Marriage Big Issues

I recently read a book by Joel and Kathy Davisson, Man of Her Dreams, in which they address a tendency by some men to make the wife’s “submission” a key issue in marriage.

As they see it, Biblical marriage teaching popularised in the 1980’s ended up making “submission” the key issue in Christian marriages, leading to various ways in which wives have suffered. To bring redress they seek to wind back the significance of a wife’s submission and call upon men to lay down their lives for the wife.

It seems that the 1980’s teaching promised that if a wife submitted, the marriage would be wonderful. So the Davisson’s replace that erroneous idea with the proposition that if a husband submits to the vision of the marriage as directed by his wife, then they will live happily ever after.

Joel and Kathy’s book prompted me to consider how I would address imbalanced thinking about the Biblical issues for husband and wife.

Mind Your Own Business

The readily identifiable responsibilities for husband and wife as given in the Bible are clearly that the husband must “love” his wife and the wife must “submit” to her husband.

Now obviously wives are to love their husband and husbands give attention to and work alongside their wives. Mutual affection and submission are obviously ideal in a good working marriage relationship. However, the clear directive is that the husband give supreme attention to loving his wife and the wife give supreme attention to submitting to her husband.

But take note that the clear instructions to love and submit are clearly addressed to the responsible party, not their spouse. Husbands are not instructed to enforce submission, nor the wife instructed to force her husband to love her. Each is individually accountable before God for their actions.

So, husbands and wives, “Mind Your Own Business!”

Marriage is not a battleground where you struggle to get your spouse to do their part. It is a place where you live in the fear of God and be the man or woman God has called you to be, through all the “for better or for worse” challenges.

Dear Husband Dear Wife

Let me show you, in your face, so you can’t miss it, that the instructions for a husband and wife are given to the relevant party. It is NOT your place to be an enforcement officer in your marriage, or anyone else’s.

Ephesians 5 is the most extensive Bible passage addressing the responsibilities of a husband and wife. Here we see the love/submit responsibilities stated repeatedly and expanded with reference to Christ and the Church. Yet at no point is anyone authorised to police the responsibilities, except the individual husband and wife taking responsibility for their own actions.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22

“Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Ephesians 5:24

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

Note that the last verse does not say, “Husbands see that your wife reverences you”.

The Focus on You

When Paul repeats to the church he planted in Colosse the personal responsibilities of husband and wife he goes on to show that these are personal responsibilities before God. The point is, therefore, that we are not accountable to our spouse, but to God. And our spouse is not accountable to us, but to God.

In Colossians 3:18-25 Paul addresses wives, husbands, children, fathers and servants in a common instruction regarding their personal challenges.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men;

Knowing that of the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ. But he that does wrong will receive for the wrong which he has done: and there is no respect of persons.”

Note that the Lord will reward those who do right and will see that wrong actions receive due response, because all we do, as wife, husband, child, father or servant, is really done in service of Christ our Lord.

Beware the Human Heart

Marriage issues in western Christian homes are rarely about the husband or the wife not knowing their role and responsibility. The problems spring from the selfish evil human heart we all carry within us.

Men fail to love their wife. They do so often because of laziness and selfishness. They also do so because of resentment toward the wife.

Women fail to submit to their husband. They do so because of such things as self interest, self will and resentment.

God is watching our heart and will reward us according to how our heart responds to the various challenges that come our way, including the challenges that come from our marriage and family.

I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10

Always Show Grace

The most common issue in marriage is that husband, wife or both have given up giving grace to each other. We all know that when we are in a good mood we suffer all manner of frustrations, but when we are troubled by ill will toward our spouse we find it impossible to show grace.

Human selfishness is counter to God’s grace. We are sinful but God is perfect. We are instructed by Christ to show God’s grace so we too may be perfect.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; So you may be the children of your Father in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.” Matthew 5:44,45

Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

However our human heart rebels against blessing those who we feel have wronged us. And that is toxic to a marriage.

Enter Resentment

Newlyweds find many things to resent in their newfound spouse. We enter marriage with hopes, dreams, delusions, false ideas about ourself and our spouse, fears, insecurities, unrealistic expectations, and so on. It is a recipe for hurts and disillusionment.

