Podcast: Ordering Your Marriage and Family
Go Vertical in Your Marriage
Ordering Your Marriage and Family
Read the Transcription:
Ordering Your Marriage and Family
Lord, we pray for this gathering this morning. How sweet it is to gather as your people. Your sons and daughters, with our needs, with our struggles, with our joys, with our victories.
It’s always a mixture, Lord, but You’re in our midst, You’re in our hearts. Have Your way. We open our hearts to You and we’re totally confident that You will open Your heart to us today.
Heal these that need a healing touch and those that are representing those that do.
Thank You, Lord, that You’re the resurrection and the life. We pray for Link and Jen this morning. We pray that you’ll just continue to knit their hearts together more and more. You’ll minister and comfort to Jennifer’s heart with the loss of her mother.
Oh, Lord, thank you for [inaudible] and her life. Thank you for Jennifer’s father who passed away a few years ago. So, Lord, just comfort and care and fill her heart with You, more and more, and then just use this, Lord, to draw them closer together, this husband and wife, more and more and more.
We thank you, Lord, for this day, this time, this gathering. Make it purposeful. Make it all that You want it to be as we talk about marriage and family life today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Focus: Marriage & Family
Thank you so much for this opportunity to be with you today and talk about a continuation of our series Ordering Your Private World. Today’s focus will be your marriage and family.
Let’s take a look at the scripture–what I’m referring to as kind of the theme scripture for today, the context, the launching pad for more–and it’s taken from Philippians the second chapter.
We’ll read the first five verses, even though, as you have time yet today, delve into the first eleven verses. Let’s read that together:
Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of His love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being likeminded. Having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Trinity & Triunity
God is a trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man is a triunity: spirit, soul, and body. So, I want to address this subject of marriage from the standpoint of who we are according to God’s design.
Now, I realize not everyone who gets married loves the Lord with all their heart, mind, and strength. So, there we have kind of a barebones, minimum definition of marriage: leave and cleave and one. –At least, physically. But, there’s much more to that, according to God’s design.
Because we are a spirit, we are a soul, and we have an earthsuit in this temporary way. For [Jennifer’s mother] it was 88 years. We have an earthsuit. Spirit, soul, and body. We are a spirit, we are a soul, we are a body.
Prayer, Priority, and Presence
So, let’s take a look at these things. I’ve broken it down into prayer, priority, and presence. I believe these are the keys to a marriage that fulfills God’s design.
Now, don’t compare or compete or think of anyone else. God wants to do a new thing. God wants to do a unique thing. God wants to tailor make your marriage. So, it’s not going to help you to compare. It would be impossible to compare or compete or anything like that. That would be fruitless.
God wants to do a tailor made work in your marriage and, for some of you, He wants to give you something that you’ve never had. For some of you that are longing for more, you’re longing for a change, you’re trying to put it into words what this would really include. Do we need to reconcile? Do we need to communicate more? Do we need more oneness? Do we need more of this, that, whatever thing?
What we need is God to do a new thing and to give to us, to gift to us, something we’ve never had. It isn’t going back to the best we’ve ever had. (Because, you might be thinking, “It’s never been too great!”) So, it’s not even going back to the best. Behold, forget the former things, I want to do a new thing, says the Lord. He wants to do a new thing. He wants to give you a marriage that you’ve never had.
What will it take?
So,what is that going to take? It’s going to take our participation. That’s going to include vulnerability. What does that mean? What does “vulnerability” mean?
To the degree that, as husband and wife, that we’re willing to know, to seek, to know, to take an interest, to explore, to seek to understand, and to be known, is going to be key.
Now, studies have shown (for what that’s worth, may not be worth a whole lot, but there it is) studies have shown that women really want access to their husband’s heart. So, a common struggle in marriage is the wife will say, “He never talks to me. Yeah, he comes home. He’s here in body. He’s here in physical presence, but he doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t talk to me in a meaningful way.”
And you may think the same thing if you’re a man here today, you may think, “Well, that’s my story regarding her!” So, I realize it’s not just women wanting access to what their husbands are thinking, feeling, desiring, their joys, their successes.
“Tell me about your day!”
“Well, it was great.”
“Well, tell me more!”
“It was fine, what do you want me to tell you? I’m tired.”
That doesn’t help. So, she wants access.
“Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what you’re thinking. Your joys, your sorrows, your successes, your anticipation, tell me all about it!”
“I don’t want to tell you about it. I don’t want to talk about it. I’m too tired!”
That won’t help. It’s going to take some effort. It’s going to take some participation to be free to be known.
Are You Free to be Known
Now, I’m not saying we’ve got to be an open book all the time, that wouldn’t even be wise because there’s things you’re thinking about that would best not be said today and maybe never said. But, you can talk to the Lord about those things.
