The Thick of Thin Things

Thursday Patty and I were headed west, separately.  She was heading west to visit her dad, a monthly visit now that he has recently moved; and I was headed west to my Mom’s house to mow the desert (no rain for weeks).  Somehow we ended up west bound on Interstate 20 in the same location.  She pulled up behind me, flashed her lights, then pulled up beside me trying to get my attention.  She honked, flashed her lights, started singing Mama Mia, all to no avail.  I was talking  to one of my team members after she had experienced a challenging day in the classroom and apparently it negatively effected my situational awareness.

Is it just me or does that happen a lot with the ones we love.  Not necessarily on Interstate 20, but in the day-to-day practice of living and loving.   We get focused on almost anything else and fail to pay attention to the ones we love the most.  We get caught up in what Steven Covey called the “thick of thin things.”  We pay more attention to the lawn mower repair than the little princess wanting to share high tea with dad; the game instead of the bride of our youth; we waste time on the next episode of House Hunters instead of noticing that our spouse has had a really rough day.

Part of the challenge with us guys is that we get focused.  While women may be able to multi-task to some degree, we men are programed to focus on one thing at a time.  When that one thing takes a few days, we may fail to notice the needs of our spouse.  I read an article recently about how a husband had fought with his wife over his insensitivity towards her need for some attention.  She had become irritated that he was simply not paying any attention to her as he was spending the weekend completing a paint job on his car.  As the fight progressed she used the “A” word (always) as in “You always pay more attention to (fill in the blank) than you do to me.” She was not feeling cherished, loved or appreciated.  After some thought he realized that he simply got swept away in his activities and often went days without really expressing appreciation or engaging with her in any meaningful way.  His answer was simple, set two reminders.  The first reminder goes of every morning at 9 am and reminds him to think about how lucky he is to have such a great wife.  Periodically, he follows the thought up with a quick text telling her how lucky he is and why.  He knows that words of encouragement mean something to her and so, being the wise man he is, he uses this time to invest in their relationship.  The second reminder goes off at 8 p.m. and reminds him to kiss and hug his wife.  Sometimes it is  quick kiss, sometimes a chance to catch-up, sometimes a little more; but each time he is reminded that he needs to focus on the most important human relationship in his life, the one with his wife.

I know ladies, not overly romantic.  Richard Gere didn’t have reminders in Pretty Woman.  Maybe so, but  God made men and women different, and one of those differences is the ability to focus intently on one thing at a time.  While focus is extremely helpful when hunting for dinner on the great plains, it may work against us a little when we need to focus on relationships.  Help a brother out and just kiss us when the alarm goes off.

Have a great week all.

When Did We Become Roommates?

I was talking to some friends about how things were going in their marriage the other day, and the recurring theme was boredom.  How is it our marriages go from hot and spicy to the same old day in and day out routine of just living together as strangers passing each other in the night?  How do so many of us get to this place so quickly in our marriages?  It may help to  go back to when it all started.

When you start to date, you are intentional about the relationship.  As a guy you are in pursuit or on the hunt for that special someone.  You enjoy the chase and the woman enjoys being chased.  Everyone is on their best behavior and out to impress.  Then they get married and the hunt is over.  Everyone returns to their normal self and the urge to impress is gone.  Guys think, “well I got the woman so no need to continue to pursue her.” Girls think, “well I got the man no need to continue to flirt and beguiling him.”  Life takes over with the every day routine of going to work, coming home, eating dinner, going to bed, only to wake up and start the whole cycle all over again.  Then you start adding kids and now there is no time for each other because it becomes all about the children.  BAM! Now you are roommates!  Yes it can be that simple.

I also believe the roommate scenario can cycle in and out of your marriage depending on how busy your life gets.  So… how do we stop the madness and keep it from happening to us?  Be intentional.  Your spouse has to be a priority for you.  You must continue to pursue, flirt, beguile, and put your best foot forward.  You need to continue to date.  Why?  Because after the kids are gone, you are left with your spouse, and you don’t want to be strangers.  You want to start your marriage with the attitude of it being “you and your spouse against the world” and end with “you and your spouse against the world.”  Of course this is a challenge.  The devil does not want unity in your marriage.  He wants division, strife, and conflict.  He wants to kill and destroy your marriage because your marriage is to be a reflection of Christ and the church.

