Light into the Darkness: Journaling Through a Depressed Heart

Sitting early this morning in the coffee shop, I had just finished reading John 15:26-27. I sat in stillness at the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit jumped off the page.

The Advocate, or Comforter.

In scripture, the Psalmist calls this “selah” (stop, pause, think). And in the midst of meditating on the words of my Savior, the lyrics in my ear buds caught my attention. In Cory Asbury‘s new album “Reckless Love,” his song, “Water and Dust” spoke these words,

And when everything is falling apart, don’t lose heart.

Between what I just read and the words being sung in my ear, I set my pen to my journal to articulate what this moment was speaking to me. The words Advocate or Comforter have always been the reminder of Who has been my rescue and redemption during my bouts of depression. When I cannot see where help will come from, I look for someone to be my Advocate. When I cannot sense hope, I long for someone to be a Comforter.

I don’t know where I’d be without the Lord. Knowing that He is with me, even when I can’t detect Him with my senses, has been a huge comfort to me.

Journaling has been a place to process and express for me. It’s a safe place to work through what I’m pondering inside. I find it’s much healthier than throwing out a Facebook status empowering others to speak into my unprocessed thought while exposing my vulnerability to some that may not be equipped to help. So with ink and paper, a started scratching out a few thoughts.

From there, I began to thumb through my journal. It took me back to October when I shared with out congregation some of my journal thoughts combined with the song, “Let there be light.” Why that song? Because during a dark moment, it was my ongoing prayer to God,

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

So today, I thought I’d share those journal thoughts from that dark moment when the Comforter was not just pulling me through a tough season but was working someone deeper in me.

Lord, would you speak “let there be light” in me.”

It’s the prayer of everyone who’s been hurt by disappointment
When life hits and gave us way more than expected
It’s the cry of the overwhelmed heart; the scream of a tired soul
The aching of desperation; fallen deeper into a bottomless hole
But you understand my darkness, you get the struggle of my inside
So I lift up my eyes asking you to hear my cry
You hover over my chaos ready to create with just one word
Speak Holy Spirit; I need hope in my hurt

Lord would you speak…

It’s the prayer of everyone who feels forgotten
When the devil has convinced them that they’re no longer wanted
When he’s blinded their eyes from seeing the hope of light
When their strength is drained and unable to get in the fight
I‘ve had victory on the mountain, but the valley is nothing but distress.
Lord it’s you I need. I need some hope in my darkness
I call out the only One who can reach into an unreachable place
I know I can find peace if I could just find your face

Lord I need you to speak…

To every person who thought that nobody cares
To every tired soul, bearing weights to heavy to bear
To those longing to knock but cannot find the door
To those who seek a way out and cannot take any more
Lift up your face, look beyond the valley
The sun may have set behind you but it’s not your finale
There’s a God who creates out of the depths of your chaos
Lift up your head, the Son rises to call us

“Let there be light…”

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Reflections from a Depressed Pastor: 2 Thoughts about Depression

I’ll start this off as I have my previous blogs on the subject: My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t write as one who is specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others, and happens perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

(Click below for previous blogs on depression)


Sorting through the tangled mess of my emotions, I’m trying to make sense of the news of another lost life due to suicide.  If you know me, I’ve never had a “flippant” attitude toward the issue. But today’s news has impacts me in a different way as it hits a bit closer to home. The man who took his life was a pastor. Today is another reminder that depression doesn’t discriminate based upon gender, economical background, nationality, nor title.

I am shaken to my core. My heart is broken for his family. I’m sure there are those in his community who’ll say things like, “How can that happen to a pastor?” or “Why didn’t he ask for help?” They are the same questions people ask of anyone who has taken their life.

I get it. As a human being who deals with these dark seasons, what I have learned, in the face of the shadow cast over my soul is to lean upon something more stable than my emotions. When my feels are blowing like a dust storm, and I cannot see where to go, the Word of God is where I turn. And today I look to Psalm 139.

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

These words have become both an explanation and proclamation today.

The Explanation
The Psalmist doesn’t ignore the darkness. In fact, he is willing to recognize it’s there. And that, in and of itself, is a huge deal.

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

There may be no greater description of what it feels like to go through depression.

Darkness. Simple darkness.

