8th Time Rising

All great things take risk, and risk often results in failure.  Marriage is a great thing.

Marriage is about a lot of things.  It is about relationship, about worship, and about friendship.  But all relationships take risk.  It requires you to be open and vulnerable.  It requires you to challenge one another and it requires change.  It is a recipe for failure and if your doing it right, you will often fail along the way.  You will fail in showing patience and you will fail in regards to exhibiting sacrificial love.  You will fail numerous times and in numerous ways.

Each of these failures is an opportunity to learn, grow and change.   Someone once said failing without learning is like paying for a meal and never eating it.

Proverbs encourages me.  Proverbs 24:16 says “A righteous man falls seven times but arises again.”  I love the concept of “8th time rising.”  No matter how challenged we are in our marriages, no matter how many times we fail, we can rest in the assurance that God is in the center of our marriage.   Because of him we can rise an eighth time, time and time again.

Live in an Understanding Way

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.

Major League Marriage

Recently we ran a 30 day series on Respecting Your Husband.  Now that we have completed Band of Brothers and the Spring Marriage Retreat it is time to shift our focus to the wives.  How can we love our wives as Christ loved the Church.

It is a tall order and many times we focus on what actions we can take instead of the source for this kind of love.  Sacrificial love, from the Greek word agape, is the kind of love God showed us.  It is the understanding of that love, shown for us, that powers us to be able to love others, and our spouse.  When we understand that he forgave us completely, that he paid the price of our sins on the cross, that he loves and accepts us fully and completely, then we are able to show forgiveness, grace acceptance and sacrificial love to our spouse.  It is remembering how much God loves us that drives us to want to do what is pleasing to him.  Not to win God’s approval, but because we have it…and more.

Tim Keller in his commentary “Galatians and You” put it this way.

Imagine a father watching his beloved son play baseball on a team he coaches.  As he sits in the dugout he loves his son full and completely.  If the son forgets the father’s instructions and strikes out, it will not change his love for him or his approval of him one bit.  The son is assured of the fathers love regardless of his performance.  


But the son will long to hit that home run for his father.  Not for himself – not to gain the father’s love – but for his father because he already has his father’s love.  If he does not know his father loves him he will strive for the home run not for the father, but for himself, to win that love.  Because he knows the father loves him, his efforts are for the father – to please him.  


We can only express true love to our spouse when we understand and abide in the love of our Father.  We extend grace and forgiveness to our spouse as we rest in the grace and forgiveness of the Father.  We express sacrificial love only as much as we understand how much the Father and Son sacrificed for us.  We love not to obtain acceptance and love from the Father, but because we already have it and loving others is what brings Him joy.

Trying to understand what love means to a woman is often like trying to understand the color of eight.  We are complex creatures driven by needs, desires, hormones, feelings and so many other things.  In the coming weeks we will be sharing what love means to a woman.  But make no mistake, without an accurate understanding of the Gospel, and how much God loves you, you will always struggle with sacrificially loving others, even someone as amazing as your spouse.  Without a dependence on the Holy Spirit living in an through you, the best you can hope for is Eros (Erotic love) or Phileo (brotherly love).  These types of love have a place in your marital relationship but it is sacrificial love husbands are commanded too.  It is the type of love impossible without abiding in the love of God.

In the coming weeks we will be providing insights and ideas on what love means to a woman.  We will give lists and hints.  These are useful, but only when we understand that we are simply vessels of God’s love for our spouse.  It’s not a matter of hints and ideas, it is a matter of the heart.

Blessings

Note:  If you have no idea what I am talking about in this post, we would love to talk to you about it.  The staff at Colonial Hills and the Marriage Ministry Team would love to share this insight.  It is really the only hope we have for the marriage God intended.  Feel free to call me at 903.316.1663 if you have questions.  

                                    Michael

The Illusion of Communication

Contributor:  Kimmy Watkins

I have always felt I am a great listener, counselor, and encourager.  I have even been complimented on these skills. However, over the past two years while working in the marriage ministry, the Lord has given me opportunities to see things from a different perspective.