So, I’m not saying just be an open book and let it spill out all the time. I’m not talking about that kind of vulnerability. But, are you free to be known? Are you free to be known? Do you have any secrets? Do you have a double life? Those are more extreme examples of not being free to be known. So, vulnerability is going to be key.
Now, I realize that is going to take trust. If you’ve offended one another, if one has been offended or both have been offended, then trust starts breaking down and then when you don’t trust you don’t tend to share and when you don’t tend to share you’re not very vulnerable and then there’ll be a limitation as far as the depth and oneness of our relationship.
What is Oneness?
And, by the way, what does “oneness” mean? Oneness isn’t just togetherness, but it’s that deep, abiding sense of– you know, it’s great. I’ve a deep sense of wellbeing. I feel close to this person, my husband/my wife. I love them, I like them, I trust them, I feel safe with them. I feel they’re for me, not against me.
They’re not trying to pick my words apart; they’re not trying to correct me all the time. They believe the best. They don’t always agree. We don’t always agree. We don’t always have the same opinions.
We don’t always have the same convictions. –It doesn’t mean agreement, necessarily, but there’s a oneness of value, there’s a oneness of spirit, there’s agreement of heart at the deepest level. There’s a respect, there’s a trust. How do we get there? We don’t just get there. It doesn’t just happen.
Listen & Care
Mindy and I have been married 42+ years, and we’re still growing in that. We love each other more than ever, but we’re still growing in that. So, we’re not settling for the status quo.
Though, because we value oneness, what I’ve just described to you (not that I’ve described it in an exhaustive way, there’s more that could be said) but because we value oneness, we realize that we need to take an interest in each other’s lives (which we want to). We need to listen and care, take the time to listen and care. –Which isn’t always easy, I realize.
Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’d rather be doing something else and sometimes you’re late for your appointment or late for this or that, but are we willing to tune in and know, this is primetime here. This is not the time to read the paper, this is not the time to work on a project, this is not the time to multi-task. This is the time to lay down what I’m doing and look the other person in the eye, give them my undivided attention and open my ears, open my heart, and seek to understand.
That may not be convenient, that may not be something you feel like doing, that may not be your tendency, that may not be your temperament, that may not be your personality. It’s going to take some intentionality.
But, because we value oneness, for us to pray together every day, before we go to bed (which works best for us, time-wise) has become a practice. Not a ritual, not a religious duty, not “well, Christians are supposed to do this, so we’d better do it! Have we done it? Have we checked the box today?” No, no, no. It’s rooted in a value of oneness.
The Gift of Oneness in Marriage
We want oneness and we know oneness in the truest sense is going to be a gift. We can’t make it happen if we’re checking up on each other all the time: Do you still love me? Do you still like me? How do you feel about our marriage? Do you like our relationship? Let’s take our marriage temperature everyday! No, no, no.
Too much self-consciousness will quench what I’m talking about. There’s a wisdom balance, there’s an ebb and a flow. Sometimes you just discover, wow, I’m experiencing oneness! And it’s a gift! Yes, we pray. Yes, we listen. Yes, we care.
Yes, we ask questions. Yes, we seek to understand. Yes, we go out on dates. Yes, we give each other undivided attention. Yes, we seek to make the other person our number one priority. Yes, yes, yes! But, you can’t make it happen. It’s a gift.
But, you know, if Jesus is not number one in your life, if He’s not your first priority, if you’re not born again in the Spirit, if He doesn’t live in you and you’re not one with Him, then there’s probably not going to be much motivation to dive into what I’m talking about because your values probably aren’t going to include that.
Does Your Marriage need Jesus?
Now, I realize there are people that we’ve all known that would say, “Yeah, you know, I’m a pretty good person.” They wouldn’t necessarily even say that they’re a Christian, but they would say, “I’ve got a great marriage! What are you talking about? I don’t need Jesus, I don’t need prayer, I don’t need this what you’re talking about.”
Well, when you’ve heard that, have you ever had the presence of mind of asking some sensitively-worded questions? Not tiptoeing, but, “Tell me more about your marriage. What do you do? What kind of things do you do? What kind of things do you enjoy?”
And there may be a season where they’re playing a lot of golf together. There may be a season where they’re doing a project together. Maybe they’re in a bowling league. Maybe they have an affinity for that and maybe for a season they feel good about it and they feel good together and it’s like, “This is fun! I feel great! This is marriage! This is oneness. This is what you’re talking about, right, Steve?”
