dysfunctional marriage

Ephesians 5:21 – The Muck-up

“Why do so many people concentrate on Ephesians 5:22-23 and skip over Ephesians 5:21?” – asks Christian marriage blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire, in response to this Pinterest post.

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Interesting question.  First, it’s not really a question, it’s a statement of assumption veiled as a question.

Second, I don’t think it’s a matter of, “so many people […] skipping over ….”   I think it’s a matter of Bible exegesis.  Some people (like Darrell and I) interpret the marriage paradigm as a complementarian, believing that verse 21 is a concluding sentence for Ephesians 5:1-20.  They’re not ‘skipping over it’ from ignorance or even fear, they simply believe it’s not part of the instruction to wives and husbands.  Others, that interpret marriage from the egalitarian paradigm, believe that verse 21 is a topic sentence for Ephesians 5:21-33.

Complementarian or Egalitarian?

It’s an important question that’ll make a big difference in your marriage:  Are you a complementarian or an egalitarian?

In simple terms, complementarians favour specific gender roles for husbands and wives, each with their own power and purpose.  Sometimes it’s referred to as Biblical hierarchy, bridal paradigm, or Christ’s bride/body.  While, egalitarians favour interchangeability of power and gender roles because they don’t define a leader; but also favouring a designated role split. It’s referred to as equality, mutual submission, or 50/50.

To be fair, the Bible doesn’t refer to either classification – we call them these names to differentiate between the two schools of thought.  Complementarians interpret verse 21 to be the conclusion of corporate instruction.  Egalitarians interpret verse 21 to be the preface for the marriage instructions.

The quick response to Sheila’s statement is:  Verse 21 has nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with the corporate body.  By hinging these two sections of Scripture on one verse, you not only blurr marriage into other relationships – lowering its significance, but, you also complicate submission into a dysfunctional mess.

A slower, researched response, is more involved …

GRAMMATICALLY

It’s repetitive and confusing to say:  “everyone submit to everyone wives submit to your own husbands,” see, it makes no sense.  In all of the thought for thought translations (modern versions), you’ll see verse 21 driven into to the next paragraph so it joins the marriage part.  To make it happen they’ve replaced the colon, semicolon, or comma with a period so that the section will complete with verse 20.  Yet in the word for word translations, (KJV, NASB) you’ll find the punctuation left intact making verse 21 the concluding sentence for the previous section.

VOCABULARY

In verse 21, Paul is concluding his general address that targets everyone in the assembly.  We know it’s a corporate address to a body (a group) of believers because he doesn’t name a subject by a noun, instead he uses pronouns in the plural form:

  • (v2) us – “… has loved us and given Himself for us …”
  • (v3) you – “…let it not even be named among you …”
  • (v5) you – “…For this you know…”
  • (v6) no one, you – “let no one deceive you with empty…”
  • (v8) you – “… For you were …”
  • (v14) you – “… Awake you who … will give you light…”
  • (v15) you – “… that you walk circumspectly …”
  • (v19) one another, your – “… to one another… in your heart…”
  • (v20) our – “…in the name of our Lord …”
  • (v21) one another – “…submitting to one another …”

Paul includes verse 21 with all the preceding plural pronouns

But in verse 22, he changes up his target audience. Notice how he signifies his change?  He’s not speaking corporately any more.  He’s not using plural pronouns anymore.  He could’ve said something like, “Now, all you who are married … “  Or, “Those of you who are married…”  Or even, “Any of you who are spouses …”  But he didn’t.

Instead, he distinguishes those who are married by calling them out separately from everyone as well as individually … he speaks directly to wives then directly to husbands:

  • (vs 22-24) Wives, submit to your own husbands …
  • (vs 25-32) Husbands, love your wives, …

Then in verse 33 he wraps up his instruction to all those who are married using a concluding sentence.  He signifies switching back to plural, but not everyone only corporately to those married.  He’s capturing the attention of, every husband and every wife, Each one of you in particular:

  • Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Paul makes special delineation for marriage, above the instructions for everyone else.  I think he wants us to know that the relationship rules that apply to everybody, similarly apply to marriage; however, there’s extra weight when you get married.  The aspects of love and submission he’s been talking about up to verse 21, that apply to everyone …  are now going to change.  Love and submission look different in marriage.

