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Monday, January 31, 2011
I posted last time about the recent Pew Research study in which 39% of poll respondents agreed that marriage is on a general trend toward obsolescence. Of that percentage there were probably many who didn’t see that as a big deal, maybe some who welcome the idea, and possibly others who are alarmed by the notion. For the record, I count myself in the final category.

For those of us “pro-marriage” types, this study begs the question:
“What are we doing to promote marriage?”

Now as important as I think political engagement is, such as voting in leaders who support a biblical view of marriage and the like, that’s really not what I’m asking about. So maybe I need to rephrase the question to focus a bit more narrowly:
“What are you doing on a regular basis to demonstrate how important your own marriage is to your life, to the fulfillment of your hopes and dreams, and to your daily happiness?”

You see I’m convinced that the attack on marriage comes primarily from the high profile of so many failed and miserable marriages, not only in the general media and among our pop star culture, but also from individuals among their friends. How many of your friends gossip together about how wonderful so-and-so’s marriage appears or how happily-in-love that new couple in church seems to be or even how much you love and admire your own husband or wife?

How many positive marriage role models do we hold up to others?

Honoring what is honorable

In my church we talk a lot about honoring what is honorable to the Lord. What we mean by that is that we want to support, shine a light on and glorify those things that God sees as good, right and holy. I can’t think of many things the Lord would want to honor more than strong, happy, successful, and enduring marriages.

With that in mind, I’m going to toss out a few ideas as to how we can, in our own sphere of influence of friends, family and co-workers, honor marriage. The idea is NOT to promote ourselves as being better than other married folks, so some caution needs to be added to the way in which this is done, but here are a few low-key ideas:
  • Don’t hold back from saying “I love you” or using other words of affection to your spouse when you are talking to them on the phone when others might overhear.
  • Tell your friends about great date spots you and your spouse have found. Mention how important it is to you that you have regular date nights.
  • In an appropriate setting, re-tell something special or thoughtful your husband or wife has done for you recently.
  • Hold hands in public. Depending on your comfort level with PDA, even hold each other and/or kiss in public.
  • If you see an obviously happy couple, don’t deride them to your friends but praise them. ”Isn’t it great to see such a strong and happy marriage.”
  • Ask another couple how you can pray for their marriage. Then do it.
  • Ask another couple to pray for your own marriage. Offer to exchange regular prayer support.
  • Get involved in the marriage blogging community: read, comment, and pass on good stuff you find to your friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter (I’ve got easy links at the end of each post, as do most bloggers).
  • Ask your church to start a marriage small group or Sunday school class. Better yet, offer to start one with your spouse. You don’t have to have all the answers, just a willing heart.
  • Never tear down your spouse in front of your friends. Rather, praise them and express thankfulness for marriage and your spouse. Be generous with positive words.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. There are tons more possibilities.

But I’m Not Happy!

Maybe you are saying to yourself, “My marriage isn’t all that great and I’m not really so happy.”

Go back and re-read the list above. Almost nothing on that list requires you to first be in a joyously thriving marriage. You can take concrete steps to support strong marriages regardless of the shape your own marriage is in.

And here’s the thing, I can almost guarantee that if you start doing those kinds of things, your own marriage WILL be happier. Period.

So what do you think? Are you ready to promote strong marriages, the institution of marriage, and your own marriage in particular? Can you think of other ways to do that besides what I have listed?

Friday, January 28, 2011
A while back there was a huge furor in the marriage blogging community over a survey done by Pew Research for Time Magazine  in which they found that 39% of the Americans surveyed said “marriage is becoming obsolete,” up from 28% in 1978.

More specifically, there was lots of uproar over the way the findings were (mis)reported in the mass media. For example, one CBS News story  made this opening statement.

Not only are more marriages on the rocks these days, so is marriage itself, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Both statements are actually gross mis-statements of fact and reflective of the left-wing media agenda to distort and destroy traditional (biblical) definitions of marriage and family. The truth is that divorce rates are declining. The divorce rate was actually higher in 1978 when far fewer answered affirmatively to the question of marriage trending toward obsolescence.

