In the last blogpost, I suggested that a "hardened heart", which Meg Marie Wallace mentions in her blogpost, "One thing that is guaranteed to end of all marriages", is the result of unresolved sin and it is this sin that is the root cause the hardening of hearts. Thus, the relational disconnect couples experience, comes primarily from unresolved sin that is buried alive, never dealt with, just tucked away in one's heart.
If unresolved sin could be dealt with in a healthy way, hardening of the heart would not happen at all. First, let's define and unresolved sin. This is sin done to us or it can be sin we commit against another. We know something has gone wrong, as we experience the feeling of being hurt, in the first case, or we experience guilt in the latter.
Our friends at TrueFace in their book, The Cure, share this about being hurt; "If you haven't been there yet, you will. You'll be wronged, hurt and then left for dead in an environment promoting just the opposite. It's a dangerous moment, because it causes us to wonder whether a place of safety, authenticity, grace and love is actually possible this side of heaven. It is here many of us make the choice to return to our self-preserving ways."
In marriage, most of us in the beginning, see our relationship as a place of safety. In time, stuff happens, we hurt each other, and we experience guilt and hurt. When we choose to go into self preservation mode to deal with sin, we bury it alive inside and it is unresolved. It is here that the unresolved sin issue, over time, manifest themselves in harmful attitudes and behaviors.
Let's explore this further next time and look at the behaviors which are symptoms of the unresolved sin that ultimately hardens the heart in marriages and other relationships.
In our Marriage Mosaic workshops we learn practical skills that are life giving for marriages and lead couples to living free from unresolved issues. Click here to find out about our workshops and register for one.
In Meg Marie Wallace's thoughtful blogpost, she postulates that the "one thing guaranteed to end all marriages" is a hardened heart. You can read it here.
Her great post has me asking this question; What caused the hardening of heart? Could the causes be worth discovering in the healing of a marriage relationship and/or in the prevention of hardening of the heart, leading to the end of a marriage?
Thanks Meg for prompting me to probe for answers to these questions. That is what a good blog does for me. I'm going to suggest that a hardened heart is a result of unresolved sin issues. What do a I mean by an unresolved sin issue?
Unresolved sin issues are like Tardigrades. Dormant, quiet, ugly, hidden. They can look dead for years. But, they are not dead. All unresolved sin issues are buried alive. Just the perfect circumstance, a sly word, a pesky argument, a trigger of some kind and that unresolved sin issue reconstitutes itself. Where did it come from? Oh, it was there all the time? Latent and ready to be activated. Why am I angrier than I was before? Why do I have blame, shame, denial, manipulation, fear, all mixed up inside me?
Ah...there it is, the root of the hardened heart; "Where did it come from? Let's talk more about where it came from next time and see the behaviors unresolved sin produces to that we can discover an "agent" of healing.
“What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it?”
I must confess. I am challenged at times in listening. I can be easily distracted from a conversation with my precious wife and when I do, she does not feel loved. As we have stated in previous blogs; "Love is the process of meeting needs." Our relational reality is, our spouses feel love when they sense that they are being listened to in conversations, because giving undivided attention in listening values and honors our spouse in a unique way.
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
This quote by David Augsburger sums up this radical way of loving. I wish listening came naturally, but it doesn't. It is a learned skill that must be practiced. At our marriage workshops, we teach couples what is called, Incarnational Listening and we give them time to practice it. This skill and other great skills can be found in the Emotionally Healthy Relationships Course by Pete and Geri Scazzero.
We have seen transformation and love experienced at our workshops as couples learn and practice this listening skill. How well do you listen to each other? You can powerfully change the dynamics of your relationship and experience intimacy through listening. Join us at one of our fall workshops and we will show you how to love well in marriage.
In a recent blogpost from Marriage Today, Jimmy Evans writes;
"Her next need is for soft, nonsexual affection. I once counseled a couple where the woman said, “Outside the bedroom, he’s never touched me. Never held my hand or put his arm around me.” She was frustrated and angry about it.
Early in our marriage, I was like that husband. I just didn’t know how to be affectionate with Karen. I was rough. God had to teach me how important it was for me to hold her, to be gentle and show affection without expecting it to lead somewhere. When I changed, it changed our marriage.
Some men may say, “That’s just not the way I am.” I tell them it doesn’t matter. You need to change and meet your wife’s needs.
I do agree with Jimmy Evans, that husbands need to change to meet our wives needs for nonsexual touch. The cool thing is that the power to change is Christ in us, the God of Love who dwells in each of His kids. Those of us, me included, who didn't come from families who displayed much affection, can depend on Jesus, who is the embodiment of love and compels us to show the many facets of love to our spouse. We can also move in humility, receive the love that comes by way of hugs, hand holding, gentle touches, and learn from our spouses. Appropriate physical touch is so important in affirmation, development and growth for children and adults. If you don't believe me, Google it; the research is there.
Love is the process of meeting needs.
We've been talking about experiencing love. I think we've established that In order to experience another's love for us (receive) we must trust. (Humility is trusting God an others with me.) Trusting is key!
Let's look at how serving one another can meet needs. Jesus modeled this for us.
In Matthew 20:28, and Mark 10:45, Jesus said; “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In John 13:1-17, we read of Jesus, in humility, washing the disciple’s feet. (serving)
In marriage, when we open our eyes and ears, we will discover ways to serve our spouses, meet needs, and give them an opportunity to experience our love. This sounds so simple, but it requires trust and humility. I wish we could drum this up on our own, but we can't. Humble serving requires a heart change and praise God, this is what He has given us in Jesus. We we placed our faith in Jesus, a great exchanged happened that enables us to love as He first loved us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 21 - For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This past month there have been many projects around our house. Serving one another has been at the forefront of our life together as a couple and family. Our wood deck, with the help of a friend received some new life (new boards) and was finished with a nice stain. Restored! I think this is like what God is doing in us through the maturing process. He graciously uncovers "old heart attitudes" and replenishes them by His grace with "new heart loving attitudes".
Are you submitting to His loving touch on your life and marriage? He is waiting patiently.
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.
Vic and Monique
We are all about helping your marriage thrive.