Marital Traffic: 3 Ways to Face Marital Challenges

Periodically, when I’m performing weddings, I’ll read an excerpt from a piece written by Robert Fulghum called, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. ” It’s a fun take of how we can approach life, especially in marriage. It says”

Most of what I really need to know about how to live
And what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.

I love to linger on that last line.

“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”

The statement is more powerful than most couples realize. First, traffic is present. There’s nothing inherently bad about “traffic.” Cars are not evil. But the metaphor is deep enough to warn us that every marriage faces things beyond themselves that are challenging. And challenges that are not properly navigated through can/will cause pain. That leads us to my second thought: though you can do nothing about the presence of traffic, you can maneuver through it safely if you walk together, work together, and stay together.

(If you’re a wedding officiate, congrats, you now have a great ending to your wedding ceremony.)

It’s not facing the “traffic” (struggles) that makes you feel hopeless, it’s feeling like you’re going through it alone. And THAT, my friends, should not be.

Tattooed on the outside of my right wrist is a meaningful scripture I want to give you. It’s out of Isaiah 43:2 and says,

When you go through deep waters, I will be with youWhen you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

This powerful word is not the denial of tough times but the promise of the Lord’s presence within them. Our marriages will face “rivers of difficulty” and “the fire of oppression.” But His presence is what helps us “go through” them and not get destroyed by them. Together with the Lord, our marriages can make it through “traffic.”

So if we’re going to face “traffic,” perhaps we can have a simple yet strategic approach to marital challenges that produce something out of our pain.

1. Go through it together.
I grew up in metro Detroit and I know traffic. I’ve also driven though Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York. And the reason why the traffic was worth enduring was the destination that was in my vision. Why “go through it”? Because your marriage is worth it. When you see something challenging in front of your marriage, talk about it; strategize about it. Grab each other’s hands, pray Isaiah 43 over your marriage, and go through it together. I love Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

2. Grow through it together.
Going through challenges is inevitable; learning from them is optional. Don’t waste the struggle. Look at what you face (or are presently facing) and find purpose in the pain by growing from what you have endured. What could you (or both of you) have done different? What should you do the next time you face a challenge? How can you do a better job encouraging each other through things? What tools/help can you access to guide you both? Find a growth point personally and maritally and share those with one another.

3. Share the wisdom. 
Don’t be selfish with your lessons; share them with someone who needs hope. Sometimes “hope” is in the form of “We understand. We’ve been there. We know what you’re going through.” When you share your progress and your victories, you share hope. And a sliver of hope can be the catalyst for another couple to see a mountain they’re facing moved.

Love you all. Praying over you all as you face the traffic in life together, learn from the journey, and pour that into others.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

My Marriage is Full of Crap; 5 ways to make fertilizer for the future

From the get-go, let me say this: Storms don’t discriminate.  They’re equal opportunity givers.

Like the word “crap” or not.  Every one of us have that/a word we utilize to describe a moment that didn’t suit us.  It could encapsulate an entire event or the immediate feeling about the situation.  We all have our “word.”  You may be more sanctified than me (most likely), but  “Crap” seems to be the one I settled on years ago that seems to be a family fav.  For those of you already offended by the word, you’re probably wondering when the blog about the “looseness of words” is going to happen.  But that’s another blog for another time.

22 days from now, Anne and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage together.  And after our 20 years of being “Dave and Anne” (dating and marriage), I can say, our marriage has been full of crap, or more descriptive, crappy situations. There have been moments of disappointment and displeasure.  Frustrations and faults.  We have annoyed each other and let each other down. We’ve seen embarrassment and hurt.

Yet here we stand.  I don’t say that out of any semblance of pride. I humbly recognize that which the Apostle Paul recognized,

I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NLT

Some of you see the “crap” that has happened and you feel alone.  Even though in your head, you know others deal with it, but your experiences make you feel you’re on a desert island…alone and stuck.  Maybe you’re like me and as you watch things transpire, you feel like a failure because you could’ve/should’ve prevented it from happening. It’s frustrating but tough moments are a part of life you can’t always forecast. But you can do one of two things:

1 – Wallow in the crap.  We can just sit/live in the frustration and disappointment. The filthiness and smell of failure can be your new identity.  We can walk around reeking like it because we refuse to leave it behind.

or…

2 – We can take the “crap” life throws at us and turn it into fertilizer.  You and I can look at a “set-back” and use it as a “set-up” for something amazing to happen.