Marriage researcher Tara Parker-Pope says in her book, For Better – The Science of a Good Marriage, that commonly misquoted and inflated divorce rate statistics are almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. “I think the 50 percent divorce rate myth has trained a generation to be ambivalent about marriage and divorce.” The Pew study bears this out.

The second statement from the CBS story above that claims marriage in general is “on the rocks” is also misleading, yet it does bear a grain of truth. Traditional marriage is and has been under an immense assault, and the Pew study, though it has many critics in terms of the sampling methodology, does give a sort of wake-up call that the pro-marriage community must not be too quick to dismiss.

Granted, the key question in the study that got most of the sensationalized “marriage is dead” types of headlines is blatantly misleading. Instead of asking whether marriage is obsolete, they asked if it is becoming obsolete – two very different questions. One speaks to a current state; the other to a trend. Most of the headlines took the answer to one question and applied it to the other one in order to make their stories seem more dramatic. Even the original Time magazine story, the sponsors of the Pew study, got it wrong with their own mis-statement, “nearly 40% of us think marriage is obsolete.” Well, not really. The data clearly show that many of the affirmative respondents were merely expressing concern over the growing lack of respect for the institution of marriage, not making a value statement on marriage in general.

Anyway, most of this ground has been covered by others. So why am I posting about this several month old study now? Partly, I wanted to just let the dust settle a bit. Partly, I hadn’t had time to read the actual 122 page study. And Partly, I wasn’t quite sure what I could add to the discussion.

What is Marriage?

For me, what’s been missing from almost all of the discussion that I’ve read since the study was first published is a careful examination of what we actually mean by “marriage.” I’m not a sociologist or professional researcher, so maybe I missed it amidst all the data and analysis, but to me this is the most critical question.

Here’s another quote from the original Time cover story on the study:
What we found is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be. Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children — yet marriage remains revered and desired.

Not as necessary? Really? In what manner has marriage become unnecessary or irrelevant, as many assert? It seems we’ve mixed up what marriage really is. Marriage isn’t a certificate or a ceremony. The paper and the pomp are but impermanent symbols of what should be a much deeper and more lasting covenant. Marriage is to be a holy and genuine commitment to live as a husband and wife, growing evermore toward being inseparably one in body, soul and spirit.

We too often mistake the symbols for the substance. Perhaps this is why Americans are a leaders in both the rate of marriage and the rate of divorce, when compared to our European counterparts. When we fail to grasp the covenantal nature of marriage, it is easy to simply head for the exits when the wedding bell bliss begins to fade. (I’m not saying that divorce is never the right thing, so don’t blast me.)

Who Needs Marriage?

Of course you don’t “need” a marriage license to have sex, to find companionship or enjoy a successful career. Clearly, with an astounding 40% of children being born out of wedlock, many feel it is not even “necessary” to wed before giving birth. In this sense the statement is true: there is neither a legal nor in many cases a moral obligation to marry.

So why then, as both the study and the writer of the Time story assert, is marriage also “revered and desired?”

I believe it’s because God wired us that way. This is born out by the fact that 93% of married survey respondents say they married for love and 87% claimed to view their marriage as a lifelong commitment going in. (The numbers for unmarried respondents, when asked about potential marriage, were slightly lower, at 84% and 74% respectively. This data from the study is shown in the graphic at the top of this post.)

We are wired to desire intimacy. We long to be known fully and loved completely. This is what draws us to God. This is what draws us to lifelong marriage. It is only in the permanence and safety of a committed covenantal arrangement that genuine intimacy can take root, grow and truly thrive.

And that will never become obsolete.

Do you agree with my assessment? Or do you think marriage really is an obsolete and outdated institution? What have I missed?

Monday, January 24, 2011

I tried repeatedly over the last week to finish a post that was inspired by this post from Alisa at her Project Happily Ever After blog.

In her post she reflects on her reaction to a complaint made by her husband that she had been spending too much time on the computer and not enough time with the family.

She relates some sage advice given to her by a NY cabbie during a recent cab ride:
He told me we all juggle many balls. Some of these balls are made of crystal. Others are made of rubber.

If you drop a rubber ball, it bounces. It’s not a big deal.

