Tag Archives: Relating

Marriage: Great Risk, Great Reward It's not in what you get, but what you give. And give up.

Marriage is hard.

If you’re soon to be wed and you hear those words, you eschew them as the trite acrimony of bitter people. That will never be true for us, you say to yourself, sure of the truth of your conviction.

Without fail, you discover that the union of two lives into one is never smooth, easy, care-free, or any other blissful thought we hold before marriage.

I love my wife. I love her more than anyone ever. (Sorry, Mom…) She is so special to me, everything about her. It is truly difficult for me to imagine my life without her. I love her laugh, her smell, her eyes, her joy; her long, beautiful hair, her passion—be prepared for fiery discussion if you hit upon one of her passionate topics, of which there are many—and I love her gentle spirit maybe most of all.

But some days are so hard! So hard. When two people share life, it is not a 50/50 split. In marriage, the math doesn’t make sense. It’s one hundred percent, each way. Well, that’s hard to do! (It doesn’t “make sense”, remember?) But it’s the only way it works.

With that math, you are completely in the hands of another. That is the greatest risk of marriage. You are 100% vulnerable. All of you, with none in reserve. In that equation, you are giving up control. To work well, a marriage requires both spouses to contribute their all—100%—to the other.

Thus, success depends as much on your spouse as it does on you.

That is the great risk.

And, that is the great reward.

If marital success could be achieved by your own efforts (i.e. the things you have control of) then it would stand to reason that many more marriages would succeed. Why not “try” to have a great marriage, if all it takes it to “try harder”. That is obviously not the case, and most would agree, doesn’t make sense. Even if you are giving your all—and, likely, that’s an exaggeration of your own ego, more than a factual truth—your marriage could be a shambles if your spouse is not also fully in.

The risk, then, is entering into to this life-long commitment, knowing that you are actually giving up control. You can not produce a great marriage simply by your own efforts.

But…

The reward of giving yourself fully to another, whom you are then trusting to do the same is, even in concept, astounding. The joy in that journey is incredible. To share all of life’s moments—euphoric, crushing, and in between—with another, as one…

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT

That quote is so often misused. It is not to require submission, or assign dominance. In the paragraphs before that one, Paul explains how a wife respecting her husband is like the church submitting to Jesus’ lead—in essence, trusting—and how the husband’s love is to be like Christ, who died for his bride (the church).

Both husband and wife are giving up themselves for the other.

I like how Paul refers to marriage as “a great mystery”. It is mysterious. How can two individual lives become one? There are still two individuals, but there is one new creation. A mystery.

We can have a great marriage. But the greatness comes—as in all of our relationships in life—by humble submission to one another. Giving up control, placing trust in the other, and enjoying the fruits of that rich soil.

[agree] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:2-4

The great reward of marriage comes not from what you get, but what you give. And also what you give up.

[ThisDay] Relating

Only two posts were written on January 26th in all of the years of published words here at GregsHead.net. Two! That is interesting… but maybe even more interesting is that this day on the calendar is the very day that my Mum was born! Happy birthday, Mum! (We’re not British, so… well… I don’t know why I’m using their spelling? Maybe it’s just my favourite, or something?) 🙂 Today’s post comes from the year twenty-twelve, when I wrote about something that I often write about—the importance of relationship. Enjoy!

Relationship

January 26th, 2012

You might think I write because I have answers. Or maybe that I think I have answers. Sometimes I guess I do have a certain bit of information I learned that I’d like to share, or a thought on something that might be worth your consideration, it’s true. But often I will write more because of questions I have, rather than answers.

Tonight is one such night.

I have been thinking about the way we relate to each other as a culture for quite some time now. (Search for “Relationship” in the search box to the right and you’ll see what I mean.) It has been important to me for a number of reasons. How we Christians relate to each other as the church, and also how our family relates to and with the people around us. Life is relationship, so it makes sense to me that this would be a common thought thread through many of my days.

Lately I’ve just been wishing there was another family or two with whom we could “do life”. People that we’d spend several days a week with, for varying lengths of time, sharing the important and unimportant things of life.

There are some folks we see pretty often, and whom I feel know us well and vice versa. These are all valued friendships. I’ve just been wondering why there isn’t more? (And by “more” I simply mean more time; more shared life; more relating.)

And I completely understand that part of it is the way we have chosen to do life.

