Thursday, April 28, 2011

True Submission

I know in today's culture, most women cringe when they hear the word SUBMISSION because that is how many women perceive it...bold...dominating...all caps, all powerful...with no room leftover. However, that is submission out of context. Submission is a willingness to yeild or comply to another's desires or authority without resistance. True submission is not forced, but rather given or offered from a heart overflowing with love. I think it is vitally important to explore the barriers to submission or traps that the enemy sets to keep true submission from manifesting in marriages. The enemy is a master at perversion and redefining with the goal of restricting the blessing of submission.

1) Power struggle - This is the same tactic that Satan used in the Garden of Eden. He put a seed of doubt in Eve's mind...Did God really say?? Adam and Eve ate the fruit that had a false promise attached to it. The false promise is that they could rule over themselves rather than God ruling over them. It was a direct challenge to God's perfect order. Today, that same seed of doubt has been placed in women's minds. Did God really say to submit to my husband? Yes He did. Ephesians 5:22 says, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." It is a divine order.

2) Vendetta over Value - Much of the resistance and internal struggle that women face with submission is over a confusion of value. We must remember that marriage is God ordained and a God idea. The position or role one holds does not undermine the value at all. We are equal in the Spirit. That is why God Himself can be both Servant and Lord. Jesus washed the disciple's feet and yet He is King of Kings. The Trinity is the most perfect example to convey value. Jesus was both 100% God and 100% man. He surrendered unto the Father and said in Luke 22:42, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done." Submitting to the Father did not change the value that Jesus had. In contrast, it magnified it because of the power of unity. The wife is just as valuable as the husband, because they are one.

3) Husband's Misuse of Authority - Husbands are armed with a huge responsibility to love their wives as Christ loved the church (see Ephesians 5:25). This means all that the husband has, he willingly gives to his wife without hesitation. Men that withhold love, money, time, loyalty, or protection are not following the Biblical mandate for leadership. To lead is to serve. Submission is a choice. It is not to be demanded, abused, or forced. God gave all of us a free will and he chose us and wants us to choose Him. His love for us compels us to obey and submit to Him. Similarly, a husband that loves his wife so boundlessly and extravagently will inevitably lead to his wife WANTING to submit to him.

A picture of perfect submission equates to perfect unity. God hand-picked marriages so that we may rule and reign as king and queen, husband and wife. If a queen turned against the king, this would create division. However, there is a reigning authority in the unity of marriage that leads to an expansion of territory in all realms: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I like to picture a couple holding hands. Together, when two hands join, it makes 10 fingers. According to Christian Resources Today, the number 10 represents "completeness that happens in a divine order." Wow...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Encourage your Spouse

Have you encouraged your spouse today? This is something that should eventually come as natural to us as brushing our teeth or eating. Our marriage needs daily nourishment. Encouragement means the most from the person you love.

It is easy to get caught up in the distractions of the day. However, our priorities are alway highlighted by our words and actions. If you internally value your spouse, there must be an external manifestation. Be a manifestation of grace to your spouse from day to day.

Psalm 4:7 says, "You have put gladness in my heart. More than in the season that their grain and wine increased." Pray that you will be a source of blessing to your spouse. Tell him/her you love them. Show them. Remind them. Plant seeds of encouragement every day believing they will manifest in due time.

Here are some ways you can encourage your spouse:

1) E-mail your spouse first thing in the morning (my husband does every means the world to me).

2) Send "I love you" texts at least once a day.

3) Ask your spouse to write down his/her dreams, visions, and goals so you can pray over them.

4) Edify your spouse by thanking him/her for specific things they do for you.

5) Purposefully omit criticism of faults even when it seems deserved at the time.

6) List out at least 5 qualities you love about your spouse and put it in a place that he/she will find it.

7) Purposefully look for the positive in your spouse and accentuate it.

8) Make a meal for your spouse that you don't normally make~ breakfast, lunch, dinner.

9) Do something for your spouse that requires sacrifice with joy~ either monetary, time, etc...

10) Brag about your spouse to others instead of complaining.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The People Pleasing Mask

As individuals we often struggle with insecurities in different areas of our lives. These insecurities are often drawn out and magnified in marriage. We wear many different masks in order to gain approval - either consciously or unconsciously to gain the approval of our spouse. One of these is the people pleasing (or spouse pleasing) mask.

On the surface, like most masks, this may seem like a desirable phenomenon. Pleasing your spouse is a good thing? Right? Yes and no. It is the underlying intentions, or hidden goal that makes this mask a counterfeit to love. Imagine a wife that sacrificed her needs in order to please her husband day after day. However, over time, frustration, bitterness, and bottled resentment start to rise up within her. This is a result of her craving approval from her husband. She performs everything with the subconscious goal of gaining his approval. Since love, by definition, cannot be earned, this turns into a viscious cycle of performance. The frustration and emptiness she feels is a result of her flesh leading and her heart lagging behind.

Therefore, it is evident that pleasing your spouse can be a wonderful picture of love and sacrifice IF their is no expectation in return. This is a very big IF, especially if we are honest with ourselves. It is natural to want to please, but it is supernatural to love. Ask God to show the areas that need to be surrendered to Him. Love is always a gift, not a reward. If we are frustrated because we are not receiving the results that we desire, we must see this for what it is--the dead end of performance.

I believe, though, if we do love and seek no love in return, we will receive it anyway...whether it be from our spouse or from the heart of God.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Personality and Your Partner

Making a vow to understand your spouse is an important part of the commitment. I believe that the Myer's Brigg's personality assessment may be one of the most cost-effective counseling tools that is out there for marriage.

