From last week: “Sheesh! I was pretty floored!
I have failed just about every day this last week to keep my mouth shut and just say something to the effect of…”Hey, that’s a hard situation I will pray for you.” However, it’s in my brain to at least try, so that’s better than before! Knowing that and failing just about every day has helped me to know that at least for right now, it means me leaving the room when I am tempted to hover and criticize, er, I mean “help”.
The result has been nighttime giggling and cuddles! Can you believe it?!” ~Jessica
Yes, yes, I can believe it. And I join you in praising God for small glimmers in the midst of struggle and “failure.”
Once we stop judging ourselves by the world’s definition of success, we can begin to move forward to be like Him.
So this is the beginning of Chapter 2. The Dares will come at the end of Chapter 2, which will be put up on Friday.
Be sure to post what God is doing in your life and encourage each other! Keep working on the dares from last week until you get the new set. Remember, there’s no finish line, no grade, no perfect score possible. Just keep trying.
Chapter 2: Influences and Lies
Leaning on the marble counter in my friend’s kitchen, chatting away, I jumped as her husband swore loudly. Dog toenails racing across hardwood followed the loud, “yelp!” Their young dog sped around the corner to hide behind the protective legs of my friend. Her husband stormed into the room, seemed startled at the sight of me, then said, “Excuse me,” and turned around and left, hiding something.
I looked at my friend inquisitively. She turned, called the dog, and let him out into the back yard. I noticed a shock collar around the dog’s neck. Her husband must have zapped the dog.
“Mickey’s in training,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “How’s that going?” I asked.
“Um, not very well,” she replied, and changed the subject.
Sitting in Sunday school classes, listening to innumerable different Bible teachers talk about all the various verses in the Bible related to being a wife, left me feeling like that poor dog.
Emotional, mental, and nearly physical “shocks” zapped my culturally influenced sense of self as he talked about “submission,” “respect,” and “not denying each other” (in the bedroom). I remember being furious, at whom, I was not sure, but nevertheless, anger coursed through my veins, fed by a wounded heart.
I felt lied to and deceived.
What I did not realize at the time was that the resentment and anger of God’s Word colliding with my perception of truth actually indicated more lack of maturity in my spiritual walk. My natural, sinful nature did not want to accept what I am: a sinner… one who did not like the thought of submitting to anyone, much less the other human I married… and that included God. Bigger than my understanding of my nature, my pride ruled my heart. It angered me that I could not be good and “do right” on my own. Within us, God may have wired a desire to be good (or that desire might be His Spirit), but the actual ability to be good only comes through the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit’s intervention, we do and say the wrong things, because we listen to our own desires and are easily influenced by the enemy. We often forget this and think that because we have conquered one area of sin we are free from all areas. Maybe we have had victory and no longer commit the sin of drunkenness, but then we boast about how long we have stayed sober without giving God the credit and commit the sin of pride. We spend a lot of time judging one sin as better or worse than another, forgetting two things: 1) all sin separates us from God, and 2) ironically, judgment is itself a sin! We forget that our husband is also a sinner, and judge him as well.
In the same way as we are wired to worship something, we will worship the wrong things if not pursuing obedience to and worship of God daily, even moment-to-moment. The sad truth is that we wander off – it is just so easy. The evidences of this are seen daily in the newspaper accounts of “good Christian people,” leaders, even, who succumb to the worship of wealth in the culture. Pastors succumb to the lure of power and become prideful, leaving broken congregations in their wake. Affairs, tax evasion, embezzlement, child abuse, divorce, pornography addiction, and substance abuse are only a few of the public sins we are aware of as God’s “good people” fall. And we often forget that we are not any different than these public figures, only our sins are not as public.
Hang on, we will get some encouragement in a minute.
While we are quick to rush into judgment of the public figures around us leading imperfect lives as easily as we condemn the “sinners” (murders, child abusers, thieves, homosexuals, rapists, liars, pedophiles, and the like), we need to remember one thing: we are quite nearly exactly the same as ALL of them are, Christian or otherwise. The only difference between us and “the unsaved sinners” is we have accepted what Jesus did for all His people. There is no difference between us and “the other Christians” who have also accepted His gift of salvation.
I realize that thought might be discouraging, or even contrary to what you think or have been taught. Hear me out, and realize that just because I am saying these things, I am also, still, very much a sinner.
Do you think you are “better than” other people that you know? How often do you say to yourself, “At least I’m not like so-and-so doing such-and-such?”
Do you ever judge yourself as “better than” your husband?
How does this impact your relationship with him and with God?
There is tremendous freedom and hope in acknowledging the fact that we will always, daily, need what Christ did for us to be in communion with God.
We like to judge one another’s sin in the Christian community because, immature in our understanding of who we are in Christ, this judgment helps us feel better about ourselves. We like to label one sin as “worse” because it is an “abomination,” or, “God hates” it. We pat ourselves on the back, saying, “Well, at least I am not a (murderer, adulterer, etc.),” in a futile effort to build up who we are at the expense of someone else. We will soon be discussing how not to do this, and how to know who we are in Christ and the victory that comes with that, but for now, we simply need to wrap our brains around Paul’s truth:
Romans 2:1-2 (NAS) 1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
Romans 3:9-10 (NAS) 9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one”
Even the great leader himself, laments about his own sin nature:
Romans 7:14-15, 18-19, 25 (BBE) 14 For we are conscious that the law is of the spirit; but I am of the flesh, given into the power of sin. 15 And I have no clear knowledge of what I am doing, for that which I have a mind to do, I do not, but what I have a hate for, that I do. … 18 For I am conscious that in me, that is, in my flesh, there is nothing good; I have the mind but not the power to do what is right. 19 For the good which I have a mind to do, I do not; but the evil which I have no mind to do, that I do. … 25 I give praise to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So with my mind I am a servant to the law of God, but with my flesh to the law of sin. (emphasis mine)
If this mighty man of God understands the nature of his flesh to be sinful, who are we to think we are good? At surface glance, this may sound like a tremendously discouraging thought. After meditating upon it, however, can you see why this, too, is actually very encouraging?
Think about it.
Think about the last sinful thing you did that comes to mind. Was it the “little white lie” you told so you did not have to run carpool? Maybe it was blaming one of the kids for the mess you left in the kitchen. Maybe you let your thoughts wander a little too far after reading that romantic novel. Perhaps you were watching worship music on the internet, and that sidebar had some really tantalizing videos on it and you went ahead and watched. Maybe you compared your husband to someone else’s and longed for yours to be different. No one knew you did it, so it does not count, right? All sin, like the brownies and ice cream consumed in secret, has consequences. And God sees all of it. The more we come to know Christ, the more we realize how very black our hearts really are.
So why should this encourage us?
Knowing that we are the same as every person we come in contact with, regardless of what they done or what we have done, does this for us: it provides victory and freedom from judgment for us. We can look at others and realize that if they are judging or condemning our behavior (or someone else’s) they are simply immature in their walk with God – as we are also, as we are also judging the behavior of others. Even Jesus Christ Himself did not come to judge the world. The Biblical truth that “sin is sin” to God, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” helps us understand three things:
- Those who criticize and condemn us are ironically committing the sin of judgment themselves,
- We can actively recognize their sin of judgment and choose to not accept their condemnation (thus impacting the amount of power we have given to what other people think of us)
- Because we are all sinners, we can then extend grace and encouragement to ourselves and others more freely. which builds relationship – criticism, stemming from judgment tears down relationship
We may stop committing one sin (we might stop murdering, for example) but the more we grow in our walk with God, the more we realize other sins (finding out that hating is akin to murder, for example).
One of the most powerful examples I have seen of this happened with a friend of mine. Her teen son sexually abused another child in their neighborhood. The devastating news could have ripped their family to shreds. They desperately needed love as they walked through the consequences of his actions with police, their neighbor, and others. Some people in their church body judged them. She told me once that it was one of the hardest times in her life, but when a mutual friend of ours reminded her that “sin is sin,” in God’s eyes, she realized that those who condemned her and her son were also flagrantly sinning before God. In times where love is desperately needed by those who hurt, flinging judgment only wounds more. She was able to reject condemnation, and receive love from others.
While the culture (secular or Christian) does a poor job of helping us have a healthy understanding of who we are, who others are, and how these things fit together relationally, it would be unwise of us to ignore the impact of it. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is about freedom:
John 8:31- 36 (NIV) 31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (emphasis mine)
Unknowingly becoming a slave to lies, I learned about marriage, motherhood, religion, and being a woman from what television, my parents, magazines, and my friends taught me as I grew up. Perhaps some of these “learnings” apply to you, as well.
