Family can be an amazing, joyous celebration…sometimes. At other times family can produce a struggle. After all, family is made up of imperfect people. Still, God can use your family for amazing things. That’s one of the lessons from Family Camp at Camp Christian this year. Rich Aubrey taught us several things about family. For instance, he showed us how restores through family and blesses through family. He explained how God loves and blesses families, not just traditional nuclear families, but all families. If your family has experienced hardships or losses, don’t worry. God can reshape tragedy within families to create blessings when we turn toward one another and join with one another in facing the challenges of life. Those family blessings continue to grow when we learn to express our power in humble service and accept one another’s influence, to submit to one another in the reverence for Christ. This is all great advice for our families, advice that will strengthen our families. Thank you Rich and Sherri for sharing with us.
Great teaching is only part of the experience of Family Camp though. The children play. The adults talk. Whole families join together for activities and meals. Everyone shares. I especially enjoy seeing families in all stages and walks of life coming together to encourage and support one another. It’s a beautiful sight to see the expressions of love between family members and between families…to watch a father fishing with his son, a father teaching his daughter music, a couple walking hand in hand with their children gathered around them, parents offering loving correction and teaching …. These are beautiful sights. Perhaps the most touching moments come when families gather together to worship, to sing and learn about God’s plan for family. Even more amazing is when families actually practice what they learn–giving of themselves to their spouse and children; serving one another by getting a drink, clearing the dishes, or serving the food; or lifting up another family’s need to help them through a hard time. All in all, it gives me great hope.
If you have not experienced family at its best, I invite you to Family Camp next year. Terri and Jim Jones organize a wonderful weekend with plenty of free time for family fun and great teachers for encouraging words to strengthen families. They get better every year…so can’t wait to see you there next year!
In a previous post I mentioned that the best family advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t even family advice. It was discipleship advice. And, it was given by a man who was single and even alienated from His own family at the time He gave voice to this advice. The advice comes in two parts. Part one was to “deny yourself.” Part two is to “take up your cross.” When this advice was first spoken, the cross was a way to punish, in a very public and humiliating way, those who threatened the way the world was organized under the ruling authority of the Romans. To take up our cross as a family means to live a family life that will stand in stark contrast to the world around us, to have a revolutionary family life based on principles in opposition to the “world powers” around us. Let me explain by offering a few examples.
- The world encourages us to assert our power, stand up for our rights. A family that “takes up a cross” will submit to one another in love and service.
- The world encourages us to promote ourselves and “build our brand.” We are told to climb the ladder of success on the backs of others because it’s a “dog eat dog world.” A family that “takes up a cross” will encourage one another, promote one another’s success, and build one another up rather than focus on my own success.
- The world calls us to achieve a status in which we can BE served. A family that “takes up a cross” strives TO serve one another within the family and TO serve others as a family.
- The world encourages leadership through power brokerage techniques, such as taking charge, delegation, and telling others what to do. A family that “takes up a cross” will lead through love. Each one will want to lead in forgiveness, showing kindness, and serving one another.
The family that “takes up a cross” exhibits different values than the family that lives according to “the world system.” It may, at times, lead to some ridicule or misunderstanding from those outside the family. However, it will also lead to a stronger more intimate family. “Taking up a cross” creates a family whose strength is found in humble service, loving accountability, sincere encouragement, and kindness. It sounds odd, even wrong, but taking up your cross to build a strong and intimate family is a wise and powerful action to take!
Defensiveness can kill a marriage. Think about it. One spouse, feeling attacked by the other, begins to defend himself and his actions. He builds a wall of defense between him and his spouse rather than around him and his spouse. He thinks of protecting himself, not his marriage. By establishing a wall of protection between him and his wife, he sends an implicit message that he will not accept her influence. The wall between them grows taller and thicker with each defensive experience. The couple grows more divided. Trust is breached. Overtime, this stance of defensiveness will build a wall strong enough to kill a marriage.
We want to tear down the wall of defensiveness between spouses and build a wall of protection around their marriage. Both spouses generally play a role in creating defensiveness; and both spouses need to play a role in ending that defensiveness. Here are 5 ways to decrease defensiveness in your marriage and assure a wall of protection is built around you and your spouse rather than between you and your spouse.
- Cherish your spouse. Do something to let your spouse know you cherish her every day. Thank her for what she does to maintain your home. Acknowledge her wisdom and care in parenting and caring for you. Recognize and voice your respect for the work she accomplishes on the job, in your home, and in the community. Let your daily words and actions reflect how much you cherish your spouse.
- Build trust with your spouse. The kisses when you part and the hugs when you reunite build trust. Completing the chores you said you would to complete and keeping the promises (large and small) you made build trust. Spending time laughing, playing, working, and just being with your spouse and children every day builds trust. Trust is built on the little things done throughout the day every day.
- Each spouse can decrease defensiveness by taking responsibility for his or her actions. Listen for the kernel of truth in what you perceive as an accusation. It may be small, but accept even the smallest role you played in creating the situation. Acknowledge your part. Take responsibility. Apologize.
- Accept your spouse’s influence by committing to change your part in the situation. As you do, your spouse will feel heard and understood. Feeling heard increases the desire for intimacy…and isn’t that what you really want in your marriage?
