perseverance

Beware of the Marriage Cannibals

What do you call it when someone turns against the team?  Sometimes we say they’re a traitor, deserter, or even hypocrite.  In medicine, it’s called autoimmunity:  an immune response caused by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself.

What about in marriage, when one spouse turns on the other and begins attacking the team?

In Galatians, Paul uses some graphic imagery to make an emphatic point:  Tearing at each other by biting and devouring has the same effect, relationally, as cannibalism:  Consuming one of your own.

If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (5:15)

When a spouse does this, they’re cannibalizing their own marriage.

What does it look like to bite and devour — have I been cannibalizing my own marriage?

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added)

Wow, wow, wow – if we can get a visual of just how dangerous it is to live out of our flesh instead of our spirit, we’ll be able to see how much real damage we can do to our husbands, to ourselves, and to The Kingdom –it can change our hearts.

Marriage Cannibal:  it’s a choice 

No one is a cannibal on their wedding day. In fact, we’re the opposite of a marriage cannibal on that day!  This change happens after the wedding and is triggered by who we listen to.

Marriage cannibals want you to expose all your husband’s mistakes, misdemeanors, and missteps.  They tell you how right you are and how you deserve better.  How unfair your circumstances are.  All the while inching you closer to your flesh instead of The Spirit.

Is it intentional?  Sometimes it is – sometimes women are so hurt over their own failed marriage(s) they can’t get beyond their own bitterness. They end up destroying any other marriage they come in contact with –misery loves company.  And then there are some unwittingly used by Satan:

For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses,  always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 3:6)

… and they end up being out for themselves.  They feel justified as they feed on the misery that you’re serving up from your marriage.  They do this under the guise of helping and encouraging your situation, all the while sharpening your focus on the faults of your man.  Their motive isn’t really solution-oriented, it just feels like it is because they’re giving you center stage of attention.

It doesn’t matter if the split for the responsibility of the conflict is 95% your fault and 5% your husband’s.  A marriage cannibal will talk you away from any responsibility you have while simultaneously narrowing your focus on that 5% of his.  Blame’s the name of the game.

The first marriage cannibal was Satan

He uses the same technique today that he used in the garden:  Creating doubt through a perceived sense of lack.  He wasn’t after Eve, he merely used a weakness of hers to reach his real target, Adam – divide then conquer.

Any advice or counsel that focuses on the faults of your man instead of the power of Christ’s grace, is underpinned by Satan’s methods.  You’ll know them because they’ll appeal to your flesh – just like they did with Eve.

DIVIDED:  Satan used a lie to shift Eve’s focus away from God’s truth so she’d doubt Adam, You won’t die!  Then, as a liar does, he spins it bigger, God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.

AND:  Eve doubts, The woman was convinced.  So she took some of the fruit and ate it.  Then she gave some to her husband.

CONQUERED:  Adam yields, and he ate it, too.  At that moment their eyes were opened.

Satan achieved a “twofer” here:

  • Division between husband and wife (Genesis 3:16)
  • Division from God (Genesis 3:24)

Cannibalism of marriage: the movement

A true saying is that, it takes two to tango.  It takes two to make the marriage work and two to break it down – but it only takes one to initiate divorce1.  In the past, when it was just our husbands that had the freedom to initiate divorce, the divorce rates2  were low.  However, when us wives got that same freedom, divorce rates skyrocketed3.

Unfortunately, it’s women that are leading the destruction of families – not men. (2 Tim 3:6-7)

When you listen to a marriage cannibal, you’ll end up distrusting God’s:

  1. Son (Hebrews 1:2)
  2. Message in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16)
  3. Power (Romans 4:17)
  4. Timing, and (2 Peter 3:8-9)
  5. Ability (Luke 1:37)

And you’ll believe that:

  1. The grace you’ve received from God through Christ is sufficient for your sin, but not for your husband’s. (Romans 3:21-26)
  2. The circumstances in your marriage are the exception and make your marriage harder than anyone else has ever experienced. So, therefore, you get a special dispensation of grace. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12)
  3. Your husband’s problems are not fixable, even by the Creator of the universe. (Ephesians 3:20)
  4. Your sins are smaller than his, and God doesn’t have as much work to do in you as He does in your husband – he’s holding you back from a good life and you want to be happy now. (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11)
  5. Your life will be better without your husband. You have to depend on your own ability to make that happen instead of waiting for God to make it happen. (Isaiah 43:19)

SOUL-utions

  • We all need to talk to people about problems in our marriage from time to time. Choose wisely – choose one person.  Choose as a last resort.  Don’t choose a person as a replacement of the Holy Spirit, and if the advice doesn’t lead you to give the grace of Jesus Christ, choose someone else.
  • God tells us to test fruit and He encourages us to test Him. Check the source – what does her own marriage look like?  Examine the fruit in her marriage, she must be able to back it up with real experience.  If she doesn’t have fruit yet or the fruit is suspect, choose someone else.
  • After you’re done talking to her, do you hate your husband more? Or, love him more (or at the very least, hate him a little less)?  Have they thrown gas on the sparks so your anger and self-pity are escalating to a consuming fire that needs to be fed?  Or, have they helped you diminish the sparks by sprinkling the water of grace on them?  If not, choose someone else.

