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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's finally going to happen. And I need your help!

I'm happy to announce that I'm in the process of building a completely new website. Okay it's been "in process" since the beginning of the year, and in planning even longer, but I'm finally hoping to launch in October. I've got a bunch of great things planned for the new site, but more than anything else I'm interested in serving my readers with stuff that can help their marriages right where they are.

What Are Your Longings?

If you are like many of my readers, you've been married for a while. Are there things you've always wanted to see in your marriage, but haven't yet experienced? Have you given up on them? I believe it's never too late to see your dreams come true. Maybe it's time to renew your dreams. Don't settle for the marriage you have now. Dust off those heart-longings, take them to the Lord, and start to work toward seeing them come true, one small step at a time.

Maybe you don't have unfulfilled longings. Maybe your marriage is pretty good, even great. The thing is there is always more. There is always room to grow in intimacy and passion and trust and freedom and grace and love... There is plenty of new territory to explore for the sake of growing your marriage. Don't let auto-pilot take over, even if, and especially if your marriage is on solid footing. Auto-pilot is a death sentence!

My sincere desire is to see every couple have the marriage they dream of and to continue to grow together. I believe that's not only possible, but that it's God's plan.

So my question is this: How can I help you do that? Here is your chance to tell me.

Here's Where You Come In

I have an ongoing survey on my blog called "Three Things." If you are an email subscriber or you get my blog via an RSS feed, chances are you've missed out on this survey. Simply put, it poses the question, "What three things do you long most to see more of in your marriage?"

Would you please help me be able to focus on the things that matter most to you and take 1 minute to answer this simple question? Click below now!

Stay Tuned

As part of the new website initiative, I'm moving to a new web address as well, so you'll want to watch this space in order to make sure you move with me!

In addition, I am working on some tremendously helpful resources for building intimacy and passion in your marriage. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, pray for me and my efforts to get the new website up and running. It's a daunting task!

If there are any other topics you'd like to see covered in the future or a specific question you'd like to see addressed here, please feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Does your marriage more closely resemble a religious exercise or an intimate relationship?

Did I cause you to do a double-take with the headline? After all, isn't this that blog where they are always talking about the intersection of the marital and the spiritual; the blog that explores that "bridal paradigm" thing with Christ and the church being a model for marriage?

Yep this it that blog, but would it shock you if I said I'm not a big fan of religion?

Religion vs. Relationship

The popular Christian pollster George Barna published a 2003 Study which found that 81% of self-identified Christians contended "that spiritual maturity is achieved by following the rules in the Bible."

Does that statistic make you cringe? It actually makes me a bit sad. I think it makes God sad too.

Religion is what Jesus came to deliver us from! Religion is all about rules. Following Jesus is all about relationship. Jesus spent most of his earthly ministry blowing up the rules of His day and pointing people to relationship instead. 

It's not that the truths in the Word of God aren't important. They are very important and there for our good. It's just they aren't the main thing, and they aren't a substitute for the relationship God longs to have with each of us. Spiritual maturity is about being as intimately connected to Jesus as possible. When I'm in that place of intimacy with Him, the rules tend to take care of themselves.

An Important Distinction

Why is the distinction between religious rules and relationship so important for your marriage? Because if your marriage is intended to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church, then you need to have an accurate picture of what God intends that to look like. And His highest intention is intimacy, not our good behavior or religious activities.

1. Performing for Love

Religion says that God loves me most when I perform for him. Relationship says that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or to make Him love me less. Love is who he is. It's his nature. It's unconditional.

Love for your spouse should be as unconditional as the love of God. Lavish love on your spouse with abandon, regardless of the love you feel you are receiving. God does not withhold blessing from me until I have my act together. Neither should I withhold blessing my wife based on her performance to my standards.

2. Punishment or Grace

Religion says that God will punish us if we mess up. In fact, some act like God is shocked and offended by our screw ups. But the truth is that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross has paid for every screw up I have done and for every one I ever will do. Same for you. Our sin comes as no surprise to him, yet he chose to give his life for us anyway. 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8
A grace-filled, religion-free marriage means that forgiveness overrules retribution. There may be natural consequences when you or your spouse makes a mistake, does something unkind, or are guilty of some other offense, but relationship dictates that grace is at the forefront of our response.

As you have been freely forgiven by Jesus; freely forgive your spouse.

3. Passion and Desire

The Bible is a love story of a God in passionate pursuit of a bride, who would go to extreme lengths  to win her to himself. So great is his desire for us that he sacrificed his own Son in order to live with us in intimacy, right now and forever.

Passion and desire are godly emotions. We feel them because God feels them, and we are made in his image.

Could it be that the way we have disconnected God from sex has something to do with the way we have disassociated God from emotions like passion and desire? Of course his desire is not of a sexual nature, but I definitely believe that there is a direct spiritual parallel between sex in marriage and the kind of deep, passion-filled intimacy God wants with us.

A right understanding of the emotions of God toward us, including His great passion and desire, is key to understanding how we can love each other in marriage. My own journey into understanding the bridal paradigm started with a revelation of the emotions of God, and it greatly impacted my marriage.

I recently heard Pastor Robert Morris explain this in a sermon entitled "God's Greatest Desire." He summarized it this way,  "God's greatest desire is to marry you, and to live happily ever after with you. And he has worked out all the details through grace." God's own desire for intimacy is mirrored in us, since we were formed in his image. That's the reason he made man and woman to be intimately joined in marriage.