They feel happy. But, of course, without Jesus–the Rock, Jesus–being our foundation, it won’t last. It’s sand, and the floods will come, the storms will come, the problems will come, the kids will start growing and some won’t always behave all the time and a family member will get sick and will require a lot of care and attention.
Then the other one– Without Jesus and without preferring one another more important than ourselves and without putting Him first, we can really get selfish really easily.
We can start thinking, “Well, how about me!? Seems like you’re spending all the time with the kids. I know the kids are a problem, but how about me?! You’re always with your mom; you’re always with your dad. I know they need some care, I know they’re sick, but how about me?!” So, without Jesus, it’s real easy to go there: How about me? That won’t be a recipe for oneness.
A Life -and Marriage – with Christ
So, it’s not about prayer, first and foremost. You’ll notice my scriptural text today isn’t even a classic marriage text because this isn’t about marriage. This is about a heart, a life, that’s in union with Christ, that loves Jesus with all of your heart, mind, and strength; and out of the overflow, if you’re married, it affects how you live. It affects what you give. It affects how you say things. It affects how you do things. It affects what your priorities are. It affects what your values are. “Who” affects it. Not a religious set of duties; He affects it.
He affects our hearts and He affects our motivations. He affects our reasons that we do what we do or not do. So, it’s not a matter of prayer as a duty. It’s prayer as a means to an end.
Because I realize that Mindy and I will only be so close. We might have a marriage that’s better than–from God’s point of view, because I’m certainly not qualified to compare–from God’s point of view, He might say, “Hey, this is better than most!”
Without prayer, it could be better than most. That’s not the issue. That is not what we’re settling for. How about God’s design? How about comparing up? How about comparing what He has in mind? So, it’s not about prayer. It’s about what you value. It’s about who you value. And we value oneness.
Ebb & Flow in Your Marriage
You know when we realize that we’re not clicking, and it might be described as, not in conflict not upset with one another, we know we love each other at a given point, but one or the other might not be feeling a lot of passion at a particular point.
Does that mean, “Oh no! We’re falling out of love!” No. There’s an ebb and a flow as human beings who have a spirit, soul and body. So, what do we do when we think, well, I know I love her. I know she loves me. I don’t really feel real passionate right now. I don’t necessarily feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders right now.
What do we do? We pray. We obey the next thing that God shows us, which might mean spending more time with one another than what we have been.
See, there’s an ebb and a flow. You know, in the Christian life, it’s not like we’re checking a box, “Well, I checked the prayer box. Got my prayer time in. Got my reading of the Word time in. Got my date in this week. Asked my wife what she did today. Check! Took the kids out on a date or did something special with the kids or called one of the kids if they’ve moved away and they live somewhere else and have a family of their own. I’ve called them today, check! Are you happy, Honey?!”
No, we’re not talking about a checklist.
Seasons of Life
There’s an ebb and a flow, and there’s some seasons of life that circumstances will seemingly dictate. But, do they have to really dictate our attitudes? They don’t have to dictate our attitudes.
There may be some seasons in life that we’ve just got to devote more time to work, it’s the season. You know John [inaudible] was a farmer for years and during certain parts of the season, he had to make hay while the sun shined! I mean, that’s the nature of farming. If you’re a business owner, same kind of thing. And if you have a health issue in the home, or a family like Jennifer and Link have been walking through and that Mindy and I have been walking through with her dad, same kind of thing.
Special care is needed. Not a duty, but you want to obey the Lord. You want to connect with what’s on His heart. You want to take that next step of obedience that He has in mind, that He’s inviting you into. And it may feel like, “Oh, we’re not spending as much time as we’d like to.” So that yearning, that desire is there.
Then we make provision, maybe in more creative ways than what we’re used to. But, because we have the desire, because it’s a priority, because it’s a value, we make the time somehow, some way. Maybe creatively, maybe not as much, but our heart is there, and the other person knows that our heart is here. If you both know your heart is there, there’ll be oneness. It will make all the difference, because you can tell if the other person has a heart for you and a heart for relationship and a heart for oneness.
Soul & Marriage
Let’s move on to soul. The goal in this area is to seek to understand. That will lead the way. As you seek to understand, and not just agree. You’re not always going to agree.
If you seek to understand the other person, where they’re coming from, and make that more important than you being understood or being misunderstood, but you really are seeking to understand.
There again having your house, your home, your heart, that will help you because your identity will be rooted in Christ and you won’t have to have them be happy with you for you. If they’re not happy with you, you’ll be asking for them and for the sake of relationship, not because you’re so insecure.
I know what’s that’s like. Before I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus, I would always ask Mindy, “How are we doing?”
But I wasn’t asking for her, because I thought she had a need that I could attend to and help her with and bless her with and serve her with. It was me and my insecurity.