But in the honeymoon phase we tend to press past these bumps and show grace, in the hope that we can get our spouse to change, or in a trade-off for the benefits which marriage provides.

Eventually, however, our selfish hearts give up on grace and we give in to our selfish feelings. Not everyone pouts, seethes or revolts, but the tiny roots of disappointment, resentment, hurt, frustration, disillusionment and the like begin to sprout in our hearts.

What I call “resentment” is the soft term for “bitterness”. But westerners don’t like to be told they have such ugly things in their heart, so they will more likely accept the softer label of resentment, since resentment suggests we have a right to be resentful based on the failure or actions of the other party.

Enter Bitterness

Having softened you up with the ‘R’ word (resentment), let me switch it for the ‘B’ word, Bitterness.

The writer to the Hebrews warns us clearly that if we fail to show grace the alternative is BITTERNESS. Call it by any other name if you like, but if you are feeling hard feelings toward your spouse you are in bitterness! Sorry about that, but it’s actually YOUR FAULT. You are in deep trouble because your heart has rejected God’s grace and given in to the powerfully destructive bitterness plant growing in your heart.

See it for yourself in the book of Hebrews….

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrews 12:14-16

Let me paraphrase the message for you…

‘Live by peace and holiness, or you will never see the Lord. And be really careful about always giving God’s grace to people, because if you don’t a “root of bitterness” will spring up and trouble you and poison many people. And don’t commit spiritual adultery by putting other things ahead of your spiritual inheritance, like Esau did, selling his birthright for self indulgence.’

Be Not Bitter

Your selfish heart will readily enter into resentment (bitterness) and will justify those feelings based on the failure of your spouse.

Wives and Husbands will feel hurt, frustration, disappointment, shame, offence, defeat, death of their vision for the marriage, and all sorts of related feelings. Those feelings could easily feed feelings of self-pity, defeatism and depression. Those feelings make psychologists busy and profitable.

But God’s will is that we do not give in to those various expressions of bitterness. We are to show grace, like God does, and not fail to keep giving our best to those who don’t deserve it, just as God gives sunshine and rain equally to the good and the evil.

No matter what our spouse puts us through God is watching our heart to see how we react. He wants us to react in a perfect expression of His grace. Our flesh wants to react with anger, manipulation, retaliation, indulging our hurt feelings, and so on.

Note Paul’s specific word to husbands in Colossians …..

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:19

The Big Issue is the Heart

The big issue in marriage is not the wife’s submission. And it is not the perfection of the husband’s love for his wife. The whole trouble with marriage is the resentment and bitterness that springs up in the human heart, producing hardness toward the spouse and justifying those bitter thoughts and the resultant actions they produce.

What comes out the husband’s heart and what comes out of the wife’s heart are the “issues of life” for that couple. Well, it is actually the issue for the individual, since the spouse does not really get affected.

Ooops! Did I hear a reaction to that statement?

Remember that you are in control of your heart. Your rebellious wife or your uncaring husband are not your issue. They are each accountable before God for their rebellion against God’s will for their lives. All that is important for you is that you show grace to them.

If you fail to show grace, then your heart reaction will become a serious issue in your marriage. What comes out of your heart determines the issues of your life and marriage.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:23

Hidden Man of the Heart

The Bible reveals we have a hidden personality in our heart. It is our most private part.

Peter encourages women to let the beauty of their hidden inner heart attitudes of submission be more important to them than dressing up with clothes and hairdo.

“Likewise, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the lifestyle of the wives; While they behold your chaste lifestyle coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1Peter 3:1-4

Your wife is married to your hidden man of the heart. Your husband is married to your hidden inner man.

Is your hidden man of the heart one with a meek and quiet spirit? Does it live by the fear of God? Or is it defiled with seething self interest, selfishness, pouting, resentment, bitterness, and such like?

The Problem with Your Marriage

The problem with your marriage is your heart. It is not your wife’s lack of submission or your husband’s insensitivity.

