Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

I was surprised.  We’ve been married for almost 33 years and attended a half dozen marriage retreats and conferences.  We have a strong marriage that has effectively navigated a number of major challenges, always coming through stronger on the other side.  So when we attended the XO Marriage Conference this past weekend, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything new.  I expected to be reminded of biblical truths about marriage that I needed to emphasize and I hoped to be an encouragement to others.   The Lord fulfilled these expectations and, as usual, He went above and beyond.

My “Ah ha” learning was the inclusion of verse 21 in the pre-eminent scriptural description of marriage.  From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read.

‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’  Ephesians 5:21-33

The divisions in the bible are a fairly modern literary inclusion designed to aid in reading, marking, and discussing the bible.  They were not in the original manuscripts.  As such, later editors of the bible inserted the chapters, verses, and the topical breaks.  These are meant to help us compartmentalize our thoughts and better remember what we read.  There is an unintended consequence with this though.  In few instances these breaks may cause us to overlook an intended point.  Verse 21 is such a case.  The majority of translations tag verse 21 with the preceding verses and insert a break between verse 21 and 22.  The verses following are referred to as “Instructions for Christian Marriage” or something similar.  While still true and supportive of Christian marriage, these verses benefit greatly from the foundation that verse 21 – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” provides.

In the past when I read these verses I have seen the two admonitions – wives submit / respect your husbands and husbands love your wives sacrificially.  But undergirding the marriage instructions with this verse to submit to one another literally ties the whole together.

Marriage was God’s idea.  It was ordained from the beginning.

‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone… So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’ Genesis 2:18,21-25

Marriage is one of God’s pre-eminent ideas.  It’s a crucible in which some of God’s best work is done.  A crucible is a bowl used by chemists specially designed to take very high heat.  Into the crucible the chemist places different materials.  Sometimes the elements are crushed, sometimes stirred , often heat is used as well.  In the end the materials are mixed together and something new is created.  In the best scenario, the two materials, which prior to mixing had little clear purpose, combine to form something altogether different and new.  It may be a compound that serves as a new medicine able to save lives or a fragrance that sweetly perfumes a room or a food ingredient that enlivens and pleases the taste buds.  The good outcome is only possible because of time spent in the crucible and the melding that takes place there.

When a man and a woman enter marriage they slip into the crucible together.  In most cases they do so because they have “fallen in love”.  They usually enter with a host of ideas and expectations about marriage.  Some of these may be met.  Some may be discussed and compromises achieved.  But many will remain unmet.  The falling in love phase is not a permanent state for most.  In fact unless the falling in love phase is replaced with Agape love, the intimate feelings will fade, sometimes quite rapidly.  This in itself is a type of heat applied to the marriage.  There are of course numerous other ways crushing, stirring and heat is applied to the marriage – financial strain, medical issues, differences in parenting, not to mention that marriage is the joining of two different people who each carry around their own set of emotional, mental, and spiritual baggage.

Unlike two chemicals that have no choice but to remain in the crucible, people can leave.  They can physically leave or they can emotionally leave, i.e. remote in one hand, beer in the other.  Either way, the potential good the crucible can bring is thwarted because we leave.  Another alternative is to resist and fight.  We do not see the good that can come so we resist the heat and the mixing, the coming together that the crucible can bring about.  Coming back to Ephesians 5:21 when we submit to one another we allow the crucible time to do its work, to blend us into something new, something better than the sum of just two individuals living under the same roof.  As we read in Genesis above – the two become one.

We celebrate 33 years of marriage next month.  We have been blessed with four wonderful children and four grandchildren thus far.  We are part of an awesome church and a great home group of friends that are truly part of our family now.  But we have been in the crucible for more than just one heating.  I know I have at times resisted the lesson in the heat.  Crucible times are not usually pleasant.  But, God, Who is rich in mercy, has always brought us through.  And what has come out of the crucible has been better and stronger than what went in.  Learning to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ is the foundation for living through crucible times.  And there are blessings in store for those who do.

Be blessed and let the God of all grace use you to bless someone who needs it today.

