And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes. Jude 24-25 The Message
One thing I've noticed in our marriage of nearly 25 years is the need for strength. This is a need that isn't much talked about, but nonetheless, it is a core need in marriage. Monique and I have offered each other strength at various times in our marriage, when one of us has felt down and out. It would have been easy to shrink into self in these times and hope the other person snaps out of their funk.
Author Tim Kimmel poses this question in his book, Grace-filled Marriage; "if love is the commitment of your will to your spouses needs and best interests regardless of the cost, how is enabling your spouse to stay intimidated, weak, or fearful, in their best interest?"
Fear keeps us from enjoying our relationship with God and with our spouse. When one person in marriage is struggling in their doubt and disillusion, there is a great opportunity for the other spouse to draw on the inner strength that comes from confidence in God and His promises. Romans 8:28.
I love this reality presented by Kimmel in the book;
Grace-filled couples don't deny the reality of clear and present dangers that surround them. They realize that God gave them brains that he expects them to use when negotiating the rocks and shoals of life. And just because we're processing life through a filter of confidence in God doesn't mean we don't get pangs of fear about real dangers or sadness over setbacks. It just means these don't dictate our "What next?' scenarios.
We enter into the "What next?" scenarios by encouraging one another in the giftings God has graciously given us. We walk alongside gently reminding and building up our spouse. Our spouse needs to know that we believe they can do the things God calls them to do. Hope and strength build when our spouse acts from our encouragement and risks the adventure, trusting in their God given authority and His power.
With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort. 1 Corinthians 15:58 The Message
The need for significance is a big deal in marriage and for us as living breathing human beings. It is one of our basic core needs, and when we don't feel valued or have a sense that we matter, we usually live out of our shame.
Tim Kimmel, in the book Grace-filled Marriage says this; "If we made it our aim to use our words and actions to help our spouse add another layer to their inner sense of significance, we'd be doing more than smiling, we'd be doing the happy dance most of the time."
Kimmel defines significance; "a healthy view of who you are and what you have to offer as a person created by God and paid for by His son on the cross." David says in Psalm 139:14, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." This reality and the fact that we are created in the image of God, should give each and every one of us a tremendous sense of value.
The call to us in marriage is to build one another up, reinforce the significance our God has already given us and offers us daily. (1 Thess. 5:11) I love this from Tim Kimmel;
"Part of your love story is how you come alongside your spouse to help them find their sweet spot. When you view your spouse through the lens of God's grace, you help them hit their highest stride when it comes to their interests, passions, calling, and profession. Often their sweet spot is hidden or has been lying dormant. When you make it a priority to encourage your mate to their highest and best level of contribution, God smiles."
What are the practical steps towards building one another up in significance? We must begin by being aware of our old unhealthy ways of relating to each other. We must put off;
We must put on affirmation; using words of affirmation, approval and appreciation. We teach relational skills in our workshops to help you build significance into your relationship. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested in a workshop and receive encouragement.
Acceptance is another basic need we wake up to every day. Our gracious loving God will meet this need every moment of every day if we trust in His love for us. His love for us is unearned.
We can't do anything to earn God's love. This truth is spelled out in many New Testament passages.
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die -- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7-8 ESV
We, though, are going to love--love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
1 John 4:19 The Message
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2: 1-7 ESV
We were created by the God of love, to be loved. We experience love when our need for acceptance is met. It has been met by God. With God, our acceptance is not based on our performance. His love for us is unconditional. In our marriages, if we love one another based on performance, we find ourselves keeping lists and unconsciously creating a conditional love that kills relationship and intimacy.
If we operate, in marriage, in a performance based relationship, we will experience rejection and at the root of all rebellion is rejection. (Bill Thrall - Trueface.org) We will comply, and try, and try, and try, because we so want to be accepted, but eventually we will lose hope. We realize we can never be enough.
This is a sad scenario that is being played out in many many marriages, Christian or not. The antidote is trusting that we are accepted and loved by the God of this universe and that He has given us everything (Jesus) we need to accept others and love others well. Will you take a step and trust in His unconditional love and acceptance today, for the sake of your marriage.
Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." John 13:34 This statement by the Master, begs a question. How did he, Jesus, love us? He says here that we are to love others (our husbands and wives) as He loved us.
Our friends at TrueFace came up with this profound little statement;
Love is the process of meeting needs.
One of humankind's basic needs is the need for security. This is huge for the marriage relationship. Let's look at how Jesus meets this need for His followers. Jesus said; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:38-39; For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This security we have in His love one of the keys to this knowing; "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19
These are promises from God to us and we can trust them to be true in our relationship with Him. We are secure in His love for us. Our God is trustworthy! Jesus (God) met our need for security by His commitment to us and demonstrated commitment throughout His life, all the way to the cross at Calvary. . Now, how do we demonstrate a secure love to our spouse?
We experience being loved when our spouse demonstrates commitment to us through the ups and downs in our marriage journey. We learn, through simple acts of following through with the things we say we will do, being present in the prickly moments and moving towards our spouse, that we can be trusted. Trust is critical in demonstrating commitment, because without trust we cannot experience another's love, no matter how much love they have for us. Experiencing love takes us beyond feeling love and penetrates the depths of our hearts.
We'd love to hear from you. What are your thoughts regarding a secure love? Next week we will talk about Acceptance, another need that demonstrates our love.
One of the mission statements I remember from my school teaching years went something like this; to equip students to become lifelong learners. I'm thinking that this statement could be tweaked for my mission statement as a husband and father. It might read; equipping my wife and kids to be lifelong learners to receive and give love.
Our friends a Trueface say; "love is the process of meeting needs." What they are saying is, we experience love when our needs are met by God and others. The key here is the experiencing the love of another, not just the "knowing" we are loved. My wife can experience my love when she trusts my love for her. Love can't be received (experienced) if we don't trust one another.
Would you agree with this basic premise? Here it is stated a little differently...
"The degree to which I let others love me is the degree to which I can experience their love, no matter how much love they have for me." #Trueface
We will take these needs one at a time for our next few blog posts. Let's begin with Security next week.
We'd love to hear your thoughts, comments are so welcomed.
God often blesses Monique and I with stories of hope for marriages. Our new friend, John Boring, (see photo) has an incredible marriage story. He and is wife Suzi, divorced and remarried three times. When John encountered the grace of God, everything changed.
Here is John's story as he tells it...
"Suzi was seventeen years younger. I worried about that. When we married in 1973 she was twenty-four and I was forty. We had been together for three years and I held off proposing because of my fears that down the road she would see me for the old man I would become, and then she would leave me. She convinced me my age was her problem, not mine. So, I whisked her off to Las Vegas and we were married at the Little Chapel of the West. Five years later, without any basis for it other than my paranoia about her leaving me someday, I asked for a divorce. I wanted to call it quits on my terms; before she hurt me. She easily agreed because she loved me so much. She wanted me to be happy. On the day that she left I came to my senses but it was too late. I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I had destroyed her trust. I had devalued her love. I had destroyed her dreams."
John's love for Suzi never died and after they remarried for the last time, John had an encounter with Jesus that changed everything. John continues telling more of the story below...
"We walked into Open Door Fellowship Church on a hot Sunday in July, 2005. My first impression was one of love, visible and physical. By that I mean families were greeting each other in the aisle, hugging and smiling. Parents selected seats and wives snuggled close, with the children next to them. The way you do in a movie theater when you expect the lights to dim. I noticed the room was more auditorium than chapel. No windows, no spiritual or religious trappings. No gold or glitter. Then, the music began to play and it immediately hit my soul. I had never experienced church music like this; a rock beat but with Godly lyrics.
Something inside of me released in a dramatic way and I began to sob, loudly. Not in grief for the loss of our son, Dan, but with a feeling of having come home after a very long time being away. Then, John Lynch, the teaching pastor began to talk. He was mesmerizing. I hung on every word, sensing truths I had never before heard. In my mind, I kept saying, “Yes, that’s right.” Yes, I see that now.” Yes, of course, why hadn’t I heard it like this before?? I instinctively knew I was home; in the church I belonged; listening to the man I had been looking for all these years. When I walked out of that church that Sunday, I was not the same man who had walked in just a few short hours ago.
