Friday, 18 October 2013

The Decision to Love Someone

Henri Nouen
“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain.”
Henri Nouwen

Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to love someone deeply without the associated pain to which Nouwen refers.  However most of us have experienced pain to some degree be it with our spouse, our children and/or parents. 
Why?  (That’s a complete sentence)

I think the reason love exposes us to the potential for great pain (or joy) is because we have a huge emotional investment in that person, in that relationship. When it comes to pain the person with whom we have this strong affinity may have let us down, they may have lied to us or deceived us, and they may have said or done something that was cruel.  It is possible that they abandoned us – physically or emotionally.
If we have truly loved the person we have most likely been vulnerable and transparent.  When someone who we allow to get that close to us inflicts pain on us we feel as though we have been violated in some way.  In each instance there is a type of loss.  It may feel as though we have been rejected.  We may feel embarrassed. We may be angry and feel as though we have been taken advantage of.

Where is God in all of this?

He is in the midst of your pain.  There is no one who loves you more than God- no one!  There are times when we bring Him great joy, there are times when we hurt Him terribly.  If there is any question about His investment in us you need only remember the cross.  He knows emotional and physical pain.  He knows rejection.  He hurts when we hurt as does any parent who loves their child.

When hurt, some of us vow to never let anyone else get that close to us again.

Human relationships can be very messy.  Loving our neighbor (or husband or wife) as we love ourselves is a concept that at best we understand on an intellectual level.  But we are incapable of truly loving someone else so fully without the Holy Spirit.

If you have been deeply wounded by another seek the Spirit of God.  Ask God to heal your broken heart and to enable you to forgive the person who has hurt you so.

Deciding never to love again is never a healthy option.  God is love and He designed us to love and God is intimately familiar with the potential cost associated with love.We must remind ourselves that we can also experience great joy by taking a risk and becoming fully known by another. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” 1Corinthians 10:13 The Message

So what do the letters “LTFP” stand for?  They stand for a Low Tolerance for Pain.  I have almost no tolerance for physical or emotional pain.  Fortunately for me and those around me the Lord has kept me from physical pain most of my life.  I am not a good patient.  I am a whiner and complainer.  I do cope with emotional pain somewhat better and that too is a good thing because through much of my first marriage, prior to my first wife’s death, I experienced a fair amount of emotional pain.

Sadly she suffered from bi-polar illness and schizophrenia.  There were some good times and I have two terrific grown children as a result of our union.  It was my first wife who introduced me to Christ and so I have much to thank her for.  I also believe that I am a stronger person and a better husband (for Kathleen) as a result of my first marriage. 

The Bible passage above suggests that first of all I will not be subjected to something that others have not faced.  However it is the following verses that are the most important.  God will never let me down, He will never let me be pushed past my limit, (though I think He has come close), and He will always help me come through the test, trial or temptation.

To me the linchpin of this promise is found in the eighth chapter of Romans, verse 28 which promises that all things will work out for my good, because I love God and have been called according to His purpose.

Now having said this I am more cognizant than ever that too often my acceptance of a Scripture passage is more on the intellectual level.  Unfortunately that does not always translate to the way I live my life.  For example, Scripture clearly tells me that I need not be anxious about anything.  I fully accept and understand that God is in control of my next breath let alone any circumstance in which I might find myself.  Yet, I have a tinge of anxiety about our retirement.

What I am learning is that the more I learn about God, His attributes and His character the more I am able to translate what I know intellectually into what I do behaviorally.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Little Decisions Count


C.S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis wrote, "Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.”

There is great wisdom in this quote from C.S. Lewis as there is in much of what he has written. In reality our days are comprised of hundreds of decisions, most of them seem to be of little consequence.  Often those decisions only affect us.  But just as often our decision to do or not to do a certain thing or how we go about doing it affects a member of our family or a co-worker.

On the positive side of the ledger when we intentionally make a decision that is other-centered, i.e. we put the needs of someone else ahead of ourselves, even the littlest gesture, will most likely pay huge dividends later on.  Other-centeredness is more of a mindset, i.e. a way of life that enables us to consistently put someone else’s wellbeing ahead of our own.  To the extent that we even do what might be considered trivial by some but do it for the benefit of another we are exponentially increasing our the value of “emotional stock” with that person.

We might bring our wives a cup of coffee as she is getting ready in the morning.  We might empty the dishwasher as she is preparing breakfast. We might help make the bed or assist in getting the children ready for school.  Little gestures that convey to our wives that we understand how much they get done all day and that we as husbands appreciate it.

John Gottman
John Gottman, the pre-eminent clinical psychologist dealing with marriage, suggests that for a healthy marriage we should maintain a ratio of five positive interactions to every one negative one.

However just as our “stock” rises in value as we attempt to be considerate it can just as easily decrease as we neglect to take out the garbage which our wife constantly has to remind us to do.  The fact that we might leave clothes laying all over the bedroom instead of picking them up was a conscious decision, thus treating our wife    as though she were a maid.

These are silly little examples of tasks, chores, and thoughtful gestures that we choose to do or not do.  It is my opinion that many marriages that begin to stagnate do so because of the negative things we do and say and/or the lack of positive interventions.  As Lewis suggests the negative things grow at an exponential rate and when not offset by positive deeds a marriage is headed for trouble.