Monday, December 12, 2011

The Power of a Picture

With our anniversary sneaking up in January, I was thinking about the many pictures from our wedding that we still have not developed. Although the images from our wedding are stored on the computer to view anytime, I really want them neatly assembled into a traditional album. I told my husband yesterday that for my anniversary present this year I want ALL of our wedding pictures processed.

Later on that day, we were running an errand at CVS. Adam scanned his CVS card at the front, and a coupon printed out. He laughed out loud and said, "Look, Sweetheart!" It was a $2 off photo processing coupon. I glimpsed at it and was like, "Oh neat!" Realizing I had not fully absorbed what he was saying, he continued, "look at the date." The coupon's expiration date was January 10...our anniversary. I was so touched by how God speaks to us in even the smallest details to answer the desire of our hearts.

I began to reflect on the emotional response that is triggered in a human when viewing a picture. I love this quote by Aaron Siskind, "Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything." A picture is not just interpreted with the eyes, but also the mind and the heart. I remember when my dad passed away last year, his pictures were displayed at his funeral. I did not want to look at them because I was not ready for the emotions that would inevitably be induced. It was just too painful in that moment.

Today I felt God show me that He wanted to use wedding pictures for healing and restoration in marriages. My spirit remembered the verse, Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." Most weddings have close to a thousand pictures taken during just a few short hours. The pictures are not meaningful because of the ephemerality of the moment, but because of the eternal value that is folded into that moment.

The enemy has used pornography for years as a trap too divide marriages. Satan knows that a picture can be a portal into thoughts and emotions. I thought about how powerful pictures are used to attack commitment. Then, I was reminded of the flip side, how God wants to use pictures as an instrument in which His regenerative power could flow without restraint. He will use it as a gateway to the heart to rekindle love and joy and to strengthen the cord of your commitment. If you do not feel the sweet fountain of feelings that spring from first love, ask God to open your heart as you open your photo album. Even if you feel nothing, have faith that the God of the universe, Who has the power to create all things can create a new beginning for you and your spouse. How incredible is it that God can use the stillness of a photograph to stir love back to life? I guess a photo's light never really stops reflecting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What Lies Beneath

The New York Times reported that there is a direct correlation between the frequency of disputes over money and divorce rate. A study conducted by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that "couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month."

Fights over the same issue will continue to resurface until the missing clue is discovered. Picture a murder scene enclosed with a hem of yellow crime tape. A husband and wife will continue to chase each other around the perimeter of what they have defined as "safe territory." Crossing the crime scene tape means facing the gory bloodstains of offense and boundaries closely guarded by fears. However, it is necessary to scrutinize the outline of our deadened hearts in order to solve the mystery. Divorce statistics show that about 80 percent of all marriages end because of "irreconcilable differences." In other words, 80 percent of marriages end as an "unsolved mystery." Mark 10:8 says,"'and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh." Has our society grown so desensitized that we no longer feel nauseous at the sight of a dead body? A marriage that ends in divorce is nothing short of a tragedy.

One of my favorite quotes is by Aristotle, "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Arguments over dollar signs and decimal points are only isolated pixels of a photograph. The photograph will give us clear picture of what we do not want to face. Care to cross the crime tape?

Almost every fight can be traced back to an unmet need, especially reoccurring ones. A woman's number one need is security. A man's number one need is respect. Although a wide variety of fights can stem from the money topic, the needs can almost always be traced back to these basic gender needs. Another variable to look at is what money represents to each spouse. Let's look at a few cases.

Case #1- Rachel goes on secret shopping trips. She hides receipts from her husband, and has been taking out new credit cards to transfer balances of the old ones. Her husband, Tim, ran a credit report and discovered her secret. He screamed at her and said many things he now regrets. They apologized and made promises, but the same thing happened six months down the road. Tim has filed for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #1- Rachel equates material possessions with security. She is feeling neglected and struggles with feelings of insecurity. Too afraid and ashamed to approach her husband, she rides the emotional waves of retail therapy until the euphoric high dies down and the bills pile up. She feels guilty about the bills, but is too afraid to be honest because of Tim's reaction, so shops even more to numb the pain. Tim feels that he can't trust his wife, and feels disrespected. He masks these feelings with anger and verbal abuse.

Case #2 Jeff has lost his job due to a recent downsizing at his construction company. He has put in his application at several companies, but after no response, has began to lose hope. Andrea is a successful dentist and is supporting both of them. She asks Jeff every day if he has found a job yet. When she sees him on the couch at home when she gets off work, she rolls her eyes. Jeff starts drinking more heavily and feels like a failure. After five years of marriage, and countless arguments about finances, Andrea files for divorce.

Behind the crime tape of case #2- Andrea is the daughter of a single mother who taught her to be fiercely independent. She will not return any of her biological father's phone calls. After all, he was an alcholic who abandoned her mother and her. Jeff, who had unresolved wounds from a father who never accepted him, was attracted like a magnet to Andrea, who had it all together. Andrea found her security through her financial success, and looked down at Jeff, who always seemed to be in between jobs. Behind the walls of Andrea's success was a mush of vulnerability. She longed for Jeff to be the leader, and to reassure her that love was all they needed. Jeff could not seem to find the right fit for his talents and abilities, and felt like he never would every time Andrea belittled him. Jeff saw himself as nothing because he made less money than Andrea, and even if he one day did, he would never have her respect. The judgment that Andrea sowed by never forgiving her father is now being "reaped" by the creation of a similar situation.

Case #3 Doug's parents are multi-millionaires. Doug has inherited the family business when he was twenty-five. He has successfully grown the business, and has bought a large house and drives a luxury car. At thirty-five, He marries Olivia, a gorgeous twenty-two year old. Doug wined and dined Olivia when they dated, but now that they are married, he gives Olivia small allowances each week. He has numerous secret investments and bank accounts. Olivia feels frustrated by the control and has regular emotional outbursts. After two years of marriage, they call it quits.

Behind the crime tape of case #3 Doug equates his identity with the number in his bank account. He does not view marriage as a covenant, but a contract in which the other party cannot be trusted. Olivia has emotional outburst because she does not feel secure enough to confront Doug or to get help. Her sugar-coated expectations of a fairy-tale marriage melted.

Money can take the form of a magnifying glass of what is already in a person's heart. Financial unity is important in a marriage, but oftentimes the prerequisite to dealing with the financial problems is tapping into the basic gender needs. As a husband feels the respect of his wife, he will snip the crime tape and let his wife into the more vulnerable parts of his heart. Likewise, as the husband builds security in his wife through openness and reassurance, the chronic nagging that often sparks arguments will dissipate. Invite the Holy Spirit to search the areas of your heart that are closed off so that your marriage does not become an unsolved mystery.