Ministry Inside.99

mask_photography4But what will people think?

Years ago, Charlotte and I were walking across a parking lot of a large church building in Kansas City.  We had an appointment with a marriage therapist.  This was our first visit with him.

I was nervous.

I was nervous that someone who I knew might see me.   I was nervous they would find out that we were going to a counselor to talk about our marriage.

The truth is that I was more concerned about how we looked, than the reality of our our lives.

No, we were not in a crisis.  We were not dealing with any sort of trauma or disaster within our marriage.  But, we were dealing with an important issue.

We were stuck.

We knew we needed to make some real adjustments but we were unsure what to do.

Yet, I was not as concerned at that moment about addressing those realities as I was the appearance.  I was more concerned about the possibility of another’s perception than the reality of our relationship.

This is not a good place to be.  In fact, it is embarrassing to think about this now.  Yet, sometimes church leaders can find themselves worrying more about a possible perception instead of addressing the reality of their lives.

Unfortunately, this can get even worse.  Church leaders can attempt to control and shut down what their family members are actually experiencing.

Church leaders can communicate to their families that they need to act like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. There are some real consequences to this behavior. 

5 Marks of Immature Behavior

13888675-caucasian-man-unshaven-portrait-sulk-bored-isolated-studio-on-black-backgroundI handled the situation poorly.

In a word, I acted immaturely.  My wife had made a request.  Perhaps my response was due to my own self-centeredness or maybe I just reacted without thinking.  Regardless, my response was immature.

Far too often, marriages become stuck in immature behavior, with the relationship regressing instead of growing.  Sometimes families struggle as extended family members behave immaturely instead of maturely.  Church leaders sometimes sabotage their own influence due to consistent immature behavior.

Immature behavior from others can be very frustrating.  After all, immaturity is a natural characteristic of a child.  A 40-year-old should not be known for his or her immaturity.

3 Suggestions for Breaking Through a Boring Marriage

marriage-broken-eggPeople are in a variety of places in marriage.

1.  Some describe themselves as “happy.”

2.  Others describe themselves as “unhappy.”

3.  Marriage is on hold as they are preoccupied with children, career, etc.

4.  Some see themselves in crisis.

5.  Some are newly married and attempting to find their way.

6.  A married couple may be entering a new phase (children, grandchildren, empty nest, etc.).

7.  Some are stuck and not sure what to do.

8.  Some are married but focused on a particular child, an in-law, a dysfunctional family system (one’s own extended family or in-laws).

9.   Married couples can create an imbalanced system.  One person seems to be “carrying” another.  This seems to be their “normal” – for now.  Often, the one carrying the other comes to a place where he/she resigns from this.

Many people describe their marriage as boring.

It is not uncommon (for a variety of reasons) to experience boredom in marriage at some point in time.  However, it is another matter when we experience this and refuse to acknowledge or address it.

The point?

All of us who are married are in different places in marriage.  However, those of us who are Christ-followers have at least one thing in common.

The most important issue in marriage for a Christ-follower is how we allow God to shape and form us as we relate to our spouse.  This is true whether we have been married four years or forty years.

Unless we are committed to our growth and development, we will likely become dull, stagnent, and passive.  If we are not being shaped by God, our marriages may be shaped more by our own selfish desires than what God wants to do through us as a couple.

When man and women become boring people, they often experience a marriage that is boring as well.   One of the most common ways to create a boring marriage is to first become boring people who stopped growing a long time ago.

Their friendship with one another receives little investment.  Conversation becomes boring. Romance and sex may be minimal if it exists at all.  Yes, I realize that our expectations regarding marriage can be totally unrealistic.  However, through neglect and selfishness, a once vibrant friendship can be reduced to something that is stagnant and lifeless.

A few suggestions:

1.  Make the first move.  Refuse to let passivity dominate your life!  Sitting in the recliner waiting for something to happen is not what mature people do.  Far too many marriages die because of the refusal to take the first step.

2.  Deal with your own mess.  Pray that God will give you the clarity to see your sins, your selfishness, and your stubbornness.  These become clear not by comparing yourself with other people or by keeping score with your spouse.  When we follow Jesus into our marriages, we will see the contrast between ourselves and him.

3.  Grow together.  The answer to bordom is not to find someone who seems more exciting.  The answer is to commit yourself, along with your spouse, to growth and development.  Do this together. If I want to avoid a boring marriage, I must first address my own life and behavior.

 

Question:

What might especially be helpful to couples who want to avoid long seasons of boredom in their marriage?

A Question About Dads

dad heartI’m curious.

Many people grow up with memories of a father relationship that was less than adequate.  I’ve heard many stories of some fathers being emotionally and/or physically absent.  Other fathers regularly made critical remarks to their children and had no significant relationship with them.

In your experience, how does emotional absence and even disconnection, by a father, impact a young son or daughter?

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage (Part 2)

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-MarriageThe following post is a continuation of an earlier post (find it here) describing behaviors that can murder a marriage.

6.  Refuse to forgive.  Some couples fight and refuse to forgive.  They stuff their anger, their resentments and their bitterness.  They refuse to forgive and move on.  The old negative behaviors of the past are allowed to accumulate in one’s heart and mind, like smelly garbage that is never taken out.

At some point, when this couple is in a heated battle, they open the garbage bag and drag out the past failures of their spouse.  Out comes nasty resentments and more anger.

Refusing to forgive can destroy the intimacy in a marriage and put one another at a distance.

7.  Be disrespectful to one another.  I once knew a couple who regularly showed disrespect toward one another.  They didn’t just disagree.  They wanted to hurt one another.  She would accuse him of not being a real man with any backbone.  He accused her of being cold and unresponsive.  Their language toward one another was demeaning and hurtful.

