Friday, 8 October 2010

Created for Him

The Book of Colossians, chapter one, verse 16 states that “All things were created by Him for Him.” There are a number of Biblical passages for which the interpretation seems to be up for debate. I don’t think this is one of them. It is hard to mistake the meaning of “All”. The word “things” seems fairly inclusive. The capital “H” in the word Him, particularly when found mid-sentence, would most likely refer to God.

Now if you are still reading you are probably thinking “thank you for the Sesame Street- esque version of verse 16, so what’s your point?” I’m reasonably good at stating the obvious. It means that your marriage was created by God for His purpose and that His purpose is always to bring glory to Himself.

Since God has never created anything that is mediocre why are so many couples so unhappy? If marriage is designed to bring glory to God why are so many Christians seeking divorce or living lives of “quiet desperation”.

Could it be that we are not following His design? There are many passages in Scripture that can be applied to marriage and many Biblical principles that if applied would enhance our ability to love one another but for me one verse best summarizes it all.
Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [[a]that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and [b]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]. Amplified Bible

If this verse were taken literally it would put marriage counselors out of business. Can you imagine any wife needing a counselor if her husband demonstrated that he loved her as much as he loves himself? He would constantly put her needs ahead of his needs, he would be in tune with all her desires and he would want only what is absolutely the best for her. And how many husbands would seek counseling if he always felt honored, esteemed and admired? This last part could be a trick question because husbands rarely seek marriage counseling.

I truly believe that regardless of how damaged a relationship may be that if these principles were put into effect today it would radically change the marriage – what do you think?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Loving Versus Enabling

Winston Smith, counselor and faculty member of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation answers the question “What is the difference between enabling someone and loving someone?”

Enabling is something I do for me as much if not more than for the other person. Typically enabling is a fear response. Either I want to rescue the other person from something unpleasant or I want to spare myself from the unpleasant treatment at the hands of another. Love is other centered which may mean that I do not protect them from the unpleasant consequences of their actions. Love does not respond out of fear but out of grace and compassion.

Sometimes the line gets a little blurred. We stop at the liquor store for the person who is suffering from chronic pain or we buy cigarettes for our spouse who is suffering from emphysema because they get very angry if they run out.

I would go so far as to say that when we enable someone it is unloving. If someone has a problem with anger or they are alcohol dependent or abusive, etc. we do not help that person by overlooking what they are doing and/or making excuses for them.

Most often the behavior in question is not contained, i.e. it affects many people not just the one doing the enabling. The person’s children, co-workers or spouse could be adversely affected.

You need to stop and ask yourself “Self – is this really the most loving thing I can do for this person OR am I doing it to avoid some form of unpleasantness?” If your response is the latter, seek help both for yourself and the person you have been enabling.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Personality Versus Character

Mort Fertel ,author of Marriage Fitness, recently sent out a quotation that seemed remarkably profound.

"The difficultly with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character."
- Peter Devries

Mort went on to say "Personality is easy to understand. Your personality is how people experience you. It's your public persona. But what is character? And why is character so crucial in your marriage? Character is who you are when no one is watching.”

I thought that this was an interesting distinction. Though I may try to project a certain persona to the “outside world”, the reality is that such an attempt will be short lived. Why, because it is what is in my heart that determines my real character.

Perhaps Proverbs 4:23 captures it best “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life.” What this verse tells me is that it is not the external circumstances that cause me to act in a way that is unlike the kind, gentle, compassionate, humble person that I am but what is in my heart. I flip out when I’m in the fast checkout lane and the moron in front of me has a full basket of groceries. My impatience flares when any self-centered idiot with a cell phone up to his/her ear acts like the roadway should belong to them. Wow – where is all that hostility coming from? – My heart! The external circumstances only bring out what is already residing in my heart. I need to ask myself “Self, why are you reacting the way you are?” The honest answer to that question is that it is all about me -my wants, my needs and my desires.

In the final analysis isn’t that what causes conflict in our marriages. James must think so or he wouldn’t have written “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

We have expectations that our husband/wife have not met; we have desires that our spouse has not fulfilled; and we have dreams that now seem unattainable. Though my character does show when no one else is watching, it also shows when I am with the people I care about the most.

Negative feelings are like an alarm system, they identify something about the condition of my heart. If I am feeling angry, frustrated, impatient, hurt, frightened , resentful, jealous – okay I’ll stop already. I must dig down and identify the heart issue that is underlying those feelings,and then I must ask God for the ability to heal.