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My plan to catch the sunrise from Pretty Place (Symmes Chapel, Camp Greenville, SC) went awry when I found the gate locked. With the colors already rising in the eastern sky and a suitable viewing point many miles away, I knew pics at the break of dawn were not going happen… at least not for me. I got a wild hair and decided to head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to see if I could capture some scenic shots higher up. Looking Glass Falls warranted the first stop and then pics at the first overlook on the Parkway came up next. A group from the Galloway School asked for me to take their pictures with their cell phones. I obliged, but I also took a few with my camera. (Hopefully they are checking these out!)

The next stop was the Graveyard Fields. Still recovering from my shoulder surgery, I didn’t exactly intend to hike very far, but… The weather and scenery drew me in and I couldn’t help but hike and shoot. I met a family visiting from Florida at the Upper Falls on the Yellowstone Prong. After about 5 miles of hiking, I made the turnoff into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area my final stop. It was a great day in the outdoors and the pics are pretty good too.

I forgot until I was editing the pics, but Looking Glass Mountain is where our son-in-law Michael proposed to our daughter, Christin. Somehow hiking to the top of a mountain to propose is an awesome metaphor for marriage. There is a lot of work on the hike up. You can’t see very far ahead most of the time. But you keep working because you believe in the goal. And the reward is very good… very good indeed!


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I love my wife.  I realized I loved her fairly early in our relationship and it was with great joy that she said yes to my marriage proposal after we had been dating about 5 months.  During this time I have never not loved Lisa.  I wish I could say that she has always felt loved, but I know that at times she has not.  This realization has been one arrived at through a rather drawn-out season of learning.  The Lord kept bringing me back to Ephesians 5:25 until I finally learned and acted upon His prompting to take love to another level.  Here is my post with my friend as we walk through Proverbs.  This is from Friday’s reading in chapter 5.

Proverbs 5:18.  “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Lisa and I have been married for over 30 years.  Any couple that has been together for any time has had their share of difficulties.  We have had ours although in God’s grace, none have been too serious.  Probably our most persistent issue has been that we get too busy with our jobs, activities, and doing things for the kids that we forget to take time to nurture our marriage.  Make no mistake – the most important earthly relationship a married person has is the one with their spouse.
I went through a season beginning about 7 years ago that the message the Lord laid on my heart was Ephesians 5:25.  “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her…”   This went on for about 4 years.  During that time I repeatedly tried to “Band-Aid” an acceptable response.  I would take this prompting to mean that I needed to “do more” for Lisa, which I would do for a while, but I would soon drift back into busy-ness.  I would again notice the lack of passion and depth in our marriage and I would seek the Lord and He would point to the same verse.  Now I have sought to walk closely with the Lord for 32 years.  I know Him to be real.  He has actively guided me.  For the majority of the time prior to this, there were things He would bring to light that needed changing in me, sometimes it might take me a little while to get it right, but usually in short order He had brought about the change in me He desired and the next lesson would begin.  So for a single lesson to continue for 4 years was different and very humbling.  God had to eventually break me in a very painful and powerful manner.  You can read about it in depth in this blog in the post entitled “Broken Legs, Mended Hearts”.
Here are a few truths that I learned from that season that tie into this verse in Proverbs.
1) Our relationship with our wife is the best barometer of our relationship with God.  If we can’t get the relationship right with the most important human being who we can see, we will struggle with the relationship with the most important One who we happen to be unable to see yet.
2)  God knows the deep things that must be rooted out in our lives.  He loves us enough that He will do the work that needs to be done to get them out.
3)  The first step is not adding more “spiritual” things to our to-do list.  The first step is dying to self and allowing God to replace our wishes, wants, and desires with His desires.
There is an amazing thing that has happened since I reached a deeper place of dying to self and better serving Lisa.  God immediately put a fresh love for Lisa in my heart.  Before anything actually changed in our relationship, God was already making changes inside of me that would become the fertile ground that grew a renewed and deeper love between us.  In a practical way, my love began expressing itself in her love language again which is Quality Time.  My love language is Acts of Service which isn’t on Lisa’s love language radar at all, so all my work to try and show her love in my love language missed the mark.  As God worked in my heart I didn’t have to consciously think about how to show her love.  Since we have been through the Love Language training and recognize the truths of the Five Love Languages my brokenness now sought to effectively demonstrate itself to her.  However since our love had gotten stale and we both were so busy, we had forgotten the need to be intentional in this area.  Once I started truly dying to what I wanted, I became focused upon pleasing Lisa and our relationship has grown and blossomed.  It has been really great the past three years or so.
Oh, I almost forgot.  The fact that I was dying to my desires did not mean that my deepest desires now were totally neglected.  The good ones, the godly ones, the best ones now became the desire of my wife.  God began prompting Lisa to meet my needs at a much deeper level too.
There is a lot of godly wisdom in the verses of Proverbs 5, particularly about avoiding the temptations of the wayward or adulterous woman.  However I have found that if I focus upon doing the BEST thing, I don’t have to spend nearly as much time and effort on not doing all the wrong things.  Dying to self and loving your spouse in practical ways are two sides of the same coin.  Here’s to doing the BEST thing.
I hope you enjoy today’s reading.  Drop me a comment or ask a question if you would get a chance.  I’d love to interact with some of my readers.
Be blessed and be a blessing to someone today.

