Monday, April 14, 2014

Let Your 'Yes' be "Yes'

As usual, I’m amazed at how God speaks to us, in a new way, through verses we may have read often before.  I’ve been reading Genesis 27 and in studying Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, I have been made aware of a personality flaw that affects many women. The characters in the Bible speak clearly about the behavior of men and women, even in this day and age.  We really haven’t changed a lot.

Rebekah is a very manipulating woman.  First, in Genesis 27:18-29, she has Jacob pretend to be Esau so that Jacob can receive Isaac’s blessing which is usually reserved for the firstborn (Esau).  Then, at the end of this chapter, we see her manipulate Isaac with her words.

In verses 43-45, Rebekah tells Jacob to go to her brother Labans in Haran because Esau has threatened to kill Jacob. Not only did Jacob take Esau’s blessing from Isaac, but Jacob also stole Esau’s birthright in chapter 25.

In verse 46, Rebekah says to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women.  If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (A bit dramatic, isn’t she?  Sound like anyone you know?)

And what does Isaac do?  Genesis 28:1,2 – “So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel.  Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.”  Just what Rebekah thought he would do.

Woman often have a difficult time expressing the truth.  We speak around it.  Maybe we don’t want to sound offensive, or we try to avoid confrontation, or we may be fearful of asking for something.  So we easily manipulate others into doing what we want to avoid the truth of the matter.  In Rebekah’s case, she wanted Jacob to be safe but couldn’t admit to Isaac how she helped Jacob get Esau's blessing. So she gets Isaac to send Jacob to her brother’s with her manipulating way of avoiding honesty.  (Sounds like a storyline for a soap opera.)  How easy is it, though, to justify your behavior for the love of your children,

I adore my mother, but she has been a master at not being forthright with her thoughts and desires. (Nothing to the extent of Rebekah, though.) My mother doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or upset them.

For example, say my mom and I plan to go do some errands, together, first thing in the morning.  If we wake up to rain and nasty weather, she’ll call me and say, “I don’t think we should go because I know you don’t like driving in the rain.”  Now that may be correct that I don’t like to drive in the rain, but the truth of the matter is, more likely, that she doesn’t want to go out in the rain.  Why didn’t she just say “I don’t want to go because it’s raining.”? She wouldn’t want to let me down by saying she doesn’t want to go so she dances around the issue, not being totally honest.

We women have the tendency to speak like this because of men.  No matter what women’s lib or any other worldly guru may tell us, we still have an attitude towards the men we love that we don’t want to hurt their feelings, or we don’t want them to see the real side of us.  Or maybe we just do it because we don’t want them to get mad at us.  In my mother’s defense, she had been reprimanded often in the past for her honesty and has learned to stifle it.  How many of us have had a similar experience – usually brought on by a dominating man?

Rebekah had to cover up her tracks by suggesting to Isaac that she wouldn’t be happy if Jacob took a wife among the women where they lived.  She was such a master at manipulating with her words to the men she loved that she knew exactly what to say.  It worked!  They never even knew what hit them!

We don’t always speak openly and honestly, partially because we don’t always know what’s really going on with our emotions and thoughts.  We may ramble around the issues not ever figuring out the truth.  No wonder men think we are crazy!  Besides, their thinking is much simpler than ours.  They don’t understand the complexities that rage on in our thoughts.  They  don’t understand this little “flaw” in us that sometimes keeps us from being truthful and may appear to be manipulation.  They totally miss it, thinking we are forthright as they are.

Below is a clever example of the difference between men and women’s English.  I’ve posted this numerous times before but it’s still funny and true, no matter how often you read it!

Woman’s English
Yes = No
No = Yes
Maybe = No
We need = I want
It’s your decision = the correct decision should be obvious
We need to talk = I need to complain
Sure, go ahead = I don’t want you to
I’m not upset = Of course I’m upset, you moron

Man’s English
 I’m hungry = I’m hungry
I’m sleepy = I’m sleepy
I’m tired = I’m tired
What’s wrong? = What stupid self-inflicted psychological trauma is it now?
What’s wrong? = I guess sex tonight is out of the question
I’m bored = Do you want to have sex?
I love you = Let’s have sex now!
Let’s talk = I’ll impress you by showing you I am a deep guy and then we can have sex.

I think we owe it to our spouses to learn to be honest with them about our thoughts and feelings.  We have to learn to simplify them first, in our own mind, so we make some sense to our husbands.  I’ve worked hard on this for many years now, and I’ve come a long way in communicating in a way Rick can understand.  My advice would be KISS.  Keep It Simple Sweetie.  Focus on the problem at hand, not what happened yesterday or a year ago.

Matthew 5:37 – from the mouth of Jesus – says, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”  Notice, He said “Simply” here.  We speak too many words to our husband that they will never hear.

If you’d like to read more about how women don’t say what they mean, check out my article under Communication – “Why Do Women Not Say What They Mean?”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stage Three - Purity

The third stage brings us to a place of purity.  We’ve figured it out.  We've gotten rid of the baggage.  Our only goal is to do God’s will in our lives and in our marriage.  Every move we make goes through God first.

Not everyone makes it to this stage.  It involves a complete surrender of self.  There will always be a struggle in fighting our self, but at this stage, you know how to battle against it and rarely face it anymore. (Self is the biggest factor that will keep you from a pure relationship with God and with your spouse.  I still see it control many church-going, faith-filled Christians.)

At this stage, you understand what marriage is all about.  You’ve become one spiritually.  You’ve taken on parts of the good qualities your spouse exemplifies and you’ve joined in the middle, completing the two halves God put together.