If you drop a crystal ball, it either breaks or it gets scratched. It’s a super big deal.

The art of living a good life, he said, is to know which balls bounce and which balls break. Most of us, he said, get it wrong.

The long and short of it is that I’ve been busy keeping my crystal balls in the air, so I haven’t actually had the time to finish that post or any other post for that matter. Better to do it than to write about it, I figured. Maybe some day I’ll pull that unfinished post out and polish it off. Until then, go read Alisa’s blog and you’ll pretty much get the gist, anyway.

Now for today’s actual post.

Today marks my one year marriage blogging anniversary!!

My initial thought on this post was to focus on the analytics: how many posts I’ve done, how many visitors and page loads I’ve had, from how many countries, etc. etc. etc. Then I decided absolutely no one cares about that stuff but me. Boring. Truth is, these things are only of marginal interest even to me. I don’t write for analytics. I write to help foster stronger, better, more intimate and enduring marriages. That’s what I really care about. That’s what I believe in.

My second idea was to reflect on the experience of blogging one year in. But then I remembered that I just did that a few weeks ago in my post “What I’ve Learned From 100 Posts.” Go read that one to see my thoughts on blogging. They haven't changed much in the past six weeks.

A lot of bloggers I follow take the opportunity of an anniversary or New Years to write about their plans for the upcoming year. I have a thousand ideas, but truthfully, I don’t know yet which of them will actually make onto these pages in the coming year. About all I know for sure is that I plan to keep writing stuff that I think will be helpful to my readers.

This train of thought finally led me to ask myself a question that I honestly could not answer:

Why do people read here?

Frankly I’m shocked that I have as many subscribers and regular readers as I do (though it may not be all that many by “big blog” standards). When I started this endeavor a year ago, I really had my doubts about whether anyone would actually care about what I wrote. I wasn’t even sure I’d make it a whole year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, and I’m excited over what may come in the future.

But I finally decided that today’s post needs to be about you, not me. I decided to simply ask the question. Why do you read here? Would you please take a minute to answer that question below?

RSS and emails readers can click here to take the poll or stop by to leave a comment.

If you would like to expound on why you read here, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts. Just leave a comment below.

And though I rarely say it, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today I’m glad to welcome back Man Up Monday, a periodic feature written directly to husbands.

I routinely check out the search terms that send people to my blog. This sometimes humorous, always informative endeavor is what leads me to today’s post.

By a significant margin, the terms that most point people here are ones like these:
  • my husband needs to man up
  • i need my husband to lead
  • how to let my husband lead the family
  • i like feeling like my husband has authority over me
  • my husband doesn't lead
  • what if my husband doesn't use his authority

What is striking to me is that the second largest group of search terms are ones like these:
  • husband dictator
  • my husband acts like a dictator
  • sep[a]ration control[l]ing husband scripture
  • how to love a dictator husband
  • dictator like attitude

During the course of our marriage small group I asked the group who they thought had the tougher job in walking out their biblical role in marriage, husbands or wives. It was pretty much unanimous: husbands. I asked why, and most said it was because husbands are called to be like Jesus in loving their wives. (Yes, we are all called to love like Jesus – no argument. We were discussing Ephesians 5 and the biblical directive of wives to walk in submission to a husband’s Christ-like love).

The challenge for us husbands is exemplified in the two groups of search terms above. We must master the tension between being strong and being good. Unfortunately, many husbands fail to find the right balance.

Error on Either Side

Some simply abdicate their authority altogether and refuse to lead (first search group above), becoming disengaged, disinterested and unwilling to, as many searchers put it, “man up.” There are plenty of societal influences that denigrate masculinity and strength, pushing men instead to be “nice guys,” to get in touch with their emotions and remain passive. If you are such a husband, your wife is likely left feeling frustrated, lonely, burdened and unloved.

Failing in the other direction is possibly less common but more hideous. These are the men who act like dictators, using their authority to control, issue edicts and manipulate their wives for their own gain. These husbands may be narcissistic, overbearing and even mean. If you are such a husband, your wife is probably fearful, withdrawn, and feels like a doormat. It is the ugly actions of these men that has caused the societal backlash in the opposite, passive direction.

