Marriage Tuesday

Marriage TuesdayAccording to my clock, I’ve still got about an hour before Tuesday is over this week, so here comes a Marriage Tuesday…

I have dozens and dozens of divorced friends.  The last thing in the world I would want is for my words to inflict any more pain on them than their own reality has already done.  It’s with that awareness these thoughts are offered.

There is no question the ones who feel the brunt of the pain of a divorce are the husband and wife.  It was not their goal to grow apart.  It was not their desire to draw loved ones into their conflict.  The needs of the children always weigh heavily on the parent’s hearts.

Even though one almost always feels more like the “victim”, neither is ever entirely blameless. Sometimes one feels like they are doing all the work, while the other is just going through the motions.  Some couples work and work and work to figure out what’s wrong and stop the bleeding and heal the hurts.  Every now and then it pays off.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

There is almost always a mess of collateral damage, also.  Some of it is obvious.  Finances. The house.  Loss of identity.  Loss of confidence.  Changed relationships with in-laws and extended family.  Holidays.

Here’s one issue that’s seldom talked about: How the divorce affects the church.  When the divorcing couple are both part of a church family (along with their kids), the church is living in awkwardness.  We don’t know the “whole” story…if we know any real story at all. Sides are often chosen and loyalties are declared.  Story lines are controlled by who’s talking and who’s listening.  Truth is slippery.

Worse yet, the church family can know absolutely nothing, because the couple has chosen to keep their struggle private.  Maybe they believe it’s nobody’s business.  Maybe they’re hoping it will get better and reputations can be spared.  Maybe they are simply living in denial, while their friends are living in the dark.  Until it blows up.

When that happens, we (the church) lose one, or sometimes, both of the partners.  Our children’s ministry loses their kids…at least half the time.  We lose their shared responsibilities.  We lose their financial support.  We lose friendship.  Their need to move on (for the health of their new relationships or just the need for a fresh start away from memories of their old life), leaves the rest of us just feeling loss.  And less than what we were.

And me?  Because I am usually more intimately involved with the couples, my feelings of loss are usually pretty acute, even though my emotions are mixed.  Somebody’s loss is almost always someone else’s benefit.  It doesn’t mean I have to like it!

So here’s the takeaway.  To all of my divorced friends:  My prayer will always be for your best. I hope the painful part of your life is in your past and you have found healing and strength in your new life…filled with new friends and new opportunities for you and yours.  May redemption be your song.

However, if you are still married and your relationship is less than what it should be…falling short of what it could be…hidden from what others see…held together by a veneer of social respectability, while it is crumbling below the surface in ways that only you and your partner know…it’s time to raise your hand.

It’s time to let someone in.  It’s time to swallow your pride.  It’s time to remember your vows. It’s time to live by faith and no longer by sight.  It’s time to ask for help.

It’s time to face the prospects of the potential collateral damage.  Before it’s too late.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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Marriage Tuesday

marriage 2How do you know if your marriage is in trouble?

I wonder sometimes, if couples are aware that their relationship is wading out into the deep end…or if they are simply clueless.  I think it’s more like denial.

Nobody wakes up one day and decides they want an empty marriage.  I think most couples get going at such a rapid pace in their lives that bad relationship habits begin to form without recognizing them…and then those habits just sort of become the modus operandi.

We all get entrenched in routine.  The demands of life are relentlessly…demanding.  Bills to pay.  Schedules to keep.  Chores to be completed.  And if you’ve got kids in the house,  just ratchet up the intensity level about hundred times.  Date night?  What’s a date night when you’re up to your ear lobes in runny noses,  grass-stained laundry and failed science projects exploded on the dining room table?

How do you know if your marriage is in trouble, when you don’t even make the time to think about your marriage?

The thing is,  I’m pretty sure most married people know when there’s trouble brewing. They know what emptiness feels like.  They know the initial signs of neglect and coldness and rejection.  They know the difference between good-natured ribbing and the deliberate incision of a well-placed stab of sarcasm. They know.  You know.

