Friday, 3 June 2011

Marriage is a Team Sport

“Success demands singleness of purpose.” Vince Lombardi

Dr. Robert Paul is known for his work at the National Institute for Marriage, where they conduct four day intensive marriage counseling workshops for marriages that are all but over. It is referred to as a “marriage emergency room.” He is also the author of Finding Ever After in which he likens marriage to a team sport.

A winning team is typically comprised of players with complementary skills, talents and abilities. The individual qualities are essential to creating and sustaining a winning team. Not all football players are possessed with the physical strength of a linesman. The best linemen can’t win a game without a fleet footed running back and/or an exceptional quarterback. Not everyone has the ability to throw a fast ball 100 plus miles an hour but rarely is that the same individual who can crank out 30 plus homeruns every year.

In 1Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul reminds us that we are created intentionally unique for a reason. Each of us has a boundary that separates us from each other. This boundary establishes our identity as a person; it is not to be disregarded or overridden, because we need it for survival, for health, and for wholeness. Our differences are more than just those of gender. As couples we need to learn to appreciate our differences.

Intimate oneness is radically different from sameness. Oneness occurs when two intimate people also share a common mission or as Lombardi would say a singleness of purpose. Oneness is about unity of purpose. Amazing things happen when that purpose is to have a marriage that glorifies God.

Unity of purpose (biblical oneness) is not trying to become one by getting rid of differences but learning how to value and utilize those differences for the “teams” overall well being.

The fact that we are on the same team means being all we’re meant to be individually is also for the good of the team. We want the basketball player who excels at the three point shot to take it whenever he has an opening.

Dr. Paul states, “Marriage is like a team sport. You either win as a team or lose as a team; when you’re on the same team, there are only two possible outcomes: You both win, or you both lose.”

If the team suffers a loss you must be determined to find a way to prevent it from happening again. Typically when couples are having a disagreement they adopt a posture of being battle ready or defensive. This must stop!

Let the Bible be your play book and God be your coach.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Financial Tug of War

A recent blog I read encouraged families to “Live According to Your Financial Values”. It went on to describe many American households.

"Many families struggle to pay the bills each month. The American dream says we should work hard so we can afford a house, a car, and lots of nice things. Then once we have some equity in our house, we should upgrade to a bigger house and take out a new 30-year mortgage. We should buy a new car every few years. And we tell ourselves, “Get something nice. You deserve it.” We work so we can buy more. The more we buy, the more we work." 

The blog then went on to say:

"Take time to evaluate your family values. Talk to your partner about what is most important to you. When you are 80 years old, do you want to look back at your life and say “Boy, we sure bought some nice things.” Or would you rather say, “We didn’t have much, but we sure had fun.” Whatever your goals are, make sure you are living according to your values.

For some families, this might mean downsizing. Perhaps you want one parent to stay at home. This might mean getting a smaller home or only having one vehicle. There’s no shame in that. However, many people would feel bad about this. Or perhaps your goal is to only work part time so you can spend more time with your family. If that is your goal, find a way to make this happen. Or perhaps your goal is to save enough money to take that dream vacation. If so, maybe working some overtime makes sense."

On the surface this seems like fairly prudent advice and certainly counter-cultural or is it? What if what you value most is the new car, the big house and all the electronic toys that money can buy?

Perhaps it would be wiser to adopt God’s values with regard to money, recognizing that God’s values do not necessarily preclude you from owning a new car or buying toys. However, my guess is that it would be more prudent to follow His value system than ours.

Some key verses might be:
Matthew 6:24
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

Proverbs 22:7
"The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender."

Proverbs 21:20
"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has."

Since there are over 800 references in Scripture to money God was well aware that money would be a stumbling block for many of us. Husbands and wives must be on the same page and how much better if that page is God’s page.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Why Is Marriage Like a Fruit Tree?

John 15:2 says, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples.” A disciple is defined as a person or people who believe in and help disseminate particular teachings.

If we accept that marriage is an institution created by God for His glory, then it stands to reason that the quality of our marriage either exalts Him or makes Christianity seem hypocritical. A marriage that honors God bears much fruit. In such a marriage the husband and wife are other centered, they put the desires of one another ahead of their own. They are committed to one another and they keep short accounts, i.e. they do not let the sun go down on their anger and they are quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. They give one another the benefit of the doubt. They spend several hours a week talking at the gut level, about life, about dreams, about concerns and about spiritual matters. There is much laughter and much affection. They look at one another as though they are in the dating phase of their relationship. When you are in the presence of such a couple you know they have something special. It is in this way that such a couple bears fruit and disseminates the teachings of Christ.

John 13:34-5 says, “A new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you. So you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Based on most statistics regarding marriage such a couple as described above would be an anomaly. However I think it is safe to assume that God intended marriage to be a reflection of Christ and His bride, i.e. the church. (Eph. 5:23-32)

So what are the first things we try when a fruit tree is not bearing the quantity or quality of fruit that we would find desirable? We would feed it and/or prune it. So it is with a marriage when it is not bearing the fruit that God intended. We feed our marriage by praying together, studying God’s Word together, intentionally planning activities that remind us of our honeymoon years, going to marriage seminars and reading Christian books on marriage.

Pruning is more painful than and not as simple as feeding. First we need to accept as fact that God can and will use our spouse, our friends, and people and circumstances we might not like to provide us with insights as to how we can become more like Christ. So rather than getting defensive we need to listen carefully to the feedback we receive from others and observe our reaction to the situations which cause us to respond negatively. Pruning may require that we seek a Biblical counselor or some trusted friends who can offer Godly advice and insight. God’s children produce more fruit just like trees that have been pruned.