Who Will I Be?

We heard a talk by Gayle Haggard, wife of Ted Haggard, and she challenged us to ask ourselves the question, “Who am I going to be in this story?”  She had to answer that question when her husband was accused of a secret life of infidelity and drug use.  Her perfect world turned upside down and she chose to stay and fight for her marriage, not give up on it.  The story would be told one way or another; she decided to be a part of a hopeful healing story, not one of division and defeat.  Such a courageous decision!  And the story she now tells is of the power of Jesus to heal deep wounds between spouses.

All spouses are actors in the story of their marriage and we all have a choice of who we will be in that story.  The script is not written for us; we make it up as we go.

Personally, I spent a lot of years blocking progress and closeness in my marriage because of wrong thinking.  Our marriage wasn’t a happy story and I was not doing my part to change that.  Here are some of the destructive ways of thinking that I employed:

  • Black and white thinking– it was either all right or all wrong, a total success or failure, all good or all bad.  I didn’t acknowledge the little bit of progress or good along the way.
  • Overgeneralization– when a negative thing happened I thought nothing would ever go right.
  • Awfulizing– thinking the worst, everything is just awful.
  • Negative mental filter– I could always see the negatives, seldom the positives. I filtered out the good things and ignored the positives.
  • Magnifying and minimizing– blowing things out of proportion, magnifying my weaknesses and minimizing strengths.
  • Blaming– I blamed myself for things whether it made sense or not just to reduce the stress level.  Some people blame others for the same reason.
  • Labeling– accusing ourselves or others of wrongdoing based on a few negative instances.
  • Emotional reasonings– I let my feelings guide how I interpreted reality. For example: “I feel like I am a failure so I am a failure.”

I’m sure you see how destructive these patterns are.  They are ingrained and we use them because they seem to reduce our stress level at the moment.  But in the long run they only increase it.  They block good constructive conversation.  And if you do get some clarity and resolution at times, it will all be forgotten when caught in the negativity trap again!

Do you see yourself in any of these negative thinking patterns?  If so, be encouraged that you can change your thinking and the story of your marriage in the process.  We can decide to be intentional about the way we react to things.  Start by thinking about the positive things about you, your spouse, and your lives together.  Give yourself and your spouse some slack.  We all make mistakes and we need forgiveness. Remember that the next time one of you hurts the other.

Decide to be a positive, constructive actor in the story of your marriage.

We’ll Never Solve This Issue!

Sometimes progress in your marriage relationship can be a very slow process and the same issue comes up over and over. If we talked it through and came to an understanding, why do we have to go back through it again and again?  There are a couple of obvious reasons:

  • We are all human!  We have habits that are hard to break, baggage that is hard to overcome.  Sometimes we forget or struggle with selfishness.  We need reminding just how important this is to our spouse.
  • Problems are complex and they evolve.  We may think we have resolved an issue but in fact we have addressed only an aspect of it.  Next time we’ll focus on a different aspect.  It is like layers of an onion getting peeled away.  Each time you peel a layer you get closer to the heart of the issue and the final resolution.
  • And we change!  Something important to your spouse now may not be so key at a different stage in life.  We change as our circumstances change and that is just a part of life.

My challenge to you is to think of these recurring problems differently.  As I look back on my life-long struggle with weight, I see a yo-yo pattern of limited success followed by failure again and again.  That is how I looked at it and it became very discouraging.  Why try when failure would follow?

Now I can see the layers of the onion were peeling off and the whole process brought personal growth.  And recently I have learned some things about my stinking thinking that have opened the doors to a hopeful attitude. If I continue thinking of relapse as failure then I will be discouraged and stuck.

Look at it this way… when you take 5 steps forward that is success, and 2 backwards is failure right?  No! 5 forward and 2 back will still get you to your goal if you keep moving!!   It is wrong to see failure when we or our spouse are not perfect.  We should never expect perfection from ourselves or others.  So when those pesky issues recur, don’t be surprised.  Talk them through again, practice forgiveness, and get moving in the right direction, step by step!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,                        not lacking anything.                       
James 1:4

Some Thoughts on Marriage

The wonders and joys and trials of marriage have been written about for many centuries.  Ever since Adam and Eve first kissed in the garden, it has been an ongoing challenge to turn a marriage into a good marriage and then to turn a good marriage into a GREAT MARRIAGE.  I would suggest to you that we all have the ability to have and enjoy a GREAT MARRIAGE.  There are many things that are critical to making that a reality.  Here are just a few for you to consider:

