Three Bits of Advice for My Daughter About Relationships

My daughter is finishing up her freshman year of high school. For her, the experience was  a virtually new beginning, as she was zoned for a school apart from her cohort of friends. Navigating this year has brought new friendships and observing friends enter into ‘romantic’ relationships. While she has not yet expressed interest in dating, we have had conversations about what love is and how it is expressed in both friendship and boyfriend/girlfriend context. Here are three foundational principles that I have tried to impress upon her, and I thought they would have benefit to all of us who long for friendship and intimacy. 1. Realize you are worth loving. Someone ought to love you not for what you provide or because of your performance. You are worth loving simply because of your humanity. God created you with care and loved you so much that Jesus humbled Himself to did on your behalf. Another person, friend or spouse, should love you for no less. 2. The person you are in relationship with should be willing to admit weakness and grow. Relationship that do more than scratch the surface will reveal your flaws and the imperfections of the other person. How both people respond to this brokenness reveals where their hearts lay. Blaming another or building walls of protection indicates an identity that is focused on self. Love always considers the other’s needs. 3. Never stop being centered in Christ. Do not fall for the cultural lie that a relationship, approval, or sex are needed for wholeness. In Christ – believing the truth about who you are in Him – you are complete. Anxiety, disappointments,...

Why Are You Changing?

Human being are dynamic creatures. Every one of us changes in response to situations and circumstances. It is part of how we were designed to adapt. Particularly in response to relationships. To some degree, all relationships challenge our perception of self as competent and worthy of approval. But marriage is unique in the depth of vulnerability and commitment. Marriage will make very clear to you all the things you are clinging to for a sense of wholeness. Your spouse is the one who sees you with  your guard down. It is your spouse who knows your struggles and weaknesses. Knowing your struggles and weaknesses and brokenness, it is your spouse that carries with them the potential to hurt you more than anyone else. Similarly, anything you do that disappoints or hurts as your brokenness interacts with your spouse’s gets reflected back to you by our their reactions. It is in that way that we get almost constant feedback about our adequacy. Because of that, the marital relationship is a reminder that you are not as perfect as you think you are. Hence the reason for God’s desire that those who are married to not separate (Mark 10:9). It is not a curse, but rather a blessing so that you do not miss potential for growth. There tends to be two typical responses: Change for self-protection. This can take many forms. Some people attempt to become exactly what their spouse wants in an effort to earn approval and love. For me, this was a way of life for a long time, until I burned out from trying so hard. Others develop coping strategies...

Make Yourself Available

  The ability to ask open-ended questions and listen with presence is a skill. Good questions have power, not just to garner information, but to change perspective and build influence. Everyone has relationships in which influence must be built and maintained: spouses, children, leaders, teams, students, etc. Questions are a necessary component to growth in all of these areas. All too often, attempts to build influence become prescription. Telling another person what they need or should do without giving them a chance to evaluate or explain. Another mistake is to continually tell people what you need from them. This sends the implicit message that the other person, whether it is spouse, child, employee, or volunteer, is there to serve you. Now you have stolen joy from the relationship and created obligation. Both of these are attempts to build influence that are centered in self and the need to maintain control. Recently, a client was having trouble finding a way to effectively maintain connection with a leader without seemingly like they were meddling. In this situation, the person being led reacted very negatively to feeling like they were being managed. One solution to this problem was to ask a simple question: What do you need from me? With these words you can demonstrate compassion and a desire to serve the other by putting their needs alongside your own. Asking this question communicates your availability without bruising the other’s ego. They may be more likely to ask for help if they know that it is not a sign of weakness to need help. Additionally, this question places ownership for the circumstance or task on the other person’s shoulders, where it...

Adultery – Identity and the Seventh Commandment

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14 Sex is firmly tied to our identity. How we approach sex, who we do it with, and our motivation for having sex are all products of our sense of self. In our culture, we have taken this one step further, and make sex not just a product of identity, but an identity in itself. But, that is a topic for a different post on a different day. Because his nature is faithfulness, God hates adultery. It is not a fruit of an identity centered in Christ. It is a sign of a problem. Sex is connection on a soul level and is powerful. As such, sex can be used as a source of approval, control, or security and give a perceived sense of value to the self by answering the questions of identity: What do I do? What do I have? What do people think of me? When sex is part of the basis for identity, it is used to manufacture a sense of value. Sex is self-centered. I have lots of sex. –> Which makes me better than those who don’t. I satisfy my spouse. –> Which means my performance is good. I am desirable. –> Which provides a source of positive affirmation. I give (or withhold) sex to get something I want. –> Which is a source of power. Sex makes me feel secure. –> Which is a false source of wholeness. Which brings us to adultery. Issues of identity always lead to misusing the gifts of God. Said another way, when we seek wholeness apart from God, we use the...

An Unfortunately True Story

A recent conversation with a hurting pastor prompts me to share this story from my experience… Almost a decade ago, I was an associate pastor with a lot of responsibility at a large and very fast growing church, and at the same time my marriage was in a bad place. For my part, I was trying squeeze out of my marital relationship a sense of affirmation and worth. For my wife’s part, she was struggling with issues of trust, responding to masculinity, and a general apathy to the idea of being married. Due to my need to prove my worth, I was working very hard to right the course of the relationship. The lie that I was believing was that if I just tried harder, the results would be different. So I set up opportunities to pray, do Bible studies, go to a conference, and offered to see a counselor. All with no response. I was frustrated, angry, miserable, and feeling rejected. My wife, too, was not in a good place through all this. It is in this context that I reached out to one of the elders at the church in which I served. Because of my people pleaser tendencies, this was a level of vulnerability that was unusual for me. I was desperate. This man was someone I considered a friend, so I told him some of what was going on, how I needed help as a husband, and I also asked if his wife would consider being more intentional in her relationship with my wife to help her process what was going on in her personal...

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