God has set you up with a spouse that will constantly fail you and test your heart. As far as you are concerned, God is focussed on your heart reaction, not your spouse’s selfishness. It is up to God to deal with your spouse. Their willingness or unwillingness to be the husband or wife they are supposed to be is a matter of God’s judgment on their life. You have no stake in the matter.

You have a huge stake in your heart reaction. And you have a HUGE stake in the question of your resentment or bitterness toward your spouse.

So, get over the fact that your wife is a tyrant and your husband is a jerk. Get serious about your heart response. That’s the only thing you have to care about.

Prayers for Troubled Marriages

Here are some prayers for you to use if you are facing trouble in your marriage.

I often find that having a prayer to refer to prompts people to pray more effectively for their needs.

Read through the following prayers and see which prayer or which parts of various prayers best relate to your situation. Then use those thoughts to put together a prayer best suited to your needs.

I don’t use scripted prayers and I don’t want you to be dependent on what others have written for you. But I know that people find it helpful to be guided in their praying until they gain confidence to make up their own prayers.

If you have found some other prayers that really helped you then please send them to me so I can make them available to others.

Crying Out to God

“Lord God, my Father, I cry out to you in my distress.

King David cried out to you and you heard him, so I believe you will hear my cry too.

I cry out to you for my marriage.

I ask you to save my marriage and to bring my spouse back to right living and back to me.

I ask you to completely set my spouse free from the sin and foolishness that led them away.

I also ask you to save them from destroying their life.

You did not create me or my spouse for sin and destruction, but you created us to serve and glorify you, powerfully.

I ask you to grab a hold of our lives, turn us both around and set us on a course of serving you with all our might.

And please bring your love and power into my life.

While I cry out for my marriage, I know that I need more than just having my spouse back.

I need your love and your grace in my life, so I can have all the peace, joy, love, patience, and those other things that you bring into a life.

I want to be used by you to see lives completely transformed.

So I need you to transform me and reveal your love and power in my life, so I can show others what you can do.

Come and overflow me with your love.

Come and lead me into a really close walk with you.

Come and captivate my heart and fill my life with your glory.

I want to know and love you better than I know and love anyone else.

I want you to have first place in my life.

Come and be lord and master of me, and also come and transform my marriage and my spouse, for your glory.

I ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.”

Repenting for Wrong Choices

“Lord God, You know that I have not been living the way You want me to.

I have allowed myself to get tangled up in a relationship that does not honour You and does not bring the best for me or my children.

Please forgive me.

I call out to You for grace and for wisdom.

I want Your best in my life and I want Your best for my children.

Please rescue us from this messy situation.

Lord, I have allowed things to happen without really relying on You.

I have let myself get into this present situation, and I did not really look to You, or trust You to protect and bless me and my family.

Please forgive me for not totally relying on You, and for not putting You first in my life and in my home.

Come into my heart, and into my home, and bring Your holy presence to clean up the messes that I have allowed to develop.

Help me and the children to love you as the most important person in our lives.

I pray for this other person in my life, who is part of my wrong choices.

I want them to be totally sold out to You and controlled by Your love and power in their life, whether we have a future together or not.

I ask You to bring them into the fear of God too, so they will want to live right before You.

And lead us both into a proper sorting out of the way we live.

May my home become a place where Your glory shines, and may Your glory fill my life, my home and the lives of my children.

Have Your way in each of our lives I pray. In Jesus’ powerful and lovely name. Amen.”

Loneliness and Fear

“Lord, you know my heart and you see my deep feelings and fears.

You know that I am not happy with the way things are and I am insecure about the future.

I am anxious about relationships and what might be ahead for me.

Forgive me for not trusting You.

Your word says that Your plans for me are only good, and that if you are on my side then nothing can prevail against me.

So I bring myself back under Your care and protection, and ask for Your guidance and wisdom in my life.

I also ask that You pour into me your Perfect Love, because perfect love drives fear away and banishes it. I want all fear driven out of my life.

And Lord, please visit my inner thoughts and feelings. You know the things I struggle with better than I do. And You have answers that are more wonderful and powerful than anything I can get from a relationship, or from counsellors or from any other source.

