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Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category

How I relate to nagging

A repost from 2 years ago…

Nagging

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Emma’s posted up 22 reasons she nags.  Stunningly, none of them is “Glen shirks responsibility like it’s cryptonite.” That  was gracious of her.

In the interests of restoring some kind of balance, I thought I’d post 7 thoughts on how I relate to nagging. I’ll be stark in the interests of spotlighting the darkness and hopefully chasing it away a bit…

So… here’s how I relate to nagging…

1. I create it

We really do need to think about scheduling our holidays, and booking the car in for a service and fixing the back gate, etc, etc.  But I naturally flee responsibility.  The needs build up.  Something needs saying.

2.  I invite it

On a very foolish level (one that I’ll later despise in myself), I’d like to be mothered.  “You’re so much better with that detail stuff” is code for “I’d like to be kept as a little boy.”

3. I provoke it

Given my fear of responsibility, I will affect an exaggerated air of ease.  I project an image of stoner-cool (occasionally backed by Scriptural “fear nots”) so that I can label every sense of urgency (legitimate or otherwise) as uncool and ungodly.  It will be seriously tempting for Emma to burst this bubble with a good sharp nag.

4. I fear it

It’s not just that I’m being asked to engage with the thorns and thistles.  It’s not just that I’d rather withdraw and serve myself.  It’s that, deep down, I fear I don’t have what it takes to forge ahead in this world.  When she says “Can you fix it?” I hear “Can you be a man?” She doesn’t realise it but, in the male imagination, her simple requests are loaded with the weight of a thousand gender insecurities.

5. I withdraw from it

I tune it out the way a teenager tunes out his mother (see 2).  Of course this only provokes more (see 3).

6.  I hate it.

It confirms my deep suspicion that I am a little boy.  Yes, I know I wanted to be a little boy earlier.  But that’s why it grates so much!

7. I silence it

Anger works best.  Sometimes it just takes an exasperated sigh or a withering look.  Anything that shifts the focus onto her and how she’s being unreasonable, uncool, ungodly.  Other women aren’t like this.  Have you read Proverbs recently?

Men have locked up women as hysterics for centuries.  It’s happened throughout history, but it also happens in marriage.  We’re good at despising women for their needs.  Then they’re doubly good at despising themselves for them.

So she’ll slink off and maybe determine to “button it” (which some might call “submission”).  Or she’ll just fume.  Or she’ll deaden her hopes for the marriage, deaden her hopes at being heard, deaden her hopes that her man could ever lead.  She might well do all of the above.  But it’s only further fuel for the nagging urges.

The way out of the nagging cycle?

Both Ephesians 5 (v18) and Colossians 3 (v1-4) preface their marriage discussions with being filled with the Spirit!  Having a spiritual buoyancy from Christ.  My identity, status, honour, beloved-ness is NOT being threatened by my spouse.  I’ve got it all.  Laugh!

Now husbands, LOVE your wives and don’t be harsh.

Wives, trust your husbands and receive that love – the heart and soul of submission.

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Eph5 Wedding

Ephesians 5:19-33

There is to marriage a:

– Foundation

– Filling

– Family

– Fact

– Flow

TEXT

AUDIO

[audio http://www.christthetruth.org.uk/Eph5Wedding150613.mp3]

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In honour of our 10th Wedding Anniversary, here are some mawwiage classics:

Marriage is glorious…

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…a dream within a dream…

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…but let’s not get too mystical about it…

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…and let’s acknowledge differences between the genders…
(warning: one swear word)

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…and differences in how we approach relationships…

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So men, don’t say any of these things to your wives…

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In all the give and take, you’ll have to make priorities…

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…and find glory in the ordinary.

 

 

 

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Wedding-rings-300x274Here is Andrew Errington’s Same-sex marriage – what is really at issue?

His central point is that there are two visions of marriage going on behind the same-sex marriage debate.  One is set out in the Book of Common Prayer, in which the three purposes of marriage are:

  • the procreation and nurture of children
  • as the only proper place for sexual intimacy; and
  • for the sake of lifelong companionship.

As against this, the modern, romantic view of marriage disregards the first two purposes and is, essentially, two ‘grown-ups’, part-couple-part-sofa, watching boxed sets till they fancy another sofa-mate. (That’s my cynical overstatement, not Errington’s.  But marriage-as-companionship reminds me of Alain de Botton’s comment that love today is about finding someone in particular to save us from people in general).

One implication at the political level is this:

The success of same-sex marriage will not only marginalise the principle that biological parenthood is normal and best. It will mean that the discussion of whether children need their biological mother and father is over for good, because such a claim will be regarded as discriminatory against the necessarily non-biological parent or parents in a same-sex marriage. To be as equally married as anyone else requires that we never again question the various ways children enter these marriages, and whether these means of having children are best for children.