Everything aspect of my personality was being altered. Generosity stepped over my selfish ways. Love was the predominate thought in my heart; Jesus was now real to me now. I had felt His presence for the first time in my life. From this moment forward I would love Suzi more visibly and more powerfully. I hungered now for more spiritual truths, more vivid explanations of the bible. I wanted it to come alive for me as John Lynch was presenting it. I wanted to know it all, and yet, I was satisfied with what I knew at that moment. Nothing would ever change that first feeling. God is real. Jesus lives. I am Christ in John Boring. That conviction has lasted now for twelve years. Suzi experienced it with me for eight years and it was the very best gift I could have given her.
Suzi died in 2013 from cancer, two days past her 65th birthday. During her last days I was with her constantly, tending to her, comforting her, loving her. She died knowing that I had always loved her, even when she thought I didn’t. One of the last things she said to me was, 'Don’t be sad. Remember, you are but one step behind me.'
I still love her so"
Monique and I love John and Suzi's story because love wins by the grace of God. Before John trusted Jesus with his life, much of his marriage relationship was couched in fear. After receiving and experiencing the love of Jesus, John loved Suzi with Christ's love in Him and received her love in life changing ways. So beautiful!
John and Suzi on their wedding day in 1973.
Early on in our marriage, I remember waking up to the aroma of coffee. Vic always rose before me and the scent of brewing beans filled our home. I think I liked this more than the taste of coffee itself. Somewhere along the line, Vic started bringing me a cup every morning...with cream and sugar of course.
It's a simple gesture, this morning delivery, but 20 plus years later, I still experience something as warm on the inside as the coffee itself. Love. Deep love. Sometimes I wake up, and it is sitting on my night stand. This simple caring and selfless act has made deep deposits in my heart, reminding me of Vic's consistent commitment to our marriage...it really does 'fill my cup'.
Simple gestures, whatever they may be for a couple....coffee, cleaning, cards, repairs, listening, laughing, sitting side by side...demonstrate love and insulate us in times of disagreement, conflict or potential nitpicking.
Just this past Thursday Vic & I were slated to fly out to Phoenix, Arizona for a Grace Changes Everything Retreat, along with some training to facilitate these retreats. We were excited, looking forward to seeing familiar faces with our friends from the Trueface Ministry and meeting new ones.
However, little did we know our flight would be cancelled that evening...after a three hour plus wait at the gate...along with an early morning reschedule at Sea-Tac. Surprisingly, we were pretty chill about the whole ordeal, our adult children would have been proud of us...they would not have needed to ask Mom or Dad to take a chill pill. Alaska Airlines has incredible customer service and put every single passenger up in hotel rooms for the evening and additionally provided over $60 of meal vouchers...not a bad deal! That being said, I thought we were in the clear for stress, just a bit tired.
I'm not sure why, but airport travel has often been a place for marriage and/or family triggers for the Woodward's over the years...and we have traveled, much, which gives you an idea how many times we have had opportunity to practice grace and humility in our family. The next morning proved to be no different. Since we had passed the test the previous evening, I figured we were in the clear, so was caught off guard Friday morning, and did not respond well.
In the midst of being on the phone, seeking a refund for our hotel in Phoenix for the previous evening, printing bag tags and pulling out our I.D.'s I felt the stress level rise and I could see it not only in Vic's face but his entire body. Just about that time, he went to go open his wallet and all the various contents fell to the floor, debit cards, receipts etc....for the second time that morning. As he collected the items off the ground his face proceeded to change color to a nice shade of red. I didn't know it at the time, but inside, he felt stupid and later said it seemed as though people were staring at him, thinking, "what's wrong with that guy"...and he was embarrassed.