SOUL-ution

Prove it to yourself.  Let your own marriage be the litmus test, not what I say or what others say.  Yes, take in information – but see if it brings unity.  Find what brings the peace of Christ, the peace that you cannot comprehend or understand … even though you’re experiencing it.  Ultimately, that’s the light you want the world to see.

The Marriage Triangle: The One-Flesh Triangle

In Part 1, I explained how our marriage experienced trouble when we tried to fit into the template called, ‘the marriage triangle’.  That instead of simplifying marriage concepts, it had made it more confusing.

What we discovered was that the triangle paradigm is more realistically suited to all other relationships within the body of Christ, except the marriage.  So it’s better named, A Family Triangle:

Within every one of our relationships with other Christians, there are three separate interchanges going on:  1-Darrell has his own relationship with God.  2-I have my own relationship with God.  3-And then there’s Darrell and I, as brother and sister in Christ.

It’s relationship #3 that defines this as a Family Triangle instead of a Marriage Triangle, it could be with Darrell or any other brother or sister in Christ whether they are friends, neighbours, co-workers, cousins, etc.

When the triangle supports all other relationships, it can’t also express the one-flesh in marriage.  The one relationship that’s not interchangeable with any other:  The Covenant

The marriage covenant anchors

The Bible leaves no doubt that the Trinity is three in one,  Father, Son, and Spirit.  Within the Trinity, there’s a rich symbolism for marriage – a supernatural blending of multiples into a single:  God is three in One – marriage is two becoming one.

In marriage, people are not separated into 3 different relationships like in a Family Triangle – they’re joined.  God invites us to covenant with Him because He knows we’ll need His help to make it work.  We cannot become a thriving one-flesh relationship without His help because it’s a supernatural relationship.

The covenant holds us together as God begins the process of infusing two earthly people into a single unit:  One-Flesh, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)

If you’ve anchored your marriage to God by His covenant, it begins and ends with Him.  He created it in the beginning, it’s His idea, it belongs to Him.  He doesn’t join your marriage … you join His marriage.

I think we forget how real that covenant is because we can’t see it.  Unlike the visible rituals of buying the government license at city hall and signing the certificate of marriage at the church, the covenant we make with God – even though unseen – is the real deal. As such, it has far more gravity.

I agreed to covenant with God in marriage through my role as a wife.  I made an agreement with Darrell too, but it’s a contract with another human, a natural being.  God’s covenant is super-natural and supersedes an earthly marriage contract.

At a glance, The One-Flesh Triangle makes the invisible visible and, if we’ve let God anchor us, we’re reminded of that gravity.  At that instant, when we need it the most – in the heat of conflict, frustration, hurt, anger (and sometimes even hate) … it can reset our hearts and minds back to what matters most:  not me, not Darrell – But God. His covenant matters most.

There are ups and downs in every marriage; some have more ups than downs and some go down further than others, but we all need a strategy to remind us of the purposes of marriage.  In the good times in marriage, no one needs a prompt.  But in the hard times, when our wedding day feels like a lifetime in the past … when marriage gets painful and it reaches that breaking point – when we start to think, “This is too hard,” the questions we needed to ask are, will I lean on my own strength or wait for God’s?  Am I going to put the human contract above my covenant with Him?  What’s more important?

SOUL-utions

  • Understand that your marriage is a completely different breed of relationship than all others found on earth; it can’t be treated the same.
  • Accept that your marriage is under tremendous strain from Satan. His main goal, since the day you got married, is to unravel your marriage by coming between the two of you so you’re separated.  He’s the ultimate predator and wants you alone – out of your one-flesh strength.
  • Believe in the realness of your covenant with God.  Trust Him with His own idea of marriage; trust Him with the role He assigned you as a wife.  Let this visual be a trigger to jolt you out of any emotions of hurt, back to the facts.

 

 

Nagging

upwithmarriage_nagging

… the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.

… better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman.

… better to dwell in a desert land than with a contentious woman and with vexation.

… better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than to share a house with a disagreeing, quarrelsome, and scolding woman.

True, it’s hard to hear, but God told us for a reason.  I’m guessing it does more damage than we realize.  Nagging is hurtful to your husband’s ears and toxic to your marriage.  And probably doesn’t make God too happy either.

~   Let’s not be like that   ~

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Loophole

00 POST TITLE VERSE 1a

Loophole:

an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)

I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for.  It was too hard and I wanted out.  There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted.  Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.

It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:

Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps. 