So there are some sobering implications for society at that level.  And if Christians want to exercise their political freedoms in pointing such things out they should be able to do so without being called bigots.  Calling Christians homophobic for having a view on sexuality is like calling Buddhists carnophobes for having a view on meat-eating. Errington’s contribution is a model of clear-thinking Christian engagement at that political level.

On this blog, Paul Blackham has written Legal Recognition of Marriage and the Way of Jesus. Without denying the gravity of the social shift we’re witnessing , Paul’s introduction gives a much needed sense of perspective:

Pagan and non-Christian societies provide legal status and support for the kinds of marriage that express their basic beliefs about humanity, sexuality and marriage.  Pagan societies almost universally see marriage as polygamous [and occasionally polyandrous] with various legal provisions made for concubinage.  Under both communism and fascism, definitions of marriage have been used that were quite alien to the local Christian churches.  Greek and Roman definitions of marriage and sexuality are a well documented point of deep divergence with the local churches of the early centuries.  If Europe returns to its pagan ancestry then, naturally, it will return to those ancient, non-Christian definitions of marriage and sexuality.

Someone asked me, with evident shock, if I could imagine what would happen if the current redefinitions of marriage led to things like polygamy?  It was very sweet really.  Christian churches have often lived under legal systems that recognise polygamy and it has been [and still is] quite a common form of legal marriage around the world. Local churches have lived under legal systems that recognised same-sex partnerships in the ancient world and we are doing so again now.  Yes, it can be a shock to realise that we live in a non-Christian society and we do not have any privileged status or power.  Yet, this has been quite normal for local churches down the ages and it is, in fact, what Jesus told us to expect…

Paul goes on to hold up the local church as the place where the true meaning of marriage needs to be fought for and displayed (read here).

(If the consequences for the Church of England concern you, Jonathan Chaplin offers a solution that works just fine in many other countries – it involves getting out of the registrar business!)

And if all this sounds like a retreat from the public sphere, let me assure you I’m all in favour of preaching the gospel publicly.  Not the fruits of the gospel, mind you.  The gospel.

Here’s an evangelistic talk seeking to make sense of the Christian vision of sex and sexuality (and these are some other posts: here and here).  You’ll notice that integral to these approaches are beliefs about Trinity, creation, fallen-ness and union with Christ.  It seems to me this is the properly Christian footing on which to stand. But these things are not at all obvious to anyone debating at the political level!

So, yes, let’s grieve for a society that has drifted so far from the gospel. Let’s prepare for more of the persecution that is the norm all over the world (not to mention in the Bible). Absolutely, we can be concerned for the freedom of Christian expression – maintaining our right to ‘appeal to Caesar’ as Paul does at points. But let’s not be shocked that new generations, so ignorant of the gospel, find gospel living incomprehensible. Of course they do. And let’s not be under any illusions about how to “fight” this trend.  Let’s look at our own marriages, our own churches.  And let’s get preaching the good news of Jesus.

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Emma and I have just done a seminar at Bible by the Beach. Emma told some of her story and I spoke about ‘The Big Story’ around pastoral care and addictions as well as ‘The Carer’s Story.’  Here are the notes I was working from:

A New Name Seminar 1

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Christ is our Identity

15 times “in Christ” in Ephesians. What a preposition: Can’t get closer than “IN”

You’ve died and gone to heaven. Ephesians 2:1…5-6.

“Seated in Christ” – nothing more to do – don’t need to move an inch.

What do we need? To know more of what we have: Ephesians 3:14ff

Don’t try to feel Christ in you – look to HIM.

To the degree you know yourself in Him, you will know Him in you.

Despite your feelings (or lack of them) it’s His relationship with the Father that’s central, not yours!  You can’t trust your feelings, you can’t even trust your faith.  Just know that Christ has faith for you.

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We’re All Addicts

People are not free, rational decision-makers

Ephesians 2:2-3: In pursuing the desires of our flesh we are enslaved to the devil.

You say “I’m not enslaved, I just do what I want.” Exactly – that’s your slavery. You keep feeding your foolish desires though they never actually give you what you want or need.

Human beings are not decision-making machines, calculating costs and benefits and acting rationally.  We’re foolish lovers who abandon ourselves to bad relationships that only enslave.

We’re not bound against our will. We choose what we choose. Nonetheless, we are trapped.

