Sunday, April 29, 2012

Going through hell

When my boys are playing in their room, what happens?  EVERY toy in the room ends up on the floor!  It makes a tedious task of cleaning up.  It would be less work to properly put away each item after they were through and before they got out the next toy, right?  We learn that at some point in our growing up. . . or, do we?

I think it works the same way in marriage when we have conflict: it's best to 'put each one away properly' by finding resolution. We can't avoid dealing with the conflicts forever, we just deal with them later.  They pile up and when we finally get around to cleaning house, we're angry and overwhelmed because we're trying to deal with them all at once.  If we don't find resolution, the problems don't just go away.  

Frank Barone, a character on Everybody Loves Raymond puts it this way:
". . . if you are having trouble with your woman, you don't go get another woman.  Then, you just have two problems!"

Simple. . . perhaps simple-minded, yet somehow profound.  

So, how do we put them away properly?  By refusing to give up.  That doesn't mean refusing to compromise, or give up some of our demands, but refusing to give up the ardent search for resolution.  Refusing to let the conversation end until we find peace.  Real peace.  The kind that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It means refusing to let our pride stop us from achieving the goal of reconciliation.  Don't stop when it gets ugly.  You just have to keep going until it feels good again.

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, "When you're going through hell, keep going."  

Words to live by, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bad Things. . . Good People

Why do bad things happen to good people?  How could a loving God allow bad things to happen?

Growing up, I had this picture of God sitting on a throne making judgments about individual scenarios allowing or disallowing each one.  In other words, I imagined that God was dictating both good things and bad things, when and to whom they would happen.

What if it's not like that?

A few years ago, I was struggling with the idea of my own failings.  I was praying a lot asking God why he made me with all of the brokenness and weaknesses that I saw in myself.  Then I had a dream that changed my whole paradigm.

In my dream, I was decorating a Christmas tree.  I would examine each ornament and enjoy the work that had gone into creating each one.  One of my favorites is a very detailed, egg-shaped, ceramic ornament that my in-laws got on an Alaskan cruise.  It's beautiful!  In the dream, I held that ornament up and said, "I'll put this one right here."  Then, my perspective changed.  My focus zoomed in on the ornament, and it was different--it was me.  Someone was holding me and saying, "I'll put this one right here."

Then it hit me.  I was like one of those ornaments--unique and beautiful apart from my surroundings and situation.  What if those things that I hate in myself are not weakness and brokenness at all?  What if those things are gifts?  What if I'm looking at them from the wrong perspective?  What if I am a work of art apart from my situation--I am not defined by my situation.

The new paradigm: each one of us is a unique and perfectly crafted individual created on purpose for purpose.  The weakness and brokenness come from somewhere else--from the way I choose to react to my surroundings and situation.  Every weakness represents a poor choice I made in response to my situation.  I could have made a better choice and avoided the baggage and brokenness.  The good choices are not always as easy as the bad ones.  Sometimes, my situation does not depend on me alone and other people's choices can make my choices difficult.  However, my choices determine my baggage.

What if God is sitting up there saying, "You're not broken.  I made you that way on purpose.  Instead of hating those things about yourself, start by asking me why I gave you those gifts."

What if God isn't dictating the bad things?  What if God simply chose to give us the freedom to fail?  What if those failures are the cause of all of the brokenness?  What if God is giving us only the good and allowing us to choose what to do with it; not dictating evil, but rather allowing us to do some of the dictating?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Who's who

I was just reading the story of Jesus clearing the temple (Matt 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47; John 2:13-16) and I have been trying to discern just what I can learn regarding marriage, from this passage.  It seems to be a significant story, but I have had a hard time fitting this into my relational paradigm--or perhaps, fitting my relational paradigm to this example of Christ and the church.

Then, I had a thought: I need to first figure out who is 'the church' in this story.

It's easy to presume that the people in the temple are 'the church' and that he is angry with 'the church' and taking that anger out on 'the church.'  But, further along in these passages, it talks about 'the chief priests and teachers of the law' trying to think of a way to kill him.  These were people in the temple, and around the temple, but are they 'the church' that Paul talks about in Ephesians chapter 5?  The more I think about it, the more I would say, 'no.'

The church = willing followers of Jesus

So, if the church is made up of the willing followers of Jesus, then what do we see about the way he is treating them in this scenario?  Well, my NIV Study Bible says that in the outer courtyard, there were merchants selling animals for the Passover at unfair prices.  They were taking advantage of all of the pilgrims who had taken the trek to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  The merchants were not 'the church.' They were taking advantage of 'the church.'

Jesus is protecting 'the church.'  He ruffled some feathers and, I dare say, offended some rather prominent individuals--to the point that they wanted to kill him!  But, he stopped them from trampling His followers.

Note to self: Risk some ruffled feathers.   Stand up for my family.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The 'S' word: submit

Does that word give you hives?

We don't really like to talk about submission very much.  Recently, I heard a co-worker talk about how much she HATES to hear sermons on marriage because she can't stand the subject of wives being 'submissive' to their husbands.  I think this comes from a misunderstanding or rather misrepresentation of what the Bible says about wives and husbands.  The thing that is so despicable is not the way a wife would be submissive, but the way of a husband--am I right?  No wife wants to feel like she's under the thumb of her husband.

She doesn't need to be.  I don't believe the Bible is asking for that at all.  Let's start with what the Bible does say:

Ephesians 5:21-26

"21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
"22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
 "25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . "

Ok, so we see the word submit in there, right?  'Submit to one another. . . ' that doesn't sound so bad.  But, when we get to the part about the husband being the head of the wife, we all get a little tense, don't we?

I do.

There's something about my understanding of that verse that has just never really settled in my mind.

The issue comes up when we have a disagreement, right?  When we both disagree and our desires are mutually exclusive, who wins?  Who gets to break the tie?  I've heard one philosophy: the man has 51% of the vote.  I've seen that kind of philosophy carried out even more often than I've heard it or others like it.  That, I think, sums up the traditional conservative, evangelical view of a husbands headship--even from some of my more liberal peers.  When we disagree, the husband gets what he wants.

So, my question is: can we back that up with an example of Christ and the church?

Just this evening, I'm thinking about all of this and something occurred to me: maybe I should look at what the Bible DOESN'T say:

It doesn't say that the husband is the one to enforce the submission.

It says that the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church.

I can't find any example of Christ enforcing his way on the church.

In the example of Christ, I see a servant.  A protector.  A kind-hearted friend, always choosing to do the right thing, giving everything up for his willing followers.  He never forces his way on anyone, he simply asks and lets each individual make his or her own decision, e.g. the rich young man(Matt 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) or the woman at the well(John 4:1-26.)

My conclusion: husbandly leadership is leading two people to a consensus rather than pushing one viewpoint aside when the two have not yet reached a consensus.

See also: leadership.