She knew I was insecure and she withdrew. When she withdrew emotionally, I felt more insecure.
When I became more insecure, I became angry and abusive and all of that was used of the Lord for her to come to the Lord and for me to come to the Lord and the Lord gave us a new marriage in the Lord. In the Lord, on the Rock. Not the sand.
Be Willing to Listen
How are we going to have a heart to heart relationship? It’s going to include both of you having that sense, do you feel like, “You are my number one priority”?
I wish we had the time right now, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot, but I pray before the day is over–and, if you’re married and you’re in this room and maybe your spouse isn’t here, so I’m going to talk to them later, I hope, I pray–ask them, do you feel like you’re my number one priority? Be prepared for more than one answer. Be prepared for an answer that maybe you don’t want to hear.
They say, “Well, you know, I really don’t feel like I’m your number one priority.”
“What do you mean?! I’ve done this for you! I’ve served you! I’ve done the laundry! I’ve been folding the towels lately! I’ve been getting my shirts done! I haven’t been asked to do anything! How could you feel that way?!”
That won’t help you. That won’t help you.
The truth of it is, like it or not, if the other person doesn’t feel like they’re your number one priority, that’s their reality. You’re not going to talk them out of it with words. You’re not going to talk them out of it by trying to build a case, an argument to change their minds. It’s not gonna happen!
Discovery, not Defensiveness
Some of you have heard me tell this story. Years ago, at our previous church, mid-nineties, Mindy said to me one Monday which was my day off, she said, ‘It seems like you’re always gone.” I said, “What do you mean?”
My temptation was to get my day planner out and show her I’d actually been home more lately than usual. I refrained from that temptation, thankfully. I kept seeking to understand. I made understanding the goal.
Then it hit me. “I think I know! You haven’t said it , but I think I know. You don’t feel like you are my number one priority.” She said, that’s it.
And if you’re a guy, you might go, “Well, why didn’t you say so to begin with?” See, that’s all part of the discovery process in communication. Sometimes we don’t, what do I want? What do I think? What do I feel? See, sometimes we think out loud. Some of us do think out loud, and that can be dangerous:
“You think that?”
Well, I’m thinking that, but I haven’t really decided if that is what I really think.”
“Well, if you’ve thought it, then it must be true!”
No, not necessarily.
Oneness through priority
So, there it is. If you feel like you are that person’s number one priority, if they feel like they are your number one priority, that also will be what is needed to have oneness.
That is also what will be needed to have a heart to heart communication. Not just head to head, but heart to heart. Expressing feelings. Free to be known, expressing vulnerability.
Share some things that maybe you’ve been kind of tentative to share about. Maybe you’ve been kind of halfway fearful of sharing. “What are they going to say about this? What are they going to do? Are they going to disagree?” Are you free for that person to disagree with you?
Keep talking about it, keep seeking to understand, keep praying about it. A decision may need to be made, yes, but let’s take a process approach and see how God leads us.
Humility, listening, caring, praying, preferring will all position your heart for vulnerability oneness which will lead to oneness. Seeking to understand. Not having to be understood. Not having to agree. Leading to heart to heart.
Presence in Your Marriage
And then we come to presence. We have prayer, priority and presence. What is presence? Well, presence is being there, certainly. I think a ministry of presence when I think of that.
Just off to the side, because it’s a principle of life, I can remember over the years going to visit people who had just suffered the loss of a loved one. Whether it was someboy who had just had a car accident and I was at [the hospital], I remember one day years ago on a Saturday, I had just gotten done officiating at a wedding at our previous church and I got a phone call that someone we knew had died in a car accident, so Mindy and I left the church and went straight to [the hospital] and there saw the wife. She was crying over her husband who was laying on the bed, so to speak, and he was dead. He had died in the car accident. I can remember thinking–it wasn’t a strategy, no one taught me to do this, except I’m sure Pastor Murdoch influenced me along the way and taught me many things–but, I had the presence of mind to not say much of anything.
Because, you know, at those times, we feel like we’ve gotta say something profound. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just be there. Because your presence says, “I care.” Your presence says, “You matter to me. What you’re going through matters to me.”
I’ve experienced that many times over the years in those kinds of situations, whether it be at a funeral home, a hospital, or what I just described. In my marriage, am I there? Am I there spirit, soul, and body? Am I there?
Presence shows care
Now, Mindy and I have a great relationship, so she’s free to let me know when I’m not there. She’s free to let me know when my mind is somewhere else and it would be important for her for me to relocate. My body is there, but to be there spirit, soul and body. Because why? Why is that important? It says I care.