Just as God pursues us and continues to woo us into a love relationship with Him, we are equipped to do the same with our spouse.  Just as He expressed His love for us at the cross, so we are equipped to sacrificially show our love for one another in our daily walk.  His desire is to show his love for us through our love for one another.    So… Guys continue to pursue your wife as God pursues his people. Let your marriage bring glory and honor to God as you and your spouse serve him together as a unified reflection of Christ and not roommates.

Trust

Trust is a delicate thing and is the foundation of all truly intimate relationships.  For many, it is hard to trust others due to past experiences or pains from past abuses.  We almost always approach the discussion on trust from the perspective of “Can I trust (fill in a name)?”  However, it is just as important that we approach the issue of trust from the perspective of “Can I be trusted?”

In a Christian marriage, trust is even more multi-faceted.  I have to learn to trust my spouse in a very intimate way and in every aspect of my life.  I trust my spouse with my finances, children, possessions, time, sexuality, emotions, and my heart.  It is no small thing and when trust is broken in a marriage, it negatively effects every aspect of our life.  The trust we have in our spouse is never static and is always growing stronger or eroding.  Here are some questions to think through:

  • Are you trustworthy?  –  The answer is that in Christ, we are.  As we access and depend upon the heart and mind of Christ we can be counted on to seek the other’s best interested; never engage in activities that hurt or harm our spouse; sacrificially act in ways that encourage, build up, and strengthen our spouse.
  • How can you build trustworthiness?  – How are your actions effecting your spouse’s ability to trust you?  Each of us learns to trust the other by determining whether or not we can depend on them.  Do your actions, thoughts and deeds remind your spouse:
    • I will choose to love you regardless of your actions
    • I will choose your best interests over mine regardless of the cost
    • I will choose to forgive regardless of your behavior

When high levels of trust are present in a relationship, amazing things happen.   Sins against each other are discussed and forgiven quickly and we are able give each other the benefit of the doubt.   Little problems remain little and don’t grow into larger problems.

So what are you doing to improve the level of trust in your relationship?  How are you allowing Jesus to express himself through you in a way that allows others to trust Him, rely on Him and depend on Him?  How are you being the hands, feet and mouth of Jesus thereby being a more trustworthy person in your relationships?

 

Choices

Since the beginning of time it has been a struggle to make the right choices. I think it is great that God gives us free will, allowing us to make our own decisions, but it sure does make life difficult at times.

As we grow up we learn to make choices every day. Somewhere along the way we learn we can choose to have things go in our favor or allow someone else to benefit from our choices. Hopefully along the way we are taught to have some integrity in the choices we make.

As adults we are bombarded with choices! From choosing between jobs to where we will live to the big one, whom should I choose to marry? I have always thought that when you get married you live happily ever after!!! I had not studied my bible very well. Reading from Genesis 3:16 I learned that the woman will want to control her husband, and the husband will rule over her. So obviously, there is going to be conflict! The woman is going to want to control her husband; the husband will want to Lord over his wife. This is even more challenging as God has placed Man in place as the head of the family, making it even more difficult to make choices that are in the best interest of the family instead of “Lording” over the family and making choices that are in his best interest. How do we make the right choices with all that going on?

In Ephesians 5:22-23 God thought it important enough to discuss hierarchy again. Both husband and wife will submit to each other as to the Lord. “You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church, he gave his life to be her Savior. “

While that explains the hierarchy, it does not seem to make it easier. In first Corinthians 7:28 Paul says “If you marry, there will be trouble.” Paul is trying to let us know that is ok to get married but there will be (extra) trouble.

So, while the hierarchy is set in place by God is good, it is often very difficult because of the curse in Genesis. Both the husband and the wife have to do their part and choose to be who they are in Christ in the position God has chosen to place them. Man, as the head of the family must choose to lead sacrificially. The woman, as the helpmate, must choose to follow and serve sacrificially. Both must be open to being influenced by the other and both must fulfill their role in a sacrificial manner. It is a daily, hourly and sometime second by second choice. While these choices are often difficult, they are not impossible. God has given each of us the word of Christ as guidance, and the spirit of Christ to lead us in making Godly choices. It is all about choices; what will you choose today?

Encourage

When was the last time you spoke life into your spouse?  When was the last time you affirmed them, encouraged them, and spoke words that built them up?  How often do you do so?  Has it become a habit in your marriage?

Ephesians 4: 29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

I am amazed how often I hear people complaining about their spouse to others, often times while their spouse is standing nearby.  They are frustrated with something in their marriage, maybe they have suffered a disappointment or a need hasn’t been met, and in their frustration they lash out.  Instead of complaining in private and working through the issue, they criticize in public and drive a steak in the heart of their partner.