Come into my heart and heal me of those things that consume me. I don’t want to be trapped in selfish preoccupation with myself. I want to be free to bless others and to be blessed.

I call upon You to be my deliver and I trust You to do, for Your glory.

And I ask all this in the lovely name of Jesus. Amen.”

Blaming Others

A problem that emerges in most relationships involves upsets between two or more people.  Having wisdom about those upsets and what is really going on thus becomes very powerful in making those relationships work better.

A tell-tale sign of wrong attitudes in relationships is that process of blaming others.  Accusing and blame shifting are common practices when people are in tension about something.

We are all familiar with the example of a mother calling out in an angry tone, “Who brought this mud into the house?”

And we are all familiar with the chorus of voices saying, “It wasn’t me!”

Getting upset, and doing what we can to avoid trouble are two automatic processes that often get built into our interpersonal communications.

Properly Interpret What is Going On

When we have an idea about something we can be very reluctant to change our mind.  This is especially so if the new perspective suggests we are wrong or have a problem.

The whole “blame shifting” routine kicks in if someone tries to suggest that we are a cause of trouble.  We don’t like to be wrong and we don’t like to be accused, or exposed for our weaknesses.

In highly competitive contexts we may be very strong in asserting our innocence or trying to cover up our failures.

These human tendencies, based on our pride, become deeply ingrained and some people become famous for their readiness to accuse others or to make up excuses.  For example, alcoholics are famously recognised for their ability to cover for their addiction and failures.

It is important for our own health and the health of our relationships that we properly interpret what is going on in our relationships.

Different Perspectives

Consider the difference in perspective that could be applied in the following statements.

“You often upset me and it takes me days to get over it.”

Or alternatively it might be more accurate to say: “I get into moods about things and take days to get over it.”

“You upset me so you must be wrong.”

This might be better stated as: “I get upset by you, so there is something about my reactions that is not right.”

The Real Issues

Since our true “issues” are not what others do or say but how we react, then it is wrong for us to blame others for the mood we are in, or for our responses.  It is what comes out of us that defines the “issues” we have to deal with.

In an earlier article titled Issues of Life, posted on 1/10/11, I discussed a powerful Bible text that exposes what the real issues are in our lives.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

This verse tells us that the real “issues” of our life are not what people say or do to us, but what comes out of our heart.  Our responses and reactions define the issues, and in fact ARE the true issues.

Natural Impulse

When a parent gets upset with his or her child, when a husband or wife gets upset with their spouse, or a child is upset by their sibling, the automatic assumption is that the other person is wrong because it seems to the one who is upset that the other person caused it.

It is counter-intuitive to think that we are upset because of our own choices and the weaknesses of our own personality.

Yet the Biblical truth is that it is what comes out of us that is the problem, not what was said or done to us.

What happens to us could well be injustice and wrong.  I am not saying that if we are abused it is our fault.  People hurt and offend others and we all suffer at the hands of others in some way.

This discussion is about the tendency we have to get into a mood, or some other form or “reaction” toward another, that is really our own responsibility.

Touchy People

Some people have a “hair-trigger” and readily react toward others. They are so ‘touchy’ that others have to walk on egg-shells in order to avoid being at the receiving end of a tirade from that upset person.

This is the substance of manipulation, oppression, abuse of others, control, emotional abuse, imposing self-will onto others, belittling, etc.

People who indulge in such activity are out of order.  They have “issues” in their own heart and mind.  However they may be able to justify their outbursts, accusations, anger, sharp tongue or other attacks on others without realising they are the oppressor, not the one they are blaming.

Loving Others

This self-delusion, while intuitive, is destructive and a failure to “love others” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which is the Golden Rule given to us by Jesus Christ.

“As you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31

In fact, it may be that a central purpose of the two great commandments, to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, is to force us to realisations that we would be blind to if we thought the world revolved around us.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31

Maybe God’s intention in giving us His laws is not to enslave us to His will, but to lead us into revelation truth about ourselves that will set us free from folly and shame.