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This morning as my wife and I finished our devotion we moved into prayer for friends and family who are going through serious challenges.  In particular we prayed for couples who are striving to reconcile their marriages after betrayal and hurt.

A picture that came to mind as we were praying is that of a deep wound that must heal from the inside out.  I spoke with a friend recently who has suffered a very serious injury losing the ends of three fingers.  The doctors are leaving one of the wounds open so that it will heal properly – from the inside out.  Coming back to the picture that came to mind as we were praying, I believe that this was a word the Lord gave of what has to happen in these couples we know although it is true of anyone who has suffered deep hurt.  The emotional wound has to have time to heal.  Words and superficial actions will not bring the healing that we truly need to be made whole.

In a marriage a demonstrated commitment is essential for this healing.  Practical steps in this are striving to know and understand our spouse better and better, seeking to understand and speak our spouse’s love language, putting our spouse and their needs before our own, and walking in the character trifecta of openness, honesty, and integrity.  These same truths apply to other relationships as well, but marriage is indeed a common relationship crucible for many of us.  Sadly, for many marriages the refining fire beneath the crucible doesn’t have to get too hot before the majority of what we have built our life upon becomes ash.  Yet through this God is able to build something truly valuable with the little that is left and adding His all-sufficiency.

You see I know this from personal experience.  My wife and I celebrated 30 years of marriage last month.  As I look back I can honestly say that over those 30 years we have had 29+ years of very good to amazingly great love and life together.  But there have been times…  A little over three years ago our relationship had become quite strained.  My job had me on the road 70% of the time.  Lisa was focusing more and more on her career and when I came home looking to be pampered a little bit (okay maybe I was looking for a lot of pampering) Lisa was about used up from all the extra she was having to do.  Our communication suffered and frankly the love was a rather dim ember at that time.  Even the close friendship that we have always shared was being severely tested.  At Christmas we had booked a condo in Orlando assuming Sammy’s soccer team would be playing soccer between Christmas and New Years as they had done for four years previously.  Surprise, they decided not to play in that tournament and yet I had the condo rented.  The short story is it was not the relaxing time to refresh and rejuvenate that I had hoped for.  In fact we now refer to it as the “vacation from hell.” That is not a direct reflection on Orlando necessarily, but more on our heart condition at the time.

Driving back from that vacation I was secretly looking forward to work and being be back out on the road.  I had scheduled to be gone for the first seven weeks of 2012.  Six days later we were racing to the emergency room with Lisa’s left leg just above the ankle sitting at a grotesque angle.  It was a compound, open fracture of both bones a little above the ankle.  A week in the hospital, three surgeries, 12 weeks with no weight on the ankle and multiple PT sessions later Lisa is able to walk and generally has regained most of her mobility.  In a previous post I have written about our walk through this time.  It’s a particularly moving read called “Broken Legs, Mended Hearts.”

