"He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all"
David Crowder's song "How he Loves us" is an awesome picture of the weight of God's love for me. In pondering our desires for our spouse, parent, child, and friend's approval, it strikes me how jealous we can get when something or someone else takes our place (or we perceive takes our place) in the other person's heart. Often that thing is the thing we soon find our self in competition with; whether consciously or sub consciously. I see this a lot with teens who do not take care of their things or give little value to money. When a parent's money or toys become more important to them than their child, jealousy occurs and the kid then finds him/herself in competition with or giving little value to that thing. In marriages if a husband is at work all the time, the wife then sees herself in competition with work and then begins to be jealous of anything associated with work. What ever a person "loves" more than us, becomes a point of jealousy and potential for disconnect in that relationship.
In scripture when God addresses His people with regard to the relationship to their idols (anything we run to other than Him under stress and pressure), he doesn't call it sin, he calls it adultery. Yes adultery is sin, but it goes down to the core of God's view of us as his bride. He is jealous for me!! As much as I'm jealous in a relationship, he is 1 million times more so. He doesn't want anything to be in competition with Him in our hearts. So often idols fill the void when we forget how loved we truly are. They're only a temporary fix that people have learned to trust, place their hope and identity in. Idols can even be good things like work, food, sex, kids, church and relationships. As a person becomes more aware of God's desire ,even jealousy for relationship with that person, he/she has a choice in that moment to trust the loving God or trust the idol. More often than not, this is not an easy choice, but the more our idols fail to meet the perceived need, "God's love "trumps" that need." God is slowly, moment by moment, freeing us from those things that take His place in our hearts.
When I know that I'm loved then I can freely love. When I know that I'm loved and jealously desired, my natural inclination is to turn toward the one loving. Whether in our relationship with God, our spouse, our kids, or our friends to be jealously pursued ( in a healthy way, not a sociopathic way) then we have the freedom to be ourselves.
I've noticed something interesting about people, myself included. We don't seem to make strides towards things that we know will help us, unless there is the potential for, or has been loss. It may be wired in us, or it may be a product of our upbringing. Why is it that it takes great loss before we can experience great gain?
I've noticed working with troubled kids that the parents come in to a counselor to change a certain behavior that is inconvenient for them. Little Johnny is throwing fits or not obeying, little Suzy is having separation anxiety because of fear of abandonment. What ever the case may be, it is a behavior that was cute when they were little but it becomes obnoxious and a loss to the family as they get older. At that point the parents are so sick of losing their time, sleep, resources, and sanity that there is nothing they wouldn't do to fix the problem. The child on the other hand sees their behavior as gain because every time they throw a fit and parents give in, he/she has won the battle of the wills. "Boundaries with Kids" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a great book for parents in this situation. It isn't until certain consequences are in place for a child acting out of line, that he/she will begin to evaluate his/her losses. Once the kid knows that there will be a loss of something they enjoy when they chose a undesirable behavior, most kids will curb that behavior and the parents gain. This again is age specific and for parents with kids with Oppositional Defiance Disorder may be something very difficult to achieve.
Now take another scenario. A man comes in trying to save his marriage because his wife is sick of his attitude, anger, affair; whatever the case may be. He has realized that the loss of his marriage is too big and he must do something to gain his wife back. At that point the man will do anything, even things he never considered, in order to save his marriage. There are things that this man can do, but it will take all the work he wasn't willing to put in prior to that point to save the marriage. The same goes for a woman in the same situation. His/her loss is the thing that motivates the will and can in turn create great gain in the relationship.
The will is an interesting thing. I spend a lot of time talking about taking thoughts captive, recognizing emotions, but not a lot of time in counseling is focused on the will. Now I guess the assumption is that the will follows in line when we have thoughts and emotions in check, but I'm finding that there is power in realizing I have a choice and I must take my will captive as well. "My thoughts, emotions and will don't chose, I do." I tell my Doer personality types, "they are most pliable when they are broken", which means they don't submit their will to Christ until life has turned upside down. There is great freedom in realizing that I can use my will to chose gain before the loss comes. There is also great freedom that in the middle of loss that I can use my will to chose to take a different course of action. There is even greater freedom when I submit my will, as I would my thoughts and emotions, to Christ at the beginning of every day. "Lord, I choose to abide today."
This idea of the will is something to wrestle with. Until I have health issues, extra weight or problems with body image, then I consider and maybe exercise my will to exercise. The loss of weight may even become the motivator to keep me exercising. Until the potential loss of an important relationship is at stake, then I exercise my will to change my interactions with that person. Until there is a threat of hell (popular evangelism technique) then I won't evaluate the need for something different like Heaven. Until I see that my sin is a great loss to me, then and only then will I see my need for a Savior. Until my idols (anything I run to other than Christ under stress and pressure) have caused a great loss in my life then and only then do I use my will to turn to Christ. There can be great gain even in my loss as I submit my will to God and chose to rest in Him moment by moment.
