Monday, August 3, 2015

Renew Your Mind

My most passionate topic over the years has been about the one thing that easily devastates any marriage – selfishness.  It is also the biggest deterrent from a relationship with God.

Now, I thought I was great at unselfishness. I’ve always been a people person, willing to put others needs ahead of my own.  God recently showed me, though, a different side that I never thought of as selfishness.

I may not be neglecting anyone or appearing selfish, but when I lose myself in a party of pity, self-pity at that, I’m selfishly ignoring God’s plan for my life. I’m blocking Him out and focusing on my desires that have not yet come to fruition or may have been temporarily interrupted by someone elses words or actions.  This is selfishness towards God.  He wants to be part of all we do in our lives, but when we close Him off by getting stuck in worldly ideas and thoughts, we miss out on whatever amazing plan He may have had for us that day.  We are not trusting Him. When we allow the weight of the world to pull us into a pit of despair, we veer from the path of our destiny.  

How does this type of selfishness affect our marriage relationship?  Immediately we equate selfishness with not letting our spouse win in making decisions and not putting their needs ahead of our own.  But what about the attitude we quietly ‘pout’ over when we are unable to have our own way? You may have outwardly done a selfless act towards your spouse, but if you inwardly hold a grudge for doing so, you are still behaving selfishly. What about the negative thoughts regarding our spouse that we dwell on and allow to affect our relationship?  What about the invisible tally we keep of everything our spouse does that aggravates us?  All selfishness – but in a subtle, unnoticed way that only God sees.

I suppose the obscure nature makes it difficult to acknowledge this behavior as selfishness. Your spouse may feel the adverse effects but not recognize them as selfishness.  Only God sees the truth of the matter.  The bottom line here is how much you care about what God thinks of you.

We have a choice whether to indulge in self-pity or not.  Self-pity leads to depression which can cripple a marriage relationship.  Harboring negative thoughts about your spouse and longing for them to be like someone else will eventually destroy your marriage.  Dwelling on ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ will keep you from the healthy marriage that God intended for you.  Call it what you want, but this is  selfish behavior that devastates relationships.

So how do we turn from this subtle form of selfishness?  We renew our minds daily.  It is very important to spend time with God every day so as not to forget this.  We need to work to stay focused on God’s plan for our lives.  After all, we are here on this planet to reach out to others and to fulfill that plan.  Believe it or not, we are not here for the big house, fancy car and amazing career as the world would have us believe.

Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

When the world gets you down, get rid of those thoughts and renew your mind on the things of God.  Start by thinking of all you have to be grateful for and focus on the positive attributes of your spouse and your family.  Thank God for yet another day that He has given you.  There is no room for selfishness when you are praising God!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Marry? - Part 2

Not too long ago, when I was just a teenager, (okay, maybe it was a while ago) people that lived together without the blessing of marriage were frowned upon – unaccepted by society.   Not many couples did it.  Now, it has become the norm.
Today, 70 – 90 % of young people will live with someone of the opposite sex (in a relationship) before they marry.  It is understandable that the younger generation fears marriage when 50% (almost 60% in Florida) of them come from broken homes. 

Even baby boomers, that have experienced divorce, are now moving in with their partners to live out of wedlock.  Many of them have no intentions of marrying. 

There is also a trend among people over seventy, who have lost spouses to death, to forego marriage and “live in sin”.  They can’t afford to give up their departed spouses’ retirement and social security benefits to marry.

At one time, it was believed that living together, first, would damage your chances for a successful marriage.  Now, it seems, that couples who live together and are engaged or fully committed to marriage, transition easily into marriage.

It is the couples who aren’t committed to the relationship that face problems down the road and may or may not wind up marrying and staying married.  Often times couples move in together out of financial convenience or because it “feels” like the thing to do.  Unfortunately, if the commitment isn’t there with any intentions of someday marrying, they have no qualms about walking out the door when the going gets tough.

Can a person truly be “happy” going from relationship to relationship, never committing to one person to face the problems with them?  And what about all the baggage you carry from relationship to relationship?  You won’t have peace when you hold on to garbage from your past.  Every relationship will add to that baggage until you make the commitment to the one person who will be there to help you unpack.

Some people seem to enjoy moving from relationship to relationship, bed to bed.  How fulfilling can it be, though, to never trust or never realize what true love is – the way God intended it?  You can’t know that until you’ve been through the mountains and valleys with the one person you commit your life to.  Only with that one person can you grow and learn about God’s amazing love that He intended  for marriage.

There will be storms in your marriage.  Don’t fear them and run from them; see them as opportunities to draw closer to your spouse and to God.

God intended for us to be monogamous creatures, together for life.  I know we don’t always feel that way.  I’ve had days where the constant work of marriage mixed in with life overwhelms me.  But at the end of the day, after Rick takes my hand to pray, I put my head on my pillow with great peace and gratitude to God for the man that lies beside me.  Oh yes, we’ve certainly been through our trials, but I’m so grateful to be on the other side of that to see how God truly intended marriage to be.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why Marry?

Marriage is hard – maybe the most difficult part of our lives we’ll ever have to deal with.  Although parenting, at times, may run a close second, we would never think of divorcing our children out of our lives.  We love them unconditionally, much like God loves us.

So why don’t we go into marriage with the same attitude?  Our spouses should mean more to us than our own children – according to the Bible. 

Matthew 19:4-6 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

NOTHING should come between a husband and wife; man should not separate them.  God never mentions that about our relationships with our children.  We’re only given them for a season, and then they are expected to move on and become their own person – the person God created, not us.  Our spouse should stay with us for life.

Marriage was intended, by God, to be a lifelong monogamous relationship.  A man will leave his family, his mother and father, to start his own family with his wife.  The two become one flesh.  They are no longer two, but one.  Again, NOTHING should separate them.

There is a reason why we are encouraged as Christians not to have sex outside of marriage.  Sex, first of all, is the physical bond that keeps us united as one; the glue that holds us together.  It is a powerful act that reaches our inner being, our soul.  We as humans do not fully comprehend how deep that bond runs when we’ve shared the most intimate intimacy with another human being.

When a relationship is broken, that bond is not just divided or dissolved; it is torn apart because of the unfathomable, permanent connection that was once formed.  Pieces are left behind.  People go from relationship to relationship gathering those pieces of pain and hurt each time they break up, and then carry them into every subsequent relationship.

These days, with people choosing not to marry, the commitment is not there, and so changing partners has become the norm.  Even outside of marriage, you form an emotional bond with every partner you have sex with that is difficult to break.  No wonder there is so much pain and confusion out there when it comes to relationships.

The idea of “dating” has only been around since the early 1900’s.  Our society has lost the plot by believing that one should “date around” and wait until you’re older to get married.  Sure, I don’t think teenagers are emotionally ready, but if couples are waiting until they’re over thirty, they usually bring numerous bags of garbage with them from relationships where they were just taking the free milk. (Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?) 

Dating around doesn’t make us wiser about relationships.  It only leaves us skeptical and distrustful about the opposite sex, while piling up the garbage we’ll have to deal with in the future.  If we learn so much from it, why is their such a high divorce rate in our society?

Jumping from relationship to relationship or marriage to marriage is not the answer.  Waiting for the right person to marry and seeing that relationship through – no matter what storms you face - is the only way that God can bless your marriage.

 More to come!