Friday, November 9, 2012

The Biggest Marriage Killer

I recently got to officiate my first wedding of a former student of mine. It was a really great experience to walk along side this couple in the months leading up to their wedding and an honor to perform the ceremony. The biggest pressure I faced was putting together the homily. What do I tell them about marriage in ten minutes? How do I pack such a big thing into a short and concise talk? It left me thinking about what is the most important thing when it comes to marriage. And this is what I came up with:

A little over a year ago when I was doing some research about what the Bible says marriage is all about I discovered something I thought was pretty interesting. Not once within the Bible does the Hebrew or Greek language ever use a word that literally means “marriage” or “married.”

Instead, you have three different verbs that meant “to take a wife,” “to bind or unite” and “to give in marriage.” They more described the process of becoming married. The other references to marriage actually referred to the man and the woman. After a man took a wife, he was no longer referred to as a man but instead a husband. The same thing for the woman, when she was given in marriage, she was now called a wife.

Names and titles were extremely important in Jewish culture. For a man to not be called just a man anymore; for a woman to not just be titled a woman, but for the two of them to now be called a husband and a wife is crucial to understanding marriage. Marriage was not just an act or something two people did; instead it was something two people became and it changed their entire identity.

The change in this identity exposes the key to any healthy marriage, which is selflessness. Being called a husband and a wife rather than just a man or a woman indicates that you are not your own anymore. Your decisions, your dreams, your goals, your actions all have to take into account this other person that you are uniting yourself to in marriage. Selfishness will kill your marriage faster than anything else. Your ultimate goal now in your relationship is to consider the needs of the other above your own, to serve one another, to love one another unconditionally.

Now the catch will all of this, is that this is actually impossible to do 100% of the time. It takes practice and a lot of trial and error along the way. If there is anything that I hope you guys have heard me say in our time together it is that life, relationship and marriage are messy…and that’s ok. It’s the messes and the fights and the difficult times that actually beat the selfishness out of us if we let them. It is those things and the person we are with who help refine us to be a better person and a better spouse in the long run.

I have learned via my own marriage three important things to living selflessly. First and foremost, learn to listen to one another. Selfish people are quick to speak, defend and argue what they want. Listening and being slow to speak will help you truly come to understand one another and will you to consider their needs and wants and not just your own.

Second, don’t be afraid of asking for help. In the Garden of Eden when God told Adam it was not good for man to be alone, He wasn’t just talking about a wife in Eve. God is His wisdom of creating Eve gave them the opportunity to procreate and make more people because He knew that we need other people to really make it through life. When you hit a rough patch in your marriage seek out an older couple to get advice, be quick to go see a counselor or find trusted friends to talk with. Conquering selfishness cannot be done alone but we need a whole group of people to help us get there.

Lastly, constantly strive to be the first one to initiate the love you have for each another. A lot of times, relationships can be caught up in a tit for tat kind of cycle saying, “When my spouse does this, then I will do that.” Selfless love though gives without the expectation of being given in return and if you both learn to give in that way, you will both constantly get what you need at the same time.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Four Wheeling or My Family?

Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go on an all expenses paid trip to a Texas ranch with a group of youth workers from around the country. The two days were spent planning a brand new youth ministry conference and I was one of around twenty who got asked to help dream the conference up. On top of that, the folks organizing everything put together an awesome four wheeler trip around the ranch's property and had top notch accommodations.

The only bad thing about this fantastic opportunity? I didn't get to do any of it. The day I was supposed to leave Melissa got really sick. And so did Voldemort. So I had to cancel my trip.

Now, let me be blunt. This blog post is not about asking for a badge of honor for putting my family first; nor is it me holding myself up as an example for the rest of you to follow. As the case with many of our blogs, it's about the exact opposite.

The moment Melissa asked me not to go I wanted to put my family first like a hole in the head. I had been looking forward to this trip for months. It was a great career opportunity. It was some desperately needed down time away. It was "all expenses paid." It was getting to play on a four wheeler!

Confession: this selfish jerk argued with my sick wife about going. I tried to think through every alternative that could have meant me going and yet nothing would stick. My wife simply just needed her husband and so I finally gave in and canceled.

Later on in the day, a quote that one of my college professors shared with me came to mind. The quote was "you worry about your integrity, let God worry about your reputation." Honestly, it had actually come to mind because I was judging someone else's situation and trying to argue how I would do something different for integrities sake and God totally flipped it around on me.

Many people say that putting their family first is a moral and ethical principal they live by; that it is the right thing to do (i.e. integrity). It is something that I have said...and probably written about. Yet, when push came to shove, in this situation I was more concerned about worrying about my reputation.

What will these people think about me if I cancel?

Are they going to make me pay for my flight?

Will they still let me be part of the conference?

What if I never get asked to do something like this again?

The conclusion I finally got to on all of those questions later in that day was, "so what?" Does it matter what these people think about me? Is it so bad if they think I am a horrible person for staying home with my sick family rather than being with them? Is it worth $600 to take care of my family instead of just taking care of myself? Maybe if they really think badly of me or if they are going to go back on their "all expenses paid" offer it's not the kind of thing I want to be a part of anyways.

And you know what? That's ok.

When we really put our integrity first and do the selfless thing by putting our family first, God will honor and bless that. Granted, that doesn't mean that God will dump big paychecks or awesome jobs in our lap for doing the right thing. He might, but not always. Sometimes when we put our family first our wallets or careers will take a hit. The blessing isn't material, it's relational. Our selfless action of putting others first actually fills our deepest need for love and belonging. It's funny that by being selfless and giving we actually get at the same time.

When I finally got over myself that day, the best part of my day was a 15 minute stretch in my evening. I gave Voldemort a bath and he was just being insanely cute. He is 9-months now and can actually play in the tub. Watching him crawl all over, and bite his plastic shark, and splash in the water was just awesome. Then right after, I put him to bed and then checked on Melissa. After getting her some water and kissing her on the cheek, she hugged me and just said, "Thanks...thanks for being here and not going." Right then it made me realize that where I was right then was better than being on a four wheeler. That those are the moments and the memories I want to carry with me the rest of my life and think about when I am old remembering the important parts of my life.
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.