One of my favorite professors in college used to say, “You need to have 50/20 vision.”  The scripture he was referring to was a passage in Genesis spoken from the mouth of Joseph.  You want to talk about “crap” happening to someone.  He was betrayed by family.  Sold into slavery.  Lost a position of authority out of a false sex scandal. Jailed. Forgotten in obscurity.

Yet when all is said and done, he stands on the other side of a lifetime of letdowns with these words to the very family who tried to destroy him,

Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good. Genesis 50:20

The moments happen.  Those unplanned and unforeseen moments that we never thought would happen to our marriage blindsided us.  Nobody plans for disappointments.  There’s not a single one of us who walked the aisle of our weddings wishing that we could have frustration in our marriage.

But it happens.  You are human.  You married a human.  Humans are messy.  “Crap” is going to happen.  But you have the choice: wallow in it or see it with 50/20 vision.  See it from a place where God can use it to fertilize growth for the future.

Here’s a few tips for you to get 50/20 vision of the “crap” that happens…

1.  Guard your responses. The book of James tells us, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” This is a 3-part message by itself. Don’t be reactionary. Take time to ponder and process what is taking place. See past the surface into the deeper issues.  Perhaps your spouse isn’t trying to hurt you purposely, but he/she is acting out of her themselves. Take a moment to listen thoroughly, carefully choose healthy words, and calm your temperament.  

2. Be careful who you surround yourself with. Psalm 1 warns us to be cautious to not surround ourselves with people who are NOT going to have a healthy, Godly mindset.  But joyous living comes from surrounding yourself with the wisdom (Word) of God.  When we do, the promise is we will be like a like “trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”  I don’t care if the person is your BFF, if the person is all about telling you what you want to hear and/or what they selfishly want for you, you need to separate yourself from them during this season.  When the “crappy” moments of life hit, the wisdom (or lack thereof) you surround yourself with can make all the difference in the world.

3. Be a bridge builder. We’re always waiting for others to make the first move. Some say, “Time heals everything.” It’s a lie. Time, by itself, heals nothing. The only way to resolve conflict is to face it. God expects you to take the first step. He expects you to be the peacemaker. You make the first move. It doesn’t matter if you are the offended one or the offender.  Always see it as your move. It’s so important that God says it takes priority over worship.  Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (NLT).

4. See what Christ sees. Potential is recognizing the future possibility.  It’s unrealized power.  This is the way Christ sees us.  He sees His power working in us and what can be done/accomplished through Him if we will walk in obedience.  NOTE: He doesn’t wait for our actions to begin to see who we could be.  He doesn’t wait for our obedience to respond to us.  Jesus reaches out when we don’t. He offers a future without us even deserving it.  Your spouse may look and act like a mess.  But if you’ll look in the mirror, you’re not going to see any less in you.  This is why we all need to see what Jesus sees. Always look past the surface and see the potential.

5. Love based upon His love and not yours. 1 Corinthians 13 has been read at so many weddings.  I’ve done it.  I’ve heard it. We constantly read it from the place of how we are supposed to love.  We really need to see it as a description of how God loves.  Us humans carry such a surface level understanding of love. It’s so dependent upon “what have you done for me lately.”  We fall “out” of love as fast as we fall “in” love.  Paul tells a Corinthian church who is struggling with an understanding of love, sex, and community that THIS is what God’s love looks like.  It’s not a circumstantial feeling.  It’s a daily decision.  And if we are going to reflect Him, we need to daily decide to respond to the world around us, especially our spouse, with His love. 

Crap happens to all of us.  Storms don’t discriminate.  They’re equal opportunity givers. But today you need to decide: Are you going to wallow in it? Or are you ready to turn it around to fertilize your future and launch your marriage towards health. 

It time to move forward and see God do amazing things. 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: “Faithful in the tough times”

Error
This video doesn’t exist
We started a new series this month called “His Faithfulness” We are looking at the faithfulness of God revealed to us in the scripture.  Take time to read the passage here on the blog or in your own bible.

Today’s scripture: Hebrews 11:17-12:3

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph,bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he enduredas seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.