Those who have never been through depression cannot understand the “feeling” of darkness. I’ve described it to people this way: Have you seen a dark room with one light shining on one chair? Now imagine a room where the entire room is lit, but in the middle of the room, one chair is shrouded in darkness. That’s what it feels like. To sit in a dark place while knowing other people are in the light but you can’t see or sense it. Internally, you’re asking yourself, “Why can’t I see (the light, the hope) what other people see? Why can’t I feel (the light, the hope) what other people feel?”

My blogs are not to highlight or glorify the darkness; they are there to expose it. Why?  Ignoring the darkness does nothing but root even deeper in our lives. Speaking about it, recognizing it, and/or being real about it doesn’t give power to it but reveals it so it can be dealt with. The only way to deal with darkness is not to avoid it but to expose it with the light. 

If that is you, you are not alone. As we say so often here at Kfirst, “It’s okay to not be okay. But it’s not okay to stay that way.” You can’t reject depression but you can reject its authority over your life. I get what you face and what you’re going through. But darkness doesn’t go away on its own. It is quenched by light. Which leads me to…

The Proclamation
The context of the entirety of Psalm 139 is to highlight the omnipresence of God (God is everywhere at all times).  And what I love about this psalm is how it connects the presence of God to “dark” moments and/or seasons. 

“…but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” Psalm 139:12

Did you pick that up? I may “feel” hidden, but darkness cannot hide me from God.

What does that speak to me as a human (and as a pastor) who fights depression? God doesn’t wait for us to come out of our darkness; He draws near to us in the midst of it. We are not despised by God because of our condition; His presence finds us and meets us in it.

When your feelings are in turmoil, turn to the truth. Why? Truth trumps feelings. What is the truth? Look at the next two verses of this psalm,

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

When you find your emotions telling you one story, get the real story. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Proclaim what the darkness is trying to hide. God is with you. God wouldn’t have “fearfully and wonderfully made” you if He didn’t have a destiny in store for you. Bring the truth of that into every moment of despair. Remember this: God’s nearness is not predicated on your 5 senses. You may not feel him, but that doesn’t dictate His location.

He is Immanuel; God with us. Not God “gonna be with me” or “was with me.” He is God with you. Right now. Right where you are at. And darkness cannot hide you from Him.

To those who find themselves in darkness. Proclaim what you know to be true!

You are not alone. Darkness cannot hide you from God.
You have hope. Darkness cannot stop His hand.
You can get help. Darkness cannot keep you from His rescue. There are people who are reaching out even when you cannot see or sense it.

I love the ministry of Anthem of Hope. It’s an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to illuminating hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide and addiction. Click on the link and get access to hope NOW.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this AND the darkness CANNOT hide you from the presence of God and His outstretched hand.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Check Your Marriage Trend: 3 Steps to Building Hope and Momentum

Yesterday at Kfirst was one of those messages that I’m not ready to leave.  There’s so much to say about our “trends.” But what has weighed upon my heart and woke me up last night was the “trends” we find in our marriages.

A “trend” is a very simple concept that has become a “buzzword” in our age of social media. For most young adults to teenagers, a “trend” is the subject that many people are talking about at the moment. Yesterday I pointed to a story about Waffle House that was trending on Saturday. Some trends are silly. Some are indicators of where we are at as a society.

Some trends last an hour, some for days. Hashtags play a huge part in that as they link together social media posts into the “trending” topics. Even now, I can bring up Facebook and look on the right and see what people are talking about:

The “top trends” of 12/4 at 6:50a.m.

The most basic, general definition of “trend” is “a general direction in which something is developing or changing.” At Kfirst, we talked about that in a personal way. But the message of “Checking Your Trend” goes deeper when you realize that your marriage has trends. Marriage is a life of constant development and change.  And if you want to know where your marriage is going, then check to see where your marriage is trending. 

So much of your vision for what’s NEXT is based upon the trend of your heart right NOW.

Start with humility.
Often, I’ll ask people I meet with if they are teachable. If they are not, the meeting is over. Why? There’s no point of talking because there’s no room for growth. We are a society that is increasingly “other-people-aware” and less “self-aware.” So we start attacking and judging others so we don’t have to face the needed person change that may be necessary for the growth in lives AND our marriage.  As Rick Warren says,

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

If couples exercised personal humility, they’d find an easier job experiencing marital unity. Why? Because humility is the place of pliability. It’s hard to work with material that isn’t pliable/moldable. Marriage grows best when there are two people are leading with humility and expecting change in themselves before they see change in each other.