Now, all of those things, think about it. Think about the people in your life, just remember, think of somebody that you are convinced they don’t care. Now, maybe they do, but you don’t think they do, so that’s your reality. Do you trust them? We don’t tend to trust people with our hearts unless we are confident they care. They’re for us. They believe the best about us. Trust, relational trust, is tied to that reality.
Marriage & Intimacy
All of these lean into a sexual intimacy that is giving-oriented. You know, we live in a day and age when there is a lot of sensuality and there’s a lot of giving to get, if there’s giving at all. There’s a lot of using, whether it’s sex trafficking at the extreme; prostitution, still extreme; immorality, still extreme examples of what I’m talking about. But, even in a marriage–just because we’re married doesn’t mean that our sexual intimacy is automatically pleasing and pure in God’s eyes. Because, what’s our motive? Is our motive to get? Is our motive to give? I really believe God’s design is give.
I see in one reference that I listed for you, in Genesis 2:24-25: Therefore shall a man leave his mother and father and shall be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, and the man and his wife were not ashamed.
What a beautiful picture of no hindrances to intimacy. No pride. This was before the fall, so there was no pride, there was no fear, there was no shame, there was no rejection, there was no insecurity, there was no anger. None of those kinds of jealousy and those kind of things, covetousness and those kind of things that really hinder our ability to give and receive. To know and be known.
There was none of that. So, there was a freedom to abandon themselves spirit, soul and body, according to God’s design, before the fall. Well, in Jesus, we can still live that way.
What Do You Want to Give?
When I’m meeting with a couple for premarital counseling, I often ask them at a particular point in time, “What do you want to give to the other person after you get married? Or even now, what do you want to give?”
I want to to see their thinking and cultivate their priority of awareness of giving. Not just thinking about what they like about that other person, because as you can imagine, over the last 32 years I’ve heard a lot of guys–not a put-down, just reporting to you–guys who have said, “Oh, she just takes great care of me,” and I’m thinking, “Whoa. She takes great care of you.” I’m thinking, “Now, your mother took great care of you when you were a little boy, I hope.”
I’ll ask the question, “Why do you want to get married?” I’m not challenging, “Why do you want to get married, anyway?!” No, “Why do you want to get married?” Why them? Why that person? Not just in love with marriage, but why them? Why them? I want to hear why, but I also want to hear what they want to give.
I know they want to get; we’re human. But, what do you want to give? Because that is what love is all about. Love is all about giving. Lust isn’t just sexual lust, lust is about getting. It’s about using. Love is about giving and serving and preferring. By God’s design, marriage is a love relationship.
So, you can see, spirit soul and body. Built on the Rock. Jesus is my life. He is my reason, He is my purpose, He’s my motivation. It isn’t just on a human level: “What are you giving me today? You’re not treating me very nice!” Reflecting them; how about reflecting Him no matter how they’re acting today?
I’m not giving them a license to act any way they want to act, but at a given point in time you might perceive they don’t care; at any given point in time you might perceive they’re not being very encouraging. At any given point in time, you may perceive that they’re not giving you what you would like them to give you. Or listen to you, or care for you, or relate to you in a way that would be a blessing to you. It’s human, it happens. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to reflect it back?
“Well, you’re not very loving.”
“Well, you’re not very loving, either.”
What are you going to do about it? Who’s going to go first? First one to the cross wins. We go vertical, and He becomes the reason.
Jesus is the Foundation of Marriage – and Life
So, as Jesus is our foundation, prayer is our provision, vulnerability is our heart attitude, it will lead to a lifestyle of the potential, the capacity, the gift of oneness.
And as we seek to understand, we don’t have to agree, we’re free to disagree, agreeably. We’re secure in the Lord. We don’t have to be understood. We’d like to be, for the sake of relationship, but we’re willing to let that other person struggle with us.
Not because we want them to, but we know we can’t fill the gap. We can’t make them feel all better, only Jesus can. Only He can fill the gap. Only He can satisfy that appetite for security. He’s got to be the One. If you keep trying to fill that gap and you’ve got to be the one, then you’ll be giving something away of yourself and you won’t be healthy and it won’t lead to oneness and it won’t lead to a healthy relationship. Heart to heart.
Learn More About your Spouse
I would encourage you, before the sun goes down today, ask your husband or wife, “Do you feel like you are my number one priority?” And, if their answer is, “Well, I know you want to be, but, not really…”
Don’t get defensive. Don’t try to build your case. Ask more questions. Seek to understand and ask the Lord what He wants you to do differently. Respond to the Lord. Don’t limit yourself to what they say they want. Ask Him what He wants. He knows them better than they know themselves. Enter into a lifestyle of giving. Living to give and loving to love, because He, Jesus, first loved you.