We are not actually removed from life with other people (there are people all around, and we are glad to be with other people) but we are “removed” from the standard relational structures of our society. We home school our kids, so we are not part of the public school community. (That of course is a huge chunk of life for many people with families similar to ours.) We are not part of a “church with a name”, so though we have many great relationships with Christians whom we share our life with God with… well, we aren’t “part” of that “community”.

It seems to me that we Americans can only relate when we are plugged into a larger social structure. We don’t know how to stop over for tea anymore. We don’t know how to hang out on someone’s porch. (Not in the winter time, of course…) We rely on our busy schedules to keep us near to and connected with the people we know. (And that is how we know anyone at all: by being part of the same activities.) When you are not involved in the “activities” of the busy American life, it’s easy to feel “forgotten”.

Now, the weirdest part—and where I have the most questions—is that I know some busy people who have definitely not forgotten about us, and yet we rarely see them. For one reason or another, there’s just not enough time in the week (or month!) to find ourselves in the same physical space to enjoy some time together. But again, if we were doing the same things, we’d either (1) feel like we had “seen” them, and so met the invisible relational quota, or, (2) be reminded/encouraged to make sure to plan other visiting times, or even just drop by?

I’m really not complaining. Even just today a friend dropped in for a brief visit that was much appreciated. And as I said, God has placed some great people around us and we love being part of their lives and having them in ours.

I’m just so baffled by the way we do this. Trying to work out these thoughts!

Now, I think there are regions of our country, in our culture, who live this out differently. I think maybe the South is a bit more relational by default. We experienced this a little when we spent a week of vacation down south this past fall. Random strangers will begin conversations with you at any place or time, and not always just small talk. That is seems to me a bit “healthier” relationally, but I admit, it could just be a personal preference/personality thing. (But then, how is it nearly universally true of one of our American cultures?)

The point is, we are definitely made for relationship. God wired us that way. We’re not meant to be alone. But are we only meant to be together in order to put on, partake in, or attend some function? Aren’t we on some level just supposed to enjoy the company of each other?

I really love it when people just drop by!

(Is it just a structured vs. unstructured lifestyle question I’m really asking?? No. I really think it’s deeper.)

We are missing something. With all our busyness, we are missing each other. We see each other. And in that way we feel a part of a community, but too often keeping our schedules overpowers the opportunities to give to and draw from the people God has surrounded us with.

And, I will also admit to perhaps over-thinking this. I am definitely wont to do that. But something in my gut says there’s more here. There’s more for us. We have a form of relating but deny it’s power. (To twist a Scripture verse…) 🙂

I’ll keep on this and see what Jesus shows me over the next few days, weeks. Maybe you have something to add? Please do below.

Or, just drop by for tea.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 26th

The Masses [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookI’ve decided to continue this series of excerpts from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. The rest of the Fridays in August will feature one selected chapter from the book! If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!)


The Masses

Last night we were leading worship at a local church and had a great time! The band were all good friends of ours, and good musicians. The songs were fun. The mood was pretty light. The room was full of people we love. It was great!

After our song set, we went out around back to sneak in and listen to the message, stopping in the lobby for dinner along the way, of course. That is always a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so we did get delayed a bit as we conversed with the various folks in the lobby over food and a leisurely stroll back to the main meeting room.

Once we finally made it, we caught up with the speaker in the middle of his message, and as always, it was great! Packed full of truth from scriptures, and good insights into those. A major theme of the portion we were able to hear was that God is so for us. The infinite God of the universe is not only for us, but he is with us. The fact that such a being would think of us at all, let alone favorably, is a life-changing truth. A truth that God has taught me over the past several years, and that I try to share with every opportunity I have.

What struck me about all of this is that in the middle of a setting that burdens my heart greatly (the polished presentation of all these things)… in the middle of that, there was deep, life-changing truth. There always is. Though I am often saddened with how much effort we put into the actual presentation of the knowledge of God, at its core, there is life-giving hope. We are offered an invitation to drink deeply of the daily life with our Creator, who no longer calls us servants, but calls us friends.