I allude to this story today because one of the residuals from this is a serious scar around Lisa’s leg where the tissue was so seriously damaged.  Two things the doctor later told us that we look to as a testament of God’s grace.  First when he first saw Lisa’s leg he estimated he had a 50/50 chance of saving it.  Yet her healing progressed very well.  In fact he seemed very pleased and even a little surprised at how well she recovered.  Second at her one year check up he fully released her telling her to listen to her leg and let pain and discomfort tell her how much to do.  (Oh he did forbid her from swinging on rope swings too.)  But he also said, that a break as bad as hers 50 years earlier often proved fatal.  The bones were shattered into so many small pieces and the wound was a terrible thing.

As we finished our prayer time and I shared the picture that I had used in praying for our friends, Lisa thought of her leg and pointed to her scar.  And she said that deep wounds can leave bad scars.  She was mostly right, but I don’t see her scar as bad.  To some it may not be pretty, but to me it reminds me of Gods abundant grace.  Lisa lived.  Lisa kept her leg and she has most of her mobility.  Our marriage was healed because when Lisa broke her leg, God broke my heart.  Our oldest daughter who had been estranged from us for a time not only came rushing back to be with her mama, she gave her life to the living God.  She will live with God in His kingdom and the catalyst for her final step to this decision was Lisa’s broken leg.

One final thought.  I went for a run after we finished our devotion.  I love to run and I had stopped for a couple of months, so it was exhilarating to get back out there.  But I don’t run for the sake of running.  I run so I can talk with the Lord.  He did not disappoint.  I pick up small rocks as mementos of the places we’ve travelled.  (Lisa is wrapping up a business meetings here in Myrtle Beach as I write this post.)  You may agree with Lisa and think it’s a little weird, but I have found a few other persons who share this weirdness.  Anyway I am on the return leg of this long run and I have picked up a couple good rock candidates for my collection when I feel the Lord speak to me to stop and look for a rock.  Now I like fossil rocks or intricate design rocks or even pretty rocks – something that stands out.  So as I stand by this puddle I am thinking, “Are you going to show me a gold nugget or something Lord?”  And I started looking for something special.  But the Lord said, “Look in the muck and mire.  Look for the dirty and overlooked.  Get the rock that looks the least appealing.”  So I looked and sure enough there was a little, ugly black rock.  I picked it up and as I evaluated it I decided it is a possibly a small piece of shell encased in a little bit of asphalt.  I thought, “Wow, no gold nugget here.”  To which the Holy Spirit immediately replied, “Everything can be redeemed!”  My mind went to the description of the heavenly city described in Revelation of the streets of gold and I realized that streets of gold will have an underlayment that support them and keep them strong, flat, and beautiful.  An underlayment that can include little pieces of shell encrusted in small chunks of asphalt.

Friend, I do not believe you are reading this by accident.  I feel that the Lord has a message of hope for the world that He will get out through as many means as possible.  This message is meant for you and perhaps a loved one or friend.  God loves you, He can bring about the deep healing that is needed, scars aren’t always bad, and everything can be redeemed.  That about sums it up for this morning.

Have a blessed day.  And be a blessing to someone God puts in your path or on your heart today.

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I don’t know about you, but choosing to die is not my first choice.  In fact in almost every scenario that comes to mind I am choosing the path that provides at least a glimmer of hope of survival.  Our sense of self preservation is strong.  But Jesus preached and modeled something radically different than self preservation.  In Matt 16:25 He said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”  As we follow His life we see that Jesus willingly lived in obedience to God’s plan and for our salvation which included dying to His self.  As a professed believer and follower in Jesus it is of paramount importance that I come to grips with what Jesus is asking me to do.

Dying to self is the foundational act of faith.  Truly living a life where Jesus is Lord means that we are not.  We, or at least I, are selfish creatures.  In most cases my world revolves around what I see, perceive, and deem appropriate.  Although I am loathe to admit it, I often want what I want and I will act in accordance with that desire much of the time.  Judging by the world around me that is true of most people.  When I committed my life to Christ, when I gave Him my life, I recognized that this innate selfishness was liable to be a problem.  But I trusted Jesus to do something about that.  As I look back over 30+ years of following Him I can see much progress yet there are still times that the old selfish man rises up.  Thankfully God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us with this.  Our response is to die to self daily and trust Him to help us.  And He does.