4. Two Become One

Many Scripture passages make it clear that when we come to faith in Christ we become one with him. Yet somehow we labor under the notion that we have to work our way into unity with him and that if we mess up, then that unity is somehow broken. Yet God makes it clear in Scripture that "nothing can separate us from the love of God." (Romans 8:39)

In a similar way, many describe marriage as the process of becoming one, with oneness as something that we work toward, but never fully achieve. Oneness is portrayed as fragile and elusive. I used to think of it that way too! But then I realized that unity in marriage works the exact same way as our unity with Christ. It is what Paul calls a "great mystery" in Ephesians. When we marry, two become as one.
 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31-32
So then, marriage is the process of learning to enjoy and live fully in the unity we have already been granted by virtue of the fact that we are married. If we see our oneness as something we have to earn, then we'll forever be falling short and striving for the unity that is already ours. As I said in my post What If We Really Are One?  we will live very differently if we believe we are truly one.

I've been digging into the bridal paradigm for more than a decade, yet I am continually discovering new ways in which my relationship with Jesus informs my understanding of marriage and vice-versa. I am realizing that if I want to understand how marriage is designed to work, I have to more fully know the true nature of God. 

What other "religious" notions about God might negatively impact how you live out your marriage? Add to my list. Leave a comment.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Are body image issues keeping you from being "naked without shame" with your spouse?

My posts on body image are consistently very popular with readers. The high level of interest in this topic convinces me that this is a major issue, especially for women, and something that hinders both physical and emotional intimacy in many marriages.

If you or your spouse struggle with body image issues, be sure to read these posts and take action to deal with it. It's worth it!!

The Body Image Battle

This is a post directed at husbands, encouraging them to help their wives win the ever-present war that rages against their self-image.
Your wife is in a major battle. It’s an important and difficult battle. In this battle you must choose sides. You can choose to fight for her or against her. There is no middle ground, because if you are not fighting for her, in her mind you are fighting against her...
Read the post

The Body Image Battle Continues

This is a post directed at wives, encouraging them to embraces some basic truths about their bodies. Among them:
  • Your husband wants you to feel beautiful
  • Your husband already knows the parts of your body you don't like
  • Your husband likes your body
  • Your husband is attracted as much by your confidence as by your appearance
Read the post

What If Your Husband Really Does Love Your Body?

This post is part of my "What If..." Series and a Wives Only Wednesday post that encourages wives to ask themselves this question:
How would you act and speak differently if you really believed what your husband says about loving your body?
Read the post

If your marriage is being negatively impacted by body image issues, I encourage you not to just live with it as something "normal." It may be common, but that is no reason not to do something to address it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"Letting your hair down" with your spouse is a good thing, but...

What does the idiom "let your hair down" mean? Here are some dictionary suggestions:
  • To tell someone everything; to tell one's innermost feelings and secrets.
  • To relax and enjoy yourself without worrying what other people will think.
  • To drop one's reserve or inhibitions.

Freedom to be Genuinely You

Intimacy, by definition, must be genuine. I'm a big believer in being who you really are with your spouse, of letting your hair down and losing your inhibitions. It's part of the beauty of being one. In fact, pretense inhibits intimacy, because there is no such thing as fake intimacy.

Intimacy is about being fully known and yet deeply loved and accepted. If fear or shame are keeping you from being real with your spouse, check out my post Shame and Intimacy.

Here are a few excerpts from that post:
In the end shame, which is driven by our fear of disconnection, prevents us from experiencing the very intimacy we fear losing (or not getting in the first place). Shame is a dead end, guaranteed to leave you trapped in loneliness, without the genuine connection you long for. The ultimate conclusion I draw from this is that shame and intimacy simply cannot coexist.
I believe quite strongly that overcoming the shame that is blocking intimacy in your marriage needs to start with a revelation of the love of God for you (and consequently for your spouse). What I’m talking about goes way beyond a vague “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” kind of understanding. I’m talking about a personal and powerful revelation of just how deeply and endlessly Jesus loves you.
We know that the ideal state for marriage, as described for us in Genesis 2:24-25 is to be "naked without shame." It involves more than just physical nakedness (though it does include that too). It means being transparent and vulnerable in the whole of your marriage: emotionally, financially, spiritually, and physically. In everything. If you fear nakedness with your spouse, if you are holding back in certain areas, read my post Naked Without Shame.

Freedom vs. License - Give the Best of You

However, we have to hold this truth in tension against the other side of the coin. Freedom to be yourself with your spouse is not license to just do whatever you want, to say whatever comes into your mind, or to be unkempt or rude or unkind.

It's not about being fake. It's about giving your spouse the best you have to give.
  • If you don't cuss with your church friends, don't turn into a sailor at home
  • If you smile kindly to the clerk at the store, don't put on your grumpy pout-face for your spouse.
  • If you don't belch in a business meeting, don't subject your wife (or husband) to such things
  • If you are gracious and generous to your friends, don't be any less so with your spouse. Be more so!

Physical appearance/grooming is another area where freedom can be taken too far. While there are times it's nice to just be relaxed and literally "let your hair down," to go without shaving or showering, or to wear your comfy clothes, you also don't want to just "let yourself go" all the time. Out of respect for your spouse, keep good grooming habits.

Wear things you know your spouse finds attractive. Pay attention to their compliments, or just ask him or her before dressing. "Anything special you'd like me to wear?" Use perfume or cologne that your spouse prefers. After all, who else are you wearing it for? Hair and shaving is another area where your spouse's preference in style and color should matter.

Be free. Be yourself. But also be the best version of yourself you can be out of love and respect for the one to whom you are intimately joined as one. Start a conversation by asking, "Is there any area where you feel like I'm giving you less than the best I have to give?"

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