So what I realized again last night was that we just have this thing with efficiency. We figure, this stuff is so good, we want to reach as many as possible. And so, with all our might, we plan and organize, and schedule and rehearse, and build and build and build these elaborate structures (both edifices and programs) to attract as many as possible. We encourage all who attend to invite more people. We plan various outreach events to draw even more people. We tailor the events (including worship services) to be “accessible” to everyone, especially those who might just be “kicking the tires, checking under the hood” of this whole “church” thing. We work so hard to reach the masses, so as to tell as many people as possible in as little time as possible.

It’s not all geared toward the first moment of hearing and understanding the truth. The structures go deeper than that. The goal is to get people connected on a regular basis. To disseminate truth through the vehicle of large group gatherings. Giving the most people the best chance to hear what God is saying to them.

It all seems to make sense. Even as I type it, I think, “Yeah. What’s wrong with that?” But last night, I heard a line, or had a thought, or something that reminded me that Jesus did not try hard to build a structure from within which he could reach the most people. He did not primarily hold public gatherings where he could speak to the most people at once. Jesus’ plan seemed to revolve around close friendships. Make disciples he told us. I have been told that a disciple is one who learns whatever they are learning, and then in turn they “learn” that to someone else.

Where I think we have missed a nugget of greatness that God intended for us is in this sharing of Kingdom things with our closest friends. This ownership of the truth by each member of God’s kingdom. It is the life-changing truth that we have experienced and that we know. Not by passing along a sermon tape (or CD, or even MP3 as the case may be), or even by bringing someone to a large group gathering. Just by sharing life over a cup of coffee. Over a lunch meeting. At the park while your kids play. On an afternoon walk. In the comfort of your homes. Out at a bowling alley. At the local McDonald’s. Not only do we miss the joy of those situations when we pour all of our effort into the structures for the masses, I think we even limit our effectiveness? I don’t like to use that word, but perhaps it’s true? Might God be able to work more mightily through three friends who care about each other, who in turn each have three other friends, who each have three other friends, who each have three other friends… on down the line till each person has a vital connection with someone vitally connected to the Life Giver?

Perhaps.

I wish that we would not focus on the end result so much. On the apparent successes of mass production. While good does come of it, I think we are missing the most important piece of being friends with God—sharing that friendship with his other friends. Directly. Not like watching a movie together, where we sit in the same row next to each other, as we learn about God. But directly sharing our lives, the daily learnings from God, the struggles, the successes, the hum drum and the magnificent.

That is the goal of our structures, but it seems to be missing as so much of our life and energy is poured into feeding the structure. Making it bigger and better, so as to reach more people.

Maybe we could be better spent?

htc-small
This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Nothing To Prove

Enjoying the sunImagine with me, please, that we are all free. There’s nothing to prove—ever.

I don’t have to defend my spoken thoughts to you, nor those I neglected to speak, though you wished I had.

You don’t have to explain yourself to me, either. And both of us are able to freely express what we think and feel and believe, without any threat of being shunned or belittled, or even just misunderstood.

What if we could all just relax in each other’s presence? I can be who I am, and equally enjoy who you are; no rules, no games, no pretense. Just be.

Pipe dream? Perhaps.

But maybe it’s not completely impossible.

Step Aside

In order for this to be the norm, rather than just a fanciful dream, the first thing that has to happen is we have to get over ourselves.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. —Galatians 2:20

…when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death[.] For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. —Romans 8:3-4

…he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? —Matthew 6:30

You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.—1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. —Matthew 10:39

There are so many more examples in Scripture, but I’ll leave you to find those on your own1.

The gist here is: we’re dead. I no longer live, Christ lives in me.

We are no longer in the picture. When we unite ourselves with Jesus, we are no longer the central character in the story. (Not sure we ever were?)

Baptism is a very clear picture of this transaction. We are buried (dead)2, and then clothed with Christ3, and raised now in him, to our new life4. A life lived out in him.

So it’s not Greg who needs to get that thing right anymore, it’s Jesus. It’s not Greg who is hurt if he is perceived incorrectly, because I’m “safe” in Jesus. It’s not Greg who must live up to people’s expectations, because Jesus already fully accepts me, as I am.

No Agendas

The flip side of this is that if I am free indeed by God’s grace (John 8:36) but you are not… then what? What if you are really annoying? Or just plain wrong! Don’t I have to stand up for what is right? Don’t I need to correct you, or put you in your place, or nudge—or shove—you into right action?

No. I don’t. We don’t.

While it is definitely true that so much of our unhealthy, uncomfortable relating can be traced back to our desire to protect our own image, or reputation, or attempting to avoid hurt or embarrassment. We are so often far too much in the way of our own living.