So, next time you hear yourself expressing your exasperation, disapproval, anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy, contempt, prejudice, unforgiveness, intolerance, demands, despisement and similar rubbish toward someone else, even if only in your thoughts, stop and realise that YOU HAVE “ISSUES”.

By reflecting on what you are thinking and why you are doing it you can be led into health and release you don’t presently have.

Example

In my family seminars I share the account of my early married life when I found myself readily annoyed and frustrated with my first-born son, Stephen.  Susan and I were parents shortly before our fist wedding anniversary and had three children born in short order.

One day I realised that I was particularly hard toward my oldest son, and much more lenient toward the two other boys.  It struck me that I was being unfair on him.  For some reason I caught myself out being biased against him when it came to rebuke and discipline.

I could justify my reactions by saying, “He’s the oldest so he should know better”, but I sensed there was a deeper issue at work.

I prayed about the matter, confessing my evident bias and asking God to show me what was wrong and what to do.

As I reflected on the situation it struck me that I resented my son.  He was the first baby and therefore the first child to take my wife away from me.  Susan had to care for the baby, and she had various health challenges along the way.  A baby completely changed our married life and reduced our time together and or intimacy.  Unconsciously I held Stephen responsible for how that impact on me.

Having realised the impact of a baby I was far less reactive to the impact of my next two sons.  So my “issue” was only with Stephen.

Once I realised that situation I was able to pray about it, confessing my selfish responses and attitudes, asking God to forgive me and to heal my heart attitude toward my son.

Some time later I realised to my delight that I had a fresh relationship with my son.  I did not feel any of the hardness of heart that had been there before and I enjoyed him as I had not been able to before.

Set Free by Truth

My experience is a testimony to the veracity of God’s Word, which tells us that when we know truth that truth liberates us.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

So I share these insights with you, in the trust that you will refer back to God’s Word and allow God’s Truth to settle in your heart and set you free.

Your problem, as is common to all humanity, is that we will prefer to believe a lie, if it gives hides our pride, lust, self-will and shame.  You will tend to justify your actions, including your selfish and angry responses to others.  You will like the idea that THEY are to blame, not you.

I can only pray that the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you, to change your heart and cause you to step into the wonderful freedom that is available to you.

Men are From Earth and Women Are Too

If you think you come from Mars or Venus, I’m sorry to have to tell you that you are as earth-bound as they come. You are as human as human can be. Youz aint been nowheres else and youz aint goin’ nowheres else.

Men are from “Earth”. And Women are from …. “Earth”. It’s as simple as that.

space man

In fact, to be technically correct, Men are from Earth and Women are from Men! The account of creation given in the Bible informs us that man was made from the dust of the earth and woman was made from flesh taken from the man’s side.

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7

“And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, he made into a woman, and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:22

So, while men and women are different (and the French say “Oui, Oui! Viva la difference!”) they are from the same stock and have all too much in common.

So, let’s not get too excited about aggrandizing the peculiarities of men and women, as if those differences have celestial significance. There are some very earthy things about men and women, and the differences between them are very earthy too.

Earthlings

Earthlings are pretty undesirable creatures. Without wanting to run you down, it can be good to see yourself for who you really are. I’d like to show you some of the things that make earthlings “un-special”.

We are undesirable when compared with God, our Maker. The human heart is full of evil thoughts and intentions. Wealth, provision and education do not save humans from degradation. While we may improve our society and living standards, the ugly issues of hatred, prejudice, vengeance, jealousy, violence, resentment, unforgiveness, selfishness, pride, contempt, intolerance, lust, and the like, still spring from the human heart.

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Matthew 15:18-20

So, while earthlings try to elevate themselves socially, politically, economically and academically they are brought down by the desperately wicked things in their human heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Battle of the Sexes

When old professor Higgins said, “Why can’t a woman be like a man?” he was putting womankind down. And that taunting of one by the other has been a long-standing theme. The “can’t live without ’em and can’t live with ’em” frustration has been celebrated in literature, song and movies.

Terms such as male chauvinism, militant feminism, the superior sex and mere male, reflect something of the sweeping presence of the battle of the sexes.

Even the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus discussions tend to reflect a pursuit of personal value, to fortify against the sexual put-down that many people confront.

