A Recipe for a Boring Marriage

On Thursday nights, I help lead a Young Life small group of college guys. Last week, we talked about marriage and I gave them the opportunity to ask questions. “Does marriage get boring?” was one of them. When I asked them what they thought, most of them seemed to think that it did.

How would you answer?

As I write this, Robyn and I are a little over 24 hours from hitting our one-billionth second of marriage. It’s fun that it just happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. (A billion seconds is about four months shy of 32 years for those keeping score.) So here’s what I can say about marriage becoming boring…if there’s some set period of time after which it happens, we’re not there yet.

Fortunately, our marriage is more fun and exciting and purposeful than it’s ever been. But can marriage get boring?

Absolutely. Here’s a recipe for growing a boring one…

Stop growing. Don’t read. Don’t listen to podcasts. Don’t expose yourself to new ideas.

Have no goals and pursue no desires.

Put yourself first and only meet your spouse’s needs if yours are met first.

Keep your focus on how bad your circumstances are and all the things that are wrong in your life and your marriage.

Constantly compare your spouse to others.

Go to any lengths to make your spouse understand you, but don’t try to first understand.

Live for small things like money, not great things like the Kingdom of God.

Let your appearance go.

Don’t seek help for the same negative emotions you’ve battled all your life.

If you must have sex, let it be infrequent and in the same way every time.

Let romance die after the newlywed phase.

Be serious all the time.

Be your spouse’s biggest critic. Most of your communication should be about what your spouse does wrong.

Hold grudges. Offer forgiveness sparingly.

Actually, this recipe is better for creating a marriage that ends in divorce. If, on the other hand, you’d like to create the marriage you’ve always wanted, download my complimentary eBook, “Friend and Lover.” You can get it here:

Friend and Lover eBook

 

Do You Understand…Yourself?

Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.

As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”

So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.

One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.

After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.

Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”

“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.

The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.

Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.

But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.

Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.

Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.

Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.

So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.

What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?

Some of these questions might be helpful for them:

  • What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
  • What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
  • Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
  • Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
  • What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
  • The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?

By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.


 

 

Dreams, Desires and Divine Delays

Eight years at this time, I was asking God for something very specific. When it didn’t happen, I gave up praying about it. In the last eight years, I’ve rarely even thought about what I was so fervently praying for.

And then this morning, I asked again.

It didn’t take long to begin talking myself out of it though. After all, God just doesn’t work like that, I reminded myself.

But what if the desire I have really is from God? And what if it’s not my job to decide how or when God might choose to answer?

I started reading through the Bible chronologically a few weeks ago, so I’ve been in Genesis and Job. So far, no one gets what they desire right away. There’s always a delay. Sometimes, a very long one. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when she finally gave birth to the son God had promised them 25 years earlier.

Yeah, I don’t like delays any more than you do. When I want something, I mean really want something, I want it now. Not next year. Not in eight years. Certainly not in 25 years.

I don’t know what delayed dream or desire you have. Maybe it’s to get married. Or for your spouse to finally wake up.

Maybe you’ve been longing for a baby.

You might be looking for a job or a better job or a job that feels meaningful. Maybe your current job is fine, but you need a raise or more responsibility or some encouragement from your boss.

Maybe you’ve dreamed of seeing your family whole again, but your child continues in rebellion.

Or healing. You’ve endured 40 rounds of chemo or multiple surgeries or have seen more doctors than you can count…and yet there’s no end in sight.

I wish I knew when or if the answer to my prayer will come. I wish I could tell you that your answer is right around the corner. God usually doesn’t let us in on those things though.

So what are we to do? How do we keep believing? How do we keep pursuing our dreams and desires in the face of divine delays?

Let me suggest three things.

First, choose to believe God is good. Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.

