Friday, 27 September 2013

No Win In Comparison

“Then I saw yet another thing: envy fuels achievement. All the work and skills people develop come from their desire to be better than their neighbors. Even this is fleeting, like trying to embrace the wind.”  Ecclesiastes 4:4

As I write this blog I am struck by what an odd lot we humans are.  Many of us are blessed beyond anything we deserve yet we find a way to be discontent.  The wisest man in the world, Solomon, recognized that we humans have a knack for comparing ourselves with others.  The end result of comparing ourselves is that we either feel inferior or superior.  This is particularly true for those of us who live in the west.

Andy Stanley’s three part series entitled “Comparison” articulates this plight extremely well.  For most of us it started in school.  We looked around to determine whether we were smarter, cuter, or better in some way.  Once afflicted by this insidious malady it only gets worse.  We begin to compare everything from the clothes we wear to the person we are dating to who passed their driver’s test first.  Then it was who got invited to the prom by whom, who got into the college of their choice and was it a prestigious university?  Whose wedding was the most elaborate, who bought their first home, who had the cutest and most well behaved children.  I could go on indefinitely but I’ll spare you. 

Sadly for too many of us our happiness is dependent upon how we stack up.  What or who are we going to use as a reference point to determine if we are okay?  Solomon’s point is this is futile, it is like chasing after the wind.  We can never catch the wind and we will never be content if we continue to compare ourselves to others.

The Apostle Paul sums it up very well in Philippians, chapter 4, verse11.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” The Message

Let’s connect the dots, after all this is a marriage blog.  All too often we compare our husbands or wives with our neighbors, with what we see in the movies or on TV, or at the very least with our pre-conceived notions of what marriage would be like.  This is absolutely chasing after the wind.  Thank God for the person that He has brought into your life.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Best Walks

My daughter has idolized her Old English Sheepdog.  Daizy was her best friend and a loving trusted companion for the past twelve years.  We knew however that this day would come, the day when she would be forced to give the vet the do not resuscitate order.  She is devastated.  In anticipation of this day my wife and I had purchased a sympathy card which said, “The best walks in life are always too short.”  It had a picture of a dog that looked much like Daizy walking down the path with her master.

God never wastes pain.  It is in some of our most difficult circumstances that we learn some of life’s most important lessons.  In this instance I have three takeaways.

First, no one or no thing must ever be more important to us than God.  He is the one indestructible, all powerful, Rock of Gibraltar who will never leave us or forsake us.  No one should ever bring us more comfort, more peace or a greater sense of security than our Lord.  He is the one we must run to when we are hurting so badly that we think the pain will never subside.  In part because no human will ever understand our individual pain as much as our Creator, the One who knew us before we were born.

The second takeaway serves as a reminder of how self-centered we are.  When my first wife died I did not grieve very much.  To some I may have appeared to be in denial.  The fact is that she suffered much of her life with bi-polar illness and schizophrenia.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was in a far, far better place.  She went home to be with the Lord, a first class permanent upgrade.  The point is that I weathered that storm by thinking of her gain and not my loss.  My daughter’s sheepdog was blind, deaf and had numerous medical problems the last three months of her life.  My daughter’s grief appears to be more focused on her loss than Daisy’s gain.  You see I, like John Piper and Randy Alcorn, believe that our pets will be among the first to greet us when we are called home.

My last takeaway was captured by the sentiment in the greeting card.  Many of us fail to appreciate the “best walks” in life.  We are quick to criticize our spouse when we should consider what an incredible gift God has given us.  We need to get over our petty differences and to get over ourselves.  Much of our dissatisfaction with life is because things don’t go according to our plan, when its His plan that counts.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Taking Inventory

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human.
I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” Jerimiah 17:

Andy Stanley
In a video series entitled “Recovery” Andy Stanley prods us to be honest, not necessarily with someone else, though that would be great, but with ourselves.  He challenges each of us to take a “fearless moral inventory” of ourselves.  He contends that many of us are quick to blame our circumstances or our behavior or our thoughts on something or someone else.

“I’m this way because…”  “When you do …. It makes me…” “Every time … happens it makes me…”  You can fill in the blanks.  Whether it was our parents or a teacher or a sibling some of us continue to blame our failings or shortcomings on someone from our past.  Or maybe we blame our spouse for our irritability or frustration.  “If only he would…”  “If she would just stop…”  Again you can fill in the blanks.

So what is a fearless moral inventory?  Andy is saying sit down with a piece of paper and begin to identify those areas in you where you have been less than forthright.  For example perhaps you have felt badly that you never completed your college education.  When asked you say “I couldn’t afford the tuition and I refused to incur debt to continue.”  That sounds very plausible.  However let’s assume that if we were totally honest the response would be “I really have never liked school, I didn’t want to study and I was put on academic probation and never went back.”

Perhaps you have been unemployed for a number of months in part due to the economy.   It is easy to say “At my age it is getting increasingly difficult to find a job.”  Your age and the economy are certainly legitimate reasons for being unemployed, reasons that most of our friends and family will buy.  However what if you are honest with yourself and the real answer is “I’m too proud to take a job that I feel is beneath me.”

I have said in these blogs any number of times that the single biggest problem in marriage is self-centeredness.  Perhaps you have what would be considered a legitimate gripe with your spouse, one that justifies your frustration or anger.  “I’ve told him/her a hundred times not to …” However if the truth were told you are just being stubborn to prove a point. 

The inventory is called “fearless” because it takes nerve to be honest with ourselves.