I have found that as a person I am drawn to people who speak the same language as I do.  We think alike, understand each other, and intuitively know each other.  These are the people that I surround myself with, so things are naturally wonderful and effective communication takes place.  Then there are the times that I struggle to communicate with the people that I work with professionally, in ministry, and even family members. Of course we talk, but things don’t go as smoothly as I would hope.  I say one thing, and they think another and visa versa. I always leave these conversations wondering if what I wanted to say was heard or was it misunderstood. Then I spend hours analyzing each word said to figure out why I was misunderstood. When this continues to happen, I tend to avoid that person because communicating with them is so difficult.

But then there are times when you find this really amazing person who you want to connect with and understand, but it just doesn’t happen.  It seems the more you try to connect, the more you push that person away.  It’s like you are speaking a different language. What makes matters worse is if this person is your spouse or child.  What do you do?  How do you connect and get through to them? You expect to have some trouble with the opposite sex, but not with someone from the same sex.

God has been teaching me through Love and Respect and other marriage studies, that men speak blue, and women speak pink.  We are not wrong, just different.  If you want to connect with your spouse, you must decode.  This is hard when you don’t even know what their language is.  What happens when this is a child or friend of yours?  You are expected to speak the same language, but you don’t.

My daughter has been telling me that I don’t listen to her.  I tell her that I hear every word she says.  She then proceeds to tell me that if I heard her, I would do what she asked me to do.  I always get this glazed look on my face and proceed to tell her that I did exactly what I thought she wanted.  She then raises her voice (like I can’t hear her) and tells me that I didn’t. To make matters worse she tells me that I always try to make it all about me. If I loved her, I would listen to her, and do exactly what she wants. When I don’t, it makes her feel that I don’t know or care about her because I don’t listen.  I have tried and tried to fix this problem to no avail.  This weekend I was working on marriage ministry activities and opened a book on 25 ways to tell your wife that you love her.  There it was,  “Listen to her and communicate.”  I thought this is exactly what my daughter is trying to tell me.  Then it hit me, this is what men go through when they try to talk to their wives. I get it. This is so frustrating.  God revealed to me that I was not hearing her heart’s cry.  I heard all of her words and could tell them back to her, but I was missing the meaning.   I was missing her heart.  I was failing to decode. I continued to read the tips presented in the book and God revealed to me that: I need to be quiet, put all distractions aside, look her in the eye, and listen to not only her words, but also her tone of voice, body language, and most importantly for her heart.  What is it she is really saying to me?  Then I am to encourage her, uplift her, assist her when possible, and step back when needed. I must really focus on her and give her my upmost attention to be successful at this.

Men these are the things you must also do when speaking with your wife.  Listen for her heart’s cry.  What is she really saying to you?  You will have to study her, focus on her, and give her your undivided attention to learn the language she is speaking.  Then pray and ask God to tell you how to communicate with her.  Most of all, encourage her and uplift her with positive words of affirmation.  I hope this helps you begin to decode the language of your wife.

Sexuality – Wrapping it Up

Sex has become common in the world, a base instinct like eating and sleeping.  But sex was designed for so much more and it’s importance is different to men and women.

  • -Sex is a means of connecting to your husband both physically and emotionally.
  • -Men and women are different.  A woman desires emotional connection before physical connection while a man often has to have physical connection before he can open up emotionally.
  • -The Biblical view of sex is overwhelmingly positive.  We are told it reflects the nature of the triune God and is reflective of the relationship between Christ and his people.  Further, a whole book in the Old Testament is dedicated to the physical act of passionate love.

So why does this so often surface as a problem in marriages?  We live in a broken world where the daily challenges of life drain our time and energy.  After a day of dealing with business decisions a wife returns home to find new finger paint artwork all over the living room wall and a baby that has been sick since 3 pm.  A husband returns home after dealing with a challenging boss and finds an energetic child, an exhausted wife, a sick kiddo, bills to pay, and a tree down on a the lawn.  Add to that the challenges of hyper sexuality often caused by pornography and unrealistic expectation for sex set by the media, and you have a recipe for frustration, resentment and discontent.  Life in a broken world is a challenge, but here is the truth…we make time for what is important and your marriage in important.