Because our circumstances, our feelings and a thousand negative voices scream out that God is not good or loving, let me encourage you to meditate on that verse. Read it over and over and over. Think about it. Talk to God about it. Consider all the ways it’s true. And actually do it. Thank Him. Give thanks to Him for what you already have. Give thanks to Him for His goodness and love toward you.

Write that verse on a note card. Stick it on your mirror. Put a note in your phone and set a reminder to look at it. Do whatever you have to do to let it sink deep into your heart and mind. When difficult or confusing circumstances come, and they will, go back to that verse. It’s more true than anything you will experience or feel.

Second, during this season of divine delay, choose to delight yourself in the Lord. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

To delight in someone is to find your pleasure and enjoyment in that person. I delight in Robyn and my children and grandchildren. God wants me to delight in Him even more.

It won’t be easy, but try to focus on your relationship with Him, not the thing you’re desiring. A wife would naturally feel hurt if her husband only found enjoyment in sex, but not in the relationship with her. A father would be hurt if his children only wanted money from him and never cared about his feelings.

God is a person. He has feelings. He has desires. And His greatest desire is you and your relationship with Him.

Finally, trust God’s timing is best. Psalm 37:7a says, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

Being still. Imagine your mind being still. No anxious thoughts running around getting you worked up into an emotional frenzy. No freaking out when bad news comes…or another disappointing delay.

Imagine your soul being still. Feeling content. Knowing you have no power to make this thing happen on your own…and being okay with it.

We might not think so, but God’s timing is always perfect. We may be desiring one thing, but God has a better thing in mind He’s bringing about. Maybe God needs to work on our character before the fulfillment of our desire. Or maybe we’re ready, but others involved in the answer to our prayer aren’t. We cannot possibly imagine all the factors that go into God’s good plans for us.

Of course, there is an alternative to believing He is good, delighting in Him and trusting His timing. We can get angry, disillusioned and bitter.

But since I’ve already tried that, learn from me and don’t make that mistake.

Just Answer the Question

In John 5, Jesus asks a man who’s been lame for 38 years, “Would you like to get well?”

It’s a “yes” or “no” question. Either the man wants to be well or he doesn’t. But that’s not how he answers. He begins to explain to Jesus “why” he can’t be healed. That wasn’t the question though.

This had nothing to do with what the man could or couldn’t do. It had everything to do with what Jesus could do.

Your situation may feel as impossible as the man’s who’d been paralyzed for 38 years. Your finances may be a mess. Your marriage might be in even worse shape. Your health isn’t good. Things aren’t going well at work.

Could it be that Jesus is asking you the same question? “Would you like to get well?”

I wish I could say that would always result in immediate healing of whatever you’re facing. That might be the way Jesus will work, but what I’ve seen more often is God working slowly. As we trust Him and cooperate with Him by walking in His ways, we see things begin to change little by little.

Make no mistake about it though, it is God working in us, through us and for us to bring about the change.

In John 6, Jesus asks another very simple question. A large crowd of people has been following Him and so He turns to Philip and says, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”

Remember taking essay tests in school? Those could be trickier than multiple choice, true-false or fill-in-the-blank questions. There was just a question and a blank page staring back at you. If you happened to study the information asked for in the question, then it wasn’t too bad. But sometimes you read the question and realized you had absolutely no idea how to answer it.

I think that’s where Philip was at. He was staring at a question and a blank page and knew he had nothing. Maybe the best thing Philip could have said was, “Good question, Jesus, I have no idea. What do you think we should do?”

But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he answers like the paralyzed man. Just like you and I would have.

“Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money.”

Jesus didn’t ask if they had enough money. He asked where they could buy bread. Philip, like the lame man, was answering the wrong question. Jesus asked, “Where?” Philip jumped to their lack of resources.

What about you? Where do you jump to?

Could it be that God wants to make us well, but we’re still focused on what we can or can’t do?

Could it be that God has a way to meet our needs, but we’re still focused on what we’re not able to do?