So what do you do?  Could it be the answer is simply for you to tell somebody?  Yup.

I like to fix things.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I’ve learned to fix things. For years, whether it was a young youth minister’s salary or living on missionary support or dealing with the fallout of those years, I learned to fix things myself.

And it was in those years that I also learned to ask for help.  I didn’t want people to do it for me,  but I did want them to tell me what I could do differently… to tell me how to fix things a better or more efficient way. Sometimes that included them showing me. Sometimes my friends have taken the lead and we did it together.

From rebuilding a carburetor to installing 220 to repairing a broken water main to dealing with my depression, three things were always the same. I accepted  that I had a huge problem. admitted I couldn’t fix it all by myself. I turned to people who could help.

Through the years,  I’ve learned to fix a bunch of things myself.  I’ve even become a person that people turn to for help in getting things done or getting through difficult situations. That’s a pretty cool thing, but I would never be where I am at or the person I am without the help of others.

(I am not discounting the role of God’s word or his power and presence in my life through all of these times.  I’m just saying it appears that people were often God’s method of communicating his wisdom and discipline and patience to me during those times of growth.)

Look.  It’s not easy asking for help.  Pride gets in the way big time.  Nobody wants their dirty laundry hanging out so the neighborhood can see.  But if that’s what it takes to get your marriage back on track…if that’s what you need to find wholeness in your union and strength to reach the finish line…then start waving your arms for somebody to see.

You’d do it if you were drowning, wouldn’t you?

A sad day

Slide1I have about 125 blogs that are fed to my reader every day.  Most days I check in a couple of times to see what has been posted by people I admire and like to follow what they are thinking.  I checked more than that today.

I have never really been enamored much by popularity.  Underneath the facade of celebrity, they’re just people.  I guess when entertainers or politicians or sports heroes I have connected with over time pass away, I feel like I’ve lost a friend.  Maybe it’s just because I am growing older, but death captures my heart a little differently these days.

Today was a difficult day.  So many people reflecting on the suicide of Robin Williams.   If you want to read a couple of really good posts, you can check them out here and here.

Here’s what I want to pass on:  Depression, mental illness and addiction are real.  But, it seems like the more the stories are heard and played out for the world to see, the more polarizing the reality becomes.

For all the sympathetic and empathetic reactions to William’s suicide, there have been a huge number of cynical, unsympathetic, and judgmental responses standing in opposition to those calling for understanding and grace.

“He took the coward’s way out.”

“Depression is just an excuse for weak people.”

“Come on.  Everybody gets a little depressed sometimes.”

 “He didn’t die from a disease.  He died from his choice.”

If those are similar to your thoughts about depression, I guess I’d like to kindly ask you to keep them to yourself.  I’m not usually much for openly confronting people for voicing their opinion, but I just have to on this one.  (Btw, if you’re a friend and you’ve already posted opinions about depression like this on Facebook, trust me, I haven’t read them and probably won’t.  I don’t spend much time on FB these days.)

Here’s the truth.  If that’s what you think about depression, you’ve never been seriously depressed.  Sorry.

However, if you are, or ever have been depressed, your heart is broken for Robin Williams and the unimaginable darkness he found himself in, during his final hours.

I have never been where Robin Williams found himself yesterday.  But I have walked in similar darkness.

I’ve written about it here and here and here and here and here and here.  

If you’re struggling at all with thinking you might be depressed, I would encourage you to read my posts and see if you identify with any part of the road I have travelled.  

From where I sit, depression is real.  I have been there.

But there is hope.

And you don’t have to fight this enemy alone.  There are ways to fight back.  Give me a shout, if you want a friend on this journey.