To be continued....
I've started jogging once again, after a long period of time where I chose not to. I realized that I need to get back in shape but I always have to have some extreme reason to do it in my mind or I won't do it. I find that is true with a lot of my clients who come in to counseling. I also have a hard time sticking with it when I see no immediate result.
On my jogs I have a good time in prayer and God speaks to me when I'm uncomfortable! On my most recent jog I was challenged on motivation and enjoyment. Most of my motivation to do things has to do with how I think others will respond to my action or choice. In this case I wanted the approval and accolades of my wife, but often those are only fleeting. At work it might be the approval of my peers or clients, but either way it was revealed to me that a lot of my actions are based on the approval of man. Now in and of itself, it is nice to have people encourage and build us up, but when that is my end goal it is very hard to enjoy life.
Motivation for anything I do has to come from my will and at times my will can be very misleading. Just like emotions, the will can lie to me and say that I'm doing something for a noble cause but in the end when my true motivation is revealed it can be disheartening. I'm not saying this to beat ourselves up, on the contrary, as I see my true motivation it is an opportunity to again confess and realign with the will of the Spirit within me.
So as I realign my will with Christ, I then begin to find enjoyment in life (even in jogs). I begin to see things through HIs eyes and give myself permission to simply "be". (We are human beings, not human doings) Enjoyment in life can come even in the most difficult circumstances and that is hard to understand unless I've been through it.
That brings me to the idea of contentment. Most people see this as complacency, but that is inaction. Contentment is as what Paul talks about in Phillipians 4, content in all circumstances because of "Christ who strengthens me" Enjoyment and contentment comes in the person of Christ and His life in us and he is everything but inaction. It has little to do with a set of circumstances or momentary feeling.
So as I align my will with Christ, I then can choose enjoyment. Like I said, the Father is good, and it is his job to reveal that to us. "What God reveals, he heals"
Zach Herrin and Josh Berger are hosting a group for men for Survivors of sexual abuse. We will be going over "Wounded Heart" and It starts beginning of September and will go for 8 weeks. We'll be meeting every other Thursday from 6:30-8pm and the cost will be $25/ session. There is a limit of 10 people for the group and it will be closed after the second week. This group will be Anonymous and Confidential.
I had to laugh at myself today because of how upset I get when people question my job performance. My Thinker personality has the tendency to equate my task with my identity, and when some one attacks my task I get really offended because I feel like they're attacking me. I've had that experience more occasions than I'd like to admit, but what I've recognized is that my job is a poor foundation on which to place my identity.
A concept that recently came up in our supervision group is that God is stripping us of anything we place our identity in other than him. 1 Corinthians 3:11 says " For no man can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." This reality is crucial to any Identity work because any thing other than Christ will crumble when the storms of life hit. Even when things are great and my assumed foundation is working, God is in the process of freeing us from that frail identity.
Romans 12 talks about our new lives as living sacrifices and how we lay our live down so that others can live. This principal is at work in all areas of our life, but I've seen especially in marriages. The majority of problems that come up in marriage stem from me trying to save myself and my rights, but in the process we sacrifice the other. The reason I bring this up is that the things I try to save myself on can be as insignificant as a schedule of the day that my wife was trying to bring up. My identity is so frail that I feel attacked when she changes plans. When I lay down my life and insecurity as a sacrifice, the other person lives! Part of me wants to say "how pathetic" to get so upset over something so small, but the other part of me is saying, "how freeing"!!! Christ is freeing me from my frail identity and the things that I try to derive it from (job, schedule, reputation, family, etc.) and exchanging it for His identity!!!
Even today as I write this I was reminded of how quickly I can get defensive over something so frail. But when I accept Christ as my life and new identity, there is nothing that can offend me! I too, am a work in progress but He's nowhere near done working with me yet!
I love this post and would encourage men to read it!!
Currently I'm reading a book called "Prone to Love" by Jason Clark. I have not finished the book but will post another post when I have finished it. His premise of the book is that we are a culture driven by need. I need a house, a boat, a car, a better job, a fix to my mood, a snack, whatever it may be, we're driven by need. He says that the heavenly perspective and kingdom is not one that is driven by need but by love. God's love "trumps" need and when I know how loved I am need takes its rightful place.
In this field I hear needs all day and to a degree I feel my own every day. What blows my mind about God's perspective is that when I encounter His love then my need doesn't go away but no longer consumes my every thought. When I know how loved I am then it allows me to not only love myself, but then love others. As Mike Wells says, "The lesser always gives way to the greater." My need what ever it may be is shadowed by God's love.
I find it interesting when I am trying to get my "need" met in another human being, I can never love that person. Like I said earlier in contemplating Chris Legg's idea "that when I put conditions on love, then it becomes a wage," I can never give someone love if I'm trying to get something from them, whether is love, acceptance, security, sex...
