Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Choices, choices, choices...

     Life is about choices.  Sometimes, choices are a clear
decision between something that is good and something that is bad, desirable rather than undesirable, helpful and not harmful.  Other times, choices are tougher; not so much good versus bad, as good versus better.  And the really tough choices come when all things considered are equal, but you still have to pick only one course of action.
     By its very definition, to choose one thing means you must give up something else.  And all choices have an effect—on you and on those around you.  So, what do your choices say about your marriage?

  • Do your choices honor your spouse, or treat your spouse like he/she is expendable?
  • Do your choices show selflessness or selfishness?
  • Do your choices honor your marriage vows and marriage covenant?
  • Do your choices reflect you and your spouse being “one flesh”?
  • Do your choices communicate love?

     It is easy to think about choices in general terms, and to minimize the effects of your choices by convincing yourself that you’re doing well in your relationship overall.  But I would challenge you to move from general to specific when thinking about the choices you make.

  • A husband is overly flirtatious with other women.  He knows it bothers his wife, but he continues to do it, saying “that’s just the way I am,” or worse yet tries to turn his bad choice back on his wife by saying “you should be friendlier.”
  • A wife is angry at her husband and chooses to say things she knows will push his buttons, or to make him shut down, because winning the fight is more important than the relationship.
  • A husband’s hobby or a wife’s shopping addiction is creating financial strain in the marriage, but they decide that “one more trip” to the golf course or to the mall won’t matter.
  • A wife denies her husband sexually to punish him.
  • A husband decides to look at something on the computer that he knows will destroy his marriage.
  • A wife chooses to say hateful things about her husband’s family.
  • A husband decides to be emotionally distant from his wife.
  • A wife uses her spiritual knowledge to create guilt in her husband and put him down.

You get the gist.  Even the little, seemingly insignificant choices—stuff our mates honestly might not even care about—are still important, because every choice shapes our character, our integrity, and our relationship to our spouses.  Every choice says something about the way I feel about my mate.  Every choice conveys some level of honor and commitment to my marriage covenant.  Every choice acknowledges or denies God’s presence in my marriage.
     Please understand, the point of this post is not to make you feel guilty or hyper-sensitive, like you have to walk on egg shells around your mate.  Life is about choices.  We are all human.  We all make good choices and bad choices.  When your mate makes a bad choice, be willing to forgive.  When you do make choices you wish you hadn’t made, don’t let guilt consume you.  Just learn from it, and do whatever you can to cultivate an ongoing environment of godly, marriage-honoring choices within your relationship.

Looking for a fun, practical, biblically-based, couples' study that can be used with individual couples, in small groups, or in a Bible class?  Check out Marriage: A Blessed Promise.  It's less than four bucks and available now from 21st Century Christian.  Order online at https://www.21stcc.com/.  

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Right to Privacy?

     Does your spouse have a right to know all of your passwords—social media, phone, email accounts, PIN numbersand to have full, unrestricted access to every resource or entertainment venue you use?  In the Marriage and the Christian Home class that I taught at Lipscomb University this past spring, I asked students (none of whom were yet married) how much privacy they believed they were entitled to after marriage.  Many of the students bristled at the thought of giving someone else—even someone they claimed to love enough to marry—free access to all of their currently-secret information.  “A dude has the right to his privacy,” said one young man.  “I don’t think I should have to give him everything.  He should trust me,” declared a young lady.
     Withholding information from your spouse is essentially a power play.  It is one spouse telling the other that he/she is not worthy to know something you know.  No matter what stage a couple is at, premarital to post-golden-anniversary, I tell couples to insist on full disclosure of all passwords, PINs, and account accesses.*  Is it really that important?  I think it is, and here’s why:

  • Refusal to share denies the core of Christian marriage— Even if it seem like not sharing some piece of information should be “no big deal,” you are called to become one flesh—when you marry, you are giving up your “rights” for the good of the relationship.  You have entered a covenant relationship that says everything that is yours is your spouse’s too.
  • Secrecy opens the door to temptation—When you section off a part of your world that your spouse is not allowed to enter, you are setting yourself up for problems.  Email accounts that your spouse can’t access, restricted or secret financial resources, and blocked social media is a breeding ground for infidelity when there is no accountability.
  • Trust comes from mutual disclosure and mutual vulnerability, not through isolation and demanded behavior from your spouse.  To share is not to deny trust.  In fact, it is the opposite.  It says, “I trust you to fully know me—both the good and the bad.”  Unless you are willing to open up every corner of your world, you and your spouse cannot help each other become what God is calling you to be, as individuals or as a couple.
  • It is capitulation to a culture of fierce independence rather than embracing a God-centered oneness.  When the societal value of self-sufficiency is prized above the biblical concept of “the two shall become one,” then you have effectively thrown up your hands in defeat and centered your marriage on something other than Christ.

     Privacy is important.  Whether it is to recharge and renew, to process thoughts and emotions, to reignite creativity, or for other reasons—just about everyone needs “alone time” now and again.  Even Jesus regularly went off alone to refocus and to reconnect with God.  But if you’re not careful privacy can become an excuse to put barriers between you and your spouse.  The goal of privacy should be to use your time alone with God to become a better husband or wife.  But periods of physical and emotional privacy are very different from a controlling privacy that shuts your spouse out.  Do you have a "right" to privacy?  If it is for physical and emotional renewal, sure.  But you definitely don't have a right to keep secrets, withhold information, or seek to control your spouse under the pretense of "privacy."
*There are a very, very few exceptions in which I would not advocate full disclosure, but such cases do exist (i.e.—if one spouse or the other is working through drug or gambling addictions or other special circumstances in which unrestricted access could prove detrimental to the marriage relationship.)

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Marriage: A Blessed Promise

Yesterday was an exciting day! My second book, "Marriage: A Blessed Promise" came out. The book covers 13 topics with discussion/reflection questions after each section.  The topics covered include:
  1. Is What You See Really What You Get?
  2. Not Just Loved-Cherished!
  3. The Power of Play
  4. Interrupted
  5. I Love You in 140 Characters or Less
  6. Great Expectations
  8. Lines in the Sand
  9. The "Hot" Light is On
  10. That Dirty Little "S" Word
  11. Can't Buy Me Love
  12. Forgive and Forget?
  13. Till Death Do Us Part: A Blessed Promise
While many of the thoughts in the book originated in this blog, the topics have been revisited, expanded, and revised to further illuminate God's design and desire for couples to have blessed, Christ-centered marriages.
     The book is designed to be flexible.  It can be used as a personal devotional guide for couples, as a curriculum for small groups, a weekend couples' retreat, or for a Bible class of any size.
     And best of all, it is only $3.75 per copy.  It can be ordered at this link https://www.21stcc.com/quicksearchresults.cfm  If you are using it for a retreat, small group, or Bible class, and need visuals, a downloadable PowerPoint will also be available soon.
     I hope this resource will be a blessing to your marriage and will be something that you can pass along to other couples.