Rearview Mirrors: 3 Simple Steps to Keep Your Marriage Looking Forward

“…But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Being a dad of a 16-year-old, I have a lot talks about using the car. In fact, I’m trying to get Cammi used to my car instead of Anne’s. It’s a bit longer and a little more of a challenge to deal with. And if she’ll get used to it, it’ll prepare her to be a better driver. 

But after she backed over my mailbox, I’ve come to realize we’ve still got some work to do. She was trying to focus on her rearview mirror and got confused. Even though she was backing up, if she’d just look in front of her, she’d see how straight (or lack-thereof) the car was. 

In a car, a windshield is ginormous in comparison to the rearview mirror. The mirror is there to assist you and not be the focal point. What’s the focal point? It’s this huge piece of safety glass in front of us called a windshield. Our eyes are to be looking forward only to access the mirror for moments of clarity.

The past is a like a rearview mirror: Give it a glance and keep going forward. Too much focus on it has catastrophic results. Unfortunately, too many couples (even singles) struggle with this. You’ve got a “windshield” to experience the present and move forward into the future. But because of some challenging seasons you’ve went through, you continue focus upon the past.  It’s then you get caught up staring and don’t realize that living in the past sacrifices the present and mortgages the future. 

How do you keep looking forward? It’s in the simplicity of what I’ve been encouraging our congregation to do every week through our marriage series, Mosaic Marriage.

1 – Encourage Effort. Encouraging effort keeps your eyes looking forward. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, should out encourage you when it comes to your spouse. For some reason, we only encourage “successes” and not effort. And what ends up happening is, because “success” is based upon individual’s interpretation, encouragement is used very sparingly between couples. From the small moments to the large steps forward, don’t wait for results to be encouraging, cheer on the attempts move forward.  I’d rather have someone who’s failing in their efforts than failing to make ANY effort. Keep looking and moving forward by encouraging your spouse.  

2 – Celebrate Progress. Celebration is largely underestimated. Couples tend to only celibate weightier progress or large steps of progress. But can I present a thought to you? Progress, big or small, is still PROGRESS. When I was doing Weight Watchers 10 years ago, I learned that whether I lost 7 lbs. or 1 oz., it was all progress. And ANY progress is to be celebrated. Progress helps develop momentum.  It’s that momentum that helps develop the strength to move forward. Want some marriage momentum? Big  or small, celebrate progress.

3 – Feed Hope. This is how you keep your eyes looking forward. Hope fixes your focus. Like it or not, if you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Take your pick, despair, anger, resentment, cynicism, etc. all are bottom feeders that will find sustenance off of hopelessness.  My simple, and practical approach: Cut off what is stifling the flames.  Push past the feelings of hopelessness and foster an atmosphere of hope. Purpose in your heart that hope is just as valuable to your marriage as breathing is to your body. And the more you feed hope, the more life you breathe into the lungs of your marriage. 

Today, give the past a glance and only a glance. It’s there to assist you and not be our focus. 

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

And remember…

The power of the past is the permission you give it to influence the present!

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Hungry Hope: 4 Ways to Begin a Culture Hope in Your Marriage

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…” Hebrews 6:19

Hope seems like it’s such an elusive element in marriage today. Couples, typically, feel they either have it or they don’t.  But as this blog has been brewing in my spirit over the past couple weeks, I’ve recognize that the internal struggles so many marriages are experiences may stem from an incorrect view or understanding of “hope.”

At risk of sharing too much of my message for Sunday at Kfirst (I’m preaching on hope), wanted to speak to this amazing, yet seemingly illusive element, into your marriage.

Scripture tells us,  

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls…” Hebrews 6:19

This writer of Hebrews tells us, better yet, encourages us, that “this hope” is not grounded in our abilities.  Better said: we can’t create hope. It is something offered through the work and power of Jesus.

Having said that, it should change our view of hope. Instead of seeing as something we have to manufacture, perhaps we need to see it an ethos, or atmosphere to be nurtured or strengthened. Hope is always available in Christ.  Hope is always there.  But practically lived out, I find it in one of two states: We are either feeding an ethos of hope or we are starving our marriage of it.