Be Like Jesus

So how do we, as husbands, learn to be both strong and good? The answer is to be like Jesus. The first thing that we need to realize is that these two are NOT mutually exclusive. Look at Jesus. He was clearly both very strong and very good. Yes, he was a strong man, yet full of love. Full of power and yet completely humble. He was a man of passion and of compassion. He was our model of a servant-hearted leader.

Jesus is our Bridegroom and he is our King, a lover and a leader, without compromise in either area.

Yeah, we husbands have a pretty tall order. 
Be like Jesus. Strong and good.

Sunday, January 16, 2011
As my short bio says, I am a worship leader and songwriter. Whereas my foray into writing on marriage has blossomed in the past few years, I have been involved in worship leading and songwriting for more than three decades. Do the math – yeah, I’m old!

I started up a worship blog last year, but had to abandon it for lack of time. Well, I’m back to worship blogging again. If you have any interest click on over and can check it out. I’ve also added a link on the right sidebar that shows my latest post.

While doing some worship-related surfing I discovered a website that was started by Nathan Fray and his bride of three months, Brittany. Nathan is the drummer from an amazing worship band called United Pursuit. (You can also check out more about United Pursuit’s latest project, “Found,” on my worship blog.)

The purpose of the website Love is Here  is to answer the question, “Can love last?” Here’s a short promo.

There isn’t anything on the site that is overtly Christian, but the idea of fostering lasting love in marriage is something I think God is all about. Here is a short list of their core goals.
  • Reviving love
  • Making relationships stronger
  • Finding and protecting true love
  • Seeing commitment last
  • Rediscovering the essence and joy of marriage
  • Bonding families together to love and last a lifetime
Check out their site. They’ve got a whole bunch of marriage-related video links. They have also just put up their first webisode, one couple's amazing story of betrayal and redemption. They also have a section of date ideas. The project is in its infancy, but I am excited about it. They actually had a promo commercial on Fox last week. Very cool to see something pro-marriage in the mainstream.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As promised, this is a follow up post to yesterday’s Watchfulness post.

In summary, those who remain watchful are those who refuse to live their lives on auto-pilot, who keep their spirit, soul and body wide awake to all that is going on in and around them. More specifically, being watchful over your marriage means living attentively toward your spouse, alert to how the things you think, say, feel and do affect your marriage.

But watchfulness has an important counterpart: Thankfulness.

This verse from yesterday's post reminds us of this important coupling:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

I see watchfulness and thankfulness as closely linked in several ways.

Watch Thankfully

First of all, I believe we should always watch from a place of thankfulness rather than from a place of criticality and negativity. When you live with a heart full of thanksgiving, it will greatly affect what you see and how you see it!

I know that this is a great challenge! It is our human nature to focus on the negative. I am an engineer by training and experience. I am a problem solver. I look for problems! But I’ve found that looking for blessings and for reasons to be thankful is a much better path to a happy marriage. Problems will present themselves without you having to look for them very hard. It is way too easy to overlook the blessings.

Be vigilant to watch thankfully.

Focus on the Good Stuff

As important as it is to watch that the things you think, say and do don’t harm your marriage, it is even more important to watch for ways to bless your spouse and enhance your life together. When you feel like you are continually in problem-solving mode it is easy to get weary. But how much more joyful you will be when you are living with the eyes of your heart constantly seeking ways to bless your spouse?

The Bible exhorts us in this direction:
So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Gal 6:9 (NLT)

Thankfulness makes doing good so much easier!

Be Thankful Out Loud

Make it a habit to communicate appreciation to your spouse on a daily basis. When you are watching thankfully, you should be much more attuned to the goodness in your marriage and much more able to find good things to say. This is especially important if your spouse’s love language includes words of affirmation.

Words of thankfulness also help keep us from taking things for granted (and likewise help keep your spouse from feeling taken for granted). For, example, my wife does most of the cooking in our house and always has, but I still try to remember to express my appreciation for the time and effort that went into preparing each meal.

Words have creative power. Words affect the atmosphere of your marriage. So don’t just think your thanks, say them!