Jesus modeled dying to self literally.  Not everyone is called to willingly put themselves into situations where physical death is the likely outcome, but that is part of what we sign up for.  As I mentioned yesterday history is full of the faithful losing their lives at the hands of despots and tyrants who war against the one true God and His people.  Today as I write this many believers will perish at the hands of ISIS followers.  My heart hurts for them and I am moved to intercession.   We also have a dear family that we love and support that have been ministering in central Asia now for 11 years.  They recently relocated to Turkey and are beginning a new work among the Muslim population there.  Please join me in praying for God’s protection, grace, and mighty power upon all those in this part of the world.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Mt 26:39.  I have prayed something resembling the first part of that prayer many times… “Lord get me out of this bad or unpleasant situation.”  That is not dying to self though.  Dying to self is the entirety of Jesus’ prayer… a request for another option other than the obvious, but total submission to the Father’s plan and purpose.

Because Jesus submitted to the Father’s will He did have to suffer an agonizing night and day of torture, humiliation, crucifixion, and death.  However, He also purchased my forgiveness and forgiveness for anyone who trusts in Him.  He also launched the Church to proclaim the truth of reconciliation with God through faith in Him.  He broke the power of hell and the grave as He proved that heaven is our final home and the grave is just a doorway into larger life.

I don’t know about you, but I get pumped up when I think about what Jesus has done for me and for you.  Before I close I want to flesh out a little more what dying to self looks like for us.  Let’s get practical.  I think the fifth chapter of Ephesians is a good place to start.

For husbands it means cherishing your wife, listening to her, working hard to understand her needs and then striving to meet them.  In the list of priorities after you wife would be your children.  These come first – before the man-cave, guys night out, or your pet project.  I’m not saying that those fun things can’t happen, but they have to be down the priority list and only occur when others are considered and acted upon first.  I have to laugh because I have handled this in every way imaginable and most of them have NOT been the right way.  To do these things for your wife and children, but be secretly pouting for the guy things, is not dying to self.  Time spent with the Lord asking and allowing Him to instill in us the desire to love and cherish our family is how we get to the place we can do this right.

Wives dying to self really comes down to a very simple word – submission.  I know that opens a can of worms and I am not going to take the time to chase and catch them all.  Staying simple, Jesus is your Lord as a believer.  You are to submit to Him just as your husband is to submit to Him.  To the extent you can do so without violating the specific leading of the Lord in His Word, you are to live in harmony under the leadership of your husband.  Just like the husband who must give up his will to seek the Lord’s will first and then serve you and your children, so too you must dwell in your prayer closet with the Father to have His heart and attitude in this.

I can think of dozens of scenarios and situations and I am sure you can think of many unique to your life.  In every case the right path is similar.

It begins with a vibrant relationship with the Father through consistent, constant prayer and reading of the Word of God.

It is undergirded by the consistent petition, “Lord make me more like you.”

It progresses through consistently asking and acting upon the thought, “what is best for the other person.”

It is solidified by celebrating the joy and blessings in the lives of others.

It finds it’s rest in thankfulness to the Father for allowing you to be an agent of His grace.

And along the way, without ever focusing upon yourself or your wants, you will find yourself blessed with peace, joy, love, and a deepened faith in the One who loves us more than we can ask or imagine.

Be blessed and be a blessing today my friend.

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Lisa and I attended a Real Marriage conference the past two days.  Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace brought the message that Real Marriage is fun.  As I have shared in earlier posts, God has done a wonderful work in our marriage over the past 2+ months and the catalyst for all of this was Lisa’s broken leg.  Our marriage has gone from OK (which means it’s a relatively successful business partnership with occasional periods of zing) to amazing in this brief a time span because we have begun practicing the majority of what Grace and Mark talked about… and we had not read the book yet.  As I listened to Mark speak I realized that for many people learning about the 4 big ideas will revolutionize their marriage.  For Lisa and I it drilled home truths that we knew as head knowledge, but we had not made heart knowledge that we acted upon consistently.  Lisa’s leg break has caused us to act from the heart much more than from the head.  I think God graciously timed this conference so we could establish these principles in our marriage from henceforth.

