Where has your journey taken YOU this week? This is the post from last Wednesday – Tomorrow we’ll be putting up the next chapter. Before we do, we want to collect comments and thoughts from this one. Please take a moment to encourage someone and share your experiences with any of the dares from Chapter 1! Scroll to the bottom to see where…
Love to you,
Chapter 1: Truth Is…
Just a note: This doesn’t work so well if you can’t print it out. So while it’s all copyrighted, you do have my personal permission to print out one copy for your own personal use. That makes it easier to write out the answers… Feel free to share with others – they can print out their own copy, too! Sorry for the formatting issues… there will be a few, as it is being loaded out of the manuscript in Word. I haven’t formatted anything with footnotes in a while, so I’m still looking up a few things in the MLA handbook – feel free to steer me in the right direction if you are a grammar nazi. (I home school, and my kids refer to me as the “grammar nazi….” and I’m German… so I don’t take offense. hope you don’t either. :))
NOTE: Because this is the actual content of a book, we’ll put up one or two posts a week, giving you plenty of time to chew on them. Please come back and comment throughout the days, becoming and staying engaged with others here. We’ll also share Debbie Hitchock’s blog one-two times a week as well.
Let’s get started…
The first thing you need to fully understand is that this is a book steeped in Biblical truth. I hesitate to call it, “religious,” but I will tell you that the goal of this writing is to provide you with the foundation for understanding God, marriage, and yourself a little better – enough to impact your relationships with all. Part of that goal involves understanding what mature Christian behavior looks like, as well. The Bible provides many contrasts between the wise and unwise (immature) and when Biblical wisdom is applied to our relationships, how we view ourselves, God and others, we begin to see the change we desperately long for in our lives. As we mature (become wise) as Christians, we find the peace, joy, and comfort promised to us by following Jesus. When we refuse to mature, we choose a harder path.
This book is different than The Respect Dare for Married Women, which Thomas Nelson Publishing releases in December of 2012. The first Respect Dare is an experiential devotional, one with examples of respect, interaction with God’s Word, introspective questions, along with a series of dares to complete. This book, The Respect Dare: Foundations for Marriage is designed to provide you with the foundational knowledge from the Bible, professional research, and our own experiences from the many women who have taken either Daughters of Sarah® (our training course for wives) or our online e-course associated with The Respect Dare for Married Women. This book has a few similar elements as the other, however, Foundations will provide more information about a wife’s experience of marriage while still offering up some introspection, and a few practical dares based on research and Biblical truth. The Respect Dare for Married Women has a small group guide that goes along with it – this book does not yet, but is easy to do in a discussion group by sharing what you write as you work your way through each chapter.
While this book is less experiential than The Respect Dare for Married Women, we hope to offer in a different format many the same truths exposed by the experience of the other book. Reading this first might give you a foundation of knowledge to prepare you for The Respect Dare for Married Women. “Doing” that book before this one might help you understand more about your experience. It makes no difference to us, but please be aware we are on the same journey and humbly want to help you grow in your walk with God and your key relationships, as we are doing.
None of what we do pretends to offer “the last word” on marriage, rather we hope to be a small part of your growth journey, and are privileged to just be joining you on the path. The journey to a better marriage takes years and is not for the faint of heart, however, it is simply the context through which we become a woman of strength and dignity in all of our relationships. Everyone on our team at Greater Impact is still working on these things, by the way. We just like to share what we have learned with others who are also on the same journey.
You might take offense that I am even discussing matters of faith, but I will tell you that with regards to the hundreds of women we have interacted with over the years in marriages of varying degrees of bliss and upheaval, we know with absolute certainty one thing: what you really think about God shows up in how successful you are in every relationship in your life, particularly your marriage. People will often persevere for God (to the extent that they know Him) when they would have long ago given up for any human.
We believe this life has very little to do with “things and acquisitions” and everything to do with relationships. I know that thought rattles some of you, and I understand. As someone who did not grow up in any particular faith and was actually an atheist from my teens until I became engaged, I really do understand the confusion or distrust towards religions. Can I gently ask that you just hear me out, make your way through the book, and at the end, you will hopefully understand at the very least, how some of us who follow Christ think – and it might not be what you think. The research out there is pretty convincing, also, as people of faith get divorced significantly less than those who do not affiliate themselves with any religion. That fact alone ought to make you wonder what it is we are doing that others are not! At any rate, the rest of the book assumes that the majority of readers are ones who call themselves, “Christians.” It simplifies things from a writing standpoint.
Like most people, I grew up with many people living out the philosophy of, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” I always wondered about this because even as a child, I knew I could not take what we accumulated here on earth with me when I died. I can tell you that how much we focus on maintaining or creating the lifestyle we want easily indicates where our priorities are and is a reflection of our maturing in understanding God’s economy. Are we the three-year-old tightly grasping the fire engine, proclaiming, “No! Mine!” when the opportunity to share arises? Or are we mature enough to choose wisely, focusing only on what God would have us do? In God’s economy, relationships matter more than financial well-being. Having healthy relationships with ourselves, God, and others reflects our level of maturity, and brings great reward.