We answer incorrectly when we have our eyes fixed on our circumstances. The paralyzed man said he couldn’t be healed because no one would help him into the water. Philip explained how they didn’t have enough money.

To answer correctly, we have to fix our eyes on Jesus. We have to listen well to the question…and realize the One asking the question is also the answer.

My 3 Greatest Mistakes

I’ve made more mistakes and bad decisions than I could ever possibly count. I could probably list a hundred or more without any trouble, but I’d probably be forgetting thousands of others.

Most of my wrong choices and failures could be lumped into the major categories of career, finances and things I’ve said.

But the top 3 mistakes are all wrong beliefs, which then effect every area of my life…

1. I’ve had a wrong view of life.

For some reason, I got it in my head that life would be easier than it has turned out to be. I feel silly even saying that, because on a whole, and compared with most of the world, I have a great life. And an easy one.

I’ve never missed a meal. I never worry about having access to clean water. When I’m sick, which isn’t very often, I can see a doctor. I’m married to an amazing woman. I have four incredible kids, two sons-in-law (with a third coming in six weeks) and two wonderful grandsons.

I live in a great house with heat and air-conditioning right across the street from the University of Arkansas. Robyn and get to minister to together and see God use us through the ministry of Young Life.

I could go on and on about the blessings in my life. And yet, there have also been many failures and disappointments. I’ve failed where I thought I would succeed. I’ve had hopes and dreams that haven’t come true. Things I thought for sure would work…didn’t.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:15-17)

Do you ever wish the Bible would stop sooner? I mean just read those three verses again and stop before you get to the last sentence.

Sounds pretty good, right? Adopted as God’s children. We become heirs and we share in God’s glory.

But that last sentence is just as true as all the others. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

That’s not the only place in the Bible where we see the reality of suffering. Actually, it’s all throughout the Bible. Suffering, difficulties, setbacks, failures, disappointments and consequences of bad choices are everywhere. No one is immune.

And yet, somehow, I missed it. And so I’ve had this mistaken belief that things would be easy or at least easier, especially when walking with God. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. And that leads to the second mistake…

2. I’ve had a wrong view of God.

I allowed my failures, hardships and disappointments to cloud my view of God. Because I didn’t anticipate suffering as a normal part of being human and even of being a child of God, I began to doubt God’s character.

I concluded He wasn’t good or loving or faithful. At least not to me. And that wrong belief distorted my view of Him, myself and life. It effected my thinking, my emotions and my decisions.

It really effected how I prayed. Because I doubted God’s goodness and faithfulness, I stopped truly trusting Him. I didn’t pray boldly or confidently, because I didn’t want to be disappointed when an answer didn’t come.

My wrong view of God lasted for many years. And if I’m honest, it’s only been in the last few years that I’m making more of a “complete” recovery.

So what’s the truth about God?

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

God showed His great love on the cross. Now think about that for a minute. Not only did God Himself die in our place, while we were completely undeserving, this verse also reveals the fact that the Son of God suffered. How did I miss the obvious? Those twenty words reveal God’s true character as well as the true nature of life: God loves us and suffering us part of life.

As I’ve endured some personal hardships and have been careful to not make the same mistake I made in the past by doubting God, I’ve instead made the third big mistake…

3. I’ve had a wrong view of myself.

When I’ve experienced failures and disappointments, I’ve allowed them to define me. I’ve allowed them to effect my identity. Failure has meant I’m a failure. Suffering must mean there’s something wrong with me. Rather than seeing failure as a normal part of business and life…and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow…I’ve pointed a finger inward.

I love what Rocky said to his son in the movie Rocky Balboa about all of this…

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (If you want to watch the entire scene, the video is below.)

Maybe you’ve wrestled with some of these wrong beliefs like I have. If so, let me simply encourage you to keep going. Keep wrestling. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick and easy answers.

God does love you though.

And failure and suffering are a normal part of life.

And you’re not a failure just because you’ve failed.