Vic and I have learned that when our shame gets triggered, we can often respond in curt, impatient or unloving ways. Today was just such a day. In that moment, when I experienced that response from Vic towards me in communication....well, let's just say it didn't go so well. I pushed right back at him with anger and completely shut down. At this point, the rollercoaster car was no longer chugging upward in anticipation of a downward plunge....we were there, and at full speed! We proceeded through the security check point. I went one way...and he the other, spending our airport vouchers eating breakfast independently of one another. Not fun. What I had anticipated to be a joy-filled morning was doused with the cold water of conflict.
To be honest, it took the flight from Seattle to Phoenix to "chill", then followed up by a 20 minute conversation in the Phoenix airport before we took an Uber ride to the retreat...Grace Changes Everything....just in the nick of time. We were determined to resolve the conflict before leaving the airport. To shorten this blog up a bit, since it is getting longer than usual, I will share two discoveries we unpacked with one another, and at the retreat...which involved around 30 people, in a room of grace no doubt. We actually got to the place of laughing about the whole deal.
Discovery #1: At the time of all this stress, I had no idea of the negative self-talk that was going on in Vic's head...I had no such thoughts towards him and did not realize how embarrassed he was. For the future, should this happen, I will much more intentionally move towards him to help and encourage him, assuring him it's all going to be good (this includes directions when we are lost driving). In my flesh, when I experienced his anger, my immediate reaction was to lay down the law...and tell him I didn't want to fly with him anymore because this "always happens" (not true)...you can hear the conversation if you know us well:) I was far from extending grace...or humility...I was 'justified' in my response because of his behavior. Good thing God does't withhold his grace from us when we fail to meet His hopes for us.
Re-discovery #2: Humility is the only doorway to genuinely resolve conflict. Vic realized what was going on and has also agreed to share with me more "on the spot" when these triggers happen so I can protect him with love...not react in frustration and anger, making it all about me, but rather, helping him. What a gift!
In His Grace ~ Mo
Humility is trusting God and others with me.
One of the images of humility we cling to in the Scriptures is Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus, in complete humility, trusting in the love of the Father, stooped down to the feet of his friends, and washed their feet. (John 13) We read in Hebrews 4:15,
For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. He knows our story and has made it possible for us to live humbly in our relationships with our spouses and others.
The first practical application for us in marriage is to trust the heart (redeemed hearts made new), of our spouse. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) Our new hearts are well intentioned, good willed at the core. Living humbly means we live openly and honestly before one another. We have no reason to keep secrets or hide, because the essence of humility is derived from the grace of God and our new identity in Christ.
So, when my wife does something that irritates me or I fail to pay attention to some details that are important to her, instead of going into character assassination mode, we have learned to step into humility and allow God's waves of grace to wash over the moment. We trust each others hearts, which means that we realize that we are not purposely trying to make life more difficult for each other. When my daughters say; "Dad, take a chill pill"; I know there hearts are for me, not to mock me. In humility, I own my attitude and take the "pill".
The key is to take the equivalent of a "chill pill" and step into trusting the heart of your spouse. When you do this, you step into the realm of grace, where love matures us into the image of Christ. Our marriages become the signs and wonders He destined for us.
I must confess, I haven't understood humility for much of my life. What I have lived out of has been "false humility." My friends at TrueFace describe the humility of Jesus in his washing the disciples feet.
"In John 13 Jesus’s trust in the Father—that is, His being humble—moved Him to wash the disciples’ feet. His humility deeply touched the heart of Peter, who did not initially understand humility and so demonstrated a false humility: “I’m not worthy to have You wash my feet.” False humility emphasizes the unworthiness of a person, which is rooted in shame. It’s never rooted in trust.
Our trust in God never marks us as unworthy because it gives us access to His presence. Nothing can be more worthy than the presence of God. So Peter, in seeing the modeling of Jesus, then learned from Jesus that one day he, Peter, would have this kind of humility, where he would trust God—and in vulnerability, trust himself to others."
Humility is trusting God and others with me.
I love this quote above, again from our friends at TrueFace. In the next blogpost I will talk about how the implications of believing and applying the definition for our marriages. Stay tuned!
Vic and Monique
We are all about helping your marriage thrive.