I believe that it is equally important to know that now that I have Christ as my life I have a new heart and that new heart is prone to love because of Christ. No longer am I prone to wander, that's what I did before Christ (and when I do it never works), but now love is my new language like Paul says over and over in the Epistles.
As I was thinking about this an old song came to mind, "It was my sin that held him on the cross." I thought to myself "wow" but as I went down that trail the Holy Spirit whispered to me "no, Zach, it was my love for you that held me there". WWWOOOOOOWWWW!!! The lesser always gives way to the greater. When I know how loved I am, sin takes its rightful place and I shift my focus from all my shortcomings to Christ!!! What a God we serve!
Once I realize God is in control, I have a daily, moment by moment choice to let him be in control. It goes back to the original temptation, "you will be as god". When I control in essence I'm saying to myself and others, "I'm god" and don't need God.
This statement is not intended to condemn or put a guilt trip on anyone, rather to free us from having to play god in our daily lives. I know that there are a lot of things keeping me from trusting God and having a true understanding of His love for his children, but it's ironic because us trying to control our lives is the very thing keeping us from experiencing that abundant life He promised.
I have to realize I have control of myself in the sense that I have control over my thoughts and feelings, my choices and how I handle the consequences of those choices, responsibilities and boundaries. It is very empowering when I realize that I can control these things, I don't have to worry about controlling others or my environment. God frees us from offense (others actions controlling me) when I begin to trust Him to be in control and take ownership of the things that I can control.
There is a great definition of progress. It's not where I end up, rather it's finding out along the way what doesn't work and then making appropriate changes to change course. A control freak doesn't realize they are controlling, but when God starts to reveal it then heal it, a control freak needs to have the grace on his/herself to realize they are a work in progress.
Control in itself is not bad when in the appropriate hands, but when in the wrong hands it can be devastating.
What are your thoughts?
I have been interacting with a lot of people who have had struggles with control. I myself am, to some degree, a control freak as well. I like to have things a certain way and when they don't go as I planned, I find myself stuck in paralysis of analysis. My family will tell you that it takes me a while to adjust to doing something different if I have a certain thing or way of doing things stuck in my mind. Part of that is personality and part of that is control.
The scary part is when we begin to control others because we feel to a degree that we can't control ourselves. Control is both a learned behavior and a coping mechanism to feel safe. People try to control every aspect of their lives, from their pets to their kids, from their friends to their spouses, from their yard to their money. Control comes in a variety of flavors like manipulation, guilt trips, grooming (giving wanted items to get desire behavior), anger, gossip, depression, anxiety, and all other degrees of our flesh (trying to do things apart from Christ). It's interesting that in Galatians 5, Paul addresses these very issues as things that bind us rather than free us.
I think the first part about being free from control is recognize that one, I'm trying to gain it in a situation, or two I've given it away to another. When I'm angry and my "buttons" are pushed, I give my control over to another because I allow them to cause a reaction in me. If I'm trying to gain control I use my anger to make others cower in my presence. Either way most of the time people don't realize they're doing it. Maybe subconsciously, but when others bring it to their attention they usually deny it. Recognizing and admitting it is a big first step!
Once I recognize it, I have to realize that the only person I can control is myself and sometimes that's hard. I also have to realize how little control I have and ultimately the one who is in control (God) is bringing me to a point where I see that only he is in control....
to be continued....
A recent conversation came up about how love is a gift but as soon as we put conditions on it, it becomes a wage. The reason I love my wife is not what I can get out of her (although honestly I go there a lot!) but because I get her. A woman who feels like sex is a condition for love, will never enjoy sex. A woman who is constantly reminded of all the things her husband has done for her and how she has failed, will never enjoy sex. We all have a hard time not putting conditions on others, especially our spouses, but when have our unrealistic expectations ever been met or really satisfied us? The thrill in expectation is just like researching about something before you buy it. You look up all the information on it, find the best one, then when you finally get it, the thrill is gone and your onto your next purchase. The same is true of expectations. We put all our efforts into getting others to meet our expectations and when they do (or don't) the thrill is gone and we're onto the next expectation for the other or ourself to fail. Life in Christ is free of expectation and our marriages, in dependence on Him, can reflect that! It's not that we don't do anything or fall into passivity, it's that we're free to be ourselves (good, bad, ugly) and we're loved in spite of even our best efforts.
What and how are you communicating to your wife that she has yet to fit the bill of your expectation? It might even be in the things that your haven't said. Your emotional consequences/pouting. It's important to nurture fondness (truth thinking) toward our wife. (John Gottman) To nurture fondness toward your spouse is just that, not check in and see how she is failing. (expectation/condition). Whether she does the same or not, that's her deal, not yours. We're only responsible for ourselves. For men its important to clearly communicate how you feel about her (truth/positive) not about how she is failing to meet your sexual or emotional need. Sex is just as much of a gift as is love and even the condition of "because I have needs"(right or wrong on her part) can be a turn off. If you have more questions I'd love to hear from you! I believe this is a part of the journey all men (and women) are on!