Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stand Up - Marriage Series - #1

You ever get one of those emails that send you reeling back in time?

I got one last week.  It took me back about 5-6 years - when things weren't so happy in our house.  We were busy setting up careers, having kids and establishing a life.  Our marriage got a little lost in space.  That space of exactly 4 hours (give or take) between when you get home and when you pass out.  In those hours, you drain out the remaining dregs of your energy getting dinner on the table and kids to bed.

It doesn't matter if you are on fire for God or you haven't given Him the time of day in years.  No one is immune from obstacles and marriage is one of the enemies favorite things to throw under the bus.  Indeed, those with the strongest of faith are often attacked on their home turf most frequently.  Why?  Because it's so hard to fight there.

The details of my marital struggles aren't as important as the commonality of them.  Every person I've ever known who has been married has, at one point or another, hit a wall.  (And if you haven't yet, trust me, you will.) Decision-time: Do you stay or do you go?  Ours happened between year 4-7.  No, it wasn't all 3 years, but serious growth was required on all accounts.  Until that happened, it got real ugly at times. I've seen a few things in other marriages too. 

Enough to know there are key essentials to making a marriage work, God's way.  It requires hope, faith, but most importantly the choice to keep loving, even when other choices look a lot easier.  I hear it's like when your kids are teenagers, you just have to hold on to the belief the foundation you laid will hold.  And you know what Jesus said about building the right foundation.  Feel free to weigh in, I don't have a lock on things.  After (only) 11 years of marriage - I know I still have A LOT to learn.

Step #1 - STAND UP. 

In the church, we are taught to be meek and mild and have turn-the-other-cheek-till-it-hurts kind of humility.  But nowhere in Scripture can I find where it says we have to relinquish our dignity to submit in God's name.  Jesus was NEVER undignified.  He is the most courageous person to ever walk the face of the earth.  

What I've often encountered in the process of marriage struggles is things get nasty.  We let the little irritating things develop into comments and arguments that terribly wound our spouses.  We get to the point that all we want to do is hurt them because we are hurting.  Our expectations, our dreams have been dashed on the rocks of reality.  Someone has to pay.  

I remember this phase, the all out hostility and you are just flabbergasted that someone who says they love you can treat you this way.  Just evil.  

But it's part of the process of transformation.  The ugly has to come out before the goodness can be put in. 
If you are the one being attacked - you must make a switch to righteousness and stand there.  You may feel beaten down, but you aren't supposed to be treated like dirt.  This is a Jesus and the Money Changers situation. We can stand in love and we say No, You Cannot Treat Me This Way.  I'm not going to allow it anymore.  I can and will be available when things calm down, but for the moment, I gotta separate myself from this onslaught.  

Even if you are being unjustly attacked, use the weapons God gives you1 Corinthians 13:4-5 is a good place to refer to: Love is patient and kind.  It doesn't dishonor others, isn't self-seeking, isn't easily angered and doesn't keep a record of wrongs.

Andy Stanley, in his book Enemies of the Heart writes these simple, but wise words:
If you're a Christian, you aren't expected to treat others the way you've been treated by others; you've been called to treat people the way you've been treated by your Father in heaven.
The bottom line is, you don't engage until you can do it in a way that reflects love, or at the very least, grace.

And I think it goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway), you can't be the perptrator.  You can't be the one slashing and burning the matrimonial bridges.

It's not about getting what we deserve or making someone pay for how they hurt us.  We have to learn to love without the emotional dependency.  When you reach the point of understanding it is not about your husband (or wife) saving you, but rather about growing in the sacrificial love of Christ, the war becomes much less interesting.  When peace is the goal, winning the battle loses its appeal. 

It will take awhile.  I don't know how long and it's never just a one-time occurrence.  But the more you stand up for the things of God, the faster the walls of pain seem to come down. And always be praying - for yourself, your family and for your spouse.  When you do - God intervenes.  He makes reconciliation possible. I've known couples to divorce and remarry when they let the Lord in!

But since we don't want it to get that's what we will cover next time.  Because standing up makes the next step possible.


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