantly using the note pages to remember information that I will need later and the task list to remember key tasks that I have to complete.  It is my entertainment where I read using Kindle and watch random videos on numerous topics.  It has all my contact information, all my phone numbers, most of my credit and investment information.  In short, it influences almost every aspect of my life. It is amazing how addictive a piece of equipment can become.  Recent research has started to discover the significant damage that phones pose to relationships, especially in the area of Phubbing.  Never hear the term?  Read on.

 What is Phubbing

Phubbing is a word that combines Phone and Snubbing.  In short, it is the habit of looking at your phone instead of the person you are talking to.  It undermines relationships as it says to a person “The random text/notification I have just received and need to look at is more important than you.”  The act of Phubbing undermines all of our relationships and has a significant impact on marital relationships.  In addition, it negatively effects our mental health by increasing the likelihood of depression and general dissatisfaction.

 Put That Thing Away

So what are we to do?  Of course, we can’t do without our phone in this day and age.  It is often the primary way we communicate with family and friends from a distance.  However, we can set boundaries.  Here is a couple of recommendations:

No Phones at Dinner

When you sit down with family or friends, put the phones away.  A friend of mine has a rule for eating out with friends.  They all put their phones face down at the center of the table when they sit down for dinner.  The first one who picks their phone up before the checks arrive has to pay the bill for the entire table.

Take a Day or Afternoon Off

Set aside time each week and simply put away your technology.  No I-Pads, no computers, no phones.  Set aside at least an afternoon and evening each week where there will be no technology.  Get out and take a walk, go visit family or friends, make out with your spouse.  Do anything other than looking at your technology.  Don’t have a spouse to make out with…try going on a date.  Start small (4 hours) and expand your time without technology to a full day.  Yes, you may have to buy a book to read instead of having it on your Nook but you will survive, I promise.

Have the Talk

If phubbing is starting to have an effect on your relationship, have a talk.  Discuss how it makes you feel to be Phubbed and set some boundaries on the use of technology.  Setting boundaries before you issue your 2 year old a phone is easier than trying to establish limits after the kids have been using the phone for a few years.  Setting boundaries with family members can help strengthen deteriorating relationship and prevent deterioration from taking place in the first place if done early.

Differences

Many times Patty and I see things similarly.  That is to be expected as we have the same fundamental values, a similar type of social history, and the same Holy Spirit as the core of our identity.  When we see things the same way we often feel a sense of confirmation and closeness.

However, when we don’t see things the same way we often find ourselves arguing, getting into fights, and sometimes storming off.  I find myself feeling “out of sync” or restless.  The interesting thing is that it is in these times that I grow the most.  It is through times of disunity that we later find ourselves more unified.  Why is that?  It is because God uses these time for growth.

A few weeks back I went through a “values exercise.”  I had to work through a deck of 50 value cards and identify my top five values:  Love, truth, wisdom, loyalty and service.  The last one was a shock.  Me, a servant?  If you only knew how self-centered I was (and still sometimes are) you would be shocked.  But there it sat, number 5 out of 50.

God uses a lot of things to transform us into the person we are destined to be.  In this case God used Patty, an amazing servant, to change my way of thinking.  She naturally falls into service and has literally filled up all of her time in one type of service project or another.  This ultimately resulted in us getting into significant fights as she filled one weekend after another with one project after another and dragged me along on each one.  She would overcommit and I would get exhausted and then it was on like Donkey-Kong.   Huge fight, she would cry, I would feel guilty and apologize, she would slow down for a time and then six months later the cycle would start over.   This has been going on for years.

When I saw “service” in my top five values I realized that God had used my wife in a significant way to change how I felt about service.  Additionally, God has used our fighting to teach her about rest.  God has used our differences to change us.  I am a person who loves to serve, but not overcommit, and she is a person who loves to serve but is learning the value of rest.  We are both influencing the other, through our differences, to be more and more like Christ, who came to serve but understood the need for rest.

Of course, this is not the only difference I appreciate about her.  She is intuitive and I have no sense of intuition.  She connects emotionally; I connect physically.  She likes to plan; I am more of a “fly by the seat of your pants” guy.  She likes to recycle; I like providing people who work in landfills with job security.  And the list goes on.

Husbands, this week take some time to think about and thank your spouse for her differences.  It is these differences that bring value and variety to our lives.  It is the differences that add excitement and depth to our relationship.  It is the differences that God uses to shape us into the men we are becoming.