One more point before I dive into today’s post.  During the conference there was a brief demonstration of Logos Bible Software.  It looks like a great tool for really digging into the Word of God.  They picked out this verse from John 4.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  Obviously the words from the original text often have other subtle shifts in meaning.  The word for truth carries with it the sense of nothing hidden or transparent.

As I awoke this morning I realized that for most of my life I have worked hard to control how I (or my family) are viewed by others.  Since becoming a Christian I have worked to be a believer who looks right, talks right, and lives right.  I believe I have missed the mark at times though because I tried to put on faith in the way of my choosing and not allow God to create that faith within me.  Ephesians makes it clear that faith is a gift from God 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Often I am more concerned with what others think that simply doing what pleases God.  The motivation was wrong.

The first “big idea” Mark and Grace introduced was that spouses must be best friends.  They gave a picture of three types of relationships.  Back-to-back which represents an unhealthy, adversarial relationship.  Shoulder-to-shoulder which represents that working together to accomplish a set of goals much like a business partnership.  And the third which is Face-to-face.  Face-to-face is the pattern God has for friendship and particularly for marriage.  We have lived in the shoulder-to-shoulder marriage for most of our almost 27 years.  It is not that I didn’t love my wife and express my commitment to her often.  But I did not look her in the eye and show her the love, respect, and admiration that she needed and I, as the husband of a wonderful woman, should provide.

The second big idea was that marriages need regular trash removal and clean up to be healthy and whole.  Marriages are unions of two sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness.  We were given examples of how to “fight” in a way that ushers in healing and growth and not ever-increasing pain and isolation.  I am sure I will speak on this more in other posts.

The third bid idea was that sex is a gift God has given within the context of marriage to be enjoyed.  This contrasts against the unholy view the world has that places sex as a god and the equally invalid view of sex as gross.  The later view unfortunately is all too common within church circles.  Again this is a topic for another time.

The last topic asked the question “Are you a selfish lover or a servant lover?”  Like so many questions of this nature, I know what the answer is supposed to be.  I mean I am in church so it has to be servant lover – right?  This is another time when the word truth and the subtle meaning of nothing hidden whacks me right between the eyes… I am still a selfish person so much of the time.  While I hate to have to admit that, it is true.  Lord help me to abandon my selfish ways, thoughts, words, and actions.

When Lisa and I first married, we immediately plunged into life at a fairly breakneck pace.  Rhiannon was just a little shy of 2 years old when we got married so we were already a family.  Lisa continued working for a brief period and then she stopped working so she could go to college full-time.  Before long the next child and then the next arrived.  Soon the Momma to do list was always longer than the what-Momma-accomplished list.

We honestly did not disagree or fight much at all.  Today I recognize that this may not have been the best thing because it allowed small issues to be stuffed away rather than dealt with and resolved.  Undercurrents of dissatisfaction began growing and this began to manifest itself in less intimacy.  I can so relate to the shoulder to shoulder kind of relationship because the relatively small amount of face-to-face we had experienced was now replaced with almost exclusively shoulder to shoulder.  Things which should have been brought out into the open and discussed were left to fester.  Sadly, but in being totally honest, the back-to-back which had never been a part of our marriage, began to show up.  Mark mentioned that a sure sign of an unhealthy friendship within the marriage was going to sleep back-to-back.  Well this had become us.

My heavy travel schedule (read busy and not at home much) and Lisa’s successful (read busy and not engaged at home much) allowed only a few opportunities to really talk about and deal with the dissatisfaction and frustration we were both feeling.

Now I have to step back just a moment in time to give you a little more background in what was going on inside of me.  I recognized that the dissatisfaction was not healthy.  I had prayed for some time for God to heal our marriage.  Now while I was open to the fact that we both probably needed to change I know my hope and intent was for God to fix Lisa.  And I thank God that He is faithful and doesn’t just leave us to our own devices.  During this period He consistently spoke to me exactly what was needed.  “Dan, love Lisa like I love the church.”  I could not get anything else… because I was not doing this.  Don’t misunderstand, I resolved every time to love Lisa better.  Reading the rest of Ephesians 5 where Paul writes about this, I knew that meant I had to die for her.  But I couldn’t.  I didn’t.

