This is awkward, but…can you help my marriage?

Don’t miss out on my “This is awkward” series HERE.

Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

As a pastor, I’m supposed to have it all figured out.

I have a degree in theology.

I have been called to full-time vocational ministry.

I help other people work on their marriages.

I’ve even written blog posts about how to preach a marriage ceremony, for crying out loud.

But I don’t have it figured out.

My wife and I, in seasons of our marriage, have had to ask for help. Shore up some weaknesses. Make our marriage stronger. Get my wife to realize how awesome I am. :)

Does that mean we’re weak? And not where we need to be? And that we don’t have a perfect marriage? And that we don’t have all of the answers.

Yep. You bet it does.

Honest community

And we’re okay being honest about that. In being honest about times in our marriage when we needed help, we’re able to step alongside other couples and say, “It’s okay to ask for help. We have, too.”

There’s a perception that asking for help means you’ve got some sort of deficiency. That some disease has stricken your marriage, and now everybody looks at you like you’re a leper.

If that’s true, maybe it’s time to look for a new community where it’s okay to be yourself, scars and all.

It’s more than “okay” to ask for help in your marriage. In fact, I’d call it “wisdom.”

Time to wise up. Ask for some help from a couple that’s a little further down the road from you.

Ask them how they’ve worked through difficulties. How they’ve grown in their faith. How they’ve learned to argue well. How they’ve pointed their family to Jesus along the way.

Our marriages are too valuable to ignore our need for outside help.

The Spirit of God helps us in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26), and He often does that through others.

There’s no shame in asking for help.

Umm…this is awkward…but can you help me with my marriage?

 

 

 

 

This is awkward, but…how are you spending your money?

Culture tells us that it’s not polite to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table.

Either of those topics brings about so much heat that people can too easily get offended to enjoy dinner. But you know what brings up even more heat than politics or religion?

Not “how’s your sex life?”

Not “How’s your present life?”

Not even, “I need some help.

The question that brings up more heat is, “How are you spending your money?”

image credit: Creation Swap user Filip Ologeanu

You want to put someone on the hot seat, ask them this.

Ask them why they’ve decided to buy a new car, even though they don’t have any financial plan in place for a rainy day.

Ask them how many credit cards they currently have, and have maxed out.

Ask them why they feel ok buying their child every little thing they ask for, but have no sense of being generous to others.

Ask them how they’re doing at tithing.

Ask them how they’re stewarding the resources God’s given them.

When you ask any of these questions, be ready for someone to squirm.

Or punch you in the throat.

But these questions are so important. Not to be asked publicly, because that could cause enough embarrassment to sever a relationship. These are questions to be asked of someone that you have built trust with. Maybe someone you’re investing in spiritually. Definitely someone who trusts you with important things in life. This question is off limits in casual relationships…this question is evidence of a deeper, richer community.

Yes, these questions are awkward, but the way you handle your money says much about what you believe about God. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) The way you handle your money reflects your belief.

It’s unbelievably easy for money to become an idol in our lives. And the more secretive we operate, the stronger our idol becomes.

Idols lose their power when they’re brought into the light.

Get ready to cause a little heat with this one. But dealing with heat now will help keep from flames later.

This is awkward, but…how are you spending your money?

 

 

This is awkward, but…how’s your present?

Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

It’s “sexy” to talk about your past. Where you’ve been. The grit you’ve experienced. The pain you’ve had to bear. The crazy life you used to live. When you talk about your past, you get looks that say

Wow. You’ve come so far!

OR

Wow. You’ve overcome so much!

OR

Wow. You had a lot of fun!

It’s “sexy” to talk about your future, too. Nobody gets upset when you’re talking about where you’re headed in life. Whether you’re talking about heaven (where there will be no tears or crying or pain) or something a little shorter in focus (your goals and aspirations), these are fun conversations. When you talk about where you’re headed, it’s cast in a bright, positive light. Nobody clams up talking about that!

But your “present”? It’s not so sexy to talk about where you are right now. In fact, it’s quite awkward. And I’m convinced awkward conversations need to be had.*

It’s not cool to say,

“Yeah, I still struggle with ____.”

OR

“I still need help with ______.”

OR

“That thing that we talked about last week…I messed up again.”

The awkward humiliation

It’s humiliating, really. It’s like saying, “I know I told you I was headed to Nashville, but somehow I ended up in St. Louis. You told me to turn left, but I just went right.” Silly, no? Turns out they didn’t listen to directions, look at their map, or heed the signs that said, “Nashville, turn left.” And they did this for 450 miles.

Talking about your present struggles is like swallowing a spoonful of medicine. You know it’s going to help, but it tastes rancid going down.

