Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reflections for September 29, 2010

Finishing Strong

In the Book of Acts, during his comments about the Resurrection, the Apostle Paul made the following statement:For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay;” (Acts 13:36 NASB, bold print added) Later as Paul was approaching the end of his life he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (II Timothy 4:7 NASB) What a wonderful testimony to the lives of these two men.

While we may admire the faithfulness of these two men, we should also have as our life goals the desire to serve God’s purpose for our life and to live faithfully in our generation. In order to fulfill these goals, we need to understand four things from Paul’s comments. First, every life has a purpose. In a world that sometimes makes us feel our lives are meaningless, we can know that in God’s economy we all have purpose. There is no greater task for us than to discover and pursue the purpose for which God placed us here.

Second, the pursuit of this fulfillment is not always easy. Paul referred to it as a fight, implying fulfilling our purpose is a struggle. Paul’s life was filled with obstacles both within the church and outside the church. In Ephesians 6:10, 17, he identifies his enemy and depicts his struggle with him in military terms. We have the same enemy. His greatest desire is to hinder us from accomplishing the purpose God has for us.

Third, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Paul speaks of life as if he was running a race. If we read through his letters, we will discover that the course of his race had many mountains and valleys to overcome. He saw the end of his race as something to look forward to, not to dread. He clearly anticipated that in the end all of his efforts would prove to be worthwhile.

Fourth, our number one goal should be to remain faithful throughout our journey. Too often, we let the world define our success and in the process we compromise our principles. We need to remember that we can accomplish all the world requires for success and still be a failure in God’s economy. He measures our success, not in power or possessions, but in faithfulness.

We are all involved in the race of life. Each one of us will come to the end of our race someday. Wherever we are and however we have run so far, we can make a commitment to run the remainder faithfully and to complete the course with the same assurance Paul had. He wrote, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:8 NASB)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflections for September 22, 2010

"Staying The Course"

(If you have not read the last two entries on my blog, it would help your understanding of this portion to read them.)

Earlier, I wrote about two lessons learned early in my search for information on being a better husband. The first was the importance of my wife knowing she had first place in my life. The second lesson showed me the many ways I had injured her spirit. This is the starting point for this final segment.

In Smalley’s book, If He Only Knew, there is a chapter that deals with the ways men injure their wives emotionally. He listed 122 things men do to injure their wives’ spirits. While I could truthfully say I had never intentionally done anything to hurt my wife physically or emotionally, I had done most of the things on the list. I had done them because I was clueless to the needs she had. I was clueless no more. It was time for me to do my part to rectify the mistakes I had made.

My attempts to rectify my mistakes were sometimes clumsy. She did not always welcome my efforts. Years of insensitivity had made her suspicious of my motives. With each two steps forward, I took a step backward. The good news is, if you follow each backward step with two forward ones, you reach your destination. This has been the mark of our marriage. While we have not arrived, we feel ourselves getting closer each day.

During our journey we have come to appreciate the term “help meet” in the Bible. It is a term that means to complete. It can be illustrated with a lock and a key. A lock or a key without each other can’t fulfill their purpose. Together, they can do all that they were intended to do.

This simple truth taught us to appreciate our many differences. I am an extremely choleric personality. My wife is a melancholy personality. I am a cognitive thinker. She is intuitive person who often thinks with her feelings. For years, we thought God must have a warped sense of humor to have placed us together. Today, we understand we need each other. Our differences make us stronger by giving us balance.

Last March, we celebrated the forty second year of our journey. For my part, the journey can be divided into three phases, ten clueless years, ten years of repairing the damage caused by the first ten years, and twenty years of moving forward as one. Each day I praise God for giving my wife and me the strength to honor the commitment we made forty-two years ago. That commitment held us together during the early years. It left us with only two options. One, we could stay together and make each other miserable for the remainder of our lives. Two, we could discover what was needed to fix our relationship and work at it. We are still working at it today. We have learned that our relationship can never be taken for granted. It is an ongoing project that we must develop each day.

It has not been easy but our blessings have been greater than our heartaches. At special times when our two sons, their wives, and our eight grandchildren join us, we count our blessings. When our boys call us a “Beaver Cleaver” family, we smile and know it has been worth all the work.

Today, we stand hand and hand facing our twilight years. My love for my wife is greater than it was the day we said our vows. I thank God each day we did not give up but stayed the course.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reflections for September 10, 2010

Healing Begins with Recognition of a Problem

(To fully receive the full benefit of this reflection you need to scroll back to last week and read it. This is the second in a series of three related reflections.)