Addictions to substances or behaviours (like exercise or starvation) are obvious manifestations of this truth. But we’re all addicts. Ephesians 4:17-20

Both sufferers and carers need to know that the sufferer is not deciding to be unhealthy to spite everyone. Neither are they able to choose their way out of this. If you don’t understand the nature of their slavery you’ll only end up hating them. You’ll spend your whole time resenting them for their wilful rebellion and/or beating them with the will-power-stick to make them better.  If you don’t believe that we’re all addicts, you cannot love people through their self-destructive behaviours.

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Suffering is not a detour, it’s the way

We naturally think that the ultimate Christian life is one free from suffering and struggle. Of course we have to forget all about Jesus to believe that.

It’s not that God’s up there and we ascend through our strength.

Christ comes down because we have no strength of our own.

It’s not “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, here’s the 17 point plan for how you can get there in the end.”

It’s: “You’re dead in transgressions and sins. Utterly helpless.  And Christ joins you in the mess.”

If you find yourself in this kind of mess: Know that RIGHT HERE is where Christ is at work.  This isn’t a detour, it’s the way.

The Lord knows how to redeem the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).  Maybe you’ll be able to comfort others with the comfort you’ve received in your affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4).  But whatever happens, Christ is IN the situation.

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Redemption is Forward-Looking

When a loved one is suffering, it’s very natural to want to say “We just need to get the old Emma back.”  It’s very natural to look backwards.

I’m not so sure this is wise.  It seems to me that redemption works differently.  In Ephesians we get saved out of the pit and raised to a new height.  Salvation moves us onwards. In Exodus, the Israelites were brought out of Egypt and taken to the promised land.  In the wilderness they yearned for Egypt with its decent food and shelter.  But the Lord doesn’t take them back to the old place.  He takes them through the desert to a new place.  Their true home is ahead – a spacious land they haven’t yet seen.  This is the whole pattern of God’s dealings with us – from a garden but onto a city.

I think it’s a mistake to try to return to the way things were. It’s very possible that the way things were got you into this mess in the first place.  As you go through a wilderness time, the goal is a transformed you ahead (not the old you which you left behind.

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A New Name Seminar 2.

Church Comes First

Ephesians 4 comes before Ephesians 5!

We belong to each other in baptism before we belong to our spouses in marriage – or even to our children in families. Modern understandings of “coupledom” are very destructive.  We’re taught to cosy up to each other with a meal for two and a boxed set and we sing that old song from the 60’s “We’ll build a world of our own, which no-one else can share…”  But church has a claim on us before even our spouse does.

So quickly crazy can become normal when you try to manage by yourselves.  Far too often I coddled Emma in the darkness when I should have been moving her into the light of community.  That’s a hard judgement call when she becomes afraid of others and when she needs to know you’re safe.  But you need to be committed to life in community and to moving in that direction.

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One Flesh Gets Twisted

FLESH: Ephesians 2:3 5:31.  Those who deal with addictions will tell you that most addicts have an enabler somewhere in their life.

There are all sorts of dynamics that come into play when destructive behaviours flare up and if you’re close to the sufferer then it’s quite possible that you are some part of the problem.

Giving an addict what they want is not love. FEEDING HALF TON HUBBY is a chilling example of how an enabler can give the addict everything they want in the name of love.  It was the story of Patrick Deuel who weighed half a ton and his wife who could bring herself to stop feeding him. He was in hospital on nil by mouth and his wife would smuggle pizzas into the hospital. Why?  She said “Because I love him and it’s what he wants. I can’t say no to him if that’s what he wants.”  This kind of “love” can kill.

When Emma and I got married I basically thought that love meant saying “Yes” to my wife, no matter what.  If she wanted poison… well, what’s a loving husband to do but give her poison?  That’s a stupid analogy but only because it highlights the stupidity of what I was doing.  I took no lead in casting a vision for what healthy desires and directions might look like in our marriage.  In the absence of this Emma demanded more and more of her own way and I conceded more and more to drives which were ultimately self-destructive.

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You Need to Change

Ephesians 4:14-15 – we’re all being told lies every day.  We need “truthing in love” in church family to fight the lies. And that means that the carer needs to repent too.

This is hard to hear, but it’s vital. BOTH of you need to repent.  Can I suggest talking to a trusted Christian friend about the details of how you’re handling all this?  Don’t just get your friends to tell you There, there it must be so difficult – of course its difficult and of course you need sympathy and care.  But give friends permission to speak the truth in love: to challenge you on how you’re handling things.

When I did this in Christian community, I started to see a pattern emerging…

IMAGE: Dancefloor – Emma edging towards the dark edges, I would follow to coddle her from behind.  I should have spun her around and danced her into the light.  (It would mean kicking and screaming and tears and accusations – and that would mean I’d have to repent of my need to be “Mr Nice Guy”.  But that’s ok – I need to repent, and we both need community).

