Thursday, 17 March 2011

Am I Building Up or Tearing Down

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to (his/her husband/wife)…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:25,29

Are husbands/wives one of God’s primary vehicles for helping to change and mold their spouse into the image of His Son? If so, when does speaking the truth become nagging and when is it encouraging? When does “constructive” criticism do harm and when does it have the potential to produce growth?

In addition to His Word, I believe that husbands and wives are one of God’s primary means for shaping us into the persons He wants us to be, like a potter molding clay. Sometimes we say something to our husbands / wives in an attempt to be helpful, at other times what we say is hurtful, and at other times what we say is disguised as being helpful when our intent is to wound or get our own way.

So, how do we know the difference? How do we discern what our real intent is? I think Nicky Gumbel of Alpha fame has a great suggestion. He says if when you feel the need to share something that could be construed as being of a critical or constructive nature and you find it hard to say – then it is probably the truth and it should be said. If on the other hand you feel the need to share something that could be construed as being of a critical or constructive nature and you sense that it will give you pleasure to share your critique - then you should back off. Your motivation is not Biblical but driven by your own desires or pettiness.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Which of You is Contributing the Most to Your Marriage?

First off let me state that I am one of those people who usually follows the rules, though Kathleen might be quick to add except as it comes to yellow traffic signals and occasional stops signs that I treat as suggestions. Sorry, I digress. I’ve always been one of those people pleasing, do as I’m told, color between the lines kind of person. So when I am asked a question, like the one proposed at the beginning of this blog, I attempt to answer it. It may never dawn on me to say, “That is a bad question”, or to respond instead with my own question, “What do you mean by that?”

I believe this is a dangerous question for any husband or wife to ask. To answer the question as it is posed infers that you have been keeping score. Score keeping never works in a marriage, it only leads to resentment. Some people think marriage should be a fifty-fifty proposition, i.e. each person contributing fifty percent to the relationship, to maintaining the house, to disciplining the kids, etc. Some say each partner should strive for sixty percent, always attempting to out give and out serve the other. Still others say each person should give 100% and not be at all concerned about what the other person contributes.

I think the Bible is the best place to look for the answer to this question. In Ephesians 5:33 the Bible tells husbands to love their wives as they love themselves and the wife is to respect her husband. There are no provisos, no conditions to these commands. God doesn’t tell husbands to love their wives IF they are submissive, or if they pamper him or if they are effusive in their words of adoration. Scripture does not command women to respect their husbands only IF he is a good provider, a good communicator, and he treats her like a queen. The roles are mutually exclusive. Each of us is to strive continuously to fulfill the mandate given to us without regard to our husband/wife’s performance.

How would you answer the opening question?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Who Is Right?

Invariably one of the unspoken questions between couples who come for counseling is “Who is most in the right?” First of all any counselors with half a brain (and that includes me) will stay as far away from that question as they can. More importantly it is the wrong question.

Such a question suggests that there is a virtual score card on which is recorded the number of times each spouse is right and when each spouse is wrong, thus justifying my unloving and /or disrespectful behavior based on the fact that the scales are tipped in my favor.

This also implies that it is now the counselor’s job to change the person who appears to be the more flawed of the two individuals. All I can say is,”Lots a luck with that plan.” The counselor can’t help a person to change who doesn’t want to change. Furthermore I have yet to see a couple where both parties are not somewhat culpable for the condition of the marriage.

So what is the right question? “Am I the Godly husband/wife that God has commanded me to be?” If you are not sure try these questions:
• Do you let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth or only that which is necessary for building up and encouraging your spouse?
• Do you love your wife as much as you love yourself and would she acknowledge that you do?
• Do you respect, admire and revere your husband and show it in tangible ways?
• Since the husband is to be the spiritual leader of the house, have you placed God at the center of your marriage? Do you as a couple take all major (and some minor) decisions before the Lord? Do you have devotions together?
• Are each of you growing spiritually, i.e. spending more time in His Word and meditating on His Word, reading books that increase your understanding of His Word, etc.?
• Do you pray together? Again, husbands are to take the lead.

If you must keep a score card, this is the one you should keep. If a husband and wife can each answer “yes” or “I’m working on it” to the questions above they will have a very good marriage. Why? Because God is the designer of marriage, it only stands to reason that if you follow His plan you will get results that He will bless.