 

Marriage Tuesday

Marriage Tuesday 2please don’t dismiss this quickly.  it’s a simple principle that is violated all the time…in most every marriage.

you can’t have a healthy marriage when one of you is not healthy.  and if that isn’t simple enough, here’s another truth that’s even simpler:   you can’t make another person “healthy”.  you can only be responsible for yourself.

you want to have a healthier marriage?  get healthy.

you want to have a deeper marriage?  get deeper.

you want to have a marriage that is more godly?  be godly.

you want to have a happier marriage?  be happier.

you want to have peace in your marriage?  be peaceful.

you want your marriage to be more loving?  learn to love better.

you want your marriage to have less stress?  be less stressful.

you want to have better communication in your marriage?  be a better communicator.

should i go on?

i talk to couples all the time and all the time, they tell me they want a better marriage.  when i ask them what they are doing to make their marriage better, i usually get blank stares.

“that’s why we’re coming to you!”

that’s a good start, but here’s the reality:  i can’t do anything to make your marriage better.  and neither can you.  in fact, neither can your partner.  but you can make yourself better.  (well, not exactly.  but you can take some responsibility for the person you are!)

get a medical check up.  face your fears.  deal with your past.  read a book.  talk to a trusted friend and be honest about yourself for once.  go on a diet…i mean a “food management program”.  start walking.  read your bible.  get in a small accountability group.  get some counseling.  confront your depression.  stop drinking.  quit flirting at the office.  start coming back to church.  give some money away instead of buying things to make yourself feel better.  go to bed earlier.  put yourself in a position to hear the voice of god…instead of running.  slow down and listen.

none of these things alone will make you a better person…but they will get you on the path.  and definitely, none of these things alone will make your marriage better.  if your spouse is not doing the same…walking the same kind of path and living in the same honesty…your marriage is probably not going to get better.

people like to say that marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition.  that’s not the marriage that i see flowing from the heart of god.  his is more like a hundred-hundred proposition.

i give absolutely the best of everything i can to the relationship.  you give absolutely the best of everything you can to the relationship.

that’s the kind of marriage that is honorable to god.

Marriage Tuesday

how do you know if your marriage is in trouble?

i wonder sometimes, if couples are aware that their relationship is wading out into the deep end…or if they are simply clueless.  it think it’s more like denial.

nobody wakes up one day and decides they want an empty marriage.  i think most couples get going at such a rapid pace in their lives that bad relationship habits begin to form without recognizing them…and then those habits just sort of become the modus operandi.

we all get entrenched in routine.  the demands of life are relentlessly…demanding.  bills to pay.  schedules to keep.  chores to be completed.  and if you’ve got kids in the house,  just ratchet up the intensity level about hundred times.  date night?  what’s a date night when you’re up to your ear lobes in runny noses,  grass-stained laundry and failed science projects exploded on the dining room table?

how do you know if your marriage is in trouble, when you don’t even make the time to think about your marriage?

the thing is,  i’m pretty sure most married people know when there’s trouble brewing.  they know what emptiness feels like.  they know the initial signs of neglect and coldness and rejection.  they know the difference between good-natured ribbing and the deliberate incision of a well-placed stab of sarcasm.  they know.  you know.

so what do you do?  could it be the answer is simply for you to tell somebody?  yup.

i like to fix things.  actually, that’s not entirely true.  i’ve learned to fix things.  for years, whether it was a young youth minister’s salary or living on missionary support or dealing with the fallout of those years, i learned to fix things myself.

and it was in those years that i also learned to ask for help.  i didn’t want people to do it for me,  but i did want them to tell me what i could do different…to tell me how to fix things a better or more efficient way.  sometimes that included them showing me.  sometimes my friends have taken the lead and we did it together.

from rebuilding a carburetor to installing 220 to repairing a broken water main to dealing with my depression , three things were always the same.  i accepted that i had a huge problem.  i admitted i couldn’t fix it all by myself.   i turned to people who could help.

through the years,  i’ve learned to fix a bunch of things myself.  i’ve even become a person that people turn to for help in getting things done or getting through difficult situations.  that’s a pretty cool thing, but i would never be where i am at or the person i am without the help of others.

