Finding the way out – weary and alone

Weariness.

Weariness is an exceptional liar. Whispering things such as, “You are alone.” “Everyone else’s marriage is going great. We are the only one’s with this struggle.” “There is no hope, stop trying.  You may as well get comfortable with misery.”

Many marriages wear this as a garment. Though it may be uncomfortable and doesn’t fit properly, it remains. No one intentionally keeps company with weariness but when it settles in like a wet blanket, shedding it is not easy and can rarely be done without help. If you find yourself in a weary place right now consider the following thoughts.

  • Give voice to your vulnerabilities – Admit that you feel isolated and alone. Admit that you are facing difficult circumstances and that you can’t see your way through. Speaking up about what you are experiencing gives you a voice and finding your voice gives you power over the weariness. Rather than the voice of weariness your own voice will begin to emerge.
  • Seek out counsel and wisdom – As you begin to find your voice find a counselor, therapist, mentor or group in which you can share and listen to other voices. Recognition is one step out of weariness but health and wholeness is only possible when the word and thought culture in your mind, heart and marriage become more positive. Your words may accurately relate where you are but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely true. Finding people who desire to guide you towards truth and wisdom will help you sort through the lies and truths you are believing and that will benefit your life.
  • Receive help graciously – Being willing to receive help often takes more courage and grace than offering to help others. Allow other people to love you by listening to you. Be encouraged by listening to counsel and support offered. Taking steps towards health does not make you inadequate, it proves your desire to live in freedom.

Taking off the garment of weariness will lead to health and freedom in your individual life and in your marriage. Freedom is possible and there are people willing to walk with you along the way.

Consider Sharing Your Story

Last night I (Megan) took the opportunity to attend an event titled, Radical Love: Loving, when loving isn’t easy. Eye’s were opened, hearts were softened and hope was offered.

While there were many wonderful aspects of the evening my favorite was when the speaker shared her story. A story filled with difficulties and struggle, victories and defeat. Hope was offered through the encouragement that if you are struggling to love someone, struggling in a difficult relationship… you are not alone!

That’s what story does. Reminds us that while present realities may not be what we wished for, we are not alone. You have a story. Your marriage has a story. Be sensitive to opportunities when sharing your story would be an encouragement to another. Sharing your experiences with others can help provide comfort and hope to someone in need.

“What if someone would be blessed by what I have to share and they miss out because I hide it?” ~ Holley Gerth

Check out Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough for a memoir about marriage and restoration. (Currently free on kindle)

Yearning For Grace

Want a peak into my day job?

Here it is: Yearing

Now you try describing the vocab word “yearning” to a classroom full of 4th graders. As a substitute teacher that’s exactly what was asked of me (Megan) recently. Honestly, yearning isn’t hard for adults to understand but I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it to a group of 9 & 10 year old’s. The best synonyms I could come up with were longing and desire, not likely the most relevant experience to most of these kids.

Marriage however is filled with yearning. We long for a closer relationship with our spouse, for more time together. We desire a fulfilling and satisfying sex life. We yearn for a healthy, happy and whole marriage. We yearn for love and grace to define and permeate our marriage.

This fall Justin and I spent nine weeks leading a group of couples through Tim Kimmel’s book, Grace Filled Marriage. We had many great discussions, “ah-ha” moments and left knowing some practical things we could actually apply to our marriages. If you are in a place where you find yourself yearning for grace in your marriage I would recommend checking out that book. For today though, here are a few thoughts to consider about grace and marriage.

1.Recognize your own need for grace.

The power of grace comes through recognizing your absolute need for the good news of Jesus Christ and the grace He so freely offers to all who are willing to receive. So much of our lives is spent in selfishness and self-centeredness. Grace provides power to see that it’s not about us at all. To have grace permeate our marriages means recognizing there is not a day that goes by when we are not in need of grace, God’s unmerited favor by which He shows us kindness and mercy.

2. Extend grace out of what you have received from God, not what you want the other person to give.

We all long to receive grace but rarely want to extend grace without believing the other person “deserves” it. That’s the exact opposite of what true grace is. Grace does not consider only oneself but rather considers the needs and desires of the other. Consider offer grace in your tone of voice and the way you touch your spouse. Practice offering gracious acts of service and general kindness. Exchange an attitude of seeking grace into an attitude of generously giving grace and see the changes that can result.

3. Apply grace liberally and see God transform your marriage.

Tim Kimmel says this:

Grace is the equilibrium we apply to all the conditions and challenges that allow our marital love to improve with age. Grace is the plus sign to counter all negatives inherent in partnership. Grace is the vintage agent to covenant love that otherwise becomes flat. Grace is the deal maker in a “till death do us part” commitment.”