Disrespect can slowly destroy the tenderness that a couple may have had toward one another at one time.

8.  Act in an untrustworthy manner.  A man in his late thirties has been on a number of business trips with his company.  He never wears his wedding ring when he travels and is very flirty with female co-workers.  At one point, his co-workers were shocked to learn that he was married. Eventually, his wife found out about his reputation at work.  Now she refuses to trust him.

Behaving in an untrustworthy manner is a major breech in a marriage and destroys the trust that might have once existed.

9.  Be manipulative.  Manipulators attempt to get what they want without being honest enough to be transparent.  A woman once said regarding a family member: “I feel like he is always up to something.”  The manipulator is always trying to put himself at an advantage so that he can get what he wants.

Husbands and wives who manipulate one another destroy their opportunity to practice self-giving love while they opt instead for power and control.

10.  Put yourself first.  

Putting yourself first in your marriage destroys the opportunity to follow Jesus while you decide you choose instead to go your own way.

10 Ways to Murder a Marriage

marriage-broken-eggThe following is part 1 of a two part post in which I reflect on how to destroy a marriage. We have been married for 34 years and have had a front row seat to many, many other marriages.

1.  Create an atmosphere that no one would want to come home to in the evening. Do nothing but stare at your television night after night.  Complain.  Gripe at her or him for mistakes.  Go to bed angry and resentful.  Repeat the next day.

Constant carping, complaining and whining can destroy the atmosphere of a marriage. 

2.  Use pornography.  This is an ever increasing temptation not only for men, but women as well. You can lose yourself in a make believe world.  Pornography creates the illusion that sex is basically about the enjoyment of one person, instead of the mutual service of two people.  You don’t have to grow.  You don’t have to mature.  You don’t have to work at the give and take of relationship.

Pornography can destroy intimacy in marriage.

How to Grow in Marriage and Parenting

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

“I have no idea what I am supposed to do.”

That statement came from a very gifted and intelligent young man who was about to be married. I appreciated his honesty. He had never seen a marriage up close before. His parents divorced when he was very young. He deeply loved his mom and dad. Yet, he had never been close to a healthy marriage and so it was difficult for him to imagine what it would be like to be married.

Many other people have seen a marriage up close but it was a dysfunctional marriage with dynamics that were anything but healthy or even godly.

So what is a person supposed to do?

1. Plan to unlearn. So often, we are at a disadvantage because of our own faulty assumptions. “Surely this won’t last my entire life.” We also make assumptions about sex, parenting, and other roles. Our assumptions often come from a variety of sources and experiences. Yet, they sometimes set us up for failure.

For example, much unlearning often has to be done regarding sex and marriage. Some people enter marriage with assumptions borrowed from this culture. A person might think that sexual experiences with multiple people give one an advantage in marriage. Really? Where did that assumption come from? Did the creator ever tell human beings that this was a good thing or an advantage? Sometimes unlearning has to be done due to a long history with pornography. Such a history will often give a person some very unreal expectations regarding marriage.

2. Be intentional about learning. Maybe you have never seen a healthy marriage up close. Or, maybe you are realizing that marriage is more complex and more difficult than you imagined. Read good marriage books, particularly those that address marital concerns from a Christian perspective. Talk with people who have been married for many years and obviously love one another. Invite a couple who you admire over for coffee and desert and ask questions about marriage. Look for resources in your church. Bottom line: Be intentional about learning.

How Did You Learn to be Married?

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

I have a question.

I talk with a lot of people about marriage. Some of these people would like to be married one day but don’t have anyone in mind. Others in these conversations are engaged. I also talk about marriage with people who are married.

What is difficult for many, many people is that they have never seen a healthy marriage up close. They may have grown up in a single parent home. Or, they may have grown up in a home where their parents were married and then divorced at some point while they were still in elementary school, middle school, or high school. Others have never seen a healthy marriage up close even though their parents were married throughout their growing up years.

If You Are Not Praying for Your Children

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?

This occurred to me a few years ago as I thought about my prayer life and my own children. If I am not praying for my own children, then who is? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I can give to my children is faithful prayer.

Our children, whether small children or adults, live in a very difficult world. How important and encouraging for mom and dad to lift them up in prayer every single day of their lives.

 

My two children are now adults. Both are married. They each live a great distance from Charlotte and me. In some ways, we have little influence over what they do each day.

Yet, we lift them up in prayer each day, believing God will work intimately and powerfully in their lives wherever they are. We believe that God loves them, cares for them, and calls them to live under his rule. It is important that we pray for them.

How to Ruin a Good Relationship

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Lots of people are looking for the right relationship. Yet, so often these same people will then contribute to the demise of what otherwise might have been a very good relationship.

A few examples:

A woman thinks she has found a new friend. She becomes acquainted with another woman at work who is about her same age and they come from a similar background. They enjoy going to lunch and talking, and seem to have much in common. Yet, in a few months, the relationship ends and yes, there is lots of drama. This seems to happen again and again.

A minister and his wife have recently moved to a new community where he has begun working with a church in this new setting. He is excited about the new possibilities. Yet, in less than twelve months, it all changes. He is in major conflict with this congregation.

 

A guy and girl meet and everything seems right.She seems to have so many qualities that he has always wanted in another person. She thinks the same about him. In fact, this relationship seems “special.” Yet, in a matter of months things change. In spite of what they have invested in the relationship, neither will address his or her own issues.

Very often, the one phrase that might be repeated in each of these situations is:

“I just don’t know what happened.”