Rhiannon, our oldest daughter, recently shared how her Mom’s broken leg changed her life.  Well that is my story too.  My love for Lisa has come out of this as more real and tangible.  I recognize a difference and my beloved does as well.  A lot of selfishness has been blown away.  (I look forward to the day when ALL of it is gone, but until then I am walking by faith.)  It’s really funny, before Lisa broke her leg I would get frustrated that I had to come home from 3 or 4 days away and I had to do a “lot” of household chores.  Today I am doing at least 4 times that and not only am I not frustrated, I am happy to be a help to Lisa.  It is amazing.

On Lisa’s side a transformation is taking place as well.  Mark mentioned that husbands are unrealistic if they expect their wives to look at 50 what they looked like at 25.  After 4 children and a sweet tooth that she often satisfied, Lisa did not look like she had at 25 and I was unrealistic.  Since she broke her leg she has lost 40 pounds… and she still is not able to walk or put weight on her leg.  And she has done this in a healthy manner.  I know because I fix most of her meals at her direction.  I am excitedly looking forward to the day when Lisa’s leg has healed and we can hike together.  I want to hike in the mountains finding scenic waterfalls hidden among the rhododendron together.

It is my hope and prayer that someone out there can benefit from our story.  While I wish Lisa didn’t have to endure the pain of a broken leg, I am so thankful that God has moved through this difficult time to bring so much good.  And Lisa feels the same.  Our laughter and joy has simply exploded the past two months.  And we can only give God all the credit.  He has done marvelously, miraculously more than we could ever ask or imagine.  To Him be the glory, honor, praise and dominion forever and ever.  Amen!

PS. I strongly recommend Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book: Real Marriage – The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.

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Since I am a reliability engineer, I know a lot about equipment failures.  For the majority of failures, what we see when the thing stops working is not when it fails.  The failure began earlier, often much earlier.  The pattern followed by equipment as it progresses from fully functional to a wreck is the same as marriages that die.  Armed with this knowledge, I believe we can be better prepared to intervene and save our marriages.  With divorce an all to common occurrence I think this is a worthy activity.

In our analogy let’s use a common piece of equipment that we are almost all familiar with – a car.  Initially our car runs fine.  In reliability terms we say it is performing its intended function.  In the marriage this is when life is good, husband and wife are actively engaged in each other’s lives.  Communication is good and mutual support and attentiveness is the norm.

As time progresses subtle changes take place.  For our car it could be that the brakes have worn significantly, our oil has become contaminated, or a wheel bearing has experienced heat and wear.  At some point the performance of our car  begins to suffer slightly.  It is not detectable yet, but the loss of function has started.  In a marriage a similar point is reached when stress and distractions begin to subtly pull the couple apart.  The list is a long one on what these can be – money issues, health problems, children’s needs / demands, work stresses, etc.  

At this point in our example we can actually head off a failure with rather simple steps.  By identifying and performing the correct preventive maintenance tasks or basic care tasks we can restore the full function of both our car and our marriage.  For our car we should routinely inspect it for wear in the brakes, tires, etc and all lube should be periodically changed and / or replenished.  In our marriage we should periodically and routinely inspect it for wear and tear from the stresses of life.  Our communication should also be periodically changed and / or replenished.  A regular date night and brief times away from home together are two important ingredients in our marriage basic care program.  Without these activities a small problem will grow over time.

Without good basic care and preventive maintenance activities, incipient failures progress to the point they begin to manifest themselves in ways that become detectable.  Our brakes will begin to squeak, our car will take longer to stop, minor irritants in our marriage will escalate into conflict and hurtful words.  Detecting these failures early is important in achieving a prompt and relatively simply resolution.  

Assuming the problems, be they vehicular or marital, are not addressed degradation will continue.  In a lot of equipment such as bearings a failure will accelerate as the debris from the original failure becomes the source of additional failure sites on a microscopic level.  In our marriages unresolved hurts introduce emotional pain and strained communication that accelerate toward a failure of the marriage. 