Great marriages are built on people who willingly and continually desire the best for their spouse. This doesn’t happen out of sheer commitment but rather it is based on a relationship with Christ, the One from whom all grace originates. Satisfy that yearning you have for grace by turning to Christ first, then extending the grace you have received to your spouse.

Divorce: What It Is

Question: If you had just 2-3 minutes to offer advice to a couple seeking divorce, what would you say?

Michael: “If I had a choice, I would say do not get divorced. I would have done anything to save my marriage. She was unwilling to. It was by far the hardest thing I ever went though.”

Robert: “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE find a good counselor that wants to save your marriage. (There are bad ones who basically lead you thru the steps of divorce.)

There is no such thing as “IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES.”

Mark: “The consequences are long lasting, and in some cases irreversible.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking “not in my case” or “my situation is different”.  Many relationships beyond the marriage will be either damaged, permanently altered, or lost altogether.  Divorce is a destructive force!

Understand that marriage is not about your happiness, but is about loving another person through sacrifice and service to them.  Marriage is a covenant, not a contract.  Breaking a contact has legal implications, but breaking a covenant has life-long spiritual implications.”

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A few weeks ago we wrote a brief introduction to this series we wanted to write on the subject of divorce. While the subject of Divorce can be a sensitive one, we believe it’s worth addressing, as the subject is often glossed over by society as a whole.  Be honest – when is the last time you read anything or heard a message at a church that was fully focused on the subject of divorce?  Yeah, we don’t hear about it often either. But with an average of 2.3 million couples getting married annually, and 1.2 million getting divorced¹, how can we remain silent?

Throughout the series there are three aspects of divorce we would like to focus on. They include:

  1. Divorce: What It Is
  2. Divorce: What It Isn’t
  3. Divorce: What It Does

As you can tell from the opening comments, we’ve reached out to a number of friends who have experienced divorce and asked them some questions. Many were gracious and took an opportunity to respond. We won’t share their actual names throughout the series, but some of the comments you’ll read in each part of this series come directly from those who have experienced divorce, and it’s our hope that you, and others are able to learn from their experience. With that said, let’s take a short opportunity to understand this subject of divorce.

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Divorce: What It Is

In his book, “The Meaning of Marriage”, Timothy Keller writes a great chapter on the marriage covenant. He notes that throughout the Old Testament we read about two different kinds of covenants. There are horizontal covenants made between two individuals, and there are vertical covenants made between an individual and God.

The marriage covenant, is perhaps the most unique of all, because it incorporates both the horizontal and the vertical aspects of the covenant. Two people make a binding agreement with one another, and they do so before God. Obviously, this is of far greater significance than two people signing a contract with one another.

Think of it this way. Today we live in a world of contracts. Buy a house, sign a contract. Buy a car, sign a contract. Get insurance, sign a contract. Cell phones…sign a contract. With every other major purchase or agreement requiring the signing of a contract, it’s no wonder Marriage is often treated as a contractual agreement between two parties. If something goes wrong, just pay the early termination fee and move on to another carrier, right?

Wrong. Marriage isn’t a simple contract. It’s a covenant. And a covenant is to be seen as a binding promise.

Here’s a picture of what a covenant between two people looked like in the ancient near-east. Two people would make a binding promise with one another, and to affirm their agreement they would slaughter an animal, lock arms, and walk between the pieces. There was blood all over their feet and clothes. Essentially this was their way of saying, “You will hold up to your end of this agreement, or may you become like this animal.”

Sounds graphic, right? It was. Very graphic. But here’s the thing, exchanging rings isn’t any less significant of a covenant today. It’s just as meaningful. Just as powerful. And just as messy. Two people are making a binding agreement. A horizontal covenant to their spouse, and a vertical covenant to God. It’s serious stuff.

A very basic understanding of divorce, then, would be this:

What is Divorce? – A husband and/or wife breaking a binding promise with their spouse and God.

Some may be reading this and thinking to themselves, “That’s right! Divorce can never be an option! I mean, God hates divorce no matter what, right? It’s right in the Bible!”

Well, yes it’s in there. God’s hates divorce. It was never his intention.

But divorce is permissible in some circumstances.

Take a quick opportunity to read some additional responses we received from others who have experienced divorce.

Question:If you could pin it down to just one thing, what ultimately led to your divorce?

Chris: “Her habitual, repeated, unrepentant abuse of our covenant vows and our relationship.  She treated me not as someone to love, honor and cherish, but as someone to use, abuse, dishonor, and inflict with deep wounds.”

Rebekah: “Abuse. I lived for 20 years with an abusive spouse who never repented, never asked for forgiveness and constantly blamed me for all that was wrong with our marriage.”