Thankfulness and Peace

There are at least half a dozen scriptures that closely link peace with thankfulness. When your heart is full of thanks, anxiety, fear and strife of all kinds tend to melt away.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

Further, thankfulness helps us to be more contented with what we have already instead of always striving for more and more and more.

As you work at being more alert and attentive to your spouse and your marriage, don’t’ forget the importance of being thankful in the process!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I was struck last week by an awesome post that Lori Lowe did on her Marriage Gems blog, Celebrate Each Day in Your Own Way. What Lori talks about in her post is the way “creating moments of small celebration” and “creating fun rituals” around things you enjoy can help to transform the mundane into something stimulating, special and maybe even extraordinary. It is so true and so very important!

At the beginning of each year I seek the Lord for a theme verse for the year. A couple years ago it was this verse:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2

While the heart of this verse is about having a lifestyle of prayer, what I want to focus on today is the importance of watchfulness in your marriage. Tomorrow I will be focusing on thankfulness. I believe these two go to the heart of Lori’s post mentioned above.


Watchfulness is not a concept that gets much attention these days. The best way I can think to describe it is that it involves taking your self, your life, and your marriage off auto-pilot. How do you do that? It starts with a determination to remain attentive and observant to all that goes on in and around you, keeping your heart, mind, spirit and physical senses alive and alert. Watchfulness is about purposefully and continually stirring your passions and longings.

Watchfulness is a spiritual as well as a marital concept. (Are you growing weary of me saying that yet?). Spiritual watchfulness means fostering a continual awareness of the presence of God in your life, even in the little things, living in anticipation of his goodness, and having our hearts fully awake to his love. Watchfulness means seeing God in everything: the smile of a child, the beauty of creation, the tastiness of a meal. It means knowing he is with us, both in the good times and in the challenges of life. Ultimately, watchfulness grows intimacy between us and God.

Watch With Your Whole Being

In your marriage, watchfulness has the similar ability to fuel intimacy and passion. By remaining aware of how the things you are thinking, feeling, saying and doing affect your marriage, you create the opportunity to be intentional, to find meaning, and to take positive action.

In this way, watchfulness is like a compass for your marriage journey. This compass helps you to ask and answer questions like:
  • What can I do today to let my wife know I love her?
  • How are these thoughts I keep having helping my relationship with my husband? Where do I need to change my thinking?
  • Have I adequately put my feelings of love into affirming words this week?
  • Am I doing ____ more for me or for my spouse? Is that the right choice in this matter?
  • During the fight we just had, did I show distrust or disrespect toward my husband in any way? What should I do about that?
  • What have I done today to intentionally stir up my passion for my wife or my husband?
  • What have I truly savored with my senses (sights, tastes, smells, or sounds) today?

As you can see, watchfulness involves your whole being, meaning that you should try to stay attuned to your spirit, mind, emotions and body, keeping them all intensively alive and alert for the sake of enhancing intimacy and passion in your marriage.

Are you thinking, "I don't have time for all of this?"  If so, then you are thinking about watchfulness in the wrong way.  It is much more about how you think than what you do. What I mean by that is that watchfulness is a mindset, a habit of awareness, much more than it is a checklist of do's and dont's.  In fact, this kind of checklist thinking is precisely what watchfulness is meant to preclude. 

Watchfulness doesn’t always have to mean extra physical effort. Sometimes it might just be a spark of awareness in your mind or body. While dressing for a date, think of an outfit that your spouse has complimented you on before or pick something that you know is his or her preference. As you splash on his favorite perfume or her favorite cologne, imagine the intoxicating impact it will have on your spouse when you embrace or as you crawl into bed together. Purposefully reflect on intimate and romantic moments you have shared together, allowing the same feelings of enjoyment to wash over you again.

Watchfulness trains your mind to seek out pleasure, taking delight even in the little things.

Watch Your Whole Marriage

Your marriage has many dimensions, and it is important not to let any of them fall prey to the auto-pilot syndrome.

So, for example, watching your spiritual relationship means making sure that Christ stays at the center of your life and your marriage. Watching your sexual relationship not only means making sex a priority, but also being purposeful to keeping it interesting and exciting and to actively fuel passion for your spouse. Watching your financial relationship means things like being entirely transparent with your money and being diligent to stay within budget and saving guidelines.