I love my former pastor. Joel Stocker is one of the greatest mentors in my life and, quite simply, I feel like I owe him so much. He has given me a fresh outlook on being a pastor, restored joy into ministry, and has given me a great example to follow.  I have a lot of stories about Joel.

One of my favs was a video I got to see of him.  The back story: Joel would go camping on a yearly basis with a number of his friends.  One of the sources of pride and joy was the “immense” fire he would build for the entire group.  His 2 key elements: a ton of wood and diesel fuel (it burned cleaner is what he told me).

This one instance, a few friends snuck to his site and replaced his diesel with water. That evening (on the video), he built his traditional fire and began to pour the “fuel” on the wood.  With everyone gathered around watching (and in on the joke), he tried to light his kindling. The kindling caught a bit, but not much.  “Pour more gas on it” people yelled.  So he did. Long story short, Joel successfully built a campfire with wood he was personally dousing with water.  When he found out the joke, the look on his face was priceless.

My take-away lesson from my mentor: Desire and effort far out-weighed the suppressant.

Let’s just be real.  Normal life can drain hope.  Family moments, social media, work situation, conflict at church, political climates, etc. all can suppress and/or completely stifle hope.  You don’t need to look for an excuse for no hope.  The excuses are everywhere.  And it’s easy to think you don’t possess it because of what surrounds you.   And if that is what you are feeding off of, it’s of no wonder why life seems so hopeless.

I never want to belittle someone’s situation. I have never been in your shoes (nor do I want to) and you have never been in mine. Let’s all keep our own footwear on and own up for our own lives.   But, in marriage, this is where you and I need to make TWO conscious decisions:

1 – Will I try to manufacture temporary hope or will we choose to embrace hope in Jesus?

2 – Will I choose to feed the ethos of hope or starve it?

The silly story about my mentor is such a valuable parable of what our response to hope should be:  This broken world of natural “hope” suppressants, we need to rise above it (desire) and take the responsibility (effort) to feed it.  

Like it or not, if you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Take your pick, despair, anger, resentment, synicism, etc. all are bottom feeders that will find sustenance off of hopelessness.  

My simple, and practical approach: Cut off what is stifling the flames.  Push past the feelings of hopelessness and foster an atmosphere of hope.

How do you feed hope? It’s more simple that anyone will give it credit for.  

1 – Put your trust in Christ. All of your efforts will amount to a shallow semblance of hope that has no lasting power.  He is the source of hope.  He is the foundation to build a culture of hope in your marriage. 

2 – Be the first to act.  As much as I want you as a couple to do this together, so much hopelessness and despair is grown because of stubborn attitudes.  Don’t say the words, “I won’t unless he/she does it to.” Be a forerunner.  Set the pace. Initiate the atmosphere of hope.  

3 – It’s a daily decision. Dedicate yourself to it. It doesn’t come from a one-time act.  You can’t turn the Titanic on a dime and your marriage issues. Purpose in your heart that hope is just as valuable to your marriage as breathing is to your body.

4 – Don’t despise small beginnings. An ethos of hope is fed in the seemingly small little moments and decisions. It’s in the simple things like:

Don’t let anyone out-encourage your spouse.
Show acts of kindness toward him/her.
Find a way to serve your spouse’s love language.
Walk in generosity as a couple.  Find a way to give.
Get naked with your spouse.
Find a ministry to serve in together.
Do a service project as a couple/family.
Pray for and/or with your spouse.
None of these are “quick fixes.” But they’re a creative and practical start.  Find ways to feed hope.

As said before, If you are not feeding “hope,” you’re feeding something else. Let that ethos start with you. Instead of praying for God to change your spouse, pray for God to change you. Be the change your marriage needs.  And the beauty of hope is it doesn’t come from you. It’s anchored in Christ.  But you do have the responsibility to foster that culture of hope in your marriage.

Blessings on you.  Feed hope. Let the ethos (culture, atmosphere) of hope transform your marriage.
Thanks for letting me ramble…


2015-10-9-KFirst_Fall_Shoot-48

2 Minute Devo #31Days – “What are you feeding off of?”

Error
This video doesn’t exist

We started a new series this month called “#31Days.” What “#31Days” means is we are encouraging everyone to take the challenge of encouraging someone via social network for 31 days.  Make sure you use the hashtag!

Today’s scripture: Psalm 55:22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.