Identify your trends?
Look at your marriage and identify what is healthy and what isn’t healthy. Why consider both? Because it’s the key to marital growth. Far too many couples only focus on the negative. When that happens, you get a sensation of hopelessness and you miss an essential parts of marital growth.

Looking at what is trending well in your marriage it does two things. First, it immediately builds hope. Seeing that something is “good” in your marriage is like seeing the sun sneak out on an overcast day. What sunlight (Vitamin D) does for your skin, hope does to your heart. Secondly, when you identify good trends, you get marital momentum. Good trends are not about coasting but building off of the healthy flow. Change is always easier when there’s momentum.

But what areas that are not trending well? Well, you can get lost in negativity or you can celebrate that you’ve identified what isn’t working. For some couples, that is a HUGE “win” in their marriage (identifying what trend isn’t working). Being able to admit together what needs help is a ginormous step in the right direction. And every “win” is a moment to build hope and momentum. Ride that momentum into the decision to change and/or get help in that area. Why the more you bring hope to the trends of your marriage, the more you feed the vision of your marriage and what it could be.

Please know this: most couples that say “our marriage isn’t working” are really looking at their trends. As I said before, if you want to know where your marriage is going, then check to see where your marriage is trending. If you need to have a hopeful vision, then you need to check (and change) your trends.

Pick one trend to deal with.
Many couples get lost in the overwhelming feeling of “everything that needs to change.” But let’s step back and take this in “bite-sized” pieces. Scripture says, “Don’t despise these small beginnings.” Pick one trend and work on that together. The teamwork and humility can be the catalyst to the hope you’ve been longing to feel.

How are you trending in these areas?

  • Communication
  • Conflict
  • Relationship Roles
  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Sex and Intimacy
  • Spiritual Intimacy

What’s going well? What needs help? How can you both encourage each other and grow?

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

 

 

 

Picking up the Pieces: 4 Thoughts About Personal Brokenness

Have you ever said, “What just happened?” Me too.

Last winter, I had one of “those” mornings. As I’m leaving for the day, I’m doing my best to be careful pulling my car out of the garage and I destroyed my driver’s-side mirror.

I remember being physically exhausted.  My mind was wide awake saying “You’re too close. Adjust the wheel” but the rest of me wasn’t responding. It was this slow-motion moment as I my car and garage met leaving a trail of my mirror all the way down my driveway. I put my car in park and just sat there in disbelief at what transpired.

[Enter joke about “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”]

I was in shock. I’ve pulled out of the garage hundreds of times and have never had that happen. A simple daily moment turned into disaster. I got out of the car and walked back toward the house picking up the shattered fragments of what used to be attached to my car. I stuck the broken mirror casing back onto my car thinking I can still used it as it still had a chunk of mirror left on it. (I know, ridiculous isn’t it?)

When I got to my coffice (coffeehouse + office), I did some quick research and hit up Amazon Prime to get a new mirror in the matter of a few days.  And sure enough it was there by Wednesday. So I set it by the door so to motivate me and, yet, it sat there for a few months.

For the next week, I found myself continuing to pick up the pieces of something I thought I was done cleaning up. As the snow melted, more pieces were revealed. I was astonished at how far the damage was spread from the point of impact. Even early this fall, while cutting my lawn, I found a large piece. I remember thinking to myself, “I thought I was done with this? How is it that I’m still dealing with this after all of this time?

While you may not have destroyed your mirror, I think many of you can relate to my “Monday moment.” Has anything ever impacted you and has left you feeling like:

  • You keep picking up the pieces of something that has happened to you. 
  • You didn’t anticipate at how far the damage was spread.
  • You’re just living life, and something happens that makes you say,I thought I was done with this? How is it that I’m still dealing with this after all of this time?

Me too. I get it. And I thought I’d share some lessons I learned.

My crazy schedule gave me every excuse to NOT fix the mirror. Sometimes busyness will sedate issues and distract you from dealing with things. Just because you no longer feel momentary pain doesn’t mean the issue is completely healed. Busyness is something I’ve learned to hide behind as it’s my drug of choice. If I can stay busy, then I don’t have to deal with it. But the more I put off the issue, the deeper the issue sets in me. Which leads to…

I learned to live with my brokenness. There was a fraction of mirror left in the casing and I got used to using it. I’ll admit I cut off a few people in traffic after not seeing them. But on the most part, I thought I was having “success” in accommodating to living with a “broken vision” of what things around me.  And the more I got used to it, the motivation for getting it fixed has waned. “I’ll deal with it another time” became my primary way to procrastinate dealing with this.