Seek to Understand
Even when you enter into the expression of sexual intimacy. If we start getting some momentum in God’s design–spirit, soul and body–it’s interesting how this works, then, is that at any point that you enter in, even when you have sexual intimacy, it feeds the oneness with the attitudes that I’m talking about.
When you seek to understand, make understanding the goal, the other person a priority, it feeds the oneness. If you pray together and you listen and care and spend time together, it feeds the oneness. It’s kind of interesting.
Now, sexual intimacy won’t make it happen, but once you start experiencing oneness, any one of these three will feed the whole. Any one of those three will contribute. But, keep in mind that God wants to do an inside-out work. Oneness won’t be achieved outside-in. Having sexual intimacy won’t create oneness. The truest thing is, it will reflect the oneness that you already have. But, it’s also true that once you are experiencing this oneness, participation in any of these three areas will feed and cultivate that oneness.
Prayer, Priority, and Presence in the Family
So, let’s now move on to family. We start with husband and wife, and then we live and give out of that. Again, the same three: prayer, priority and presence. Now, when it comes to how we relate to our children, grandchildren, other family members, unity of spirit is key.
Here again, not necessarily agreement. One of the joyful challenges for mom and dad, for husband and wife, is when you don’t agree with what one of your kids is doing, you don’t agree what needs to be done next.
The big temptation is to speak out of turn and not have a united front and one of you says one thing and the other one says the other thing right in front of them. If you do that, it’s totally understandable, it’s totally human, but you won’t be operating from strength. You won’t be operating from agreement in spirit, unity. You will not be operating in unity and it will not produce the kind of fruit you’re looking for.
So, if you disagree, you’ve got to disagree in private. Wrestle with it in private. Pray about it in private. Enter into God’s design. There’s more I could say about that, but for the sake of time, I won’t. I’m going to trust the Lord to give you understanding on that. But, a key is operating from strength. Unity will be strength. United front will be a point of strength.
Live and give out of that. That’s going to be challenging, depending on how you were made and your temperament, your personality. But, if you enter into God’s design, with the husband the head, his wife in submission, and what that really means. It doesn’t mean a dictator.
Discernment in Relationships
I can remember a situation years ago, when one of our kids asked me for some money. I think he was in college at the time and he hadn’t really been–he asked for a loan–he hadn’t really been managing his money well, so I said no. Mindy was really upset with me. She wasn’t yelling or anything, but she was unhappy with me. Weren’t you, Honey? Yes. [laughter] That didn’t feel good. I like her to be happy with me. I like it when we agree.
But, she was concerned about what that particular child would think of me and she was concerned that he would go to one of his grandparents and ask them for the money and they would probably give him the money and here his dad wouldn’t even give him the money, or loan him the money, so she was concerned about my relationship with him.
I understand that. I appreciate that. But, I thought, this is love. He’s not managing money well, I don’t want to be an enabler. I will just have to say no.
I gave him some explanation as to why and that’s the way it went. Meanwhile, I went to a retreat out in Spokane, Washington and it was back in the day before 9/11 and you could come right to the gate and you could look out the window and there was Mindy and Joy looking out the window as I’m flying and leaving the gate and we still weren’t one!
A Disconnected Marriage
I thought, oh, no. This doesn’t feel good, this feels so empty. I feel–how can we make this all better? We were disconnected, we weren’t one. We love Jesus, we love each other, but we weren’t one! Well, we did get it resolved when I got back.
It all came together. We talked more, we prayed more, and we came to a spirit of unity about it. I never loaned him the money, but we came into a unity of spirit and having a confidence in the mind of Christ that we had the mind of Christ. It doesn’t mean we were right, but we were sincere. I was sincere. You know, it wasn’t like, “Thus saith the Lord, you know, this is really a make or break situation.”
No, I was sincere. If I was wrong, I was sincerely wrong, but I really believed this is how God wanted me to handle it and we came into unity over it through much prayer and tears and it was hard, but it was a growing time and it was a necessary time.
It wasn’t a matter of Steve having his way, we both were going vertical and we just wanted God to have His way and as we came into alignment with that focus and that posture, there was like a divine convergence here. It wasn’t about fearing what [my son] was going to think, but we came into alignment in unity of purpose. And there was fruit.
Fastforward, he and I have a great relationship today. Best it’s ever been. We love our kids, they love us. It’s just so wonderful that they honor us the way they do. So, there’s been great fruit. But, we haven’t operated as independent agents.
As hard as it’s been at times–not often, but at times–we’ve operated as one. They’ve dealt with us as one. They see us as one. That is what I’m talking about. Not separate, independent agents that they can play against one another.
They knew that they could never play one against the other. We operated as one.
