Saturday, October 31, 2015


     Tis the season for dressing up and pretending.  What are you going to be for Halloween?  It’s fun to run around the neighborhood, acting silly and having fun.  But when Halloween’s over, it’s time for the masks to come off.  I’m not going to work the next day dressed as Spider-man, we aren’t going to send the kids to school in costumes and make-up, and Lisa doesn’t want the strange looks she’d encounter if she wore a mask at work all day.
     But in marriage, one of the most difficult things to do is to

take off our masks.  Transparency and authenticity are buzz words that are heard a lot nowadays, but the actual practice of being honest, open, and even emotionally raw with your mate is no easy task.  Now, I’m not suggesting using your anger, or sadness, or confusion, or even joy and exuberance as an excuse for being disrespectful to your mate or acting out inappropriately.  But I am suggesting that when we continually lock out our mates and refuse to let them know who we really are “behind the mask,” we limit intimacy, hamper communication, and create barriers to a fulfilled marriage.
     When we’re dating and early on in marriage, most people try to “put their best face forward,” showing a potential spouse their strongest, most admirable qualities.  After marriage, a real fear can set in that one's spouse might “see you for who you really are,” and that’s a scary prospect, because no one knows my faults and flaws better than me.  So, it can become a lifetime distraction to continually try to hide behind the masks of the tough superhero, or the never-serious clown, or the helpless princess, or the tragically misunderstood monster, or the impish elf, or the crazy cartoon character, or the perfect adventurer…the list could go on and on.  It is easy to pretend to be Superman or Wonder Woman.  But it is hard to say “I’m scared,” or “I’m confused,” or “I can’t do this alone,” or “I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know what to do.”
     Masks can appear at any time in a marriage.  They can last for a short time through a specific stressor, or they can last for years to try and hide a perceived deficiency.  Sometimes a person wears a mask intentionally, and sometimes he/she will do it subconsciously.
     Taking off the masks and being transparent with your mate means admitting weakness, accepting help, and surrendering yourself to someone else.  Our pride works against us doing that.  The culture tells us we shouldn’t do that.  But a healthy marriage demands we do that.
     So how do we do it?  First, you have to create a safe environment for your mate to be transparent with you.  We tend to expect from others what we know we would get from ourselves.  You will never feel safe to take off your own mask if you can’t have empathy, love, kindness, and forgiveness for your mate in his/her weaknesses.  When both mates create an ongoing environment of safety, it is infinitely easier to show one’s real face.
     Next, you have to be willing to take a risk.  It is hard to trust someone with information about yourself that is potentially embarrassing or hurtful.  But, if you don't take that leap of faith, you will never know the freedom of being yourself and how that will bless your marriage and your relationship with your mate.
     Finally, when you take off the mask and the issue is laid bare, prayerfully decide how you are going to proceed together.  Whether one of you need to seek forgiveness, or you need to grieve together, or cry together, or figure out how to reignite intimacywhatever the issuerecognize that you are one flesh, working for the same goal, the good of the marriage. 
     Again, taking off your mask isn’t an excuse to become a victim, or to be verbally, emotionally, socially, or spiritually abusive to your mate.  It is a chance to find strength in your weakness so that you can bless each other and glorify Christ in your marriage.  Are you wearing a mask that you need to take off?

*Please note in this post, I am not talking about ongoing affairs, substance abuse, or pathological issues that require professional intervention.

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 here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall colors and marriage...

     It’s that time of year again—the leaves are changing and fall is upon us.  Several years ago, late in the afternoon I was driving along a scenic route and the leaves were at their peak of color.  As I topped a hill, the sun broke over the horizon and shone through a tree with bright red leaves.  With the full light of the sun behind the tree, the leaves lit up with a fiery glowing that stunned me with its beauty and brilliance.  I wondered if even Moses’ burning bush could have commanded more attention than this tree.  Surely, I thought to myself, this must be the most perfect tree, every leaf shining in perfection; and I thanked God for letting me share in its magnificence.
     As I got closer to this beautiful red tree, the individual leaves began to take shape. Because of the way this tree looked from a distance, I fully expected every leaf to be perfectly shaped and perfectly colored.  However, as I continued to drive along, the sun, from my perspective, slowly moved out from behind the tree.  As I got closer to this once brilliant tree, its glory began to fade.  Slowly, the once seemingly perfect leaves came into full view.  They were dull, broken, torn, and full of bug-chewed holes.  I thought it now seemed unlikely that even one single leaf could be considered perfect.  From a different perspective, without the sun behind it, the tree was just a mass of ugly messed up leaves.
     In a lot of ways, that tree is an analogy for marriage.  We know that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.  We are all imperfect people who come from imperfect families.  Sometimes we say things we wished we hadn’t said, do things we wish we hadn’t done, and make choices that we wish we could take back.  No one knows better than each person how broken and imperfect he/she really is.
     But a marriage shines brightly when we let our love for our mates be a reflection of our love for God.  It shines when we live out forgiveness and grace and kindness.  It shines when we speak words of encouragement to our mates, and words of praise about our mates when we are in the company of friends and co-workers.  It shines when we keep our marriage relationships at the center of our families and have healthy boundaries that protect our marriages.  Our marriages shines when we take care of each other in sickness and in health.  It shines when we lay aside the distractions and devote time and attention to our mates.  It shines when we resist our selfish impulses and look out for the good of our marriage covenants.  Our marriages shine when we embrace being one flesh and helpmates for each other.  Our marriages are only made perfect when we reflect the presence of Christ in how we treat our spouses—when we let the Son shine through us as a couple.
     Whenever you see that perfect marriage that you wish you could have, just remember, a perfect marriage is not perfect because of the husband’s or the wife’s own goodness, but because that couple allows the perfect Son to shine through their lives making them into something they cannot possibly hope to be within themselves.  As husbands and wives, we need to stand where the light of the Son penetrates who we are, and where His light can lead us together toward glorious transformation into the likeness of Christ.

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 here.

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