There is a wonderful synergy that happens as you begin cultivating watchfulness throughout your marriage. For example, you will see that as you practice awareness and anticipation in one area, say in your spiritual life, you may find yourself suddenly more able to do so in another area, maybe your sexual relationship. When you become attentive to helping your spouse out in practical ways, you may find it easier to also be attentive to good communications.

Let watchfulness imbue your entire marriage!

Do Away with Anesthetics

There are many things around us trying to get us to anesthetize ourselves against watchfulness, things that can lead us to quickly re-engage the autopilot.

Busyness – watchfulness is a call to do less and think and feel more.
Media Overload – once in a while, choose to turn off the TV, the ipod, the Xbox, and the computer and just be.
Consumerism – we in the west tend to be driven by the need to acquire stuff. Less really can be more.

There are plenty more examples I could give of things that we anesthetize our souls with. I’m sure you can readily identify the top two or three in your own life.

Create Little Rituals

One of the ideas that Lori presented in her post is the notion of creating little rituals around things that we often do without thinking about them. I really like this.

What things do you do on a daily or semi-regular basis that you can modify slightly in a way that creates an enjoyable ritual out of it?
  • Enjoy an after dinner cup of tea or coffee in a quiet place together
  • Follow up your evening walk together with three minutes of kissing or hugging.
  • Sip a glass of fine wine after work in a comfy spot or while watching the sun set (an example that Lori sites)
  • Light candles while you pray together for your family.
  • Create a romantic or sexy playlist for lovemaking.
  • Hold your monthly budget discussions in bed, naked.

The possibilities are truly endless!

Where can you be more watchful in your marriage?  What are the opportunities to transform the mundane into the marvelous?  Where have you created small rituals to celebrate the little moments?

Next time: Thankfulness

Friday, January 7, 2011
This is the 7th and final part of a series on the effects of shame on marital intimacy. Go back here to start at the beginning of the series.

To this point in the series I’ve gone through a number of specific sources of shame. Many times the cause of shame can be quite specific. There are, however, some who suffer from a generalized form of shame. I’m speaking of those who, for one reason or another, just don’t like who they are. I’ll refer to this here as shame of self.

Contrary to the other types of shame we’ve covered, shame of self is not triggered by a single specific action or event. Rather, it is typically the accumulation of many accusations, self-doubts and minor incidents that have left you feeling in the end like you just aren’t good enough, like you just don’t measure up, unacceptable and unaccepted.

In many ways this kind of general sense of unworthiness and shame is more difficult to overcome than the kind that is more specific. There may be many layers of shame that have built up over time and many lies that you have come to believe about yourself. But the solution to breaking free from shame of self isn’t all that different than breaking free from the other types of shame.

Breaking Free From Shame

Let me quote a segment from this post on how shame is a lousy motivation for change.
For Christians, this starts with the acceptance of God and the realization that he made us how we are and that loves us unconditionally. Accept that you are his creation, quirks and flaws and all, and that He is absolutely mad about you. He made you worth loving – he made you so he could love you, not so you would do something for him and conform to a list of behavioral expectations. And when we become Christ followers we can accept the forgiveness and perfect righteousness that is ours though Christ Jesus. We are a new creation.
That may sound simplistic, but there is SO much power to overcome shame in understanding how God really feels about you. The Apostle Paul tells us it is THE key to a life of fullness:
Eph 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Seek Divine Revelation

I have spent a great deal of time studying and praying the prayers of the Apostles, such as the one above. They are the prayers that are on God’s heart, prayers that he earnestly longs to answer. Why else would he have put them down in his Word?

If you suffer from shame of self, I encourage you to take a few days, a week or even a month and to focus and pray the passage for yourself.
  • Tell God you want to know his emotions and thoughts toward you.
  • Ask for the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in your inner being (= heart & soul = mind, will and emotions)
  • Ask for faith to believe what he reveals to you
  • Ask for divine revelation of his love
  • Ask for the fullness of God
  • Ask your spouse to pray for and with you in this endeavor
You desire intimacy. We all do. We are wired for it. Refuse to let feelings of shame and unworthiness block intimacy with God and keep you from deeper intimacy with your spouse. Let the acceptance that is yours in Christ strengthen your heart, strengthen your life in God and strengthen your marriage.