1.  Commit Entirely – After you have said “I do” and you take those first steps towards life together, it is so important to lock into the vision of “life together.”  If we have the understanding that our commitment will last only until the problems begin, then our relationship is bound to fail.  Our commitment needs to be unconditional.  It needs to be “I Love You” and not “I love you if…”  A love based on conditions will eventually fail.  Columnist Doug Larson wrote this about marriage: “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”  Have a commitment to get through the early years of marriage so you can enjoy the “better years.”  Mark Twain said it this way: “Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”

2. Love Selflessly – All too often the primary reason that marriages end in divorce is that one or both partners feel that their needs aren’t being met.  “I’m not getting what I want out of this marriage.”  It’s the My and I syndrome.

          • My needs
          • My wants
          • My expectations.

Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner said of marriage: “Success in marriage  does  not  come  merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”  Get outside of yourself for a minute.  Are you being “the right mate” for your partner?  Are your selflessly loving?  Professor Jerry McCant said, “You can never be happily married to another until you get a divorce from yourself. Successful marriage demands a certain death to self.”  If we invest ourselves in building up our spouse and truly loving our spouse, we begin building a lasting marriage.

3.  Forgive Endlessly – Another cornerstone of a GREAT MARRIAGE is becoming a master at forgiveness.  Much like commitment, forgiveness needs to be unconditional.  If we can have the grace to forgive, we extend love and acceptance to an imperfect spouse.  In an environment of unconditional love and forgiveness, we experience both giving and receiving the Godly quality of grace.  Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth Bell Graham said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Forgive one another… as I have forgiven you –  Colossians 3:13.

Just a few Common Sense basics on how to have a GREAT MARRIAGE.

Love is Forgiving and For Giving

I saw an interesting story the other day online that I’ll paraphrase here.  A lady bought a parrot and when she got it home it started a barrage of insults at her lasting for days.  “You’re so ugly.  I can’t stand you.”  Tired of the ranting parrot, she put it in the freezer and closed the door.   After a few minutes, the parrot got quiet.  She opened the freezer and the parrot begged for forgiveness.  “I’m so sorry.  I’ll never do that again.  I know I’ve been awful.  Please forgive me!”  The lady accepted the apology.  Then the parrot asked, “What did the chicken do?”

I’m sure we would all be quick to seek forgiveness if we could truly see the consequences of withholding forgiveness.  Why is it we have a hard time forgiving each other?  When we have been hurt by our spouse, we tend to attack or withdraw.  We are often left with residual hurt feelings, resentment, and bitterness.  My passive aggressive tendency is to absorb the hurt until I am flooded; then I will attack.  Either way, absorbing or attacking, we often hold on to our hurt feelings.

Picture this:  When we withhold forgiveness, we by choice, go into a room, locking oueselves in.  The room is filled with resentment, bitterness, anger and self-justification.  “I have a right to be mad. Do you know what he did to me, again?  How long do I have to put up with this?”  We choose to remain a prisoner in a cell we have locked ourselves in.  We are choosing to remain angry, bitter, or resentful.

But we can choose to love.  We can choose to forgive.  But how can we do that when we are so hurt?  Good question.

Part of the answer may be a proper perspective.  I remember years ago that I would get really upset if Darleen left the stove burner on after she finished cooking.  She would remove the pot and forget to turn off the stove burner.  I would get upset seeing it still on thirty minutes later, thinking it was such a waste.  So how did I get over this little forgetfulness on her part?

First of all, it dawned on me that the burner being on may have cost twenty cents!!  Big deal.  What was I so upset about?  Secondly, I  thought what kind of bad habits do I have?  And wouldn’t I want her to overlook my mess ups?  You bet I would.  I wanted to be forgiven, and so I knew I needed to forgive.  The other thing I knew is that I shouldn’t make a big deal out of a little issue.  Life’s too short to get all worked up about trivial issues.

Are you withholding your love from your spouse because you haven’t forgiven him or her?  Are you locking yourself in a cell?    I hope and pray you can choose love, because love is for giving.  And choose forgiveness, because when you open the door of that cell and free yourself, you open your heart to intimacy.  After all, you don’t want to end up like the chicken.