(i am not discounting the role of god’s word or his power and presence in my life through all of these times.  i’m just saying it appears that people were often god’s method of communicating his wisdom and discipline and patience to me during those times of growth.)

look.  it’s not easy asking for help.  pride gets in the way big time.  nobody wants their dirty laundry hanging out so the neighborhood can see.  but if that’s what it takes to get your marriage back on track…if that’s what you need to find wholeness in your union and strength to reach the finish line…then start waving your arms for somebody to see.

you’d do it if you were drowning, wouldn’t you?

Marriage Tuesday

think about it.

your car pulls really bad to the left.   you go to a mechanic and get a front end alignment.

you’re ahead of every pitch and hitting off your front foot.   you get to a batting coach and work on your timing.

your plumbing is backed up and flooding the bathroom floor.   you get a plumber.   quick.

your child can’t read because of severe dyslexia issues.   you locate a reading specialist and develop a plan.

you’re deeply in debt and sinking fast.   you consult a financial advisor

you explode your achilles tendon playing racquetball. you find a competent orthopedic surgeon and let him cut.

this all makes perfect sense.   but here’s what doesn’t…

you and your wife are fighting all the time.   so you fake it around your friends and hope they don’t  find out.

your sex life is unfulfilling.   you try to ignore the problem and keep it a secret from your spouse.

your marriage feels empty…like you’re just going through the motions.   you don’t tell anyone because you don’t want to be embarrassed.

communication in your marriage stinks.   so you resign yourself to shallow conversation,  explosions of anger,  or regular silent treatments.

you are flirting with someone other than your spouse.    and you don’t stop because you have no accountability.

you think about separation or divorce.   …but you don’t tell anybody because you don’t want to hear the truth.

why is it that getting help for our problems is okay in baseball,  money,  and sewage…but is so easily avoided when it comes to our marriages?

if there’s something wrong in your marriage,  get some help.   now.   don’t wait any longer.   stop treating your sewer pipes with more care and concern than you do your marriage relationship.

Life in my skin

i’m a recovering rescuer.   fifteen years ago,  during my first week as a brand new resident of the great state,  i wrote in my journal  (the paper and pen kind…)  that i would no longer rescue people.   pretty bold statement for a guy who spent years believing his own press and really thought that people needed me!

i recently read a review of a book that i wish i would have read years ago.   the truth might seem rather elementary to you,  but to me,  its pretty revolutionary stuff.   in his book “lasting impressions”,  mark waltz describes the difference between having responsibility to people, not for people.

when i’m responsible to people,  i understand they have a choice.   when i’m responsible for people,  i think i should decide for them.

when i’m responsible to people,  i know they must figure out their next step.   when i’m responsible for people,  i try to tell them what their next step is.

when i’m responsible to people,  i allow them to bear the brunt of the consequences for their own chosen actions.  when i’m responsible for people,  i assume the guilt,  or worse the shame,  for them.

when i’m responsible to people,  i engage in their journey,  offering encouragement and teaching.   when i’m responsible for people,  i try to direct their journey, never allowing them to wrestle,  mess up or make a wrong turn.

when i’m responsible to people,  i talk to god on their behalf.   when i’m responsible for people,  i talk to people a lot on god’s behalf.

dave browning (a pastor at christ the king community church in burlington, washington)  recently wrote this about pastors:

One of the most basic boundaries we can maintain is our skin.  I am responsible for everything inside my skin.  You are responsible for everything inside your skin.  It is a fundamental demarcation between “me” and “you.”   Sometimes pastors feel like they have to have all the answers, solve all the problems and make everything right…for everyone.

If you are one of these, my heart goes out to you today.  It is a very frustrating thing to feel responsible for the thoughts and actions of other people.  It is quite liberating to know that I only have a responsibility to other people – to love them, to be honest with them, to be a friend and support.  What’s going on inside them is “all theirs.”

these are words i need to read every day.   maybe you do,  also.