In the face of the “We’re better than you” arguments, allow me to repeat that “earthlings are pretty undesirable creatures”. It is not that men are cretans and women have higher moral value. Nor is it that “it’s a man’s world and women must accept their place”. Both men and women are deeply flawed creatures, significantly limited and eternally doomed.

What is Man?

On two occasions King David wrote in his psalms the question, “What is man that God should pay him any attention?” David acknowledged that humanity has no endearing quality when compared with God.

What is man, that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him?” Psalm 8:4

“LORD, what is man, that you take knowledge of him! Or the son of man, that you make account of him!” Psalm 144:3

Humankind is not some wonderful creature, whether male or female. In fact, every human is “undone”, useless, worthless, and hopeless. Man does not have the capacity to save himself, and every man has become totally overpowered by sin. No man or woman is righteous. In our humanness (our flesh) there is nothing of any value.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” Romans 3:10

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for despite my intentions I cannot do the good I want to do.” Romans 7:18

Flawed Relationships

What kind of relationships do flawed people create? They create flawed relationships. Earthlings do not do anything well. And that is just as true for our relationships. Our evil heart reacts to others. Our selfish desires impose on others. Our human weakness fails others.

Wives easily fall into contending with their husbands, like a continually dripping tap. Men easily fall into stubborn resistance. Games such as “No Speaks”, or outbursts and arguments are quickly learned and readily made part of human interaction. Psychologists invent terms such as “co-dependency” and “dysfunctional” to describe the flawed relationships humans create.

Pouting, sulking, manipulating, arguing, rejecting, stonewalling, contending, abusing and neglecting are just some of the typical flaws we see in interpersonal relationships. We even have domestic abuse and violence to further testify to human ability to create flawed relationships.

Hope For Humans

Despite the desperate limitations of earthlings, there is great hope for humans. Millions of homes around the world are largely free from the flaws I have pointed to. This is not because the humans are superior, but because they have drawn upon a superior source.

When hopeless humans call upon the eternal God they are empowered to rise above their own depravity and enjoy the glorious liberty of being a child of God.

Our starting point is that we are hopeless and undone. So then we humble ourselves before God and call on His grace. God then forgives us and creates new life within us. Our “born again” spirit now brings God’s grace, wisdom, fruit and power into our weak and failing lives. As we follow God’s instructions, under His lordship over our lives, our hearts are renewed and our lives transformed.

There is abundant hope for humans. It is not on Venus, or on the earth. It comes from heaven, where our Saviour is seated at the right hand of God, ready to give us salvation, forgiveness and new life.

From Earth to Heaven

Men and Women are from Earth, but they don’t have to stay there. We can’t draw on resources from Mars or Venus, but we can draw on eternal blessings and miracle power from Heaven. When we do that we become children of the God of Heaven. Then, when we have completed this earth-bound journey we will go from here to heaven.

Meanwhile we can bring a little of heaven to earth, in our homes and relationships. But that involves us making a connection with Almighty God in Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, as our Saviour and Lord. And in doing that, there is amazing hope for humans, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

Tensions at Home

When home life becomes sour, husbands and wives tend to fall into predictable patterns. While these are not universal they do have historic and Biblical recognition. So, I want to point out the patterns which you are tempted to fall into and the Biblical solution to wrong responses.

Interpersonal relationship is made difficult by the fact that it is “personal” – inter-personal. We look for close affectional bonds and relationships of mutual respect and trust. We want to be loved, appreciated, valued, empowered, given room to express ourselves and so on. These ideals are anchored deep in our “personal” self.

Stop Being Personal

When someone offends us or strains our relationship with them it is hard not to take that personally. When we take it personally we spiral into predictable patterns and responses.

argument 2

The solution, then, is to stop being “personal” about life. But that’s like saying, “Stop breathing!” We are so distracted by our inner self and our hopes, dreams, insecurities, fears, longings, and so on, that it is hard not to be “personal” about them. In fact, for many people, EVERYTHING is personal!