Outside of these responses, we’ve known others who have experienced physical abuse, emotional abuse, multiple affairs and even polygamy. While we’ve never recommended divorce to those experiencing such awful circumstances, the Bible does make it clear that divorce is permissible in such circumstances. In these situations, it is the abuser who has broken the marriage covenant. They are the one who has already declared divorce. The abusee will certainly need counseling (as many will blame them for the divorce.) But in these drastic circumstances, their divorce is permissible. God, indeed hates divorce. But He does not at all hate those who have been the recipients of abuse, nor does He expect them to continually live in it.

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We realize this post is fairly short for such a big topic. Truth is, it’s not a topic we study in depth as much as some others have. That said, we wanted to close out this first post by sharing some additional thoughts from some friends who have experienced divorce.. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, please read these words and learn from their experiences. Professional counseling can do wonders for a seemingly broken marriage. And if you think divorce is an easy way out…well, we’ll cover that in our next post.

Question: Did you attempt to get marital counseling?

Michael: “Yes, we did go to counseling in the beginning, but she was not completely honest with the counselor or me about everything that was going on. Once all of the truth came out, I suggested it again with nothing coming of it.”

Mark: Yes, after the first time my wife confessed an affair. I found it very helpful. But…she had made up her mind long before our counseling.

Rebekah: “Yes. I begged for years for him to go with me to see someone so we could try to save the marriage.  My ex agreed one time in 20 years to see a counselor.”

Chris: “Yes, we sought marriage counseling…multiple times with multiple counselors across multiple years.  The counseling was beneficial in that it helped me learn a lot about myself and helped me learn to communicate and listen better.  It also seemed, for a time, to help the marriage relationship.  However, ultimately, she used the tools learned in counseling to hone her skills of manipulation and deceit.  Ultimately, counseling can only help to the degree that BOTH partners WANT help.”

If you or someone you know is considering divorce but is not a recipient of abuse, take an opportunity to re-read the statements at the beginning of this post, and we urge you to seek counsel and reconciliation for your marriage. If you believe you are experiencing abuse, seek professional counsel at your earliest convenience.

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 Footnote: (1) Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot – marriagementoring.com

 

Boundaries: Unity

Yesterday we took an opportunity to write about boundaries, and how implementing boundaries can actually help your marriage-friendship grow. Today we’d like to continue the focus on boundaries, but instead of writing about your friendship with your spouse, we’re going to focus on your relationship with God. And instead of focusing on what boundaries YOU think you may need to implement in order to grow your marriage-friendship, today we want to focus on you giving your SPOUSE permission to recommend boundaries to you in order to keep your relationship with God going strong.

We refer to this as the “Unity” aspect of marriage. Unity is living in such harmony with your spouse that they can help you become the person God made you to be. Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast.

What it means is that you give your spouse full permission to lovingly call you out. You give them permission to speak the truth in love. You give them permission to help you become the person that deep-down-inside you want to become, though you may cringe when you consider what you need to do to get there. Sound familiar?

Regarding the topic of boundaries, it means you give you spouse permission to recommend boundaries that will keep your relationship with God strong.  It also means that you have an opportunity to do the same with them.

Before reading on, take five minutes to do a little bit of self-reflection. Write down 2-3 boundaries that you believe your spouse would recommend for you to implement that would improve your relationship with God.  And yes, just limit it to 2-3.

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Welcome back. Now, before running to your spouse to ask their input, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Be Sincere:

First, kindly ask your spouse for their input. Remember, the goal of this exercise is for them to help you become the person God made you to be. In other words, the goal is to give your spouse permission to help you become the best possible version of yourself.  Be sincere in your request, and listen to what they have to say without getting too defensive.

Chances are, your spouse may have some thoughts.  Maybe a lot of them!  Listen carefully to what they have to say and then take time to discuss what boundaries you may need to put in place to best follow-through. Some of their suggestions may require a simple daily lifestyle change. Others may be a bit more dramatic. But if you both agree the changes are worth it, begin to take the steps necessary to grow.

Be Specific:

You probably don’t want to give your spouse permission to list 7-8 things you can do. Instead, keep it to two, maybe three. But be very specific in what you’re looking for.  For example, you may want to ask, “What is the one thing you think I can to improve my relationship with God, and what boundary (or boundaries) do you think I need to put in place to get there?”  He or She may want to take a few days to think it over, but the more specific you are in your request, the more specific they’ll be in their response, and the more specific steps you can take.

Be Serious:

Finally, after listening to the sincere advice of your spouse, be serious about taking steps towards growth. If you take this exercise seriously, your spouse will be much more open to listening to you make recommendations for them as well. And your marriage will continue moving forward as it should.

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Feel free to leave or comment of answer the following question in the comments below:

1. What benefits would your marriage experience if you both gave one other permission to recommend boundaries to help you in your relationship with God and others?