Friday, 21 June 2013

Adventure or Struggle?

My wife recently purchased a greeting card that read “Life is an adventure in which God guides you, teaches you, embraces you, blesses you, and encourages you every step of the way.”  Assuming that this is a true statement why are so many people struggling when it comes to their marriages?

The mere fact that we truly do not know what tomorrow will bring makes each new day an adventure.  But the word “adventure” can conjure up something very exciting for some and very disconcerting for others who are uncomfortable with the unknown and prefer routine.  Predictability and routine can be a good thing for some of us but most likely when we were dating there was some spirit of adventure, an exciting time, a time when you wanted to spend more time together and learn more about one another.  I’ll bet there are still some surprises if you look for them

Does God really guide us?  He will if we let Him.  Each and every breath comes from Him. He has given us principles to live by.  Any verse in Scripture that gives us insight into ourselves, our relationship with Him and/or our relations with others provides a guide for daily living.  His Word tells us how we are to respond to most situations.  We are not going to hear an audible voice telling us to go to work today or go to the super market but if we don’t suppress His word we might be inclined to buy one rose for our wives or to make our husband their favorite dinner. 

Does He teach us?  Life with God is like being in a learning laboratory 24/7.  We are presented every day with something we can learn. Often it is our spouse who God uses as the teacher.  He can use our spouse to teach us patience or to learn to be more like His Son.  Do we feel blessed?  If we are a follower of Jesus we are blessed.  It may or may not mean we have material wealth or good health.   But it does mean that if our marriage is built on the Rock we will experience joy.

Does He embrace us?  In the sense that God is in us in the form of the Holy Spirit He has hold of us and He will not let go.  Are we encouraged?  It depends on your point of view.  I suspect we feel encouraged to the extent that we feel blessed, that we feel embraced, that we feel guided, and that we look forward with anticipation to what God has in store for us tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Taming of the Shrew

I appreciated receiving an e-mail from Baltis Naphtali who authored a blog entitled “The Taming of the Shrew” ( http://truefeminismnaphtali.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-taming-of-shrew.html ).  She acknowledged that her mother had experienced two dysfunctional marriages and that she entered marriage with the idea that “all men are worthless”.  She went on to say, “Things gradually went downhill in my marriage, and my husband sought an “escape” from the degradation at home, caused by me.”

Her story does have a happy ending, “I prayed one night asking God for His help as we were clearly headed for disaster.”  Ironically God used the movie “Taming of the Shrew” with Elizabeth Taylor to help Baltis turn her marriage around.

“One day, a heated argument arose via e-mail between my husband and me. I expected a fight when he got home, so I asked God how I should handle it. He reminded me of what Elizabeth Taylor did in the movie in what was almost the same situation; which was to stop arguing with my husband; and submit to him…It was an experience [I thought] could only happen in movies. RECEIVING, SEEING and FEELING that Love that is so real and fulfilling; it completely erased all the bitter, painful, unnecessary memories of heated arguments and failures of the past; when all that my husband wanted from me was to STOP arguing with him.”

It is not my intention to beat the “submission” drum.  I am a master at noticing a blinding glimpse of the obvious.  If every couple who claimed to be a born again children of God just read, understood and put into practice Ephesians 5:21-33 their tag line could truly be and “they lived happily ever after.”

In those 13 Bible verses God tells us, through the Apostle Paul, everything we need to know to have an outstanding marriage.  For those of you who want the Cliff Notes version just read Ephesians 5:33.  It is incredibly simple while at the same time difficult.  God created women to want to feel loved by their husbands – simple enough.  Except there is not a universal definition of how each woman defines how she feels loved; her definition changes over time; and that is the thing that is hardest for a man to do, i.e. be nurturing and other-centered.

The woman is commanded to respect her husband – simple enough.  Except the curse of Eve was that she would want to control her husband, so respecting him is quite difficult.  In addition most men are not very articulate so they have a tough time defining what respect looks like even if asked.

God’s design is ingenious.  He has wired men and women to require something that the other has a difficult time providing – it requires self-sacrifice.  Sacrifice is another word for love which was demonstrated so powerfully on Calvary.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Are You Sleepwalking Through Your Marriage?

Many people are so preoccupied with future plans and decisions that they fail to see choices they need to make today. Without any conscious awareness, they make their habitual responses. People who live this way find a dullness creeping into their lives. They sleepwalk through their days, following well-worn paths of routine. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

As I read this portion of the daily devotional Jesus Calling it reminded me of a number of the marriages that I have encountered in counseling.  No doubt when these couples met they had at the very least a romanticized feeling of love toward one another.  Over time however life happened.  Soon after the wedding, Mrs. Right began to realize that Mr. Right had a few flaws that hadn’t been apparent before the “I do’s.”  And little did Mr. Right realize what a negative impact Mrs. Right’s family of origin would have on how she viewed him as a project to be fixed. Over all however they were doing “okay”.

Children then arrived on the scene.  It seemed as though the couple had little time for themselves.  The weekly date night became a quarterly trip to the drive through with the kids in the back seat.  To prepare for college expenses Mr. Right began spending far more time at work.  Mrs. Right was frazzled.  Between her part-time job at the dentist’s office and her full time job as mom, chauffeur and housekeeper she was exhausted by 8:00 every night.

As time marched on they suffered from the “drift”, an all too common affliction of couples who do not intentionally stay connected. At first little offenses began piling up, nothing worthy of mention.  Because of their busy schedules and lack of relational connection their times of intimacy were on the decline.  The couple usually attended church.  The couple never prayed together.  Mr. Right had never had spiritual leadership modeled for him while he was growing up and he was uncomfortable in that role.

This could easily describe many families.  Now add to the mix any number of things that could be fall this couple and you have a recipe for disaster.  What if Mr. Right lost his job and the couple was in serious financial difficulties?  What if Mr. Right became addicted to pornography?  What if Mrs. Right connected with an old high school sweetheart on Facebook?

When God is not at the center of a marriage something else takes His place.  We as human beings were designed by our Creator as worshippers.  If not God, we will worship something or someone else.  Money, possessions, children, even serving at church become what motivates you to get up in the morning. 

Marriage was designed by God to mirror the Son’s relationship with His bride the church.  As such marriage is to glorify God.  In such a marriage the couple is very intentional in keeping their relationship strong.