And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps.  Right.  If God was for this marriage it would be easier.  There would be peace.  I began to see hope.  Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone.  It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing.  I could see my loophole getting larger.

… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.

Wait?  What? …. A what?

Have You Not Read?

When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number.  We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:

Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?

… have you not read …?  Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that.  Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.

I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there.  Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit.  Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.

To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures.  But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question.  Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.

Misfire From Both Sides

On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose.  And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation.  Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.

First:  The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner:  Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong.  Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized.  The paperwork is all in order.  But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose:  Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together.  But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:

“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities.  So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place.  But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities?  I have a technicality for you.  You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better?  It doesn’t work that way.  You want to leave your marriage?  Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.

WOAH-WAH

Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off.  Only trading out.  The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for.  They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game!  And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.

And then:  The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause.  Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation:  so that they would covenant in marriage.  No escape clause is the whole purpose.  Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design.  The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.

At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them.  The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else.  It applies to …everyone …else?  I didn’t like that very much.  “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You?  Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.”  OK, that was wrong, I knew it.  I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.

Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair.  What about him?  Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him?  I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit:  “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”

This was my game changer:  It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.

Accept it, if you can

If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me.  To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.

To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him.  I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.

And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him?  And then the next?  God is everything He says or nothing at all.  I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.

So.  I’m not a eunuch, clearly.  My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God.  Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.

With that thought, my loophole vanished.

 

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EQUALITY IS IRRELEVANT

compare together2There is no equality in marriage because the roles are so unalike. You cannot compare things that contrast to each other. The directives God gives to each of them vary so much that you can’t even set them side-by-side to get a modicum of measurement to gauge equality! Not to mention the biology which, even at a cellular level, is completely contrasted.
Do we compare the cardiologist and brain surgeon? The College of Physicians and Surgeons holds them both 100% responsible in their respective roles. But they are never compared to each other in importance of their roles for the sake of equality in the medical field!
There is equality in the levels of responsibility. Just like each doctor is 100% responsible to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, so it is with God and marriage. He holds a woman 100% responsible for being a wife, and He holds a man 100% responsible for being a husband.
There is very little else in our world that we seek to equalize. We don’t compare a Thorough Bred and a Draft Horse, or a Scooter and Sport Bike, so it seems unfitting to seek equality within the roles of marriage.

 

 

Neglect

DRIFT

Neglect always leads to drifting.

There is no area of life where neglect is beneficial. Life – people – relationship: all require work. We were not built for static. Attending to – caring for – doing: We were built for activity.

PHYSICAL

  • Neglect to work out; your heart and muscles drift into weakness and atrophy
  • Neglect to eat right and your body drifts into poor health

MATERIAL 

  • Neglect your work you get passed over for promotions
  • Neglect to pay your mobile fee and your phone becomes useless

EMOTIONAL/MENTAL

  • Neglect to manage your emotions and your filters weaken
  • Neglect to keep your mind sharp and cognitive ability becomes dull

 Neglect = Drift = Dullness

Since all this is true, we ought to pay much closer attention than ever to the truths that we have heard, lest in any way we drift past [them] and slip away. –Heb 2:1

For this nation’s heart has grown gross (fat and dull), and their ears heavy and difficult of hearing, and their eyes they have tightly closed, lest they see and perceive with their eyes, and hear and comprehend the sense with their ears, and grasp and understand with their heart, and turn and I should heal them. -Matt 13:15

Fat & Dull = Lazy listeners ‘ask for it’

We all have areas in which we have become lazy listeners that make us neglectful:  In what ways are you neglecting your marriage?

A phrase you hear repeatedly from your spouse can indicate an area of dullness. You can listen to God through your spouse or you can let regression continue. But God always corrects one way or another. Just like you as a parent wouldn’t allow one sibling to constantly take advantage the other; He won’t allow His chosen to become a family of spoiled brats that hurt each other through the inaction of neglect.

You either act through listening and hearing or God will give you the help you are begging for. (Heb 10:31)

 BEWARE OF THE BAIT

Resist the temptation to ask, “In what ways is my spouse neglecting our marriage.” God doesn’t ask us to account for each other. I won’t be held accountable for the actions and behaviours of my husband; only my own as a wife. (2 Cor 5:10)

Neglect is a tool of Satan’s that is intentionally deceptive so it can be quietly destructive.  Drifting is just a slower path than directly sinking; the destination is the same:  divorce – death of the marriage. In order to keep your marriage afloat and on course it must be driven, steered, worked and attended to.

neglect 4

 

 

Dysfunctional Communication (Part 3)

Part 1Our First Truce

Part 2 – Emotions

This post is the final installment of my series on Dysfunctional Communication.

Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk

truce 2

Perhaps this last part would have been better titled, Rules of Engagement, as that is what we were really attempting to do:  To actually engage each other in our own grievances.  But I had already chosen The Truce Box Talk sooooo, I went with that one.

First things first.  It’s presupposed that if you are reading this far in the series that you and your spouse have made the decision that you are going to fight for your marriage, regardless of where that journey may take you.  That was the place where Darrell and I had ended up, between the proverbial rock and hard place.  It was not good, but once you’ve removed the idea of divorce from the table you are left with only 1 logical option, fight for your marriage no matter how bad it is.

Our marriage is living proof that necessity really is the mother of invention.  That invention was our Truce Box.

The truce had served its purpose – there was peace.  But now we were going to move onto the next step:  Engage in conflict.  This was scary.  When you get to this level of dysfunction in your marriage, things have gone unsaid for so long and there are so many problems, that it’s almost unbearable to broach them.  The emotional weight attached to each one makes it seem impossible to lift onto the table of discussion.

Press on.

Accept that it’s going to be messy and hard …

but not undoable.

Some things are going to be very difficult to say and some things will be even harder to hear.  The Truce Box Talk is not about being right or wrong; but being safe.  Think of it as being in a meeting at a boardroom table with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the CEOs.

Its purpose is to allow naked communication by stripping away the feelings and emotions that come from conflict.  Clearing away all of the confusion, assumptions, miscommunications and misunderstandings.  The first few times it will feel awkward and disjointed, kind of like learning a new dance to a song you’ve never heard.  But with practice you become a more skilled partner.

And now, our Rules of Engagement:

RULE 1 – Public Location

Public was safe, for both of us.  I was safe from Darrell’s angry aggression and he was kept safe from my verbal tirades that lead to emotional unravelling.

There is a certain standard of polite behaviours that society expects from its adults, we could sum them up in the word civilized.  Being out in public forced us to be on our best behaviour with each other.  We were able to speak freely but it had to be done with care and dignity, which is the way we should have been speaking all along.

Rule 2 – Honesty

Honesty with each other and self.  Sounds pretty straight forward and simple, but it’s not so easy.  Honesty takes courage.  It meant we each had to be brave enough to reveal our real thoughts.  Courage to believe that it didn’t matter what the other thought, only what God thought.  There is no faster way to kill communication than by the fear that’s rooted in self-consciousness.

Rule 3 – Acceptance

This rule was based on the premise that everything goes.  This meant that whatever Darrell said, I accepted as true and real – to him.  And vice versa for me.  It’s drilling down on the idea that each other’s hearts are more important than who is right.  It’s rooted in others before self rather than self-seeking.

  • Hearing and accepting – NOT defending, NOT arguing and NO rebuttal
  • Trying to put yourself in the shoes of another to really understand
  • Listening with the intent to validate

Rule 4 – Freedom

Not all things were settled when they were first broached and most things relational are just not cut & dried.  Old habits of relating die hard and new ones take time to develop.  If When either of us fell back into old ways of responding reacting, we gave each other the freedom to say, “You are still doing it.”  Or, “You did it again.”

In the beginning there was a temptation to disregard the rules of engagement that we had established.  This generally meant that one of us would delve into conflict on the spur of the moment.  We gave each other the freedom to invoke a truce, even if it was the one who started the conflict in the first place.

The truth box talk is not about

  • saying your say to get your way
  • making a decision
  • who makes decisions
  • what is the right decision

… but is about

  • learning how to arrive at solutions together
  • working as a team
  • growing in unity through trust and peace
  • striving for maturity

In Summary

It has been humbling to put pen to paper (so to speak) and relive this pivotal time in our marriage.  As I walked down the halls of my memory I was reminded again just how fragile people can be.  How easy it is to become self-centered, or to misread a heart and assume the worse in our spouses.  How we need to be on guard against the wiles of the enemy as he seeks to trespass between husbands and wives in an effort to destroy our marriages.  I was reminded that if either of us had given up on God and walked away because of conflict, trials and tribulations in our marriage, neither of us would be experiencing the abundance of the blessings of faith, strength and unity that we now have.  Thank you for reading and giving me the opportunity to relive it.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw