Thursday, October 19, 2017

Marriage and the Sabbath principle

      Years ago, I was talking with a friend at church.  Lisa and I had just gotten back from vacation and my friend asked me how our trip went.  I told him Lisa and I had a great, relaxing time together.  A church leader overheard our conversation and commented that he "didn't even know what a vacation was."  He went on to say that he hadn't been on a vacation in 7 years.  Expecting to be complimented for an exceptional work ethic, I instead told him that I felt sorry for him and I especially felt sorry for his wife.
      God created us to need rest.  He set apart the seventh day, the Sabbath, and made it holy.  In the Law of Moses, to ignore and desecrate the Sabbath was a capital offense.  That’s how important this Sabbath principle of rest is.  Through regular rest, we renew our bodies, our minds, and our spiritual orientation as we affirm our reliance on God alone to sustain us.
It is obvious that in our 21st century American culture the Sabbath principle of regular rest and renewal has fallen by the wayside.  We are way too busy; way too addicted to noise and to a frenetic lifestyle.  There is always someone or something standing at the door ready to take a piece of your time or your resources.  The results of our non-stop lifestyles are abundantly obvious; health problems, relationship problems, emotional problems, spiritual decline, and more.  If a Sabbath time is not prioritized, it will not happen.
But here’s the thing we sometimes forget.  Just as an individual needs regular periods of rest and renewal, so do couples.  Husbands and wives need to prioritize time together in which they can engage each other in a relaxed setting, share in intimacy (physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual), and renew and reaffirm their covenant relationship with each other and with God.  It needs to be a time of rest, play, and spiritual growth as a couple.  After all, God gave the Sabbath to Adam and Eve together (Genesis 1:26-2:3).  If a Sabbath time together for a husband and wife is not prioritized, it will not happen.
     So what do we do?  Ongoing obligations and resources always have to be taken into account when planning a time of Sabbath as a couple.  I’d love to get away to a beach house in Hawaii with my wife every few months, but that is just not realistic.  Regardless of your limitations, find something you can do to have a time of Sabbath rest as a couple.  Set aside a day for worship together, take a walk together, read scripture together, play a game, take a vacation.  Whether it’s for a week, a weekend, a day, or even a few hours, find some way to just rest in the presence of each other as you rest in the presence of God.
        Put as much intentionality into your rest with your spouse as you put into anything else you do to better your marriage.  Put a regular "couple’s time of Sabbath rest" on the calendar.  Make it a priority.  Realize that without rest together as a couple, you circumvent God’s design for your relationship.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Married in a digital world

     What does it mean to be married in a digital world?  Are you and your spouse’s digital habits helpful or harmful to your pursuit of a healthy, Christ-centered marriage?
     We all are aware of the benefits of our digital world, and we are all just as aware of the dark side of the worldwide web.  Temptations aboundeverything from pornography, to jealousy and unhealthy comparative living through social media, to websites and apps designed to encourage and facilitate infidelity,  and more.  The devil is definitely prowling around our digital world, looking for those he can devour.
     You can find numerous reports in both popular media and scholarly circles citing the rise in social media directly correlating with marital dissatisfaction and divorce.  Over a third of divorce filings now cite Facebook or other social media as a major contributor to the marriage ending.
     So what do we do?  When we say “I do,” we intend for it to truly be a blessed relationship for life.  How do we protect ourselves and our marriages from a rapidly moving digital culture?
     The easy thing to do is to just jump into the digital flood and get swept away by the current.  But Christian marriage calls us to do something different—to be something different.  And that begins with an honest and serious conversation between you and your mate over what the guidelines for living in a digital world need to be in your marriage and in your household.
     I’m not going to give you a list of specific rules because everyone’s context is unique, but as you and your spouse discuss this, here are a few thoughts that need to shape that conversation.

