"If you marry, you have not sinned...but those who marry will face many troubles in this life..." 1 Corinthians 7:28
As our pastor pointed out today, not exactly the Scripture he quotes most often at weddings! But it was a key point brought up at the marriage conference that my husband and I attended this past weekend.
At the "Love and Respect" Conference, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs brought out the point that in today's world, our beliefs about marriage are often more conditioned by Hollywood than God's Holy Word. And that is a key reason why the divorce rate within the Church is no better than the world's divorce rate. Hollywood tells us that there should be a "happily ever after" (well, in their scripts.. they can't even find this in their own private lives, hence the tabloids). You will find few folks walking around quoting 1 Corinthians 7:28!
And then when we start having problems within our marriage, we think there is something wrong with US... that everyone else must be "okay". We must've married the wrong person.
I know that divorce is always so painful. I have grieved with many friends who have walked through that fire, and some that are currently in it. And don't think there haven't been times it has crossed either my mind or my husband's! I tell you that to share that we walked into that marriage conference with far from a perfect marriage. But several things I learned really made some lightbulbs turn on for me and I just wanted to share a few with you.
Picture a crowded bus. Everyone is squashed together, trying to zone out in their own world.. reading papers, listening to ipods, reading books, checking Blackberries. However, the normal bus sounds keep getting drowned out by the yelling of small children, as there are small kids running up and down the aisle. It also becomes harder & harder to ignore the two kids that are fighting with each other in the seat next to you. Finally, you identify the man that must be their dad. He's sitting with his head leaned back, eyes closed and appears to be dozing. You notice all the other passengers, like yourself, growing increasingly irritated and angry. Why won't that father do anything about those awful kids?? He must be one of those New Age dads who doesn't believe in discipline. He must be a terrible father, at any rate.
Finally, you realize that it is up to you to do something about this. You lean way up out of your seat, tap the father impatiently on the shoulder, and insist that he needs to control his kids who are running wild over the bus.
Slowly, he opens his eyes, gets up and slowly turns around. He leans around the seat and the whole bus is straining to hear as he softly says, "I am so sorry about my kids. You are right, they are out of control. I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to say to them."
"We've just come from the hospital, you see. My wife.. their precious mom.. just lost her battle with cancer. Their mom just died a little while ago, and I don't think any of us know quite what to do."
Can you feel it? The instant shift in your attitude toward this family? They need help.. they need mercy. They don't need condemnation. One key missing piece of the puzzle changed everything.
And so it is within our marriages. For so long, we've been told by popular culture that "all we need is love" and everything will be great. As women, it's not hard to totally agree with this. After all, L-O-V-E most certainly is what we need, and unconditionally. The key missing piece, as we learned is that to most men, love is not spelled L-O-V-E. It is spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And what really blew me away is, men need this as unconditionally as we women need love!
"Unconditional respect"... isn't that an oxymoron??? Isn't respect something that should be earned, not just freely given?? You could almost see the eyebrows of the women in the audience go up in surprise, at this point.
He was making the point that men and women have such drastically different ways we see the world and communicate (he calls it "pink" vs. "blue"), that you somehow have to learn to speak in your spouses "native tongue", and when you do, you will have their full attention!
Dr. Emerson pointed out that when men don't get this unconditional respect from their wives, they often shut down, acting in ways that are definitely unloving... "stonewalling" he called it... retreating... they are just not there. And when we wives don't get that unconditional love, we most often push harder... reacting angrily, and negatively. "You must not really love me." "Why can't you just do this?" And such begins, what he calls "The Crazy Cycle". It really is a vicious circle.
He walked through many ways for both husbands and wives to "jump off the Crazy Cycle". Many practical ways for husbands to show their wives love, and many practical things women could do (and simple! we really don't have to be a doormat to show respect) to show respect to their husbands.
Just a brief few ways to show respect to your husband: 1) every so often, tell him “thanks” for going to work every day for the family. 2) let him share his dreams with you without shutting him down. 3) honor his authority in front of the kids and differ with him in private. 4) let him fix things and then praise him. 5) do recreational activities with him, side by side, without talking the whole time (watch how this energizes him to open up to you at a later time!) 6) try to be less negative in the home. 7) respond more positively (and more often) to his sexual overtures, and sometimes take the initiative yourself.
(I didn't feel I needed to list ways for husbands to show love for their wives, as I am speaking to primarily women here on the blog and this is our “mother tongue”!)
Dr. Eggerichs pointed out that he is not reinventing the wheel. This is all very Biblical and his key verse was:
"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33
God was not giving us suggestions here. Notice the key word "must" used in both cases... this is a command. When he really got my attention was when he said this, "Just beyond your spouses's shoulder stands Jesus Christ. Everything you say and do to your spouse, you do to Christ." Wow. Now I already knew this in my heart to be true. But I had never actually pictured Jesus, standing right there beyond my husband's shoulder!
He was making the point that the bottom line is it's all about our love & respect towards Christ, not just our spouses.
If women view the world through pink sunglasses and hear through our pink hearing aids and yell through pink megaphones, men certainly view it through their blue sunglasses, hear through their blue hearing aids... you get the picture. But when the pinks and the blues come together.. they make the most beautiful shade of purple. The color of royalty. The color of Jesus Christ.
There is so much more that I wish I could share here, but I fear today's blog entry is already much too long! I would strongly encourage you to find a copy of the "Love and Respect" book and read it. I can honestly say it is already changing my marriage in significant ways, for the better.