Friday, 23 December 2011

Patience in the Process

In his recently released book, Forever, Paul Tripp described the early years of his marriage:

“…I wasn’t a mature husband. But God was at work in me, and thankfully I am now a different man. In the meantime, God was calling my wife to patience and grace. He calls each of us to wait in our relationship, because the change that is needed is almost always a process.

Remember, God intends the hardships of the brokenness of the here and now to do something good. As you are waiting for eternity, God is using the difficulties of this fallen world to grow and transform you. His primary goal in our relationships is not so much our personal happiness, but personal transformation. Here are two things we all need to know about transformation: first, everyone needs it, and second, it is usually a process.

Eternity calls us to patience and grace in our relationships. These moments of difficulty and disappointment are not a waste. God is progressively transforming us from what we are into what his grace alone can enable us to be. He is rescuing us from ourselves and introducing us to the joys of living for him. He will not waste our suffering, and he will make good use of our disappointment. And in all of this, he is working day by day to prepare us for the eternity that is his gift to all who have placed their trust in him.”

We live in a microwave culture but more often than not God prefers to use a Crockpot. We get upset with ourselves and we get frustrated and disappointed with our spouse. Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we are to “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways we are to acknowledge him, and he will make our paths straight.”

Pray for patience and grace. Pray for understanding. Pray to be used as an instrument in your Redeemer’s hand that you might be part of the transforming process that your spouse is experiencing. But also pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

May the hours you spend in God’s learning laboratory produce magnificent results

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Five to One

Smart Car
For those of you who bet on horses, football or how many people you can squeeze into a Smart Car you probably think that Five to One represents the odds that a particular person or event will be victorious over someone or something else. Well in a way you would be correct.

John Gottman, who is the most well known clinical practitioner studying the way couples interact, proposes that most healthy marriages are characterized by having five positive interactions per day for every one negative interaction. In other words the odds that your marriage will do well may be very dependent on the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones.

Kind words, a wink, a hug, a thoughtful gesture, a mushy e-mail, a pat on the gluteus maximus, an adoring e-card, a phone call just to see how your loved one is doing, a small gift, quality time together, words of affirmation, a kiss for no good reason, an act of service, saying thank you, offering praise for something well done (or attempted) or a shoulder massage convey love.

I assume that I don’t have to give you a list of negative behaviors, for some reason these come much more naturally. Unkind words and some form of criticism are obvious offenders. Less obvious (particularly to guys) are silence, withdrawal, and simply ignoring your spouse.

John Gottman
Keeping score is a no win proposition in marriage. However, that said you may want to keep your own score for a couple of days. How often do you pay your spouse a compliment or express appreciation and/or show affection in some way throughout the day. How often were you critical, did you use a disapproving tone of voice, ignore your spouse, or in some way express displeasure?

Again I suspect it will be more difficult for you to objectively spot your negative interactions. You might ask yourself, “Self, did my spouse fail to live up to some expectation today?; Did something my spouse do irritate or annoy me today?; Did my spouse let me down today?” If you answered yes to any of these questions there is a good chance that your response was negative, even if you didn’t say anything.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we are “not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it might benefit those who listen.” Furthermore Ephesians 5:33 tells us we are to love and respect one another.

Strive to exceed Gottman’s five to one ratio and I think you will notice an improvement in your marriage.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Teaching Kids to Fight

Parenting may be one of the most difficult jobs any of us will be called to do. The mere presence of children can wreak havoc on a marriage while being an incredible source of joy. Children are a gift from God. Technically He has loaned them to you for a season because in the final analysis they are His. There may be times when you wish He would repossess them. During the season that they are in your charge you are to grow them up in a way that glorifies the Lord.

One of the more important teachable moments comes during those times when husbands and wives are in disagreement. If you are accustomed to yelling and screaming, calling each other names, slamming doors, throwing things, demeaning one another or getting physical you are not only setting a horrible example that your child will likely emulate but you make them feel most insecure.

I’m assuming if you didn’t give a rip what God thinks you wouldn’t be reading a blog entitled So I ask you when you and your spouse have a disagreement do you settle it in a way that honors God? If so, read no further.

I thought so. That would be a no. Teaching your children how to disagree in a way that glorifies God is one of the best gifts you will ever give your children.

Here are some suggestions:
1. When an issue surfaces between the two of you come together and pray, in front of your children. Ask God to give you an open mind, wisdom, discernment and the creativity necessary to resolve the disagreement in a way that will honor Him.
2. Learn to really listen. James 4:1-2 basically says we argue because we aren’t getting our own way. Learn to identify what is behind your desire for a specific outcome and what is behind your spouse’s desire. Frankly as you try to justify your positions you might realize how ridiculous you are being. In any event listen to hear what is behind both of your desires a suitable compromise may surface.
3. Once you can accurately articulate your partner’s position and the rationale behind it see if there are any compromises that will make you both feel heard and accommodated.
4. If nothing else this should be a reasonably humane exchange. If you fail to come up with a satisfactory solution, close the session with prayer. Tell the Father that you want to honor Him in the decision you come to and ask that He give you added wisdom and insight.
5. Agree to come back at a specific time to reach a resolution.