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Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Journey through the book “The Marriage Builder” Part 3: What Keeps Me From Risking?

Toward the end of chapter 2, Dr. Crabb offers insight into the question: What are the reasons that we do not depend on the Lord to meet our personal needs for things like security and significance and how do we get back to that identity in the midst of relational pain? On page 36, Crabb cites two errors that prevent us from living in a way that is consistent with the truth that our personal needs are met fully in Christ:

Error #1: “Because someone has rejected me or because I have failed, I am less worthwhile as a person.” We allow our experiences of hurt and betrayal to inform our worth rather than the fact that we belong to Christ and He is worthy!

Error #2: “Hiding behind the truth of our worth in Christ to avoid feeling pain in relationships.” This error prevents us from living as Jesus did and as Jesus calls us to do also. As Crabb rightly points out, “we should enter into relationships that are deep enough to cause profound hurt when they fail. To say that Christ is sufficient does not imply that He is to function as some sort of asbestos cover protecting us from the pain of interpersonal fire. Rather His resources make it possible for us to continue responding biblically in spite of the great pain we may feel, because the pain, though great, will never be enough to rob us of our security and significance.”

Under Error #1, we risk, but we are destroyed. Under Error #2, we do not risk, and therefore we cannot live in obedience to the kind of risk-taking and vulnerable love that Jesus modeled.

On pages 38-39, Crabb offers tools to help us get out from underneath Error #1:

1) “Fully acknowledge all your feelings to God”. Here Crabb refreshingly encourages us to be real with God. He reminds us that Jesus is our High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness! “We are not to pretend we are penitent when we feel hurt. When our stomachs churn with grief or anger or pain, we must humbly acknowledge to the One-who-sees-everything whatever we really feel.” He gives the following example: “Lord, right now I am hurting more than I think I can endure. I feel like screaming, running away, hitting somebody! I don’t want to feel this way, but I do. I feel worthless, empty, sad and angry. Thank you for loving me exactly as I am.” This way of praying—with sincerity, honesty, and an appeal for help to the only One who can help--is also discussed in “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller.

2) “Reaffirm the truth of your security and significance in Christ.” This step involves deliberately reminding of ourselves of the truth that our security and significance are met in Christ. When I read this, I was reminded of Ephesians 1:3-14, which tells me that I have everything I need in Christ—I have security, significance and so much more. I think it is helpful to read passages like this when we are trying to reaffirm the truth of security and significance in Christ:

Ephesians 1:3-14 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

3) “Commit yourself to ministering to your spouse’s [or friend’s?] needs, knowing that however he may respond can never rob you of your worth as a person.” Once we are rooted in the truth that we are unbelievably loved and provided for in Christ and that we have the privilege of participating with Him in His glorious plan, we have the freedom to love in a sacrificial servant way. I have heard people say “I cannot love others unless I love myself.” I disagree with this. I think it is more accurate to say, “I cannot love others unless I am rooted in Christ’s love for me.” Christ’s love is empowering and enables us to take risks! Crabb cites 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Again, this step requires that we are rooted in Scriptures that remind us of Christ’s love for us. I would add that constant prayers of total and utter dependence on God are crucial here too: “Lord, I need you to show me how you are calling me to serve this person’s needs. Lord, I need your strength and the refreshment of our love to risk my heart as you call me to do. Lord, I am not capable of this on my own, yet your love gives me strength.”

