Friday, 20 July 2012

Is Your Marriage More Valuable than Your Car?

Dr. Bob Snyder, author of “Lessons Learned on the Journey”, and one of my favorite people stimulated my thinking with his recent post entitled “Faith Maintenance”.  Actually that is another way of saying I’m going to plagiarize some of his work in writing this blog.  He opened his blog by saying, "The opening paragraph in my car's service history booklet says the following:
Regularly maintaining your vehicle is the best way to protect your investment. Proper maintenance is essential to your safety and the safety of your passengers. It will also reward you with more economical, trouble-free driving, and help to reduce air pollution.

The regular evaluation, troubleshooting and attending to the needs of my car yields much benefit.”  He then goes on to talk about the importance of maintaining his faith and the faith maintenance check list would look like.
This triggered a number of simultaneous thoughts, a painful experience, but I digress.

If our car is making a funny noise or if the ride does not seem quite right we have it repaired.  Most people change oil at least every six months and get annual State inspections where required.  This is far more than most couples do in terms of paying attention to their marriage.
Unfortunately our partners don’t come with a warning light to signal trouble.  There are no stickers affixed to their heads to notify us that an inspection is due.  So what might be some indicators that some attention is due?

·       We are getting more irritable with one another.
·       We rarely talk about anything but kids & chores.
·       Intimacy in or out of the bedroom has noticeably declined.
·       We haven’t been on a date since the weekend of Hurricane Irene.
If you were to go to the only instruction manual that comes with marriage – that would be the Bible you might find what is at the heart of the problems:
·       Husbands are to love their wives more than ESPN, actually the Bible says more than themselves – Ephesians 5:33
·       Wives are to respect their husbands, nagging is not a spiritual gift.  Ephesians 5:33
·       Husbands are to know their wives exceedingly well – 1Peter 3:7
·       We are to only say to one another that which is helpful for building them up according to their needs – Ephesians 4:29
Whether your car is three months old or ten years old you attend to problems as they arise.  Most people have routine maintenance done on their automobiles at least annually.  The message should be clear seek help as troubles begin to arise in your marriage.  Attend at least one marriage seminar a year.  Attend marriage classes, read a good marriage book together and if you are not already doing so begin praying together.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Intentionality Part II

Intentionality – Part I tried to make the point that children are a gift from God, as such they provide a marvelous opportunity to glorify God as well as being uniquely positioned to place a great deal of stress on a marriage.  As parents we have the privilege of helping one of God’s creations to reach their potential, to help them to learn about their Creator, we are to “Teach them (God’s words) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 11:19).  We are to use every opportunity as a learning laboratory, whether disciplining or praising our children.

That said there are some discussions you should have before trying to conceive a child such as:

·       What are your expectations about roles, i.e. who gets up at night, who changes the diapers, etc., etc.?  What do you understand and believe about “Attachment Theory”, etc.?

·       To what extent are we comfortable with in-laws involvement?

·       What will be the financial implications on the marriage?  Have we learned to depend on two salaries?  Is the mom to be a “stay at home” mom?  Etc.

·       Can you agree on how the child will be disciplined?  Shared responsibility?  To spank or not to spank…?

·       What will be the impact on your marriage?

 Be very careful as you answer this last question.  Raising a child can be a draining experience.  It is more the norm than the exception that couples stop going out, conversations tend to revolve around the child as well as do most activities.

This is why you need to be very intentional.  You must plan to get out a minimum of one to two nights a month, just the two of you.  If possible, plan one or two get-away weekends without your child per year.  Make arrangements with in-laws or agree to trade off with another couple who has a young child.  Set aside some time each day if possible to talk about something other than your child and household tasks. 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Intentionality - Part I

Jesus' friend, Martha, found herself in a similar state. The enormity of the task of preparing an unexpected dinner for Jesus and his disciples left Martha distracted. Jesus admonished her that her anxious attention to the preparations had deprived her of an important choice - to sit and listen to Him, as her sister Mary was doing. Choosing to focus on the future needs instead of the immediate opportunity left Martha worried and upset. (Luke 10:38-42 NIV)

Most of the couples who come to see me , their marriage in some form of disrepair, have a number of things in common.  One of the things they have in common is kids.  Granted children are one of God’s greatest gifts they can also be one of Satan’s greatest tools. 

Many, if not most, couples pour an inordinate amount of time, energy and resources into their children at the neglect of their marriage.  Often children are the basis of conflict between the husband and wife whether it revolves around discipline, i.e. too much, not enough or the wrong kind; bedtime hours; curfew; having access to the car; and/or figuring out how to attend two athletic events that are occurring at the same time.

Two things to remember about children:

First, they are on loan to you from God for a season.  Your home is to be a learning laboratory where opportunities for discipline are treated as teachable moments in preparation for adulthood; where a God glorifying marriage is on display to provide a model for your children’s future marriage; and where they learn how to apply Christian principles to daily living.  Ideally the parents take the lead in teaching them about God and Jesus so that when the kids eventually leave home  (and before they return) they will truly understand why they believe what they believe so that peers and professors won’t shake their faith.

Second, your children  are number three on the food chain.  In a home where God is at the center the pecking order is God, spouse, kids, family, job, etc., in that order.  You must be intentional when it comes to your marriage, otherwise when the children leave home you and your partner will be virtual strangers.   Set aside time every week just to have a conversation about things not related to running the house.  Have regularly scheduled “date nights” even if you only go for a walk.  A great way for younger couples who can’t afford a gazillion dollars for a baby sitter is to ask another couple who has kids to take yours for a night and you will take theirs.   Obviously some grandparents are more than willing and able to help out.