Monday, March 30, 2009

We're SO Different!

"God's plan is for great diversity, but with no division in the body of Christ. The same is true in the marriage relationship. Think of yourself and your spouse as two puzzle pieces fitting together. God created us to complement or complete each other. That's one purpose of marriage.

A second purpose is to place us in a situation in which change is demanded.

Our differences _when understood, appreciated, and allowed to be used by God - are those things God created for the great purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son (or, as Proverbs puts it, to sharpen one another). What do you get when iron rubs against iron? Heat. Sparks fly. But if the pieces are rubbed in the right way, they inevitably sharpen each other."

This quote comes from a book, Opposites Attract by Jack and Carole Mayhall. It's been a great reminder for Bev and I as we work through issues and in particular the place of the gospel in our marriage. Too often our differences become the problem and we end up attacking rather than sharpening each other.

What if we truly believed our differences were actually ordained of God for the purpose of growing us in Jesus personally as well as corporately? If we believe God is sovereign then that means He brought us together with our differences intentionally. He wants to do something to and with us that is more important than us. We "get on each other's nerves" not because God is out to make us miserable but to make us more like His Son.

I think we give up too soon.

It's hard work. Who wants to admit to sin and pride? It's easier to put up with or tolerate our spouses than to put on Christ and learn from them.

The Apostle Paul had great concerns for how the gospel was to honored among those who claimed the name of Jesus. Romans 12 is a clear picture of Paul's passion for the honor of Christ personally and relationally. For example when he says in Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment... and again in verse 10, Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. These are not mere platitudes but expected out workings of the gospel in our lives. I love the phrase, "Outdo one another in showing honor." The implication is to think more about the other person than yourself. What would that look like in a Christ centered marriage? How would that affect the way we see our differences? To see as Jesus sees, to love as Jesus loves, not primarily for our sakes but for Jesus' sake. All of this occurs in the context of Paul describing the body of Christ as consisting of many different gifts and how we are to view each other.

What better context to work out and appreciate differences than our marriages?!! May God grant us a renewed desire to appreciate our differences and use them for His glory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A New Definition of Love

"We need a definition of love that serves as an antidote to our modern belief that life is as it should be only when feel-good chemicals are coursing through the pleasure centers of our brains. We need a definition of love that embraces romance and passion ... yet still encourages us to appreciate the way in which love can help us to evolve and grow, through the early months of romance, through more tempered attachment, through building a life together, through aging, and , inevitably, through loss - through all of the seasons of a married life. We need a definition of love that doesn't encourage us to devote our relationships to the single-minded pursuit of keeping romance alive, because the more actively we pursue passion the more elusive it becomes.

And we need, above all, a definition of love that can help us to live and love with, rather than against, the natural course of time and human nature."

This quote is not from a Christian counseling book on marriage but rather from a book I've mentioned before, The Marriage Benefit by Mark O'Connell. He is a secular psychologist who exposes a screaming need in marriage that only a biblical view can truly satisfy. We need a definition of love that spans a lifetime which is rooted not in our own happiness and needs but in the journey of working out love in the context of a partner who shares that commitment.

Easier said than done. If it's not divorce it's emotional suicide. The statistics of broken marriages are depressing and distressing. And the response of our culture as well as the church? "That's just the way life is."

We need a new definition of love.

"...and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I John 4:7,10

For too many of us as professing Christians this is an appendage to our marriages rather than the essence of them. How often do I yearn and hunger to understand my identify with Christ? One who has been born of God. One who knows God. I cannot truly know love apart from God, in Christ and the more I know and understand Him the more I will reflect his love out of gratitude not mere obligation.

Perhaps to our shame we as professing Christians have looked for love more to the world and ourselves than to the scriptures. We want quick answers to our disappointments rather than believing the all sufficient love of God in Christ.

The implications are serious and demand hard work.

That's a theme for another blog on another day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Assumptions - Part I

I turned the TV off assuming we were ready for bed. When questioned I told my wife I knew we were both tired and needed rest. "But you didn't even ask, you just assumed."

What then proceeded to happen was one of those molehill to mountain events. I assured her I had her welfare in mind and she challenged me about the sincerity of my motives. "Maybe you were actually thinking more about yourself than me which is why you didn't even bother to ask."

Ouch! In the name of good intentions and sincerity I was actually more concerned with my needs at the time. A little thing, sure, but it escalated and I found myself defending my sincerity and not really listening. Then do you know what happened? The more we debated the situation the more I found myself questioning her motives and assuming she was the problem. How did we get to the level of arguing over a "little" thing like turning off a TV?

As I reflected back on that night I realized the problem wasn't the remote control. The problem was that once again other things crept in to interrupt the habit of us having daily communication. When you don't take time for each other you tend to rely on your intentions and assumptions thinking your spouse knows what your thinking. Granted, there can be seasons of busyness that seem to crowd out your relationship but that can't be an excuse for neglect.

Marriage is hard work. Walking with Christ is hard work. That doesn't mean it is not rewarding but the rewards are not primarily comfort and security but a love that reflects our savior. The more we assume the perfect love of Jesus the more we are free to give the love of Jesus.

"...let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires."
James 1:19,20