 

 

 


NOTES

  1. initiate divorce:  “… 70-75% of divorces were initiated by women […] and is a rising trend.” –Michelle Langley (Incidentally, her research is part of why and when I started following trends and information about marriage)  Her book is called, Women’s Infidelity, and was published in 2005.
  2. divorce rates:  according to the National Center for Health, 50% of marriages in the United States now end in divorce with 80 percent of the initiation filed by women.
  3. divorce rates skyrocketed:  “#25. Wives are the ones who most often file for divorce at 66% on average.” That figure has soared to nearly 75 percent in some years.

 

 

 

MARRIAGE IS FIRST

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When people hear that Darrell and I have been married for almost 30 years, sometimes I get the question, “What is it that you do to make it work?”  I respond, Anything it takes.

The biggest reason for the breakdown of marriages, I think, is that people can’t get over the mental hurdle that their marriage is not about them.  It doesn’t belong to them; it wasn’t invented by them, nor is it for them.  The marriage is about God.  Once I accepted that my marriage belongs to Him, I started to look at it differently — and treat it differently.

[Marriage] is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. ~Paul to the Ephesians

It doesn’t matter what either of us want, need, think, or feel, it’s essential the rings win:  The MARRIAGE must always come FIRST.

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Love covers

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… love covers  (1 Peter 4:8)

… He clothed them (Gen 3:21)

… they covered him  (Gen 9:23)

One of the things I love about God is that He never just says, Do this rule.  He always demonstrates a clear model to follow. To me, He is the forerunner of what it means to cover an offense with love.

HIDING SIN?

God was the first to sacrifice in the name of love in order to cover the sin of another.  He loved all His creation yet He sacrificed His own creatures so He could cover Adam and Eve’s offence.  It must have been hard, but that’s what love does.

And who was He hiding their sin from?  Obviously not Himself, maybe Satan?  Although Satan was aware of getting them to disobey God, I’m not sure he understood the full ramifications of what he had just set in motion, but that’s another post.  Perhaps it was from Adam and Eve themselves?

It wasn’t to “hide” in a fearful deceptive way, like Adam and Eve did with the leaves right after they disobeyed.  There is nothing anyone can hide from God, He knows all, is all, sees all.  But when God covered them, that was something completely different, it was done with a pure heart.  It was done for them.

Covering is for love

After Noah and the gang disembarked and were safely moving on with their lives on dry land, there was cause for celebration for sure!  Having come from a long line of weekend-warrior alcoholics, I know what a blindingly drunk party looks like and the numbing affect it has on the senses.

I don’t think it was a one-time event in Noah’s life; he was a drinker.  That’s how his two older sons knew immediately what to do when the youngest son was disrespectful.  Shem and Japheth showed love for Noah by covering him when he was unable, to do it himself, because of sin.

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It wasn’t so much about modesty as it was about demonstrating love through respecting their father.  Ham choose to expose the sin; he chose wrong.

Love covered my sin

Sometimes, sadly, our first response isn’t to reciprocate what God did for us — what Jesus did for us — what Shem and Japheth did for Noah:  To cover.  Too often we’re like Ham, we want to point out the sin and expose it.

It’s not that we don’t need help.  On occasion, marriage is hard and sometimes we do need a voice of reason.  But if we are intellectually honest with ourselves, not in most cases.  In most cases, it’s a matter of, I don’t think you’re doing it right; my way is right, you’re wrong.  You need to change.

Our first response is to reveal what our husbands have done and that makes us wrong on three counts.  First:  We are more concerned about ourselves than our husbands.  Second:  We are complaining out of inconvenience to our own lives.  And third, we just think we are better than them because we can see their sin and offences and we think theirs is worse than ours.

Because of selfishness we miss the whole point.  The purpose of putting on God’s covering of love isn’t primarily for self, it’s for others.

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We wear the covering of love because that’s what Jesus did for us.  He covers my sin so that I may come boldly before God.  If I’m being continually remade into Christ’s image, I’ll behave more and more like Him.  So shouldn’t I want to try and cover in the name of love, like He did?

WHY?  Why cover it up?

The covering of love doesn’t pretend the sin isn’t real, nor does it take away our flaws, it just hides them from all-out exposure to everyone else.

… Except God.

Now God is left alone with the person and the problem, to work quietly and to completely heal their heart.  It’s only God who can really tell* what needs changing, healing or to be left alone.   And no one wants the ugliness inside them exposed for everyone to see.  Most of us just close off when there’s a threat of exposure, including shutting out God.

My job?  To cover as the process is happening.  Jesus doesn’t cover my sin with His blood to hide it from God so I can slip into heaven with it.  Jesus covers to make it private:  Just between me and God.  This is where my salvation is worked out, privately under the cover of love.

As wives, we have the distinction of being invited to work co-operatively with God as we cover in love.  So I’m left with a question.  Am I going to be like Ham and expose sin and flaws to others (sidenote: like Satan the accuser of the brethren**).  Or, will I choose to cover like Shem and Japheth?

God places the onus on me to figure out the difference.  In this responsibility, I get to see who I really am by discovering the real motive in my heart.  Why do I want to expose his flaws?  Or, why do I want to cover his flaws?

It’s tricky ground for sure.  Navigating the steps on the soil of our own hearts.

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* (Jeremiah 17:10;  Psalm 139:1-4;  Romans 8:27)

**(Zechariah 3:1;  Revelations 12:10)