Talking about your present struggles admits, “I’m not where I need to be,” “I’m not who I appear,” and, “I don’t really know how to get where I want to go.”

The beeline to shame

Where we go wrong when someone begins “talking about their present” is that we make a beeline for shame. Instead of the Prodigal’s father, we play the role of the older brother (Luke 15:28-30). Our arms are crossed and our head swiveling back and forth in judgment. We say things like “How are they going to ever learn?” or “Someone’s got to give them the truth.” or “If they’d only followed God like me” We think it’s our job to convict their hearts with the truth.

When we’re quick to convict, we inadvertently shut down a potentially life-changing moment of confession.

The good news about grace is that grace doesn’t keep a record of how many times you’ve messed up. In fact, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Grace celebrates a step in the right direction. Even when it’s followed by two steps backwards.

Grace welcomes home

Grace doesn’t mean that you become a doormat that’s walked on. It means you welcome someone home when they “talk about their present.” More than likely, conviction’s already happened. (hint: that’s why they’re talking with you!) Your role isn’t to convict…you can let the Holy Spirit do that. He’s better at it than you are, anyway. What someone needs, in their moment of taking a step of faith by saying, “I’ve messed up…again” is a “welcome home!” embrace.

Next time someone opens up an awkward conversation by sharing something they’re counting to struggle with, try being full of grace. Try showing them that we serve a God who never leaves or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6), even when we’ve followed a stupid decision by a stupid decision. In those moments, you’ll find that truth acts more like a weapon.

Grace is what’s needed, because grace moves the ball forward. Shame throw it backwards.

* catch up with the “this is awkward” series HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

This is awkward, but…how’s your sex life?

My wife and I had a conversation with a young married couple about sex a few weeks ago.

It was incredibly refreshing. We could be open and honest with them, and help them take steps forward in their marriage.

Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

Church leaders should talk with people more about sex, in a positive light.*

Most of the “sex talks” that happen with church leaders are

  • a premarital conversation that goes something like this: Don’t have sex. Quit having sex. Wait for a few more months.
  • a sermon series in the student ministry that lasts for 8 months. Think I’m joking? I’m not…I ran into a student pastor who said he’d been preaching on sex for 8 months with his students. “I think we’re just about done” he said. “I bet they’ve been done listening to you talk about it for about 8 months, because that’s way too long for students to hear their 50-somethings youth pastor talk about sex” I replied…in my head, of course.
  • an awkwardly timed, not-so-funny joke in a sermon on Sunday morning. Either you think, “Can I laugh at that in church?” or “Can I laugh at that, just to make my pastor feel better? That wasn’t funny…”

Church leaders should have more frank conversations about sex. Not in a “sex is dirty” kind of way, and not in a way that’s constantly condemning the bad things about sex. But in a way that helps a couple honor God with this area of their life.

Culture teaches us a lot about sex, most of which is glamorized, made out to be some sort of physical-only act that’s super easy for a couple to enjoy together.

It Ain’t That Easy

If you’ve been married long at all, you know that sex isn’t easy to get “right” (meaning something that’s mutually enjoying and honoring to God). More often than not, especially in the first few years of married life, sex is frustrating for husbands and wives. It’s not the beautiful act that God intended, but a point of contention. Instead of an act of union and love, it drives a wedge dissatisfaction.

And sex is so, so important to a marriage. It’ll bring a marriage down in a heartbeat if it’s not addressed. We’d be foolish to assume that all couples just know how to flourish in this area of their lives. Understanding your spouse is something that takes time…it’s not an intuitions you’re born with. As quickly as it can bring a marriage down, it can also help a marriage turn a corner. God intended sex to be an emotional, physical, and spiritual act. It’s intended to be a deeply satisfying intimacy for which no other act can substitute. (don’t believe me? Try reading Song of Solomon and not blushing)

A Little More Conversation, A Little More Action

Don’t wait for your church to have a sermon series on sex. Even if they do, it’s impossible to cover every specific issue for every couple. While there may be general problems, ideals, pitfalls to avoid, and healthy steps to take, in no way can a sermon be comprehensive. Those comprehensive questions and concerns and frustrations need to be worked out in the context of healthy relationships.

So go ahead. Ask the awkward question to someone you have a close relationship with:

How’s your sex life?

You’ll get them snickering like middle school girls. But you’ll also open up the opportunity for a beautiful conversation.

And if you’re not having good sex, it may be time to ask for some advice.

Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love (Proverbs 5:15-19).

*Talking about sex isn’t just relegated to church leaders…all followers of Jesus should make it a point to talk openly and honestly about this issue. Church leaders especially. This blog just tends to be read by a majority of people who are, at one level or another, leaders in their local church.

* image credit; Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

* catch up with the “this is awkward” series HERE.