Feel free to check off any you can relate to:
- Having a career is what matters most
- Men are stupid
- Women need to be thin, physically fit, long-haired, short-skirted, or use lots of make-up to be beautiful
- Men are to be manipulated to get what you want
- Women should be in charge of everyone at home
- Women can easily be taken advantage of by men, and this is something to guard against
- Men work all the time
- Marriage is difficult, but if you marry the right guy, he will treat you like a princess and you will be happy
- Men are lazy
- Good marriages are full of romance
- Bad marriages have conflict and are painful
- Sex is about power
- Children are a pain and not necessary
- Women are taken for granted by their families
- Being a wife is an unfulfilling endeavor that makes women miserable
- Being a good wife is about keeping a clean house, having the whitest whites, preparing gourmet meals every night, mothering, and lots of ironing
- Children are to be seen and not heard
- Children should be part of the adult conversations
- God is powerless
- God/Religion is for weak people
- Faith is for crazies
- God does not exist
- God no longer does miracles
- Religion works for some people
- If someone does something for you, it should be appreciated, regardless of what it is
- If you do something for someone, they owe you
- Approval from others matters greatly
- Catching a man is one of the most important things for women
- Respect is to be earned, but love should be unconditional
- Having a great career is the most important thing for a woman
- Being a mother is wonderful and fully rewarding
- Being a mother is awful and exhausting
- Women are less important than men
- Women are powerless
- A woman needs a man to take care of her
- A woman does not need anyone, especially a man to take care of her
- Women need to “stand up for their rights” or they will be taken advantage of by others
- Women should look young, thin, and fashionable at any age (or they will not be able to catch and keep a man)
- Other (add your own):
Take a look at the list, specifically the ones you have checked. Put a star next to the ones that influenced you most as your top three.
Think of the earliest specific moment in time where each of those lies were planted or reinforced deeply in your life. Describe each of them here:
How have these lies influenced you in how you feel about yourself and others?
Ask God in prayer how deeply these lies still affect you. How? Or have you found His victory? If so, how?
Knowing that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, what good has come through these experiences – not the lies themselves, mind you, but how has God used these situations for good? (Dear God, please reveal Your Truth to us, in Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen).
If you cannot see the good outcomes or God’s purpose right now, do not worry. God may some take time to reveal these things to you. It was many years before I was able to see the benefits from many things myself. I am still in the process of having His Truth revealed to me, and I feel certain that this will be the case throughout the rest of my life. I do firmly believe, however, that God allowed extremely difficult circumstances (some as the result of my immature choices, others for reasons still not clear to me) in my life because He wanted me to be strong. He also wanted me (and you) to rely on Him completely. Those last two sentences might seem contradictory, but one does not exist without the other.
We need to be aware of the spiritual war that rages around us. Sin entered the world through Satan, and his tool is that of deception.
He started with Eve. We will talk about her a few times on our journey.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.
Satan has been deceiving human beings since we walked the earth, and while we know that Christ is the conqueror, we also know that our foe is formidable, and has much experience with human behavior. He understands the nature of our flesh, and uses that against us to entice us to believe the wrong things about ourselves, each other, and God. We also do a pretty fine job of this on our own, without his help! He wants us to exercise our own will, just like he does, instead of obeying God. Because he understands our sinful nature so well (as it is similar to his own), he is very good at what he does.
John 8:44 (ESV) You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Many of the conflicts in relationships begin with misunderstandings, and are based on lies. How often do we judge our husband’s motives? We assume that because he works long hours that he does not have any thoughts of us, when in fact, research demonstrates his hard work to provide is one of the primary ways a man demonstrates love (Feldhahn). We assume when he speaks harshly, that he does not love us. He thinks we are angry, when we are hurting. We spend a ton of time in relationships criticizing and judging others instead of focusing on what good thing God is doing, or what is going right. We create an environment where lies are perpetuated and both people in the marriage are losing their contentment, peace, and joy. Research by Gottman demonstrates that a continual cycle of negative communication with a lack of positives will actually re-write a couple’s history together (creating lies), so much so that they can no longer see what is true or positive, but only remember negative interpretations of events.
Take a moment to reflect on what you think your husband thinks of you. Write them down here:
Understand that many of the above (especially the negative ones) may be based on lies. Your perception of what he thinks might be inaccurate, or his perceptions of you might be inaccurate. We are often wrong when we start deciding we know what another person thinks.
Take a moment and write down what you think God really thinks of you:
If the above answer is not positive, you believe lies about a most important Truth. We will spend time in a later chapter discussing this further.
What about the memories of your marriage? Are they mostly positive or negative? What is one of your most positive marriage memories?
Today, let us know any additional “lies” you believed that we don’t have listed. Also, please comment about how “lies” have impacted your marriage. We won’t dwell on the enemy much through the study, but we have fallen prey to many of his deceptions. Shining the Light of Truth on these things brings freedom and life abundant.
So what about you? What lies have you believed? How have they impacted your marriage? What is your favorite positive marriage memory?
So glad you are on the journey! Keep doing the dares from last week until you get the rest of this chapter!
Love to you,