I pray that as you seek the face of God on this, that the darkness of shame will flee from your life in the light of the truth that you a fully known and deeply loved by God

Tuesday, January 4, 2011
This is part 6 in a series on the effects of shame on marital intimacy. Go back here to start at the beginning of the series.

By now you are hopefully pretty much getting the picture that shame runs in direct opposition to intimacy. It blocks intimacy because it prevents you from experience the joy of being completely known and yet totally loved.

Today I’m going to touch on another shame generator that is quite common: failure. As humans we have an amazing propensity to screw things up. I’ve done more than my share. It’s just part of the human condition. Failure can come in many forms, and some people are more prone to shame over certain kinds of failures than others.

Consider some of these:
  • Financial mistakes involving loss of money, home or financial stability
  • Career mistakes, which may even result in loss of employment
  • Moral mistakes, one aspect of which I discussed in my previous post on Sexual Shame but which certainly are not limited to that
  • Relational mistakes, causing pain or anguish to others, either intentionally or not

In general I think men are more apt to experience shame over financial and career failures due to their inherent need to be a good provider. Women, in general, are more likely to feel shame over mistakes that involve hurting other people (and/or being hurt by them). Of course, these are generalities. Don’t quibble, because it’s not really my point.

It Starts with Forgiveness

Regardless of the source, the key to getting past shame from past (or present) failures is forgiveness.

Coincidently, Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs (of Love and Respect notoriety) posted today about the importance of forgiveness in halting what he calls the Crazy Cycle, a downward spiral that puts you on what I call The Path of Separation, the opposite of The Path of Intimacy. For the most part he addresses forgiving your spouse for past hurts, despite feeling entitled to hold onto the hurt.

If your mistakes have hurt your spouse, your marriage or your family, it is important o seek forgiveness from them. Admission of wrongdoing is the start to repairing any damage to the relationship.  Although receiving the forgiveness of your spouse is very helpful in getting past shame, don’t let your progress toward overcoming shame be totally dependent upon the reaction of your spouse. There is another, more important component.

Forgive Yourself

If you can’t forgive yourself, you can’t really give yourself. What I mean by that is that if you remain trapped in guilt and shame over your mistakes, you will not be able to fully give yourself to another, specifically to your spouse, in the way that God calls us to give ourselves. You will feel that what you have to give isn’t worth giving, and you will be tempted either to hide yourself or to fake it by being something else other that what you think you are. That is not a very good formula for intimacy.

Grace is nothing more than unmerited forgiveness, love and blessing. We have in Jesus an unlimited supply of grace when we mess things up. God’s love for us is as unconditional as it is unmerited. He is neither surprised nor shocked by our mistakes. I’m not saying mistakes and sin don’t matter. What I’m saying is that these thing in no way affect the love and acceptance God lavishes upon us. It is his nature. He can’t help it.That's what Jesus died for.

What you may need in order to forgive yourself is simply to see yourself and your mistakes from God’s perspective. Have the same measure of grace toward your self as God has toward you.

Accept Yourself

The next step after forgiving yourself is accepting your self. I posted last time about how acceptance is the necessary foundation for any meaningful change. You can’t be very effective at making changes in your life if you make them from the place of shame and guilt.

Instead, accept yourself for who you really are – who God created you to be. Don’t let your mistakes and missteps define you. That’s not who you are and not you are intended to be. Accept that mistakes are a part of living in a fallen creation, but also accept that you can recover from any circumstance and that God can use all things for good.

Love Yourself

Next, move beyond merely accepting yourself to truly loving yourself. Now, I’m not talking about conceit or vanity. I’m talking about soberly saying to your self, “I am loved, and I am worth loving.” God made you so he could love you, so by definition the fact that you exist means that you are worth loving. Discover and embrace the knowledge that you are worth loving because God says so.

It is true that as long as you don’t love yourself, you will put a low ceiling on how much you can love others.

