Saturday, June 19, 2010

Become A Good Dancer - (with a sandwich thrown in)

You might be familiar with the saying “Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it.” And it’s good advice.

James 1:19,20 says: So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

But the phrase ‘slow to speak’ does not mean ‘do not speak’. Those of us who tend to shy away from conflict (Avoidants) may actually increase the potential for conflict by not speaking up when appropriate.

At times early in our marriage both Nan and I did not want to risk a confrontation by bringing up unpleasant subjects and so we just kept quiet. Although it is appropriate to choose our battles well, sometimes avoiding is really just postponing the confrontation until it has escalated into a much bigger problem.

Song of Solomon 2:15:  Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.

What is implied here is that relationships are tender, and dealing with problems while they are still small is preferable to waiting until they ‘grow up into bigger foxes’.

If you are a ‘stuffer’, you run the risk of collecting resentments, watching them grow until you reach your limit. Then you either become a ‘volcano’, spewing toxic material or a ‘runner’, detaching from the relationship, perhaps permanently.

Speaking the truth in love is a delicate dance. We can either dance around the truth (still avoiding) or forget the love part, stepping on our partner's tender feet (hostile). 

I recommend the ‘sandwich technique’.

Affirmation (I know you didn’t intend to)
Complaint and request (but I felt hurt when you…. and what I’d like is….)
Affirmation (Thanks for listening, I know it isn’t easy to hear this…..)

Statistics shows that two “Avoidants” paired up in a marriage are the most likely to divorce. They slowly drift farther and farther apart by not dealing with hurts, and then separate.

Prov. 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Let’s try to be a good friend.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Marriage Commitment Fears

Lately I have been thinking about the fears that single people have about making marriage commitments. Here are some of the comments I have heard.

“If it doesn’t work out, she’ll leave and take half of my stuff.”

“I’m afraid that he’ll become another child I have to support”

“She’s nice to me now, but once we get married, who knows?”

“He pays attention to me now, but if we get married will he still be interested in me?”

“Marriages don’t last very long anymore, so why not just live together. It makes the inevitable break-up a lot less messy.”

All these statements hold truth in them for many people. And the person you date might be one of them. So why is this, and what do you do about it?

Just because you believe that these statements are not true about you, doesn’t mean that you will not have to deal with them if they come up in your dating relationships. In fact, if one of them is your potential partner’s fear, you will be right in the middle of it.

Most of these fears come from direct or indirect experience, many of which are a result of the family we grew up in. The family has a huge influence on the beliefs that we hold – and closely held beliefs are hard to change. Because so many people are the children of divorced parents – whether physically or emotionally divorced – it may become necessary (if you are willing to pursue this relationship) to address these fears with patience and love. Reassurance is the key here. 

  • Not only is reassurance required, but also so is rigorous honesty with oneself.
  • Am I really willing to follow through with a lifetime commitment to a spouse?
  • Will I do everything in my power to be a financially and emotionally responsible mate?
  • Will I treat my partner with love and respect even when I don’t feel like it?
  • Will I commit time and energy to the relationship, knowing that neglect is one of the biggest killers of relationships?

If I can truly answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then perhaps I am ready to move forward, even in the face of other’s fears. 

But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” 1 John 4:18

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On A Mission From God

When the word ‘mission’ comes up, what do you normally see in your mind’s eye? Is it a long journey somewhere halfway around the world to work with the indigenous people? Or do you imagine a short journey to a desperately needy part of your city? Or do you think of the Blues Brothers or an adobe building somewhere in California? (just kidding)

The truth is there are many different ways in which the concept of missions can be envisioned in our lives. The above are just two very concrete types of missions.

When I think of mission, I also think of the specific mandates that I believe God would want me to embrace in my personal life – things like being aware of hurting people around me and being willing to share the love of Christ.

For parents I think of the mission of raising up an emotionally healthy, securely attached child – one that can accept and give love and forgiveness freely.

And then there is the often-ignored subject of a marital mission apart from parenting. This is a shared spiritual assignment that respects the interests and gifts of both people. Obviously for Nan & me this is the counseling and teaching work that we do together at The Relationship Center at Christian Assembly Church. It has been one of the most beneficial things we have done for our marriage. This shared purpose allows us to connect at a much deeper level than we normally would if our lives were largely separate, except for the routine tasks of life.

I know that most couples cannot work together on a daily basis like we do. But I know couples that have a food distribution ministry, or a seasonal volunteer activity, or a babysitting for single parents ministry. There are all kinds of ways that couples (married or not) can connect in meaningful ways.

The key is intentionality -- a wonderful word that connotes active willingness to pursue something. It will require some real intentionality to put aside time to explore and find a mutually meaningful mission pursuit. But I can assure you that life will take on a new excitement that will replace the mundane distractions that are lurking at every turn (endless hours of television, computer games, etc.)

For some of you this is not new – you are already in hot pursuit. But hopefully, for some of you, it will stimulate you to consider some new opportunities to ‘kick it up a notch’.