Monday, April 21, 2014

Hope for Marriage

I hope you all had a blessed Easter weekend!  We spent it in Orlando where we had a bridal shower for my daughter, Megan, on Saturday.  What a joyous but hectic day that was for me!!

I must tell you, hanging around all those young women in their 20s and 30s gave me a renewed hope for marriage in our society.  Most of them were not married.  Yes, some of them were living with their boyfriends, but they still had this appreciation and respect for the state of marriage.

I listened to the excitement in their voices as they discussed Megan’s upcoming nuptials next month.  They giggled like schoolgirls talking about the plans.  I listened at the awe in their emotions when Megan told them that her dad was going to do the ceremony for them.  One of Megan’s friends said she had goose bumps on her arms.  They all looked forward to getting married someday.

Just when I thought that there was not much hope left for the institution of marriage.

Oh, I know, many will say, “We don’t need a piece of paper to say we are married.”  I think that’s a cop-out for not wanting to make such an extensive commitment. Maybe they fear commitment because of divorced parents, or they had a bad experience in a previous relationship. Or maybe it’s a lame excuse because the person they are with is not the right person for them.  And they know it.

We live in a world where people have a hard enough time committing to attending an event, much less committing to the rest of their lives with one person. (Have you noticed how hard it is to get people to RSVP anymore??  This bridal shower was one of the exceptions, though, compared to events I’ve held in the past.  Almost everyone RSVP’d!)

I believe there are two types of couples that get married.  One kind marries out of expectation and tradition, not particularly taking the vows seriously.  They may entertain divorce as an easy escape if necessary.  And then there is the kind that genuinely grasps onto their vows to God, committing their relationship to ‘til death us do part.’

God made marriage to unite us physically and spiritually.  I think the spiritual part lacks greatly in our society.  Many couples live together, physically, as two separate entities who share a bed and a house.  They do not share a deeper, spiritual aspect of their relationship which usually includes God.   God meant for us to be as one, spiritually and physically.  “For what God has joined together, let no man separate.” If you go into marriage without God in the center, you run a serious risk of having the world break you apart.

There was a beautiful article in the Tampa Tribune Easter Sunday about an Ohio couple that was married for 70 years, and they died just hours apart.  She was 92, and he was 91.  Their eight children said the two had been inseparable since they met as teenagers.  They still held hands while eating breakfast.  Their children knew that when one went, the other was going to go.  Sure enough, after his wife passed away, the man said to his children, “Mom’s dead.”  The children gathered around him and sang his favorite hymns, read his favorite scriptures, and prayed with him.  He quickly began to fade and died the next morning.
I believe God intends marriage to be like this, and we all desire to have it this way.

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!