Priority – In Marriage & Relationships
Then, we come to priority. I really believe there is a relationship as it relates to this. Life’s all about relationship, so if we make a priority out of that relationship, I believe it leads to a greater level of influence.
If the only influence you have is positional, you don’t have much influence. And, of course, when your kids grow up and they leave the nest and have families of their own and you have other family members as well, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, others, it’s all about influence.
The key to that is taking an interest in their life. Sending a message they’re a priority person. Being there for them. Sending a message in different ways, they are a priority person. Now, it doesn’t mean that if they have high expectations beyond what you can fulfill, it doesn’t mean that they hold you hostage.
You do what you do as unto the Lord, and it may never be enough, but you know that your heart is pure before the Lord and you know that you love them and they are a priority in your heart. They are a priority in your heart.
Doing What Christ Wants
It may never be enough, but the goal isn’t that it is. What does He want you to do? When your heart is open to the Lord, you’re doing what you believe He wants, you know that they’re a priority.
Mindy really helps me in this regard. I’ve helped her in some ways, she’s helped me in some ways. I’ve helped her, she’s got so much to say. She’s the wisest woman I know. So, as I’ve encouraged her and given her opportunities to share at Fresh Start and get up in front of people, I’ve been amazed and others have been so blessed to hear the wisdom that comes from her when she gets up in front of people.
She’s more of a one-on-one person by comfort. But, I’ve tried to catalyze and coax and encourage, expanding her horizons. So, she thanks me for that. Where she’s really helped me is calling our kids. Because we get into a pattern where they’re calling me more than I’m calling them, or they tend to call me first.
She values relationship. I do too, but I don’t necessarily think of it to the level she thinks of it and I need her. I don’t resist or mind her asking me that or encouraging me to do that.
She sends our grandkids stuff all the time and she laid out all these Valentines the other day, so she was writing Valentines and I’m writing Valentines, to all of our kids and all of our grandkids. That sends a message.
Our kids are into sports and those kind of activities. Liking them on Facebook, commenting, calling. That matters. That’s something we can do from afar. We’re not living there in Houston or Washington D.C. or Fort Lauderdale, but we can creatively communicate and care and connect and send a message. You matter. You are on my mind. That really captures it.
Who Is On Your Mind?
As human beings, we’re spirit, soul, and body and, within our soul, mind, will and emotions, and when we send that message, “you’re on my mind,” that sends a big message. I often call Mindy during the day just to see how she’s doing.
She’s on my mind. The Lord is seemingly always on my mind. Mindy is almost always on my mind, and she’s wondering, how can you do that? Well, I can multitask and, how can He be on my mind and she’s on my mind and the person I’m talking to is on my mind?
Well, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. Spirit, soul and body. But, she is almost always on my mind and I’ll call her, how are you doing? No reason that I’m calling. Now, is that a big deal? You would say it’s not.
But, it can be significant because it can send that message to her and to our son, if I call one of our sons, or call Joy or whatever, for no particular reason. What am I saying? You matter. You’re on my mind. I’m thinking about you. How’s it going?
Taking an interest in them. Not just waiting for them to take the initiative. What will that lead to? Not giving to get, but it will lead to having influence, having more of a voice in their life. Not a manipulation, but a relational influence because they are a priority.
What Does Presence Mean?
Then finally, presence. Presence can mean different things. I remember learning as we started traveling the world and more and more with Fresh Start, in China and other places.
As you may or may not know, one of the aspects of that eastern culture in China–and, I’m sure this is not everybody–but, there’s a tendency for fathers to relate to their daughters initially in a particular way and then later on in a different way.
So, initially let’s say they touch, they hug, they hold, meaningful touch, hold, affection. But then, culturally they come to a point, along with a change of standard, high, perfectionistic, performance-oriented culture, not that there isn’t some of that here in America and in other parts of the world, not that some of that isn’t universal, but in eastern culture and China for example, performance-based acceptance is central.
That along with daddy might affectionately touch, appropriately touch his daughter early on in life but then there comes a time, no later than when she gets into the teenage years, that there’s no more touching.
So, you can see, withholding touch, high standards, rules without relationship, you can see the setup. It’s not according to God’s design. We are thankful to be able to address that and not make it about a cultural thing, but made it about God’s design, and have them respond to it according to God’s design and for things to change.
For those young people to forgive their parents and have a change of attitude toward their parents. Somehow, some way, prayerfully built via bridge through reconciliation to come with their parents. Presence includes meaningful touch, not just being there.
Now, I realize, sometimes there’s an absentee issue. Not being there.