The Bible teaches that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  If you want to kill your marriage, speak critical words overflowing with condemnation.  If you want to breath life into your marriage, speak positively about your spouse both in private and in public.  Proverbs 16:24 says that Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. The power of encouragement or discouragement is magnified in a marriage because the words are coming from someone who knows you intimately.    Every day we make a choice to build up our spouse with words of encouragement, love, grace and kindness; or undermine our relationship with words of bitterness, criticism and condemnation.  What will you speak into your spouse this week?

 

Fighting the Four

There is no shortage of advice that can be found concerning marriage.  Advice that ranges from learning how to effectively listen to your spouse to how to spice up your sex life with nutritional additives.  People mean well and many times the advice worked out well for them.  In fact, many counselors base their advice on what has worked in their relationships more than on scripture and longitudinal research.  I often refer to these as Capitol “T” truth (what God says) and Little “t” truth (what science says).  I love it when both of these “truths” align and can shed light on what works in marriage.

If you have been to one of our Love and Respect Workshops, you have heard the facilitator, Dr. Eggerich, refer to research from the University of Washington.  This research, that spans 4 decades,  time and time again supports what God says in his word, especially the scripture in Ephesians that deals with the need of a woman to be sacrificially loved by her husband and the need of a husband to be sacrificially respected by his wife.   I have started the process of reviewing this research and am amazed at its accuracy and how our marriage seems to reflect the findings of this research. Time and again his research points out how kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and being tenderhearted provide a significant defense against what the research calls The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in regards to marriage.  The four horseman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  Every marriage has at least a small dosage of these poisons in them.  However, when any or all of them run rampant,  a marriage veers towards destruction.

Ephesians 4:32 is not what we would consider a “marriage” scripture.  It is a call for all brothers and sisters in Christ to treat each other as God has treated them.  If you have an accurate understanding of how much God loves you, is kind to you, is tenderhearted towards you, and how much God has forgiven you; if you understand his grace towards you; you will find that it is easier to treat others in the same way.  If we are called to treat our brothers and sisters with forgiveness and kindness,  how much more are we called to treat our spouse in the same way.

Kindness

Do you regularly express kindness to your spouse.  Do you turn towards them when they seek to get your attention for conversation, a gentle touch or a quick kiss; or do you continue reading the pinterest post on how to make Lemon Drops.  Do you look for opportunities to serve and express love, or do you hide behind social media or video games.  Do you bring up complaints gently and humbly, or do you bring up complaints by criticizing and attacking.  Kindness is the foundation of friendship, and friendship is the foundations of a successful marriage.

Tenderhearted

Are you open to the problems and complaints in a marriage or have you crossed over into contempt.  Contempt often surfaces when expectations go unmet and no attempt at working on an issue takes place.  People become frustrated, angry and can sometimes just be mean.  When complaints turn to criticism, and people start attacking each other’s character, it is like driving a stake into your partner’s heart.  People then become hard-hearted and withdraw to a defensive position.  The opposite of this is a tender-hearted person.  They see a problem but instead of attacking the other person, they commit to attacking the problem.  They understand that both partners in the marriage have baggage, that both partners are being “transformed” into the image of Christ, and that they are part of that transformational process.  They are there to sacrificially love the other, being patient as God works out the changes that need to take place.

Forgiving

All marriages have problems as both partners are influenced by sin.  Your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you.  God is in the process  of perfecting us but all of us have a ways to go.  Understanding this, and understanding what you have been forgiven in Christ, allows you to approach marital problems with forgiveness.  The greatest growth in a marriage comes from repenting and forgiveness.  Confessing, or realigning your perception with the reality of God’s word, is key to this cycle.  It is this that protects you from being defensive and then stonewalling your partner in a bid to protect yourself.

The scripture ends with Paul reminding us of what Christ has done for us.  While it is often easy to focus on the horsemen, this week I am going to challenge you to focus on the treatment.  How are you (in Christ) fighting criticism with thanksgiving?  How are you (in Christ) fighting contempt with kindness?  Have you withdrawn to a defensive position, stonewalling your partner or are you (in Christ) committing to deal with your problems with confession, repentance and forgiveness?

Save the Date

One of the turning points in our marriage was when we attended the Love and Respect Workshop several years ago.  We went to learn how to work on fixing your marriage and learned we had some work to do ourselves. (-:  We still do.   Join us as we continue down that road together.  Click here for more information.