Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Want To Get Married

We often give out a list of “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands” to singles that are in the search for a mate. They are lists of qualities that they are looking for in a husband or wife. It helps them define the characteristics they are hoping to find in a spouse so they can eliminate inappropriate matches early in the dating process.

Great. But after reading an article on Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) in the workplace, I realized that we may have been feeding the entitlement tendency of this generation.

Yes, it is helpful to define what a good match for us would look like – but it is equally as important to define what would make us a good mate.

As an employer, when I look at a potential employee I am asking myself the question “What will this person bring to the table if I hire him/her?” I know what I have to offer: a salary, medical benefits, vacation and sick pay, defined working hours, a chance for advancement, etc. But what does the person in front of me bring besides a warm body? I think a single might ask themselves the same question. 

“What do I bring to a relationship that makes me a good catch?”

Here is a starting point. 
  • Emotionally mature. I am able to deal with life’s ups and downs without a lot of drama.
  • Hard working. I am committed to the domestic and financial health of a marriage.
  • Addiction free. I am not controlled by alcohol, drugs, shopping, pornography, Facebook, texting, video gaming, gambling or any other type of addiction.
  • A healthy and appealing body. Yes, attractiveness counts. It’s what gets the chemistry started.
  • A generous attitude. I am patient and kind and giving towards others. I exude Christ’s love.
  • Flexible. I don’t always have to have my own way. I can compromise.
  • Realistic. I am able to manage my expectations and appetite for more and bigger.
  • Trustworthy and trusting. I am not jealous or possessive. I keep my promises. 
  • I am not contentious or argumentative.

One way of determining good personal characteristics is to draw up your own lists of what you do and don't desire, and then make sure you are all of those things, too. If you read through the book of Proverbs, you will get a great sense of what good character looks like on the practical side of life. 1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives you a guideline for being loving. James chapter 1 is also a good chapter to read.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Visiting Home

Jessica had a rocky childhood. It was plagued by a lot of emotional turmoil and conflict as a result of feeling unwanted. Her parents were emotionally disconnected and her older brother became her mother’s confidant. Her mother had expectations of her, to do chores and not get in trouble, but there was little warmth between them. Her father checked out of the family emotionally and spent as much time at his job as possible. So Jessica grew up feeling that she was not lovable and worthy of attention.

Eventually Jessica moved out, got married and started a family of her own. Unlike her father, her husband was warm and supportive. They moved several hundred miles away from her parent’s home. Things were certainly better, but she still felt somewhat insecure and anxious, especially when it came time to make the annual trip to see her parents and siblings for Christmas.

What was driving this anxiety about visiting home? 

Jessica still held expectations that things within her family of origin would change. Each year she visited, she hoped that she would finally feel special and loved. But her Mom, an active narcissist, still primarily pursued and got attention from her brother and his family. Her Dad was better these days and connected with her family, but not intimately with her. Each year she let her unmet childhood needs rule her thinking and her emotions.

So what should Jessica expect when she visits home each year?

Nothing. Tough as it sounds, grieving the loss of the way it should have been growing up and holding no expectations of change in the future is the only healthy choice. She can actively choose to go through a process of forgiving her parents for the hurts they caused when she was growing up. And she can lovingly detach when she visits, keeping the interactions light and polite.

It probably sounds unfair that Jessica needs to do the work of healing. After all, it’s her parents who missed the mark. And it isn’t fair – but it’s necessary. Otherwise, Jessica will be re-wounded every time she visits and she will become more and more bitter and resentful, and it will leak into her relationships with her husband and children.   

Christ did not ask us to walk the easy path. He asked us to walk the path of freedom. Often that path is uphill and twisty, and hard to see ahead. And we have to trust that the path leads us to where we want to go. Trust is the belief in an unseen outcome, because of the assurance of the source of our information. Hopefully you place your trust in Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

You Know What To Do

I’ve been pondering a maxim that I read in a fiction novel this week (yes, I read fiction, too). The wise teacher was instructing his students on a life principle.

“You know what to do. You just don’t want to do it.”

I think this describes a lot of people that come in for counseling. Perhaps they are hoping that there is an alternative to facing the hard stuff. Or they need someone with an authoritative voice to help them face the truth. Or they are hoping that the counselor will confront their partner instead of having to do it themselves.  

Yes, it is true that sometimes people need help breaking denial. They may have a big old blind spot that needs to be exposed. This is especially true for people with a more serious disorder. But for many this is not the case. It is simply that the needed change is painful, complicated, or difficult.

I see two main areas that are pretty common.

  • I need to stop drinking.
  • I need to let go of an affair or other sexual behavior outside of marriage.
  • I have to deal with my anger
  • I have a problem with lying.
  • I have a spending or other addiction.

  • I need to move out of my parent’s house
  • I need to let go of a relationship that is destructive.
  • I need to find a job or look for another job.
  • I need to move forward with a marriage commitment
  • I need to get my finances in order, but it means having to reduce my lifestyle

Both of those lists could get much longer. And let me say, it takes courage to do those things. Being coached through them often makes the process easier, or at least more doable. That is one reason why we love the AA method of using sponsors. Sponsors are able to strengthen and encourage us when we are weak. They are a gift.

I remember times in my life where I have had to face both moral and practical issues. They really are not fun. Deciding to allocate money to a retirement account meant reducing my available spending money. Admitting I was a people pleaser and needed to set appropriate boundaries was, and still is painful for me. Even before I entered counseling I knew many of the things that needed changing – but I needed help doing them.  My pride, my fear, and my family issues got in the way.

God tells us that He is available to be a 24/7 resource. His word stands as a promise to us. We can always reach out to Him when we are weak.

Psalm 46:1 

God is our refuge and our strength:
An ever present help in times of trouble.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Emotional, Logical, Strategic

When I was a kid I used to love to go to smorgasbords – or buffet meals. I could have anything or everything. It was a feast of unlimited proportions. What a delight! There was a problem, though. The table was big, and my stomach was, well, smaller than I imagined.

I was locked in a battle between the emotional and the logical.

Eating as much as I possibly could because it all looked good would have been an emotional decision. Knowing I couldn’t because my stomach was limited and I would be in pain was a logical one. It put me in a dilemma.

But there was always a third choice. Choose the best and thoroughly enjoy the experience. This is thinking strategically.

Often couples will get locked in conflicts over emotional vs. logical thinking patterns. Not surprisingly it is usually the guy who accuses his beloved of thinking emotionally and the woman asserting that her man has no feelings. Strategic thinking would not permit decisions to be feelings driven, but feelings influenced.

I can see this emotional vs. logical split within the larger culture as well.

There was a motto in the past that said:  “If it feels good, do it” -- definitely an emotional way to think – with a great potential for sin.

But logic could also be applied: “Only do it if you are sure that you won’t get caught and suffer the consequences” – also sinful thinking.

But nothing goes unnoticed by God and so neither position is a good bet. Strategic thinking says God allows us so many good things to choose from, why not choose the best. Like in the Garden of Eden, there were almost unlimited good things to pick from. There was no need to stray.

I think the church gets caught up in this kind of thinking, too. There are congregations where they succumb to unrestrained emotionality in their expression of worship. It is chaotic and feelings driven. But God is not chaotic. He warns us to maintain order when we assemble.

But there is an opposite as well – meetings conducted by rules, rigidity and coldness. There is no sense of love, and no room for the Spirit of God to move. This was the environment of the Pharisees that Jesus warned about when He was here on earth. 

Thinking strategically we would consider the whole Word of God and make balanced decisions, rather than separating out the parts that appeal to us.

In which direction do you lean? Do you need to make some adjustments in your thinking?