  • You can’t fight the future.  Change in communication and our perception of the world is inevitable.  It is more beneficial to discern ways to positively and appropriately incorporate the digital world into marriage and family life than it is to fight change.
  • People matter more than devices.  When your mate enters the room, do you put your devices down, make eye contact, and speak?  If you must work on a digital device in your spouse’s presence, do you communicate it verbally when he/she enters the room so there is not a feeling of being snubbed or ignored?
  • Remember, your children will mimic the digital behaviors they see in you.  Is the way you interact with your mate in a digital world the same way you want your child to interact with his/her future spouse?  Your rules for living in a digital world need to reflect the values you want to pass on to your children to help them have healthy, God-honoring marriages.
  • Only post with permission.  Whether it is a picture, a quote, a funny story, or even what your spouse had for breakfast, don’t post anything about your mate without getting his/her permission.  While you might not see any harm, if your spouse has a problem with it, there is a problem.  Regrettably, we all know someone who seems to be lacking any filters when it comes to what they post.  Don’t be that someone towards your spouse.
  • Be aware that none of this is a new problem, it is just a different context.  Character, priorities, and identity always matter.  As new as it might seem, the temptations and secrecy perpetuated by the digital world is only a modern day version of an age old problem.  In the digital world, we firmly establish our character (or lack thereof), display our priorities in how we love, respect, and admonish our spouses through our posts, and establish an identity that either allows the digital world to drive a wedge between us and our mates, or gives us a forum to establish a strong identity rooted in “one flesh.”
  • Write it down.  As you discuss, refine, and finalize your own rules for living in a digital world, take the time to write it down.  When we write things down, it becomes more concrete and has a stronger effect in shaping thoughts and behaviors that will bless your marriage.

For other considerations in coming up with your rules for living in a digital world, please read the posts TBT and the dangers of social media and Password please…
     As I said above, we can’t fight the future.  But we can let our Christian worldview, and particularly our view of covenant Christian marriage inform how we engage and interact with the digital world.  To paraphrase an 80’s song, “We are living in a digital world, and I am a digital husband/wife.”  Don’t let “digital” replace “Christian.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Look what you made me do!

     “Ooh, look what you made me do.”  Sadly, this isn’t just the lyrics from a Taylor Swift song.  It is the mantra of our culture.  We live in a society that for the most part wants any unfavorable outcome to be someone else’s fault.  Isn’t it always easier to say, “Look what YOU made me do” than it is to be accountable, take responsibility for our own choices, and say “look what I chose to do.”
     Sadly, this same mentality permeates too many marriages.  But it’s not a new problem.  It goes all the way back to the beginning of time.

God:   Adam, did you eat from the tree that I told you not to eat from?
Adam:  Thanks a lot Eve.  Look what you made me do.  Oh, and thanks to you too God.  After all, you gave me this woman.  Look what you made me do.
God:  Eve, did you eat from the tree that I told you not to eat from?
Eve:  Don’t look at me.  It was the serpent.  Look what he made me do.

     The blame game continually invades marriages.  A person gives in to his/her selfishness, and immediately, there are accusations, rationalizations, and justifications for why a really bad choice, a choice that wreaks havoc in the marriage, was made.

“If you’d had sex with me more often, I wouldn’t be looking at porn all the time.  Look what you made me do.”

“If you would have listened, I wouldn’t have had to yell at you and call you all those awful names.  Look what you made me do.”

"If you had just given me what I wanted, I wouldn’t have had to open up that secret credit card.  Look what you made me do.”

     Whether mundane matters of life or more serious issues, and whether you use the actual words or not, if you catch yourself thinking any variation of the idea, “Look what you made me do,” it’s time to take a step back and examine yourself.  What is your motivation for saying such a thing?  What part of your own responsibility are you denying in the current situation?  How is blaming and belittling and disparaging your spouse going to affect your marriage?  What words and actions do you need to choose to successfully walk through a dark valley with your spouse, rather than isolating yourself by throwing your spouse under the bus?
     There are a lot of things in this world that we can’t control, but the one thing you can control is you.  No one, including your spouse, can make you do anything you don’t want to do.*  Rather than continually living in, “Look what you made me do,” what do you need to do to be honest with yourself and say, “Look what I did.  What do I need to do to heal, restore, and reconcile our relationship?”

*This post is intended to address normal marital conflict.  If there is physical coercion, intimidation, abuse, or other behaviors that represent a danger to your well-being, seek immediate protective help.