“Loving God” and “loving others” were heralded as the most important things for us to do to follow Christ. Jesus Himself once told a man that to have eternal life, the man needed to sell all that he had and follow Christ. Jesus was not suggesting that we all today live communal lives and drop everything to become missionaries, but rather He knew that for this man, his lifestyle was more important that loving God and others. Like this man, we have things we value more than our relationships with God and others, and we have been deeply influenced by this culture. It is our goal to help you uncover some common lies, reveal some Truth, and help you move forward in improving the most important relationships in your life:
- Your relationship with God
- Your relationship with your yourself
- Your relationship with husband
- Your relationship with your children and others
How about you? Do you value the lifestyle you have or creating the lifestyle you want more than developing your relationship with God? How do you know? What do your thoughts and actions indicate is true for you right now?
I will share some of my journey and some key learnings along the way as we go through the book. I promise you we will eventually get to what applied respect actually looks like – and each chapter (including this one) will have a “Dare Ya!” section where we provide you with a practical dare to do, but before that, we need to start from the same foundation, hence the title of this book. Our time will be more productive if we come to terms with some key concepts from the Bible, recognize where our belief system actually is, and then move to a place where we can apply what we have learned. To do otherwise would be similar to getting into a car for the first time, expecting to drive it well, having never ridden in one before at all. I appreciate your being patient with this part of the process – I know you want to get to what you might consider the “meat” of respect, the application part! But please know I feel deeply led to begin here – it is just so important! Besides, patience is a virtue, and a key element in love. Know also that I am so very glad you are here!
How About You?
Does the brief discussion about wisdom and maturity impact you? How?
How do YOU define mature and immature behavior in general?
What characteristics come to mind when you think of a mature Christian wife?
Decades of research by Gottman, (who can predict with 96% accuracy whether or not a couple will divorce from just five minutes of watching them) indicates that a solid friendship is key to the success of a marriage, and specific communication behaviors add to the destruction of a marriage.
Clear advice to married couples is presented in the book of Ephesians, chapter 5 (ESV):
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I wondered what Christ had to say to this church regarding His relationship with her and found this in Revelation, Chapter 2 (ESV):
To the Church in Ephesus
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (emphasis mine)
I have heard more than one pastor teach about this interesting connection between Christ’s communication to us in Revelation and the verses to married couples in Ephesians. What did we do at first in our relationship? We pursued friendship. We were sincerely interested in the guy we married. We put effort into spending time with him, getting to know him, and deeply loving him. God wired us to pursue this relationship, to persevere, and we have toiled and endured. Let us not abandon our love for our husband (or our God) and the passionate enthusiasm we had at first.
Do you also see the word, “repent,” in the text? Often the fastest way to jump start your relationship with God and your husband is to apologize for how you have hurt him in the past and then begin doing the things you did at first, if he is not so hurt that he will join you. If you find the thought of this as offensive as I did the first time I realized it, understand what you are feeling is the sin of pride rearing its ugly head. Refusing to apologize when we have hurt someone is like trying to get even by drinking poison ourselves. Forgive yourself, too, and then move on so your relationship can begin to heal. Remember what God says to us about apologies and forgiveness:
Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) 23 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) 21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Mark 11:25 (NIV) And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
In other words, God does not want our worship until we have apologized for sinning against someone – and any time we behave unlovingly or disrespectfully, we are committing sin. We are to forgive others, even when they do not apologize. Harboring unforgiveness eats away at our souls and makes us bitter. Apologies to others from us, and forgiveness (especially from God) are salve to wounds. Many marriages will simply not move forward without them. And yes, we will talk about how to handle things when he sins against you, and yes, I know he has hurt you deeply as well – but you cannot impact his behavior. You can only impact your own. What choice will you make today? Who will you follow?
Your husband may take a while to willingly want to try or to forgive you, but if you persevere, God will eventually soften his heart toward you. During this time especially, you may need to work to remember that your God is your best husband:
Isaiah 54:5 (ESV) 5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
It also should not shock you that the advice to the more mature women in the Bible is to be “friends” of their husbands. In this verse, “love” translates as “phileo-love” which means “friendship-love” We are told by God and need to encourage young wives to be their husband’s friends.
Titus 2:3-5 (TM) 3 Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. 4 By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, 5 be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior.
In an effort to begin obeying God on a higher level and building or deepening the relationship with your husband, we are daring you to begin with these five dares. You will continue these through the rest of the book, and hopefully keep them after you are finished here with us! This is considered “Friendship 101.”
