Friday, 15 June 2012

Criticism - Bring It On

Who in their right mind wants to be criticized?  Who with even a modicum of common sense responds well to being yelled at?  Even a nit wit does not like to be called a derogatory name?  And don’t you just love the term “constructive criticism”, that seems like an oxymoron to me.

So why do we criticize, yell and use derogatory names?  Do we think if we scream a little louder at our spouse they will better understand what we are saying and change the behavior that brought on our tirade?  Do we think that the sharper our tongue and the more biting our sarcasm the more effective will be our communication?  And I know I for one respond really well when someone calls me a less than flattering name.  That old saw “sticks and stones will break my bones but names…” is a lot of malarkey.  Many a child has been scarred by being called something that brought into question their level of intelligence or worse.

So why do we criticize, raise our voice or say hurtful things?  First of all accept as fact that self-centeredness is at the heart of most of our relational problems. Second Corinthians 5:15 says, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”  In this verse God is telling us “I had to send my Son to die for you because all you cared about was yourself.”  Unfortunately in our sinful nature most of us still live for ourselves, we still want things done our way.  It is a constant battle to be other-centered as Christ would have it.

Sometimes we want to exert control over a situation or person and by putting them down and/or shouting them down we maintain control.

What I am saying is that criticizing someone, yelling at someone and or hurting them with your words does not produce positive results and more importantly does not glorify God, which is what we Christians are to be about. (1Corinthians 10:31)  I do realize that there is a time, a place and a way to share some insights which IF delivered with the right motivation can be beneficial to the recipient.

Someone who is a true Christian is on a continuous improvement plan (called sanctification) with the goal of becoming more and more like Christ, though we will never arrive this side of heaven.  And here is the kick in the shorts – our spouse is a major player in God’s plan for our improvement.  When a husband and wife are deeply committed and devoted to one another they are in the best position to gently and lovingly share with us how we can become more like Christ.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Gray Divorce Revolution

I’m not sure what troubles me more, the fact that I am old enough to get AARP Magazine or the articles that sometimes appear.  In the current issue one of the featured headlines is “Divorce After 50”.  The report states that the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled since 1990.  The reasons given are (1) longer lives mean more years with an incompatible spouse, (2) no kids to use as a reason to stay together, (3) less stigma about splitting, (4) more women working, some out-earning their spouses, (5) and the remarriage failure rate jumps to 60 percent.

If you had difficulty finding anything positive in the paragraph above, you will find even less encouragement if you read the entire article.  Financial pressures, living arrangements, and giving and receiving care head the list of some of the fall-out resulting from a divorce in later life.

So what is my point in bringing you this cheery news?:  It’s just this, don’t wait to seek help.  In many cases if while in their 30’s and 40’s the couple had done everything in their power to make their marriage work they wouldn’t be faced with the dilemma of divorce.

One of the major reasons marriage counseling has such a dismal success rate is because couples wait until the garbage they are lugging around with them is so heavy that  Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t lift it. This was probably a bad analogy considering his recent divorce.  Once the amount of acrimony and hurt has reached gigantic proportions it is difficult to undue all the damage.  Either one or both of the parties is unable or unwilling to forgive the other.

Perhaps the saddest statistic of all is the one that claims the death of Christian marriages happening at the same rate as in the secular community.  Since marriage is for the express purposes of glorifying God this is totally unacceptable.  “Wait a minute”, you say, ”Since when did glorifying God become the primary purpose of marriage?”  My answer is in the Garden and you saw how well that worked.  God is determined to give us free will, He is willing to let us make mistake after mistake.  But 1Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whatever we do it is to be for the glory of God.  Ephesians 5 tells us that we are to be imitators of God, we are to live a life of love, and the marriage relationship should mirror the image of Christ to His bride, the church.

If your marriage is in trouble start with a new vision, i.e. that whatever you do, say, think or don’t do as it pertains to your marriage will bring glory to God.

Monday, 11 June 2012

You're Walking on My Idol

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  James 4:1-2

In his book Gospel Centered Marriage Tim Chester has a great line.  He says, “One of the great things about marriage is that God throws a fellow sinner into close proximity to us so that they walk all over our idols.”

You may be quick to say, “but I don’t have any idols” and I would be quicker to say – “yeah right!”  We all have idols.  James uses a much kinder word, i.e. “desires”.  Now desires in and of themselves are not necessarily bad or idols.  Paul Tripp puts it this way, “a desire for a good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.”
Tim follows with a very good example:

I have a desire for order.  That’s a good desire.  It makes our family run well.  But that desire can be idolatrous.  Sometimes my wife puts things away in the wrong place.  It’s a small thing.  But it annoys me.  I get frustrated.  That frustration is the sign that something is wrong.  The bad fruit in my behavior is a sign of a bad root in my heart. (Luke 6:43-45)  It might mean that what I really want is for life to be ordered my way…”

Tim then offered some “x-ray questions” that can help each of us get real about our own idols.

1.    When do you respond badly to your spouse?  What triggers your response?  Can you spot any patterns?  Identifying the points at which you get angry or bitter or resentful enables you to you to think about what you want in that situation.

2.    How do you respond badly?  Do you yell; say something sarcastic; or withdraw?  You may appear calm on the outside but your inner attitude provides the clue.

3.    What happens when you act badly?  Be honest with yourself.  Be willing to explore the results of your “bad” behavior.  What affect is it having on those around you?

4.    Why do you act badly?  James tells us that our behavior is caused by the desires within.

So if you ever get frustrated, irritated, angry, impatient (this list is endless) there is a very good chance there is an idol lurking under the surface.
Tim’s three step process for overcoming these desires:

1.    Ask God to show you the idolatrous desires that cause  your behavior.

2.    Humble  yourself before God

3.    Repent of your desires and behavior