- Complain instead of criticize. (Read For a Healthy Marriage Complain, Don’t Criticize). A criticism accuses, blames, and defames. A complaint focuses on the behavior you want to change. Focus on the behavior, not the person, when you bring up a concern.
Practice these five actions and you will build a wall of protection around your marriage rather than a wall of defense.
“You say you want a revolution, well, you know…we all want to change the world.”–The Beatles
I have an idea…a revolutionary idea. It is not a new idea. On the contrary, it is an ancient idea written to the Ephesians some 2000 years ago by Paul, a wise Jewish evangelist. His words of love are revolutionary, even today. Implementing his ideas this month will enhance your Valentine’s Day as they revolutionize your relationship with your spouse. Even more, I believe that implementing these words in our homes will spark a revolution that will not only change our families but the world. Yes, this revolution does begin at home. It begins with a personal change in how I respond to my family. This revolution has several components; but I only want to speak of one today. This first component begins the revolution; and it sounds…well, rather revolutionary by today’s standards. Let me explain.
We begin a revolution to change the world by surrendering to the influence of our spouse. You heard it right–give up your individual rights and entitlements and accept the influence of your spouse. Surprisingly, a compliment under this revolutionary love will sound like this: “You are a wonderfully submissive person” or “I really admire how you let your spouse influence your decisions.” I know that goes against the grain of our society, but it is supposed to be revolutionary. It even goes against the grain of our personal sense of entitlement. But, this attitude of surrender and submission can change your family for the better! When we accept the influence of our spouse (and even our family), we remain open to them. We voluntarily and gracefully keep an attitude of cooperation in the forefront of our mind. We constantly look for ways to surrender our personal desires to satisfy their desires. We accept their ideas and opinions. We listen closely, looking for areas of compromise and areas in which we can surrender our rights for them. We constantly seek to lift them above us in having needs met. We become their servant. This revolutionary concept—submission—begins the revolution!
To accept the influence of our spouse and family may be as simple as changing how we squeeze the toothpaste or hang the roll of toilet paper. It may prove as simple as whether we leave the toilet seat up or down—submitting our desire to our spouse’s desire. However, it can also become more complex when we discuss issues like where to go for vacation, where to live, or what job to take. In these complex areas, we will have to open up to our family, listen carefully to their words, understand the emotion behind those words, and value them enough to accept their opinion. To accept the influence of our spouse and family means that we allow their opinion to influence our decision. It all sounds great, life changing…but challenging to accomplish. Still, “you say you want a revolution….” And so it begins!
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21
I realize that our society tends to downplay “submission.” We don’t see submission as an admired trait. In fact, we don’t even like the word “submission.” We avoid it, degrade it, make light of it. Rarely do we receive a compliment like, “You are a wonderfully submissive person.” Can you imagine someone telling you, “I really admire how you let your wife influence your decision not to go out with the guys tonight…you are such a good example of loving submission”? In fact, that kind of comment might make us rebel a little just to prove our independence, to assert the fact that we are not hen-pecked. We would much rather hear someone say, “You are such a strong-willed person,” “I love how you take charge,” or “I admire your ability to make strong, independent decisions.” Those are all good compliments, but how do we balance them with “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Fact of the matter is, submission can make or break a family. Research suggests that a man’s willingness to accept the influence of his wife–his willingness to listen to her and allow her to influence his ideas–strengthens his marriage. Dr. Gottman, the “love lab guru,” suggests that if a man does not submit to his wife’s ideas by listening and sharing power, the relationship ends in divorce 80% of the time! In other words, a man needs to be a leader of submission in his family. He needs to model submission. Don’t get me wrong, marriages benefit when women submit to their husbands as well. A man will feel unappreciated, mistrusted, and undervalued if his wife does not submit to him and accept his influence. How can he teach his children to respect others if his wife does not respect him through submission? On the other hand, a woman may begin to feel isolated, unheard, invalidated, and uncared for if her husband does not submit by listening to and accepting her influence. How can she truly care for her family if her husband constantly undermines her efforts to teach their children the responsibility of household chores (and vice versa)? If a married couple does not submit to each other and support one another in their efforts to build a family, the children will follow their example, refusing to listen and denying the influence of their parents. (Take a survey to see how much influence you accept from others.)
Overall, families benefit from a mutual effort to find areas of surrender and compromise. Families grow stronger when each person listens intently and honestly, exhibiting a willingness to accept the ideas and opinions of other family members, and remaining open to being influenced by those ideas and opinions. Families benefit from mutual submission.
I can hear it now…”You want me to let him (or her) walk all over me?” “I should let her (or him) run my life?” Of course not. Submission is not slavery. It’s not abusive. In fact, if a person moves from submission and accepting influence to demanding unquestioned obedience, their marriage and family life are doomed. Effective submission involves mutual respect and trust. Couples find it easier to submit to a spouse when he/she submits as well, showing respect and honor. Husbands and wives more readily submit to one another when they know their spouse has their best interest at heart, when they trust one another and when they know that their loves is reciprocated. In the midst of this mutual submission, children learn to trust, listen, respect, and accept influence; they learn to submit. They feel safe submitting to their parents’ rules because they have seen submission modeled. They have witnessed the benefits of submission. They have experienced the security of a strong relationship marked by mutual submission.
So, be a leader in submission. Go ahead and say “Yes dear” now and again…or “OK, I’ll do it your way this time.” It will go a long way in building mutual trust, respect, and intimacy in your family.