One of the hardest things for a man to do is to accept the fact he needs help. He is conditioned his entire life to believe that he can fix his problem. I had to be brought to the reality I was not getting the job done in my marriage and I needed help. Once I accepted this truth, God began to show me that my responsibility toward my wife went beyond providing for her physical needs. If I was going to love her as Christ loved the church, I would have to venture into a place I did not want to go. I would have to enter into the land of feelings. In my clueless mind, this territory was reserved for women. Real men would not go there.

My first journey into the land of feelings came when I read Dr. James Dobson’s book, What Wives Wished Their Husbands Knew about Women. My wife purchased the book and placed it in areas where I was most likely to see it. I discovered it in a basket in front of the great white porcelain throne I visited each morning. It was always on the top of the pile of magazines. When I opened it and began to read, it was like my wife and Dr. Dobson had collaborated. It became clear that wives had needs deeper than their physical needs. They had emotional needs.

I had never gotten beyond the basic physical needs of my wife to her deeper emotional needs. It was not that I refused to meet them. I did not know they existed. Her cries to have these needs met were seen as signs of possessiveness and childishness.

After I read Dr. Dobson’s book, I began to see the flaws in my idea of the perfect husband. Most importantly, there were things I needed to learn, and I became willing to learn them. This began a journey into the emotional needs of my wife.

Later, I read Gary Smalley’s book, If He Only Knew. Many times I wanted to toss it in the trash, but a small inner voice told me I needed to hear its truths. With each page, it revealed another area in which I had fallen short as a husband. It introduced me to the basic differences between men and women. It helped me to understand that my wife and I could look at the same picture and come away with two completely different thoughts. It helped me to understand why for me a trip was something to conquer and for her something to be enjoyed. It showed me why she needed for me to listen to her without always having an opinion. It made me realize she sometimes needs a shoulder to cry upon without an accompanying lecture. It let me know how important it is for her to know her opinion is appreciated. With each page, I was confronted with a new need I had failed to meet.

From these two books, there were two lessons that stood above the rest. One dealt with the importance of my wife believing she was the most important thing in my life. In my heart, I had always felt she was the most important. My actions sent another message. I began to see the source of her insecurities. It became clear I was going to have to work diligently to make her believe what I had always known. I had to make her believe she was the most important thing in the world to me.

This was not a short term assignment. I could not establish her importance to me and forget about it. It was an ongoing task. Each passing day, I needed to let her know she was first on my list of priorities.

(Conclusion next week.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reflections for September 3, 2010

Clueless Is Not an Incurable Condition

As I drove into the driveway, it was difficult to contain my excitement. My wife, who was eight months pregnant, and my three-year-old son met me at the door. My excitement was evident as I shouted, “Guess who came to see me at school this morning?” She replied, “Who?”I responded, “Coach Varner visited me at school and offered me my old job back”. With a concerned look, she inquired, “What did you say?” When I told her that I had accepted the offer, the look on her face was bewilderment. Her lack of approval was puzzling to me. I was clueless to the insensitivity of making a life-changing decision without consulting her.

A few weeks later, our second son was born. The morning before he was scheduled for his six-week check-up a friend visited us. From the time he drove into our driveway, my mind went to work. He was driving a truck. We had secured a house near my new job. We had to relocate within the next three weeks. It all made sense to me. Truck, helper, house secured, and a free day were all the ingredients needed to move. The fact that we had not packed the first thing did not register with me as a problem. We slept in our new house that night. I was clueless to the insensitivity of putting my wife though this ordeal.

The following years were difficult. Although we rarely argued, there was always tension in the air. My work was my life. It was not uncommon for me to leave before the children were up and get home after they were in bed. Since we had chosen for my wife to work at home until the children started school, she had little contact with adults. By the time I arrived home, she was desperate for conversation. I wanted to relax. I read the paper or watched television as she attempted to share her day. The conversation often ended with these words: “You are not listening to a thing I say.” I would respond by repeating her comments verbatim. I was clueless to the difference between hearing and listening. I heard the words, but she needed for me to listen to her feelings of loneliness and frustration.

Her feelings of isolation took a toll on our relationship. She became jealous of the things she perceived to take precedence over her. She began to see herself slipping down my priority list. Her insecurities caused her to cling and her clinging caused me to feel caged. The tension grew. Her attempts to discuss the problem were met by silence. I was determined that my home would not become the verbal battlefield I had experienced as a child.

As the months passed, my wife became deeply depressed and I became frustrated at my inability to make her happy. I thought that I was a good husband. I was faithful; I worked hard; and I gave her my paycheck each month to pay the bills. My frustration drove me to my knees. I cried out to God that our marriage was broken and I did not know how to fix it. When I arose from my knees, I realized the answers to our problems were to be found outside of ourselves. It was overwhelming.

In the months that followed my willingness to learn more about my responsibilities as a husband grew. I began to seek help and God began to show me things I had never seen before.