Friday, 29 April 2011

Is Your Marriage "Normal"?

This could be a trick question. Before you answer you may want to read Paul Tripp’s observation about “normal” marriages. Paul is a noted author and lecturer on the subject of marriage.

What is abnormal has become so normal that we live right smack-dab in the middle of it, and don’t realize it. So it is with many couples who would say that their marriage is okay. They think they have a pretty normal marriage, but they think this because what should be abnormal to them became so regular that it became the new normal and when it did, they quit seeing and hearing it.”

We own a grandfather clock. It chimes every fifteen minutes and dongs the appropriate number on the hour. Most often we don’t even hear it; we’ve become that accustomed to it. A visitor hears the clock immediately. Our abnormal has become our normal.

So it is with couples who rarely talk about anything of any substance, whose relationship mirrors more of a d├ętente than a marriage of love, unity and understanding. Long ago they learned that certain subjects are taboo that emotions would flare at the mere mention of a topic. Intimacy is perfunctory and romance non-existent. Children consume much of the parent’s energy; there is no emotional connection; and the couple has no common sense of direction. Many of these couples would say that they have a typical if not “normal” marriage.

Maybe your definition of a normal marriage paints a rosier picture than the one I just painted but the sad fact is that our “normal” however we define it will look considerably different than God’s design for marriage. After all, God designed marriage to glorify Himself, it was to be a mirror image of God’s relationship to His Son.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if a normal marriage had the following identifying marks:      
• God is at the center. The couple prays together, worships together, serves together, and has regular devotionals.
• The couple is other-centered. Each partner is willing to put the desires and needs ahead of the other.
• The couple feels emotionally connected as they share feelings, dreams, concerns and ideas with one another.
• The partners are the best of friends.
• The couples view points of disagreement as opportunities for growth. They value one another’s opinions, they listen intently to each other’s perception of the issue and they arrive at a decision that glorifies God and respects their individuality.
• Intimacy and laughter are ever present companions.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Why Is Marriage Like a Dance

In the following video Winston Smith, author, counselor and lecturer at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, addresses the question “Can My Marriage Change if My Spouse Doesn't Change?”

Winston is so right, invariably when a couple comes to counseling one partner is hoping the counselor can change their spouse. I like Winston’s dance analogy because the focus is not on getting the other person in the relationship to change. The focus is on you changing and as a result there is a good possibility the relationship will change.

Here is the tough part. Scripture doesn’t tend to sugar coat anything. In the book of Ephesians men are instructed to love their wives as much as they love themselves. Actually they are to love them even more than that; they are to love their wives as much as Christ loves his church. Nowhere in this passage is there a condition, i.e. love your wife “if” she does your laundry, if she prepares your meals, if… Wives are given a similar challenge, i.e. they are to respect their husbands. Again there are no conditions, e.g. he is a good provider, he is a devoted father, etc.

Following Winston’s premise, a husband has reason to believe that if he loves his wife as much as he loves himself that she will respond in a positive way. If a wife drowns her husband in respect (whatever that looks like to him) most likely she will see a marked change. Here’s the painful part. Even if your spouse makes no change as a result of your efforts that is what God has called you to do.

Monday, 25 April 2011

What to Do About Your Anger

This is a follow up to “What You Need to Know About Anger”, a previous post, in which David Powlison of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation began a conversation about the root of anger.
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:29-5:2
David Powlison
The Apostle Paul tells us that we shouldn’t stuff our anger, or blow up, or gossip. He tells us to go to God for help. As you go to Him, you will learn how to think through your angry reactions, how to go to other people in such a way that you’re actually asking for help, and how to go to the other person in a way that’s constructive. Here are five questions to ask yourself, and then one thing you need to do that will direct your honest meeting with God.

1. What is happening around me when I get angry? What pushes your buttons? Think of specific times when you become angry. Make a list of the last five times you got angry, or keep track of the next five times. When did you get angry at something that doesn’t really matter in God’s world? When did you get angry because you had made a good thing more important than God? And, when did you get angry because you were truly wronged?

2. How do I act when I get angry? Look at your list and write down what you do when your anger goes wrong. Do you express your anger in bitterness (stuffing your anger)? In arguing (in expressing your anger freely to those around you)? In slander (gossiping and talking about those who have wronged you)? Or in some combination of all three?

3. What were my expectations (what did I want, need, demand) when I became angry? Examining your motives brings God into the discussion, because it reveals what hijacked God’s place in your heart. Your answer will show you where you need God’s help the most.

4. What message does God have for me, in His word, that will speak to my anger? Think back to what James says about the cause of anger. We get sinfully angry when we forget that God, not us, is in charge of the world.

5. What am I called to do? Your relationship with God will always lead you to your relationship with people.