I needed to access what was provided. The new mirror was there and ready for installment. I waked by it every day. I’d even think to myself, “someday I’ll get it fixed…someday things will be back to normal.” What I find often in my life is a propensity to deal with things on my own instead of accessing what has been provided in Christ. I don’t think we have a lack of God wanting to move in our lives. I think we have a lack of us accessing what He has provided in Jesus.  It’s almost overwhelming how much access to healing, peace, love, and joy we have. Yet, quite often, we attempt to deal with things on our own. We need to access what God provides. 

Allow God to work through others. I’ll admit it was pride keeping me from asking for help. “I can do this” was my mantra. It was a friend (love ya Kevin) that came over for another purpose who looked and said “Let me help.” Kevin did in a few minutes what I thought was going to be a longer and harder process. It took someone with kindness and experience to help me in my point of need and walk me through how to move forward. But the key: I needed to allow him to help. Please don’t allow your pride to stop you from asking for AND accepting help.  Allow those with the kindness and experience to meet you in your point of brokenness. 

Is this you? Has something happened that makes you seem like you’re still picking up the pieces? I get it. And my “getting it” goes far beyond a stupid car mirror. I understand what it’s like to sedate my pain with something else. I get thinking I have to live with what happened feeling like I’m damned to living this way for the rest of my life.

But explore you: Don’t let a broken moment dictate the rest of your destiny.  Your life is worth more, your marriage is worth more, and your children are worth more than that impact has dealt you. Access the abundant available in Christ. I’m not promising a one-time-fix-all moment but daily access to the peace, joy, love, and healing you’ve been looking for.

Have I finished picking up pieces from that impact. I hope so. But each time I find another piece, I don’t remember how much I’ve lost but I embrace how far God has brought me.

Love you all. I’m praying for you today.

Thoughts of a Depressed Pastor: 4 Steps to Escaping Depression

My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t write as one who is specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is considerably lower than others, and happens perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

Out of all of my blogs, my last blog on depression from August 11, 2014 is, by far, the most read and shared article I’ve ever written. It tells me that there are thousands out there that have experienced this “darkness” and/or know someone who does. And lately, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to write another blog on the “funk” that shows up periodically in my life.

My two goals in writing this: First, to help bring a bit of clarity to those who absolutely do not understand those of us who deal with this. If I can remove some ignorance to create compassion, then I see blog as a “win.” Second, to give a clear message of hope. I want to confront the feelings of hopelessness that you have with the truth of who Christ is. And the rule I live by: Truth always trumps feelings. My emotions and feelings will rise and fall, but truth remains solid. And the truth I remind myself is this:

Regardless of my emotions, I must purpose to fix my eyes on God (Psalm 42:5).
I have victory in Christ (Romans 8:37)  and nothing can separate me from His unconditional love (Romans 8:38-39).
Christ is with me regardless of whether my senses can detect Him (Isaiah 43:2Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is my light in the midst of my darkness (2 Samuel 22:29).

Often, when reading scripture, I come across scenarios that make me leap up and say, “That’s exactly how I feel.” And when I think about how to describe to people what I deal with, I think about a man named Bartimaeus.

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside.  Mark 10:46

Two strong words jump out at me: “blind beggar.” Why? Because feeling “blind” and “begging for help” is what I personally experience physically, mentally, and emotionally. My senses are numbed and and cannot detect any direction to take.  I get this “feeling” of being immobilized and unable to move forward. Things that should make sense don’t. I feel like stationary while the rest of the world is passing by.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. – Mark 10:47

There are two crowds in this story. The obvious crowd tried to shut him up. Perhaps they’ve gotten so used to seeing him in his condition, that they had become calloused. I like to think they responded out of ignorance of not knowing what to say to Bartimaeus (I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt). But perhaps they were so busy about their day and/or they were so preoccupied with what THEY might receive from Jesus, they didn’t want Barimaeus to interrupt their experience.

Can I implore you of things to NOT say to someone dealing with depression? Things like:

  • “Cheer up.”
  • “Just don’t think about it.”
  • “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
  • “There are a lot of people worse off than you?”
  • “Have you been praying/reading the Bible?”
  • “You’re just looking for attention.”
  • For an extensive list click here.