At some point the signs that are noticeable only to those most intimate with the marriage become obvious to family, friends, and even casual acquaintances.  Full functional failure is still preventable but only with prompt intervention and significant effort.  In the case of our brakes, instead of simply replacing brake pads we may have to turn rotors – a more intrusive and costly repair.  In a marriage it will likely include active intervention and support from family and friends and perhaps even professional counselling.  Again a more intrusive and costly repair.

The final stage is a complete failure.  For our car it means brakes locking up or ceasing to stop us followed closely by a loud crash.  In our marriage it means broken hopes, dreams, and emotional trauma as two persons who were once in love divorce and go their separate ways.

Recognizing that a marriage actual begins to fail much earlier and intervening at the earliest possible point can head off the painful and damaging results.  Here is a list of steps that can be taken to strengthen your marriage and ward off the decline so many couples experience.

Respect.  Mutual respect is an important ingredient in any healthy relationship, but even more so in a marriage.  Make up your mind that your mate is valuable and worthy of your esteem.  Think back to what drew you to them.  Think of what they are good at and dwell on these things.  And let them know that you value them.  We all have faults, but it does not help to dwell on our spouse’s faults.  Offer these up to God in prayer, but with your spouse focus on the positive.  (Eph 5:25-33)

Communication.  This includes all the verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.  Usually one person in the marriage talks more than the other.  Whichever you are, be intentional to do more of what you usually do less.  For the talker try to listen more.  For the quiet one, work to express yourself more.  Consider your non-verbal messages too. 

Identify and remove distractions.  This is necessary for enabling us to get to the true root causes of the problem.  Too much time and energy is wasted dealing with peripheral issues or the secondary effects of bad decisions rather than identifying and dealing with the underlying thought patterns and behaviours that caused the bad decisions.  Another way to approach this is to simplify your life.

Include Preventive Maintenance into your Marriage.  In the equipment realm Preventive Maintenance are those regular, often calendar-based activities undertaken to make sure that everything is performing as it should.  Discrepancies are addressed, usually with minor adjustments, and the equipment is restored to full function.  Marriages need the same regular care.  I mentioned a date night earlier, but it can be any technique where you and your spouse are engaged in time together, apart from distractions, and intentional about checking the vital signs of your marriage.

Fellowship.  Spend time with others of similar values, beliefs, and life situation in an interactive setting.  We cannot expect to do life alone either individually or as a married couple.  We are meant to live in community.  We have a large and close extended family and they form our primary area of fellowship, but we also have Lisa’s work family and there is our church family.

Develop Marriage Condition-monitoring into your personal reflection time.  Condition-monitoring simply looks for the telltale signs that identify that the function of equipment is beginning to deteriorate.  We can do the same thing in our marriage.  Here are a few suggestions. 

  • Check the temperature with the Romance Meter.  If the romance in your marriage has cooled, then look for the causes and address them.  Hugs, kisses at times other than…, touching, quality time alone are all aspects of the Romance Meter that we should check.  When these diminish or begin to be more rote than spontaneous it is time to dig deeper into causes and make some changes.  At this time the changes will usually be subtle, but the benefits can be oh so marvelous. 
  • Take a vibration check of the emotional stability.  If things are becoming a bit shaky in the emotional arena for either one or both of you (yes guys I said BOTH), then it is time to slow down, assess more deeply, and talk about it.
  • Gauge the communication depth.  If your discussions are shallow and don’t get to the issues and challenges of the day and work through toward support and understanding then you have uncovered an opportunity for improvement.  Talking only about the kids does not qualify for the depth needed.  We need to talk about the children and during the years we are raising a family it will be very high on the list of priorities.  For a healthy marriage it cannot become THE priority.  The priority must be the marriage itself. 

While there is more that can be said, I see I must wrap up for today.  Perhaps I will share some of Lisa’s and my story at a later date.  We have experienced much of the joy of marriage, but like all couples we have weathered our seasons of difficulty.  With God’s help and the prayers of family and friends we have weathered these and come out stronger in our commitment and love for each other.  It is my prayer for all married persons who read this that you will find comfort, solace, and a tidbit that will help you.  For those not married I encourage you to consider these suggestions for the day you either get married or in your times of supporting married friends.

God bless and may the light shine brightly where you tread.

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