Conflict inevitably arises from differences. With sixteen different personality types and unique variations between these types, it is easy to see a huge potential for misunderstanding. There are four integral areas in which each person organizes their lives. Personality Desk breaks it down for us to examine in light of compatibility and relationships:

Extraversion/Introversion- This scale refers to where you focus your attention and get your energy. Extraverts are in tune with the external world and other people, and are energized by external stimulation. Introverts are more focused on the internal world, thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Introverts are renewed through solitary activity and quiet reflection.

Sensing/Intuition- This scale pertains to how you prefer to take in information. Sensors gather information in a very concrete, detailed oriented, and factual way. They tend to be factual, and are oriented to the present moment. Intuitives tend to be more abstract in their perceptions and are inclined to think more about meaning, connections, and possiblities. Intuitives are more imaginative than realistic.

Thinking/Feeling- This scale refers to how you prefer to make decisions. Thinkers prefer to make decisions that are based on fact or data, and like to reason things out logically. Feelers prefer decisions that are consistent with their values, and help to build harmonious relationships.

Judging/Perceiving- This scale refers to how you prefer to organize your life. Judgers tend to prefer structure, schedules, and plans. They like clear expectations and feel accomplished from completing tasks. Perceivers prefer an open-ended, spontaneous, and flexible existence. They enjoy that their options are open, and that there are many possibilities available.

Understanding your partner's unique blend of these personality characteristics will open the door to better communication. For example, knowing that your spouse is an introvert and has been knee-deep in the corporate world all day is incredibly helpful. He/she is probably drained at the end of the day because their energy source has been so depleted, that a "recharge" in front of the TV or computer may be necessary before an engaging conversation. On the flip side, if your spouse is a bubbly or charming extravert, being at home all day away from people will drive him/her stir-crazy.

Communication conflicts can also flare up when one spouse is predominantly a "thinker" and the other is a "feeler." A "feeler" spouse may want to hear "I love you" a seemingly exorbitant amount. Whereas a "thinker" may logically process that he/she said "I love you" at the beginning of the day or week and it is therefore not necessary to repeat it. A thinker could process this as unnecessary redundancy. This does not negate his/her capacity for love. However, it is important to adjust behavior until the love is properly received by the spouse. According to personality cafe, "thinkers see a correspondence between words and deeds, because correspondence to reality is the test of truth." However, they observe that a feeler likes to hear and say I love you "because that is affirming." If you believe your spouse is "overly sensitive," it is incredibly likely that you are a thinker and your spouse is a feeler, or at least relatively speaking in intensity.

Of course, a "sensor" married to an "intuitive" will also have a unique set of challenges. Sensors are seen as practical and in the moment. A sensing spouse could at times view their intuitive spouse as being unrealistic and having his/her "head in the clouds." In contrast, an intuitive could view a sensing spouse as overly practical and unromantic. Intuitives can often "read between the lines" in conversations and might interpret something that was never intended by their sensing spouse. It is crucial to employ communication basics such as, "Did you mean this?" before jumping to conclusions and sulking the rest of the day. A sensing spouse needs to make an effort to patiently clarify anything that could be potentially taken the wrong way.

Perhaps one of the most obvious differences between spouses because of its comical manifestation is the judging/perceiving characteristic. "Judging" spouses typically hate to be late because of their need to adhere to a schedule. A "perceiving" spouse could just as easily live without clocks because their need to be "free." I picture a glamorous wife nonchalantly trying on several outfits with different shoes and accessories, while the dutiful husband is pacing back and forth feeling his blood pressure rising with every passing minute.

Part of loving your spouse is adjusting your behavior because you know it is important to them. This certainly does NOT mean losing your identity or changing who you are. However, it means making necessary sacrifices from the heart with the underlying goal of increased intimacy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Preserving the Sanctity of Marriage

I said my vows the first and last time on January 10, 2009. I love my husband with all my heart, and I know that it will last because Christ is the glue that holds it together. In today's society, emotions hold more importance than commitments. Everywhere you turn, decisions are justified not by fact, but by feeling. The trouble with this overly indulgent stance is that feelings are transitory and change with each passing day. Couples that vow "for better or for worse" really mean "for better or for better." It is only during the tough times that the strength of the commitment is tested. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." The Holy Spirit should be the third strand in the knot of marriage. Ironically, many couples believe that a "trial marriage" can be simulated through cohabitation. However, as in most cases, the man and the woman have conflicting goals for the arrangement. The woman believes this will be a motivating factor that will inevitably lead to a ring on her finger. He is being "conditioned" for the next phase of commitment. To the man, he is already receiving all the perks that come with marriage minus the responsibility. For him, there is no motivation to get married. On the other hand, there are plenty of cohabitating couples that make it to the alter. According to Bride's Magazine, 65 percent of couples live together before they get married. Unfortunately, the story does not always end happily ever after. The Boston Herald observes that research indicates that people who live together prior to getting married are more likely to have marriages that end in divorce. The tragic flaw of cohabitation is that it has a built-in escape hatch. Couples who cohabitate have one foot in the relationship and one foot out from the beginning. It is this soft roll-out of marriage that allows couples to slip right into a divorce. An increasingly popular theme for filed divorces is "irreconcilable differences." In this type of divorce, no one is at fault or to blame. Reasons sited could be anything ranging from "personality differences" to "irreversible antogonistic feelings." There's that emphasis on feelings again... In effort to be politically correct and tolerant, the truth is expertly concealed and dressed up in legal jargon. It would be much more difficult to sign a paper that said, "broken commitment to God and to each other just because you didn't feel like being married anymore." At the end of the day, love and commitment will keep a marriage together. Each spouse must understand that when reciting marriage vows, God is in the audience. It is not just an utterance soon to be forgotten. It is a daily vow made again and again when wrapped around sanctity and determination.