We could talk about many examples of that, horror stories that I’ve heard over the years where sons or daughters of alcoholic fathers or mothers, for example, where the parents split up and they were divorced and Dad said he was going to come on that Saturday morning at 9:00 and take you fishing and at 11:00 you were still waiting there with your fishing pole and Dad didn’t come and never comes.
Isn’t that heartbreaking when you hear that? That was the norm, has been the norm, for many people.
Broken promises. Saying one thing, doing another. Not being at ballgames. Not being at music recitals. Not exercising a ministry of presence. Even when he was there, in other situations when a mother or father was there, not really being there. They’re in their room, they’re in the recliner reading the paper but they don’t say anything and they go to bed early and there’s nothing. There’s no relationship.
Challenging Situations in Life & Marriage
So, how are we relating out of our hearts, out of our minds, out of our marriage, what kind of a message are we sending? Now, I realize that part of life includes some challenging situations. There may be people, with your kids, your grandkids, extended family situations, let’s say these people aren’t on the same wavelength.
You love Jesus, they don’t, they think you’re crazy. They think you’re too radical, they don’t want anything to do with you. They think you’re involved in a cult or something like that. You know, different examples of what they might be thinking.
Or, you just are on a different wavelength. You’re not dependent on them. You’re dependent upon Him. Here’s the key: What is it going to involve, what does it take, what does it involve, to have God’s heart for them? Not on their terms, on His terms.
What does His heart look like? It may include a phone call. They never call you, they don’t want to talk, but you’ve done what you’ve done as unto the Lord. You haven’t been outcome-based in your initiative. What God wants to do is have you forgive them and no longer look to them to fill in the gap.
No longer look to Daddy or Mom or whomever, to give you the blessing you never received when you were growing up, to look to them to somehow sign off on you and say, “Okay, you’re God-approved, you’re approved, you’re good at something, you matter, you’re worth something!”
They’re not the key to that.
As we’ve traveled the world here and abroad, abandonment, abuse, neglect is rampant. There’s an epidemic of unforgiveness in the world. People, places and things aren’t going to fill the gap.
Jesus and Jesus alone will fill the gap.
That’s why we start with Him, we continue with Him, we live from Him, we love from Him, we pray from Him, we relate from Him, and even if they never change, we can. In how we pray, what we say, what we initiate. But, if we still have an outcome in mind, if we still have a goal in mind having to do with them, it will be a setup.
Could it be that the answer is, “Lord, You’re worthy. You’re worth it. I’m doing it for You.” If they never change, if they never say they love me, if they never call me, if they never want to spend any time with me, if they never see my grandkids.
Maybe some of you have had kids and your parents, for example, or a family member that matters to you to some degree, has never seen your child. You’re thinking, you know, my parents live in another city and they’ve never seen my kids.
They’re 6 years old, they’re 10 years old, they’re 12 years old. They’ve never cared, they’ve never come. That can be an offense, true. But, it doesn’t need to continue to be heartache. It doesn’t have to continue to have any control over you. As you forgive them, you’re free.
And as you let Jesus fill the gap, don’t look to them to fill the gap. Don’t look to them to satisfy. I’m not letting them off the hook, I’m not saying they’re right, I’m not justifying their behavior. That’s not the point. But, your heart matters to God and your relationship needs to matter most, because there will be a direct correlation, and I’ll close with this:
Let Jesus Fill the Gap in your marriage
There will be a direct correlation to your relationship to Jesus Christ and what He means to you and where your heart is with Him. There will be a direct correlation between the quality of that relationship and the quality of your marriage, from your point of view.
And the quality of your relationship to your children or your grandchildren, or your mother or father or other family members. Because we’re talking marriage and family today.
And the biggest tests probably come from our families because that’s where we tend to have the highest expectations. And, if not our families, the church, because they tend to kind of run neck and neck because we tend to have high expectations.
But, don’t look out there. Don’t look to anyone to be what they’re supposed to be. I’m not talking about resigned, “Well, that’s just how it is, gotta live with it.” No, no, no.
Make that glorious exchange. Let Jesus fill the gap. Let Him be enough. Let Him be your meat and drink. Let Him satisfy. Let Him be your significance. Let Him be the One Who matters most. That will affect your marriage. That will affect all of your relationships, because you will be living from a heart that is forgiven, forgiving, and free.
Putting It Into Practice in Your Own Marriage and Family
I pray that you will take action on this message today. That this won’t just be informational, that this will be something that you will put into practice.
For you, it may not start with, “Let’s start praying tonight before we go to bed.” It may not start there. For you, it may start with your own heart examination and if you communicate with your spouse or a family member as the case may be, it will out of the initiative that God is showing you, from what I’ve shared with you from God’s word and life’s experiences today.