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Prayer is Warfare

Ephesians 6:10ff

Headship means being a prayer warrior.  This one’s for husbands but it has implications for others…  There are few other things I’d articulate as implications of headship, but it seems to me that prayer is top of the list. The LORD thunders at the head of His people (Joel 2:11) and husbands make war at the head of their wives.  When I’m prayerless Emma suffers.

And remember community. Some of the most powerful help we ever received as Emma was at her worst was going to another Christian couple’s house and praying on a Monday evening. They didn’t know much about eating disorders. Emma was able to talk about her struggles, talk about what the NHS were doing, talk about what was hard and we took those requests to God. It’s incredibly powerful to open up your needs before God and before church family.  It’s a total reversal of the condition actually.  The condition is about solitary, self-sufficiency. Praying with others is about a corporate expression of dependence and community.  Very powerful!

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wedding cake topper

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On Thursday I wrote a piece on Emma’s blog about how I coped through her illness.  I hope it might help others too.  Here are the headings…

The Priesthood of Christ is vital for you both

You are their vicarious hope-r

You must believe in the bondage of the will…  

A theology of the cross is vital…

A theology of the cross is not the same thing as “Misery loves Company”…

The goal is not getting back to how things were…

That feeling of impotence is inevitable, it’s good and it’s bad…

You will need to change…

Giving an addict what they want is not love…

Firm, buoyant love is the tone to strike…

Don’t do it alone…

Headship means being a prayer warrior…

This is not a distraction from real life, this is it…

Read the whole thing…

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Recently I wrote about every husband’s temptation towards resentment.  Wives also have every inclination (as well as motivation!) towards sinful attitudes regarding their husbands.  (Mistrust and disrespect are perhaps chief among them).

But in my post I counselled husbands to die to their private ambitions and seek a fruitful union with their wives that acknowledges the completely new unit they’ve become.  Now, as I read back over that language of “sacrifice” and “death”, I have a fear.  My fear is that this talk of “death” will feed directly into the resentment I was highlighting.

I know this because for many years I considered myself to be a sacrificial head.  I took Ephesians 5:25 as perhaps my most basic calling as a husband – to lay down my life.  Trouble was – there’s always a counterfeit way to view marital roles.  The death I embraced was not the joyful abandonment of my rights to find a deeper joy in my wife’s flourishing.  Instead it was the proud martyrdom of the burden-bearing ox.  I’d trudge along singing “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”, just loud enough for people to notice.  But while-ever I was a burden-bearing ox, there was a deep sense in which I needed my wife to be a burden.

This is counterfeit headship and it comes in a couple of different flavours.  Some, like me, emphasize the “dying” part and spin it to mean ‘desire-crushing trudgery.’  Others emphasize the “saviour” role (Ephesians 5:23) and spin it to mean “knight in shining armour.”  But if you’re married to such a head, watch out.  The burden-bearer will (unintentionally) make you the burden.  And the knight in shining armour will (unintentionally) make you a “damsel in distress.”  In either case we have a sick perversion of roles masquerading as biblical faithfulness.  If you want to consider it in trinitarian terms (which I do here), you end up with Arian distinctions not Athanasian ones.

The terrible tragedy is that these marriages can appear to fulfil an Ephesians 5 complementarity.  And those who trumpet complementarianism as though it’s the key to gender relations can apparently justify their counterfeit roles as “Scriptural.”  I know I did.

But the husband is not simply called to a death, but to a happy death.  As with Christ, this death is because of love and for the sake of the joy set before him.  It’s the very opposite of resentment.  It’s acknowledging the indicatives already present for the husband:

* Christ has put me to death in His cross and I no longer live (Galatians 2:20)

* The Father has made me one with my wife quite apart from my efforts (Matthew 19:6)

* My wife is a gift straight from the LORD and she’s good for me (Genesis 2:18 ; Proverbs 18:22)

* There simply is no life without a good death (Matthew 10:39)

* God will make our sacrificial union fruitful (Genesis 1:28)

* Her beauty will be presented back to me, shining all the brighter for the love which nurtured it (Eph 5:27)

The husband’s death is not the sacrifice of a noble sufferer or the heroics of a brave rescuer.  It’s the grateful response of a guy who – in spite of how she may have hurt him – still counts himself “lucky” to have her.  And if he doesn’t, his need is not to stuff his feelings and die anyway.  He needs to go back to the 6 indicatives above and prayerfully ask for help.

No marriage needs a resentful martyr for a husband.  Every marriage needs Jesus to make husbands joyful self-givers.  And He will… if only we’ll drop our counterfeit roles and receive again from Him.

 

 

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