Error #2 inhibits and kills oneness between two people. This is not honoring to God, particularly in marriage. Furthermore, our withdrawal prevents us from being able to fully commit to minister to our spouses [or friend’s] needs. At this point you might be thinking: “If our needs are meant to be met fully in Christ, why must I minister to my spouses needs?” Here is Crabb’s answer:

Although it is true that our needs are fully met in Christ, it is also true that the Lord normally uses husbands and wives as His instruments to develop within each other a conscious awareness of personal worth. It is Christ alone who grants us security and significance, but it is often (by no means always) our spouses who help us feel worthwhile. P. 42
The concept that God administers His grace to His people through His people comes from Scripture:

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace”

As a wife, I am a steward of God’s grace for my husband. When I withdraw from him to protect myself, I am not stewarding God’s gift of grace for him very well. I love what Crabb says here:

God commands husbands and wives to submit to one another, that is, to put each other’s needs first. I am to touch my spouse’s deepest needs in such a way that I produce in her a conscious taste of what it is like to be deeply loved and respected.” P. 42
This reminded me of:

Philippians 2:1-11 “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

Crabb goes on to say:

Now, if we are to do our jobs well, we must explore how our behavior affects each other’s awareness of our security and significance in Christ. In doing so, we will necessarily expose very private aspects of our personality. Nothing gives me a deeper sense of oneness with my wife than to share with her some of my struggles—the disappointments, hurts, fears, and unmet longings. To know that she is aware of my most central struggles initially creates an incredible fear. I stand exposed and naked before her. Will she pass off my concerns lightly? Will she lose respect for me? Will she laugh or criticize? If she does reject me, I must depend on Christ’s love as my basis for a sense of worth. But when she listens to me—really listens—and accepts me with my problems and frustrations, a closeness develops between us that can help me to regain the perspective to believe that I really am worthwhile in Christ. The kind of closeness that results from revealing to my wife central parts within me that I share with no one else is a central element in Spirit Oneness….husbands and wives need to regard problems, not as a cause to withdraw, but rather as an opportunity to learn how to minister better to each other. P. 43

Withdrawing is selfish. Whoa.

The oneness of marriage is the fullest human expression of oneness that two human beings can have with one another and there are important aspects of oneness that are meant only for marriage. There is a physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy that is unique to marriage. If you are married, you are called to prioritize your relationship with your spouse second to your relationship with Christ. However, God also intends for His people to experience oneness. We see this in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to our Heavenly Father:

John 17:20-23 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

In light of all this, how do you build oneness in marriage or friendships? How do you walk in the light and show your spouse or friends who you really are--even though it isn’t all pretty? How do you create an environment where your spouse or friend can walk in the light with you and show you who they truly are—even though it isn’t all pretty? How do you inhibit oneness? Do you hide who you are? Do you hide behind your busy-ness? Do you hide behind service to others? Do you withdraw? Are you so occupied with your own interests that you cannot look to the interests of another?

Are you willing to pray to your Father about it?:

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your glorious truth! Your ways are so different from the default mode of our hearts. Your ways are so different from the way the world tells us to live. Help us to live out of your truth. Give us a hunger for your Word, and reveal yourself to us in your Word with the power of your Spirit! Remind us of our love and empower us with your love! As you pour your love into our hearts, may we pour it out to others by your grace! Father, we confess that we have believed lies about our significance and security. We confess that we have looked for security and significance in all the wrong places. We confess we have made relationships an idol that causes us to be overly dependant on others or that causes us to withdraw from others. We confess that we have looked to our own interests and not to the interests of others—to our spouse’s interests, and to our friends’ interests. We love so imperfectly! Forgive us!! Teach us how to love! Open our eyes to the ways we are failing to love those whom you have brought into our lives. Open our eyes to the idolatry we have created. Open our eyes to the ways we have failed to steward your gift of grace to those around us.  Show us specific examples. Help us to repent and show us what we need to do to make things right with our spouses, brothers, and sisters. Empower us to take the risks you call us to in love. Jesus, be our perfect example of sacrificial, scandalous, risk taking, love. Give us sincere love! Give us your heart for others—especially for our spouses. Show us the ways that we sinfully inhibit oneness with our spouse and with your people. Draw us further into oneness with our spouse and oneness with your people—that your name may be glorified in all the earth and in the heavenly realms! I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I enjoyed reading this. Good, convicting, helpful thoughts. I will go back and read parts 1 and 2 as well.