But there’s another crowd in this story. It is the people who let him know that Jesus was near. How do I know THAT crowd was there? Bartimaeus didn’t see Jesus passing by. He didn’t hear Jesus. Nothing about Bartimaeus’ senses detected Jesus himself. He leaned upon what others were telling him.

So many people think, because they’ve never dealt with this condition that someone is experiencing, there is nothing you can say or do. But note: not a single person in the crowd was blind. But their presence and their words helps Bartimaeus know how near Jesus was. This may be the most pivotal role that you can play in someone’s life who’s fighting this darkness. Your presence (personal interaction) and your words can help people to know that Jesus is near.

What can you say?

  • “I’m here. What can I do?”
  • “I don’t fully understand, but I’m not going anywhere.”
  • “You are loved.”
  • “Can I pray for you right now?”
  • “Can I call you later to check in on you?”
  • For an extensive list, click here.

And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” – Mark 10:47 

Don’t give up. Regardless of whatever voices in your head or in your life that keep telling you to give up, refuse to stop reaching out and crying out. Refuse to give up hope even when you cannot see it. Bartimaeus couldn’t sense how close or far Jesus was. His feelings didn’t dictate Jesus’ presence. Jesus was there. I’m reminded of the name the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus. He is “Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” It doesn’t say “God used to be with us” or “God was with us.”

He is God with us now. He is God with us always.

And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. – Mark 10:49-52

I love those three words. “And Jesus stopped.” You may feel like Jesus has passed you by. He hasn’t. You emotions will make you feel like you are forgotten. You are not. You may struggle with feeling loved (love by others or loved by yourself). Know that you are loved with an everlasting love. And there are four thoughts I want to give you.

1 – Find a trusted soul to be your eyes. It says in verse 49, “Take heart. Get up; He’s calling you.” Jesus didn’t pass him by. And again, Bartimaeus couldn’t detect that Jesus had stopped to help him. But those around him encouraged him with seven simple words. You need to find trusted people in you life that love you where you are at and love you enough to speak the truth in love to you. This person (or these people) needs to be someone who knows the hope in Christ and can direct your mind’s eye to that hope. The enemy works in isolation; God works in community. Get one person; get a couple of people. Allow those who love Jesus, and love you, help you know Jesus is near.

2 – Reject what the darkness is telling you. Darkness cannot compete with the light. So the only way to keep you in darkness is to contain you in it. Verse 50 says, “And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” There is that cognitive decision (a personal decision) to reject what the darkness has been telling you. I love that he didn’t have to see his miracle before he decided to “throw it off.” Darkness will lie to you. Darkness will try to distort your senses. But the more you reject what it tells you and the more you remind yourself of the truth, the greater strength you will have to “spring up” and come to Jesus.

3 – Tell Jesus what you need. I don’t think Jesus was ignorant to Bartimaeus. But verse 51 is such a powerful transition. It says, “…I want to recover.” He confronted his “condition” that claimed his identity. He was ready to move forward from it.  Even with those in the crowd willing to help him, he still needed to make that personal decision to confront his darkness and bring it to Jesus.

4 – Keep following Jesus. Verse 52 says that he “recovered” and “followed him (Jesus) on the way.” Following Christ doesn’t mean I don’t have struggles. Even David remarked “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” We all face tough times. But what I learn from following Jesus consistently helps me in the times of struggle. I lean in the darkness what I learned in the light.  And the more I walk with Christ, the greater foundation I have and the deeper the well I have to draw from.

I don’t know who you are or where you find yourself. But I remind you of what I said earlier:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

And most importantly, regardless of your senses, Jesus is here. And he’s with you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: This is the song on repeat during the ENTIRE time I’ve written this blog

 

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…

Not What I Was Expecting: 6 Ways to Develop Healthy Marital Expectations

Last Saturday, I sat with some great friends and enjoyed some frozen yogurt while sharing stories of early “moments” in marriage where we may not have been at our best. First, I’m glad to have relationships where Anne and I can get together with others and laugh (still laughing about the Spam story). Laughter is a medicine to your soul (Prov. 17:22). It’s a necessity for a healthy emotional state. Secondly, it’s such a necessity to have relational outlets for you two to go out with two others (or more) and see how “normal” you are and how “normal” your journey (mistakes, successes, realizations, etc) are. Sometimes we get blinded by our “issues” and feel we are on an island by ourselves. Friendships let us know that we are not alone. We have others to journey with.

