Friday, 15 October 2010

You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling

“I just don’t think I love him/her anymore.” If you have uttered these words and are a Christian you have a dilemma. Do you invoke the “D” word, do you live the rest of your life in a relationship that is unfulfilling, or do you do whatever it takes to make your marriage one that would glorify God? Apparently fifty percent of those who consider themselves Christians are choosing option one. It has been suggested that another 25-30% are opting for living a parallel life, where there is little communication, and there is little joy.

I would guess that from God’s perspective neither options one or two would receive His blessing. First Corinthians 10:31 tells us that “whatever we do we should do it all for the glory of God.” I believe that would include marriage.

Option three, i.e. do whatever it takes to bring joy back into your marriage will take prayer and hard work. But where do you start?

Start with prayer. Take your hurt, your pain, your frustrations and disappointments to the Lord and ask Him to change your heart toward your husband/wife. That’s right, don’t waste your time asking God to change your spouse into the person you want them to be, that is not a prayer He will most likely honor.

Love must be a verb, i.e. take specific, observable, concrete action. Conventional wisdom says that feelings follow action. Begin doing loving things and in time your feelings may begin to return.

Another suggestion is to focus on a time when you were happy as a couple. Too often we focus on the negative aspects of life. Philippians 4:8 tells us that we are to think about such things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” There is a reason that Paul doesn’t tell us to “think upon” all that is wrong with our life. What glory does God get in that?

Finally stuff your expectations back into the desire box where they belong. Most of us come to marriage with certain expectations. Whether we have a preconceived notion of gender roles, an illusion about what romance consists of, or what we believe we are entitled to as a husband/wife it creates the wrong atmosphere for contentment.

If I expect you to do something it is the same as saying “you owe it to me”. If you do what I expect – you have only done what you are supposed to do. No one gets applause for doing what they are supposed to do. If you fail to meet my expectations you have let me down and disappointed me. That is a formula for disaster because it is a no win situation. Expectations start out as desires. Let your expectations remain as desires and be appreciative when your husband/wife fulfills a desire.

“…glorify God in all that we do”, that includes marriage.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pogo Was Right

Pogo was a once popular cartoon by Walt Kelly. One of the most famous lines ever coined was “We have met the enemy and he is us.” If you have ever done or said something you wish you could take back, you can relate to Pogo. Surely there was a time in your life when you wished there had been a “delete button” to erase what you said in frustration or anger. The Book of James talks about how a tiny bit in the mouth of a horse can be used to move such a large animal and how even large ships are steered by a small rudder. And so it is with the tongue, one of the smallest body parts “it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6)

This is strong language but if we have ever been the recipient of a hurtful barrage of unkind words we realize how devastating such an experience can be. Often what is worse is that the person who hurt was speaking out of anger and/or frustration, they didn’t really mean what they said. (Or perhaps you didn’t mean what you said.) I have had to confess in recent times that I suffer from an illness, MMIFTMB. In lay person’s terms “my mouse is faster than my brain”. I’m sure that if James was writing this same text today he would include e-mails, and text messages as other forms of potential hurtful communication.

The reality is that we have little or no control over the emotions we experience. Emotions in and of themselves are morally neutral, not right or wrong. However how we respond to those emotions can make a huge difference. Even in times of war there are international terms of humane conduct set up by the Geneva Convention. Perhaps we could avoid critically wounding another person by our words by following a few simple terms of conduct. First of all never attack a person’s character, i.e. you are stupid, you’re just like your father/mother, you have the IQ of an emotionally challenged squirrel. Second, refrain from generalizations, i.e. you never, you always. Such comments beg for rebuttal. And finally try to refrain from bringing up past hurts. Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”

Monday, 11 October 2010

What if 1Corinthians 13 was Life's Final Exam?

I was never the sharpest tool in the shed so I dreaded exams in school. The ones I liked the best were true and false because I figured I had a fifty percent chance of getting the right answers. I really liked it when the teacher said, “Now grade your own paper.” This gave me an incredible sense of relief since no one else would know how many I missed.

I was inspired by Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love to examine how well I met the criteria laid out in 1Corinthians 13. I thought what if this was a true and false test, how would I do? I proceeded to put an “I” in front of the 15 descriptors of what it means to love. In part it looked like this:
I am patient – True or False
I am kind - True or False
I am not proud – True or False
I am not self-seeking – True or False
I keep no record of wrongs – True or False
I always trust – True or False

Well you get the picture. I figured if I did particularly well I would need to go back to “I am not proud”. Here would be the clincher – give this to my wife and ask her to be brutally honest as she worked her way down the list and ask her to give me her assessment of how well I fulfill the requirements of one who is loving.

Then I had this crazy thought. What if this was Heaven’s version of the SAT and my score, as determined by my wife would determine whether or not I was omitted. Fortunately this is not the case but God has every right to say to me “I gave you the questions that would be on the test. All I asked was that you love me the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and that you love your neighbor as yourself.”

If my entrance into heaven were reliant on my passing this test it would give new meaning to grading on the curve. Even though my eternal destiny depends entirely upon my acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior, at some point I am going to have to face my Creator and most likely he will ask me, “Did you love Me and did you love your wife as you loved yourself?”