Monday, January 16, 2017

Fight the fizzle...

     Something interesting happens at the YMCA for the first couple of weeks of January every year.  Every year in January, a whole bunch of new faces show up at the Y; people who’ve made their new year’s resolution to lose weight, or get fit, or whatever.  These folks come in gung ho, ready to change their lives for the better.
     And then, it gets to about this time in January.  Mid-way through the month, the majority of those new faces are gone.  The determination has waned, the sacrifice necessary for change has proved too painful, or too inconvenient, or too costly.  So, they quit.  They fizzle out.
     Many promise themselves they will start up again soon.  They may even show up for an hour every couple of weeks, and then every month, and then every three months, and then…nothing.  For whatever reason, the end result that they dreamed of obtaining is no longer worth the journey it will take to get there.
     Did you and your spouse make resolutions together for your marriage for the new year (and together is the key word here!)?  Did you decide on things that you can do to bring you closer to each other as you draw nearer to God?  Did you talk about what your joint ministry and mission will be for 2017?  Did you talk about what you need to do as a couple to bring hope and encouragement to each other, to make each other feel safe, to bless each other’s lives, and to center your marriage in Christ?  If not, start those conversations now.
     If you have started doing these things, be on your guard against fizzling out.  There will always be excuses to not do something.

“There’s not enough time.
“I’m too tired.
“Is my spouse really noticing anyway?
“I’m not really seeing any benefit in doing this.
“It’s just a little break.  I'm sure I'll get back to it soon.”

The devil will provide ample excuses to quit.  Don’t let him draw you away from your resolve to use your marriage to bless each other and to work together in the Kingdom of God.  We all get tired.  We all ask questions.  We all have set backs.  And from time to time, we all want to quit.  But when those times come, fight through the fizzle.
     You might not always be able to see it in the moment, but the end result is worth the cost of the journey.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Becoming one...

     “We believe that those who marry are to leave their parents’ primary care to cleave to their spouses, and godly parents will facilitate rather than frustrate this God-ordained process (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:6-9).”  This sentence is found in the middle of the Theology of Marriage statement held by my church.  Good in-laws can be a wonderful blessing to a marriage.  Intrusive controlling in-laws (no matter how well intentioned) are a constant detriment to a healthy marriage and an ongoing source of friction between husband and wife.  It’s amazing how many Christian children’s Christian marriage to a good Christian spouse have been destroyed by Christian parents who didn’t know their place.  “Cleave and leave,” the act of leaving your parents' care and guidance to join yourself in covenant union with your mate, is one of the easiest biblical concepts to understand.  So why is it so hard for many to practice?
     From a parent’s perspective, we attach ourselves to our children from the moment they are born.  We invest ourselves in raising them, caring for them, and wanting to see them succeed in every way possible.  So, there is a natural inclination to want to continue to give them guidance and help.  It is hard to see that process as anything but beneficial and needed, just as when our son or daughter was fully in our care.  And, if our child’s spouse sees our care and concern as anything else, they can easily be painted (intentionally or unintentionally) as misguided or even hostile.
     Yet, parents must let their child’s primary allegiance go to the child’s spouse.  In fact, they must not only allow it, they must encourage and facilitate it.  To fail to do so, to try and sway or manipulate your child, or to try and maintain any level of control is sinful, destructive behavior.  “Sinful”?  I know that’s harsh language, but if we want to seek God’s will, that means submitting to God’s will—we fulfil God’s Word when we help our children leave our side, leave our care, and become one flesh with their spouse.  Moving your child’s primary allegiance and affection from you to his/her spouse doesn’t mean you can’t still give advice.  It doesn’t mean you can’t help your child in positive, marriage affirming ways.  It certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child.  It does, however, mean you are obeying God’s design for marriage and family.
     Parents, if you have married children, consider the stress you will be placing upon your child and his/her marriage if you are forcing your child to choose between his/her spouse and you in any area of life.  Also, ask yourself, do you want to have a relationship with your child and your child’s spouse, or do you want to have a relationship only if it is on your terms?
    Husbands and wives, as you navigate the spouse/in-laws relationship, it is vitally important for your marriage that healthy, mutually-discussed and mutually-agreed-upon boundaries are established and maintained between the couple and each set of in-laws.  If those boundaries are set up from the beginning, they will be easier to maintain.  However, if in-laws are causing stress in your marriage, no matter how long you’ve been married, you must establish firm boundaries.
     But be ready.  The first time you have to tell a parent “no,” expect a reaction.  Boundaries are usually pushed and tested.  There may be hurt feelings.  Guilt may come from the parent the boundary is imposed against, or guilt may come internally as you feel guilty for having to draw that proverbial line in the sand to protect your marriage.  But for the sake of your covenant relationship healthy boundaries must exist!
     Parents, be a blessing to your child and his/her spouse, but be willing to listen when they tell you “no” or ask you to step back.  Husbands and wives, love your parents, but remember if your first love is God then it will be reflected in your spouse being your primary love in this life.  It’s not easy to let go, but godly parents and godly children will if a marriage is to be what God intends.  Obviously, there are always case-specific circumstances, but as a general rule, God’s design of “cleave and leave” is what will make a marriage and relationships with in-laws flourish.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Marriage Medicine

     Just about everybody enjoys a pleasant surprise (the key
word here is pleasant). In marriage, the element of surprise can inject a lot of fun and laughter into your relationship. Whether it is an unplanned trip or an unexpected date night, or a “for-no-particular-reason” gift, surprising your spouse can create laughter, build intimacy, and help feed a positive spirit between you and your love.
     And surprises don’t have to be elaborate or expensive to generate powerful results. A home-cooked dinner of his or her favorite meal, an unexpected back rub or foot rub while watching TV, a note in his or her lunch box, a “because I love you” text or phone call, a private message on the bathroom mirror in soap or lipstick, or even just handing him or her an ice cream cone at the door after a hard day at work; things that create pleasant surprises can bless a marriage relationship. 

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Medicate your marriage with a pleasant surprise for your spouse this week.