But walking away from that conversation, my mind when to the stories we heard, as well as the ones Anne and I shared, and realized that many of them had to do with one thing: expectations. Because if expectations are not navigated through correctly, it can develop a massive amount of disappointment…especially early in marriage.

Have you ever been let down? You’re probably picturing someone right now who has compromised your hope/expectations, and thus, giving you the feeling of disappointment. But understand: We’ve all been there. Anne and I visited “disappointment” often in our marriage, because, well, we’ve never been married before.  Our expectations came from the only references we had: our family and upbringing. Some of you may have been married before and carry a whole other level of expectations that, you may not realize, have manipulated your thoughts and emotions. Regardless of where they come from, we need to work hard at attacking unrealistic expectations so that we can walk in marital health.

Steven Furtick once said, “Frustration is born when our expectation doesn’t match our experience.” It’s a really great quote. I’ve adapted that into a teaching that I have shared (and drawn out) for so many couples to simply say:

Disappointment is the chasm between what we expected and what we experienced.

So many don’t want to admit it, but marriage, by design, is supposed to have disappointments. Why? You are different in so many ways. From being different sexes to the social differences of your upbringing. Your differences will naturally produce some disappointments. My heart today is not to completely eliminate them. I don’t think it’s possible. But perhaps we can close the chasm between what you are expecting and experiencing and create a way to navigate through them in a healthy way.

1 – Be willing to lay your expectations down and, perhaps, admit they may not be realistic. Humility produces a moldable marriage by showing that you don’t have to have your way AND the fact that you don’t have everything figured out. Proverbs 11:2 says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Humility to your heart likens to what farmers do to their fields in the spring; they churn the soil preparing it for seed, growth, and harvest.

2 – Set aside influences of discontent. From media, to family, to friendships, what are the sources of discontent? What is influencing your expectations that have you in a place unhappiness, envy, and displeasure?  It’s hard to feel full when you have outside sources trying to convince you that you are empty.  Proverbs 13:25, says “The godly eat to their hearts’ content, but the belly of the wicked goes hungry.” Why? Because their satisfaction isn’t based upon what fulfills their lives but what satisfies a moment.

(NOTE: This is where Anne and I have discovered our fullness in Christ.  Because if you do not find your fullness/contentment in Christ first, you will place expectations on your spouse, and others, they were never equipped to meet.)

Do you have outside influences of discontent? Keep them at arm’s length and draw near to Christ. This leads to #3…

3 – Increasing your exposure edifying influences. I’m not talking about chasing just what makes you “feel good.” I’m talking about pursuing resources and people who can mentor you into healthier expectations that will fill you with hope. Think about the sun. The more exposure you get to it, the more of an effect it’ll have on you (vitamin d, builds the immune system, can cure depression, etc.).  Edifying influences that build you up will have the same effect.

4 – Get rid of the critical tongue.  The Gottman Institutes says criticism is “a wish disguised…a negative expression of real need.” What needs to be done is to shut off the valve of criticism and to take responsibility for change.  Instead of unloading all blame for unmet expectations, you begin to own it and help shoulder the responsibilities of developing a healthy expectation. Critical spirits fractures the oneness between you and your spouse.  Introspective and humble hearts heal, fortify, and grow your marriage with realistic expectations.

5 – Form realistic goals together. This can’t be done by one or the other. By forming expectations that have been thought through AND prayed through by the BOTH of you, you will help set your marriage up for a journey of hope. Have periodic sit-downs to not just cast vision for what to expect but also as a look back at how those expectations have been, or are being, met. Some great areas to look at and develop healthy expectations: Quality time together, home responsibilities, spiritual life, sexual relationship, money management, and parenting.

6 – Keep talking. I believe couples face more disappointment than they need to experience because they have a “set it and forget it” with their expectations. Don’t stop talking and shaping/adjusting what to expect.  Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. And the more you tend to what makes your marriage flow, the better you will traverse through issues of expectations and experiences and, thus, see less and less disappointment.

Today, start closing the chasm of disappointment by developing healthy expectations that will lead to healthy experiences. It begins by shaping your mind and communicating your heart. Don’t lose hope.  See your marriage through the eyes of God. Proverbs 23:18 says, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” 

If you have Christ, you already have more than enough hope in Him. Embrace it. Walk in it. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…