You stop being “personal” about life, not by numbing or destroying your inner self, but by resolving and releasing your inner self. When you find true love, joy and peace, with wholeness, confidence, trust in God, faith in God’s Word, release from your inner slaveries, and similar spiritual impacts of walking with God, your inner self is realised and released. You can then soar above the regular or even more challenging issues of life, like an eagle soaring high above a storm.

You will “mount up with wings like an eagle”!

Back to Earth

Eagle Shmeagle! What’s the point of this talk about eagles when you live like a Turkey among a bunch of Turkeys?! While soaring above the problems is your ideal and the goal of your life, the reality is that most people can’t even jump, let alone soar above the issues.

Humans are incredibly useless creatures. We are tied up in the things of our “flesh”, such as our pride, lusts, evil heart responses, sin, weakness, selfishness, independence, and so on. Man does not have the key to unlock his problems or the wisdom to plot his own path.

“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23

That’s why New Year’s Resolutions generally don’t work. Those resolutions rely on flawed creatures, who can’t save themselves.

Man’s hope is not in himself. It is not in the strength of will or the force of personality. It is not in controls and regulations. Man needs the input of the Divine to empower him to overcome the limits of the Temporal.

Lead Feet

Your lead feet keep you on the ground. Your lead feet are those things that hold you to the ground and make it impossible for you to fly. And that includes all of your “fleshly” aspects. Your flesh buys into life at the level of your self-interest, lusts, pride and folly.

“And the LORD said, My spirit will not always strive with man, because he is also flesh….” Genesis 6:3a

Your “flesh” is your lead shoes. If you can die to your flesh, you can soar. If you insist on protecting your selfish interests (your fleshly focus) you will never escape your problems and your slavery.

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24

Personal is Personal

Inter-“personal”- relationships are “personal”. They are ‘person to person’. The more open and honest each person is with the other then the deeper and richer the relationship. A formal relationship is not personal. And when one party is not interested in being open and honest with the other then deep relationship is not really possible.

Now, when an issue gets “personal” it is because it has impacted the personal limitations of one or other of the people. Something is only “personal” because it challenges the “person”. That’s why in some homes and communities certain things are discussed that others will never mention, because those things are too “personal”.

One person may speak openly about their failures while others take their whole life trying to hide any of their failures.

Personal Vulnerabilities

If you are full of personal vulnerabilities then just about everything will be personal to you. Those who are delightfully free on the inside don’t get personal about things that come up. They can face the issues without feeling their inner self compromised or challenged. They don’t have fears or shame to contend with. So the issue is a “light” one to them, while it is unbearably “heavy” to others.

So, the limitations upon interpersonal relationships relate directly to the quality of the persons involved. Tensions in the home result from each member taking things personally, based on their “flesh” perspective on life. The more pride, selfishness and unresolved issues a person has, the more things that come up will be “personal” to them. They will not be able to dismiss things or forgive others as freely as they should.

Predictable Patterns

Because humans are not free from their limitations there are predictable patterns which are repeated over and over again, through history. I will explore these patterns in greater detail in the next posts in this series. Allow me here to point out the predictable patterns which you will clearly recognise.

When women, especially wives, are offended or upset in a relationship, they tackle their husband or those they have taken issue with a tenacity that will not let the matter rest. Women tend to go on the offensive with words and persistence that may drive their husband crazy. He is likely to say, “She won’t let up!”

When men, including husbands, are offended or upset in a relationship, they tend to shut down and withdraw from the offender. If the offence is serious enough a man will erect barriers between himself and the offender. Those barriers can be completely impenetrable. A wife is likely to say, “He just shuts down and locks me out of his life!”

The Solution

The simple solution, and this is a perfectly real solution despite its simplicity, is to become free from “self”. When we live for God, outside our own selfish orientation, we can rise above the demands, foibles and limitations of our humanness and fleshly self.

We are not able to achieve that of our own will. We need God to make that possible for us. Don’t give up by saying, “I could never do that!” You are not supposed to do it. You are supposed to let God do it in you and for you.

So, no matter how much you have messed up your relationships there is a powerful solution. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And it will be wonderfully effective. And all of this will be more fully explained later in this series.