So Your World is Insane – Join the Club

When the demands of the world press in on us we are required to make choices.  Simply having a discussion with your husband can hep offset some of the frustration he might feel in this area.  Here are some consideration and questions to get you started:

  • What do each of you need?  Quantity, quality, foreplay, foot rubs, back massages, putting on a superman cape.  Start thinking about what each of you need for a healthy sex life and then learn to ask for what you need.  It can be a sensitive (and even embarrassing) conversation, but having the conversation is worth it.  BTW, you may have to have the conversation again in a few years.  4 times a week for a 19 year old becomes 3 times a week with a foot massage for a 30 year old becomes 2 times a week with a back rub for a 50 year old.  I’ll have to get back to you when I turn 70.
  • Both of you approach sex as an opportunity to minister to the other.  How can your husband minister to you before, during and after sex.  How can you minister to your husband before, during and after sex.  Think along the lines of what each of you enjoy.  Would you like to buy a massage table and use it weekly (best investment I ever made)?  Would you enjoy reading poetry sometimes?  Would it help if he put the kids down a couple of nights a week. Do you get turned on when he does the dished.   Let him know what you desire and allow him to share what he desires.
  • Set realistic expectations.  Not every encounter will last 4 hours and end in the bed with him feeding you grapes.  Sometimes it will last 10 minutes and he will be snoring in 12.  A realistic sex life includes snacks (quickies), meals (casual sex) and banquets (weekend escapes or all afternoon experiences).  Your stage in life will often dictate what kind of meal you engage in, but don’t get stuck in a rut.  Just because you have three kids does not mean you cannot escape for a weekend here and there.
  • Put it on the calendar.  I know, not at all romantic.  But in todays world it may be necessary.  Our lives move at the speed of light and it is easy to look back over the last couple of weeks and realize there is a reason your husband is feeling neglected.  We know what is important to us by looking at where we spend our time (look at your calendar) and where we spend our money (look at the checkbook).

Managing an effective sex life requires commitment, patience, understanding, sacrificial love, self control and determination.  But the payoff is worth it.  A better relationship, a stronger commitment to one another, better health, better sleep, and a whole lot of fun.  It is a commitment that pays dividends for years to come.

S is for Sexuality Part III

Sex is a physical act, no surprise there.  Sex is an emotional act; got it.  What people often fail to realize, however, is that sex is also a spiritual act.  It can be an act of service, an act of love and an act of worship.  Tim Keller, one of the greatest theologians of our time, says it this way:

Sex is glorious. We would know that even if we didn’t have the Bible. Sex leads us to words of adoration— it literally evokes shouts of joy and praise. Through the Bible, we know why this is true. John 17 tells us that from all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been adoring and glorifying each other, living in high devotion to each other, pouring love and joy into one another’s hearts continually (cf. John 1: 18; 17: 5, 21,24– 25). Sex between a man and a woman points to the love between the Father and the Son (1 Corinthians 11: 3). It is a reflection of the joyous self-giving and pleasure of love within the very life of the triune God. Sex is glorious not only because it reflects the joy of the Trinity but also because it points to the eternal delight of soul that we will have in heaven, in our loving relationships with God and one another. Romans 7: 1ff tells us that the best marriages are pointers to the deep, infinitely fulfilling, and final union we will have with Christ in love. No wonder, as some have said, that sex between a man and a woman can be a sort of embodied out-of-body experience. It’s the most ecstatic, breathtaking, daring, scarcely-to-be-imagined look at the glory that is our future.

Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It is no wonder that God has created the act of sex to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage; within the context of covenant.  It is a physical act that bonds, an emotional act that enthralls, and a spiritual act that enraptures.  It is an act that allows both the man and the woman to be at their most vulnerable, literally naked in each other’s presence, and still feel safe and secure because the commitment they have made to one another is maintained by the God of the Universe.  When we think of sex as a reflection of God’s love for us (His church), it takes on a deeper meaning.  It takes on the image of worship.