Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Glimpses of Heaven

     All relationships take work, but I am a strong believer in having a positive perspective about marriage.  Please understand that a positive perspective is not a na├»ve way of thinking that ignores or minimizes the (sometimes) harsh reality of living in a fallen world; but it is a perspective that seeks the best in each other and elevates the holy covenant relationship above the selfish drives of the individual.
     When we see marriage as “one flesh” (being immanently and intimately connected to your spouse) and our mates as “helpers” (not as subordinates, but as the one who completes us), then I believe we truly are given glimpses of heaven through the marriage covenant.  “A glimpse of heaven” is not the selfish idea of “I’ll always get my way” or “It’s all about making me happy.”  It is about being intentional about what I say, what I do, and what I let fill my heart and mind.  It is seeking a lasting joy rather than a fleeting happiness.  It is finding trust, stability, honesty, and integrity that are evidenced by each spouse’s actions.  It is about freely giving and receiving forgiveness.  It is understanding that love is an ongoing, mate-centered action, not just an emotional response to the circumstances of the moment.
     When those moments come—those glimpses of heaven—we know it.  Even if our lives are otherwise surrounded by chaos, with our mates we clearly see and feel that “something greater” that brings real peace and joy.  We recognize what it is to truly love and be loved, to be a part of something that is more than what we are alone.  It is in those moments that we are valued for who we truly are as a child of God, that we find joy in sharing with and serving someone else, and we see the beauty of God emanating from ourselves and reflected back in our mates.
     What can you do today to give your spouse “a little glimpse of heaven”?

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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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Saturday, August 23, 2014

good, Better, BEST!



     A few weeks ago, I blogged on choices.  In the post, I noted that “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.”
     It’s easy to focus on the negative choices in marriage because they are the ones that cause ripples, hurt feelings, and usually tend to linger on in our minds.  But the positive choices—both the big decisions and the little daily things we do to honor our spouses—create an ongoing environment of love, honor, commitment, and respect.  It is in those moments that we become the presence of Christ for our mates.
     While big, positive decisions can certainly make a lasting impact, many times the little positive choicesthe "good, better, best" daily decisionsbuild a strong marriage environment.  Things like:

  • Remembering to regularly say “thank you” so that you won’t be tempted to take your mate for granted
  • A hug, a kiss, or a gentle touch when needed
  • Praying with your spouse every single day
  • Bringing your spouse a cold cup of water when he/she is out mowing the yard
  • Letting your spouse see you be an involved parent
  • Putting away technology to focus on conversation
  • Listening attentively
  • Responding rather than ignoring it when you notice your mate has had a bad day
  • Saying something encouraging to your mate when your tempted to say something critical
  • Fixing a favorite meal or dessert for your spouse
  • Saying “I love you” regularly
  • Asking your mate where he/she wants to go or what he/she wants to do rather than just making all the decisions on your own

     That’s just a dozen simple things.  There are an infinite number of other things you can add to this list.  The point is, when you conscientiously and consistently make decisions to bless your spouse, you create an ongoing environment of healthy marriage and positive communication.  When your mate reflects on the choices you make, let the positive choices be an overwhelming flood of goodness that immediately comes to his/her mind.
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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, August 18, 2014

Selling Discontentment...



     I recently made the choice to allow ads to appear on the sidebar of The Marriage Blog.  Given that this is a pro-marriage, Christian-based blog, I would expect a certain type of advertising to appear.  Now, I know that Google’s ads are individualized based on Google searches, region of the country, tied to keywords within a blog, and dictated by a whole bunch of other stuff that someone smarter than me figured out.  Still, I'm always intrigued to see what ads pop us.  Some of the ads have fit the criteria I would have expected (a local Christian college, travel and hotel, even ads for internet dating), but a few ads have surprised me (divorce attorneys?  Really?  On a pro-marriage blog site?).
     The main purpose of most advertising is to create dissatisfaction.  Its goal is to make you desire something you do not currently have by making you feel like your life is unfulfilled without X-Y-Z product or service.  And the goal is not just to make you desire it, but desire it feverishly; to desire it to the point you fixate on it.  Sadly, too many of us fall for advertising for stuff and services that we just don’t need.
Even more sadly, too many spouses fall for it when the media, their co-workers, and at times even their closest friends and family try to sell marriage discontentment.

  • “Are you really happy just being a wife and stay-at-home-mom?”
  • “Is the ‘old ball and chain’ keeping you from having fun again?”
  • “Are you sure that is the man you want to sail into your golden years with?”
  • “Is she spending you into poverty?”
  • “Does he ever really pay attention to you?”
  • “Does she always nag you like that?”
  • “He didn’t used to look like that.  He sure has let himself go, hasn’t he?”
  • “Is she really fulfilling your sexual needs?”
  • “Could he provide a better life for you?”
  • “How could you be happy living like that?”

It doesn’t matter what it is.  It doesn’t have to be a monumental statement.  Often, it’s something that can be played off as a joke.  But the voices around us continually take shots at our mates.  If we’re not vigilant, those voices can get inside our heads; create an air of dissatisfaction…and begin selling us discontentment with our mates.
     Well, I think it’s time for us to stand up those stupid, destructive voices, to quit focusing on what’s “wrong” with our mates, and to fight back.  It’s only when we quit living selfishly and comparatively that we can boldly claim the joy of marriage that God give us.*
     So, when someone says, “Is the ‘old ball and chain’ keeping you from having fun tonight?” don’t hesitate to reply, “She is the joy of my life.  Why would I want to trade that for a night of your self-inflicted misery?”  When your friend says, “He didn’t used to look like that.  He sure has let himself go, hasn’t he?” tell her, “There’s no greater feeling than to be loved and accepted unconditionally.  It’s how we love each other.  I hope you find that kind of love someday.”  If you hear, “Does she always nag you like that?” let your buddy know, “I value my wife’s opinion.  She’s intelligent and compassionate.  You could learn a lot from her.”  When you're asked, “How could you be happy living like that?” live in a way that let’s that person know that godly contentment in your marriage covenant is the only way you can be happy.
     Standing up against the voices of discontentment and claiming the joy of marriage that God gives us doesn’t mean everything will always be perfect.  And while I do think we need to stand firm against those who would criticize our mates, I'm not advocating being mean or rude in responding to someone's ill-thought out comment.  But remember, discontentment is always for sale.  If you want a holy, blessed marriage, then you’ve got to resist the sales pitch.

*In this post, I am addressing normal circumstances that create discontentment in couples over time.  I am NOT addressing discontentment that results from abusive or addictive behavior.  If you are in fear for your safety physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, or spiritually, seek immediate protective and professional help.

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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 PromiseIt's less than four bucks and available now from 21st Century Christian.  Order online at https://www.21stcc.com/.  



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