Give Yourself

Lastly, and most importantly, toward the goal of attaining intimacy, give yourself. Embrace your imperfection and acknowledge your mistakes, but don’t let that keep you from letting your spouse in or from giving your true self to your spouse. Intimacy is all about being fully seen, totally naked if you will, but without shame. Especially in the swirl that can follow from serious screw ups, giving your self can feel very vulnerable. But it is the thing that can propel your marriage forward more than anything else.

So the next time you are overwhelmed with shame from something you’ve done wrong follow these steps to get back the intimacy you may have lost.

Forgive yourself – Accept yourself – Love yourself – Give yourself

Saturday, January 1, 2011
This is part 5 in a series on the effects of shame on marital intimacy. Go back here to start at the beginning of the series.

I have a few more shame sources that I’ll touch on in the last few posts of this series, but I wanted to pause today and talk about the role of shame in bringing about change in our lives. More to the point, I want to explain why shame is not a very good motivator for change.

Today is the day of new beginnings. The first day of the year. Time for a fresh start.

Did you resolve to make some changes in the coming year? If so, what was your motivation for making the change? It is an important question.

My nephew’s wife, Tovah, is a marriage and family therapist. When I read her recent blog post “New Years Resolution: Accept Everything Before You Change Anything.” I realized how important acceptance is in getting past shame and getting on to meaningful change in our lives. I really like what she had to say, so go check out her post.

Shame Motivation

The problem with shame as a motivator for change is that it keeps us trapped in our negative emotions and wrong way of thinking. Shame based motivation sounds like “I am such a bad person. I am so flawed and weak. I always ______ or I never ______. There must be something wrong with me.”

We convince ourselves that if we could just change that one thing about ourselves, then we would be acceptable. We imagine in this fantasy scenario that suddenly the clouds will part and all will be right with the world.

But it’s a lie.

The problem with believing this lie is that unless we get past the shame by believing that we are accepted and worthy of love just as we are, there will always be nagging fear and doubt hanging over our lives. We think that if we slip up (and we will) we will no longer be worthy of love; no longer be acceptable or accepted. Every mistake or misstep sends us right back into the pit of despair, filling us with self-loathing.

Further, as Dr. Brown posed in the video that started this series, when shame is at the core of our self concept, we will tend to act out in ways that mute our pain and hurt others. We will blame others for our own mistakes, we will pretend that our choices don’t impact those around us, we will struggle for control and certainty and put on masks in an attempt to hide who we really are. None of this behavior is a good formula for genuine change.

Acceptance Motivation

Starting down the path of change with acceptance rather than shame puts you way ahead of the game.

For Christians, this starts with the acceptance of God and the realization that he made us how we are and that loves us unconditionally. Accept that you are his creation, quirks and flaws and all, and that He is absolutely mad about you. He made you worth loving – he made you so he could love you, not so you would do something for him and conform to a list of behavioral expectations. And when we become Christ followers we can accept the forgiveness and perfect righteousness that is ours though Christ Jesus. We are a new creation.

And if we understand the bridal paradigm we know that the way Jesus loves and accepts us as his bride is the same way we are to love and accept one another. Does your spouse know that you love him or her unconditionally, just as Christ loves the church? Sure, it’s a tall order. Sometimes it feels impossible to love someone through their weakness, mistakes and flaws, but that is what we are called to do. The thing is, when your spouse feels your love and acceptance, you provide them with a much greater basis from which to try to change than if they feel the shame of your disapproval.

Real and Lasting Change

People fear an acceptance mentality (also called a grace mentality). They think that if people feel accepted then they will lose their motivation to change. It’s a fallacy. For all the reasons stated above, shame just is not a good foundation on which to build yourself into what and who you want to become.

Accepting your self in your current, albeit somewhat broken, condition, allows you to also feel the accepting grace of God, of your spouse and of others around you. Navigating your way forward is much easier with your head held up in confidence than bowed low in shame. Letting go of shame allows you to let your real self be seen, imperfections and all, no longer spending time and energy covering up, running away or hiding out.

So as you move into this New Year, resolutions and all, choose to lay aside shame and embrace the freedom, joy and peace that come from acceptance. You are worth it.

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