This is important because your husband needs you to be his best friend. We will talk more about that later, but trust this to be true for about 85% of the men out there. He needs to be able to get honest feedback from you, and will need your help at a high level at times because, as Proverbs 27:6 tells us, 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted. But an enemy kisses you many times. Understand that Satan wants you to be at odds with each other, instead of friends. He wants you to be prideful or a doormat. If you are humbly strong, like Christ, this changes everything.
Your husband needs a friend he can confide in, trust deeply, and work through issues with. Praise God if he has some excellent male friends in his life, but understand, that according to Dr. Kevin Leman, family therapist, he deeply desires one of those “confidants” to be you. You will have times when he will need to hear you dish some hard truth lovingly his way – things no one else loves him enough to say. But until he trusts that you are fully on his side, fully in his corner, fully his best friend, he cannot hear any of these things from you.
The dares in this chapter begin the process of moving you and your husband closer together, but also, and more importantly, begin your steps in deeply obeying God’s Word to wives in the Bible.
Dare 1: Apologize to God and your husband for sinning against them. Spend some time in prayer, confessing and asking God to help you “do the things you did at first” in your marriage. Know He forgives you. Write your husband a short note, apologizing for not being a better friend. Tell him you are sorry you have sinned against him, and that you want to do better. Ask him to forgive you. Put the note on the steering wheel of his car.
In an effort to begin building or deepening the relationship with your husband, we are daring you to begin with these five dares. You will continue these through the rest of the book, and hopefully keep them after you are finished here with us! I am still making daily effort to incorporate them into my marriage. This is considered “Friendship 101.”
Dare 2: Start a “Our Favorite Memories” list on your refrigerator for your family, with a special section titled, “Just The Two of Us.”
- Add a few details about something the two of you did together when dating or during your marriage that was fun for both of you.
- Send your husband a brief email or text every few days, or a note on his steering wheel, letting him know you were thinking about “the time we went … ” and how much fun you had.
- If you have the chance to dialogue, ask him what his favorite part of that trip/event was and why it was his favorite.
- Listen and laugh and enjoy.
- If you are feeling brave, invite him to do the same thing soon – and make it happen.
- Get creative – focus on old happy memories, creating new ones, and adding to the favorite memories on the refrigerator!
Dare 3: Add “silence” to your communication repertoire. Know that wise women know when to speak and when to be silent. Catch your tongue before it lets unwholesome talk come out of your mouth and instead only speak that which is edifying (building up) toward others by STOPPING these communication behaviors that if pervasive, have the power to destroy your marriage:
- Criticism (pointing out another’s mistakes or flaws)
- Contempt (disrespect, disgust, etc., usually via tone and facial expressions – eye roll, sarcasm, pursed lips, scowl, etc. when communicating)
- Defensiveness (keeping a list of wrongs such that when asked a question, you feel attacked and respond by defending yourself)
- Stonewalling (refusing to engage in communication verbally or non-verbally with your husband when he wants to talk – many men do this, but women do also when they have given up on the relationship)
Dare 4: Choose daily to be interested in your husband’s world, regardless of whether or not he is interested in yours. This means the following:
- Become a student of the man you married, by asking him, “What can I pray for you about today?”
- Follow up at the end of the day and ask him how things went when you know about it.
- Be a respectful listener when he is speaking, and ask him questions, encouraging him to open up about himself by:
- Facing him when he is speaking to you
- Making eye contact when he is speaking
- Stopping what you are doing to listen
- NOT interrupting him when he speaks – and correcting your children if they do, then asking him to continue
- Nodding your head with interest
- Asking questions during the conversation that can NOT be answered with “yes” or “no” but are “open ended” in nature
- NOT offering advice unless asked, but instead empathizing with his struggles if he shares them, ie: “Honey, that has got to be hard for you. I’ll certainly pray about that situation.”
- NOT offering an opinion on what he shares unless it is supportive or encouraging to him.
Dare 5: Pay a compliment about his character when listening to him, ie: “John, I love how you handled that! They certainly picked a reliable person (him) to head up that project.”
You may need to remind yourself to NOT get discouraged if he does not want to talk with you, or displays poor listening skills toward you.
Do what you can, listen to God – His advice trumps my thoughts – always!
Remember that discouragement is steeped in lies – it’s one of the calling cards of that other guy. Yes, we will get to the parts where you get to ask him for something. We are not going to start there, however, as many are just not good at that yet, and what most of us have tried in the past simply does not work. Are you ready to try something different?
As you read through the above dares, did any of them seem extra hard to you? Are they things you just need to do more of? If you are doing this with a small group, what do you need prayer for? Write out your prayer requests here, and then share them with your group’s members when you meet:
 1 Corinthians 5:8-13
 The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver
 Ephesians 4:29
 Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” because these kinds of negativity can be deadly to a marriage. Gottman,pg 27.