For example: when Rick and I first married we did a personality test, and he tested off the charts on the end of dominance. I, on the other hand, scored off the charts on the opposite end of submissiveness.  Everything was fine in our marriage until our children came along.  By then I faced the difficulties of taking care of two small children, Rick’s long work hours, and our living far away from family and friends.  Because of my timidity, I didn’t know how to speak out and let my needs be known to my husband.  This was the beginning of our marriage crisis.

Because of that horrible time in our lives, Rick and I have both moved closer to the middle in many of our personality traits.  What attracted me to him were many of the qualities that I lacked.  Through all these years of marriage, I have learned to be more assertive, how to speak out, and how to be a leader (to name a few), while he has learned to be more sympathetic, more caring, and more aware of the needs of others.

Rick and I have met in the middle where, together, we are much more suited to perform God’s plan for us. Through the troubles we have faced in our marriage and the struggles to meet in the middle, we have learned more about each other and what makes us tick.  Only at this point are any of us able to complete the union as God intended for marriage.

Now I’m certainly not saying that my marriage is perfect, by any means.  We still have our moments.  I still have days (not so often anymore) where the devil tempts me to walk out the door.  (He doesn’t want Rick and me to continue in our marriage ministry.)  But, I now know how to get myself back on track, almost immediately.  (Depending on the state of my hormones it may take a few hours.)

Rick and I share great harmony in our marriage.  We have figured out how to deal with the issues.  Yes, they still arise, but we battle them head on, as soon as we recognize them.  Resentment gets no chance to rear its ugly head when you immediately face the problems.  Because of that, our home has become a haven filled with peace. We can't wait to get back to it when we leave it.  We look forward to our time together.

Back to the parable of the seeds in Matthew – Matthew 13:8 – “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

That’s what happens to marriage when you persevere and desire to become as one.  You reap an amazing crop!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Survival Stage - Part Two

Half of the married couples in our country will not make it through the Survival Stage. (Check out the two previous articles on Spirituality and Marriage.)  They can’t take the fire (storms, trials).  Precious metals have to go through fire to be perfected.  So do our relationships with God and with our spouse.

What does it take to get through the fire?  Commitment - conviction - perseverance to continue no matter what.  When I hear newlyweds say they’ll just divorce if things don’t work out, I know things are not going to work out for them.

Every relationship will go through the fire, and everyone makes their own choice whether to continue or not, regardless of the circumstances.  If you and your spouse refuse to allow the word “divorce” in your vocabulary and thoughts, you will never have to face it.  It all starts in your thinking.  Just don’t go there – divorce cannot be an option.  Make the choice to commit your life to God and to your spouse.  (If you are not yet married, I would advise you NOT to marry someone unless they share this attitude with you.)

The good news is you WILL get through the fire.  If you and your spouse both aspire for a healthy marriage, together, and with the help of God, you can achieve it.  Your relationship will rise to a new level of love you could not have imagined before.  That level is a precious gift from God that He desires for your marriage.

That brings us to the second part of stage two.  This is where you and your spouse discover the keys to compromising and putting each others needs above your own.  Compromise and selflessness are both required for peace and harmony in a marriage and also in our relationship with God.  Along with commitment, they will get you through the fire.

Once you get through the fire, you settle into a comfortable, "I can live with you for the rest of my life" relationship. While those “crazy-about-you” feelings may fade a bit towards your spouse and even towards God, you will discover a deeper love that cannot be measured by feelings.  Without those fairy-tale emotions, we face a different phase of love that depends on a profound, intangible love.  One of the definitions for intangible says “not definite or clear to the mind.”  It’s difficult to put words to it.

When I think of the love my husband has shown me for over 30 years now, and the love I've known from God for over 20 years, many of the same adjectives come to mind.  Loyal, dependable, committed, looking out for my best needs, loving, devoted, strong, a solid rock, my savior, just to mention a few.  I understand more about God’s comparison of Christ and the church to marriage when I see the love of my husband towards me.  Those are the qualities that now make me feel "crazy-about-you" towards him and God.

Ephesians 5:32 calls it a profound mystery.  God gave me my husband to love me as Christ did the church.  My husband is a human example of God’s love to me, especially at the times I don’t act so lovingly towards him.  God still loves me when I don’t act so lovingly towards Him either.   

There are two options for married couples: fight through the storms of marriage and stay together or give up and divorce.  In our society, 50% of marriages end in divorce (60% in Florida).  Half of the couples quit during the storm or in the midst of the fire.  They can’t take the heat.

While going through the storms of marriage is very difficult (I certainly felt like quitting), it’s worth it all to persevere and work out the problems.  This is the best time to “figure it out”.  If you don’t, you’ll carry the same issues (garbage) on to any future relationships, only magnifying the heat of the storms to come.  

You may think another woman’s husband looks more attentive, more helpful, more loving, but I promise you, there would be another set of issues you’d have to deal with if you were married to him, along with the issues you didn't deal with in your previous marriage.  Figure out how to deal with problems in your first marriage; they only become more complicated in subsequent relationships.  Not to mention, once you've gone through the fire, you become much better equipped to face future trials.  But you have to get through the fire, first.

The second part of the Survival Stage is the time where we’ve been through the storms and figured out how to make it work.  We’ve been given the tools to deal with troubles through our perseverance.   We are now readily prepared to face future issues.  Harsh words and feelings seldom rear their ugly heads.  We find security in the status quo.  We find peace and comfort in our relationship.

Our relationship with God is the same.  We come to a level of comfort where we “know that we know that we know”.  We’ve learned how to deal with issues and overcome future problems easier with the help of God.  We lean on Him and strive to give up our “self” to live life according to His will.

In both our marriage and spiritual relationship with God, we find contentment.  We no longer need the emotional highs to stoke the fire. We understand commitment. We find happiness in our routine to maintain both our relationship with God and with our spouse.  Most people spend their lives in this stage.