BUT… the other large piece is our need to control.

This is actually quite connected to our own self preserving. Not controlling is much scarier, much less certain, much more vulnerable. And so we often implement our agendas for the people we are with, becoming coy masters of manipulation!

It’s usually not overt. But it can be. That’s easy to spot. The non-overt agendas are the most damaging, and are a big cause of uncomfortable feelings5.

It is often uncomfortable to allow someone to be different from me.

This almost certainly comes back to me thinking of myself still—rather than being dead, as I really am—and feeling too uncertain and vulnerable with someone who may not accept me, since it’s now obvious that I’m different.

But who says that’s how the Other is thinking?

No Fear

I remember being at a retreat one time, where—when invited—people began confessing their struggles to each other. Nearly everyone was timid, even scared at first. I can’t really be open! What would people think of me if they knew [fill in the disgusting blank]??? But as the first brave soul fully opened up, kicking Fear in the face, there was only warm reception, lots of sympathetic nods of understanding, and…

Plenty more kicking Fear in the face.

By the end of this time that began as an orchestrated, planned event, the entire room had bonded deeply and the rest of that weekend was so free and happy, and deeply enjoyable.

Why? Because one person was willing to be fully vulnerable. Unafraid. Completely open and honest about what felt like forbidden, innermost secrets. Then, because there is amazing power in vulnerability, everyone in the room breathed deeply of grace and mercy and enjoyed beautiful relationship with fellow broken people.

We are all broken—hurt, slave to some past or fear or habit or addiction, or just a big fat jerk.

It’s time to stop pretending.

It’s so easy to forget that everyone else is like me. And then miss the fullness of life when I “cling to my life”. (My “life” being my reputation, or public image, or whatever it might be that I imagine defines me.)

It’s Really Simple

It’s always amazing to me how simple this is. Somehow it comes down to this every time.

  1. God Loves ME. It’s not a song, not a holy platitude… it’s real. And it matters the most. Remember this? “[P]erfect love expels all fear”6
  2. I Need Him. I was made to be with him, in him. I am not OK without him. And he likes me. Invites me to join him on this crazy ride of life.
  3. TRUST HIM. This one should flow easily from the first two… but it is never easy. Simple, yes. Easy, definitely no. It involves consciously, daily “taking up our cross” and denying ourselves—becoming less—so that we can live more.

It’s so crazy that it always comes back to trusting Him more and me less. Every single area of life.

So the less I hang onto me, and the need to keep up my image or my reputation—the less I “cling to my life”—the more enjoyable it will be for others to be around me. AND, the more that is true—even if no one else around me “gets” that, or lives that—well, it might turn out that other people are more free and relaxed and enjoyable because in my own self-absence, I have no agenda for you either!

What a concept!

Now, listen. A lot of this is speaking in some pretty large generalities. We are very complex. I don’t even pretend to imagine that I have “the answer” for living a life with “nothing to prove”.

But I do know I am loved.
And I do know that you are, too.

And I so want to live that way. Every day.

I just need to remember I have nothing to prove.

And neither do you.

  1. One time, when I was teaching an adult Sunday School class, fresh out of Bible college, I was referencing Scriptures to help make the points of the lesson for the day, and a very good-natured but oft contentious older man—older than me, in my very early twenties then—was finally so exasperated with my repeatedly answering his questions with Scripture verses, he blurted out, “Please! No more Scripture!” I was stunned to silence for several seconds, but as he decided to back down a bit, I finally regained my composure and continued with my lesson on what the Bible said about a great many things… (Which is hard to do without Scripture!)
  2. Romans 6 (Yes, read the whole chapter! Hey, why not the whole book!)
  3. Galatians 3:27: And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.
  4. Colossians 2:12: For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
  5. Example: I begin to feel uncomfortable because you are different than me. You are a Patriots fan. Like, a real Patriots fan. You not only adore Tom Brady, you even like Bill Belichick! I am a Bills fan, and Bills fans can not tolerate anyone who would even acknowledge the rightful existence of the New England franchise. So I begin to harass you, and attempt to embarrass you. Subtly, of course, so as to protect my own image. I mean, I’m not a bad guy… but you… like… Well! That’s just wrong!
  6. 1 John 4:17-19 for context.