Monthly Archives: May 2012

Love is not Selfish

You know, sometimes there are things that people want me to write about that seem so basic to me that I think “Wow people have GOT to already know that! ”  It feels like that is such a beginning foundational truth that surely people know that already!  Yet more and more I’m coming to realize that people do not live with examples of lifelong faithfulness anymore and do not see mature, healthy, Christ-like relationships modeled…so we don’t know what to do!   Like so many things in our U.S. culture, we have things exactly backwards, and when we look at things like keeping our marriages affair-free from a backwards viewpoint…well we get confused!  Prior to this I wrote a couple articles about some topics that we look at exactly backwards: “Crossing the Line” is about how we usually ask if sexting is an affair since it wasn’t physical and we want to know just where the line is so we can go right up to the line but not cross it–and instead we should find out where that line is so we can stay as far away from it as possible!   “Sex and Marriage…Marriage and Sex” is about how we tend of think of sex from the point of view of getting our own need met and our own horniness rather than seeing that sex is about thinking about our spouse and what THEY need physically and meeting that need.  And finally “Fidelity is not asking’ How Far Can I go?‘ ” is about how we, here in the U.S.A., think infidelity and cheating are wrong, but then want to do everything we can get away with…rather than looking at how to be 100% FAITHFUL in our marriages, or asking “What is fidelity?”  and how we can act that way.

Selfishness is another one of those topics that we get exactly backwards.

In our advertising, our movies, our books…everything tells young people today that focusing on yourself is the way to be happy.  Love yourself!  You are entitled to high self-esteem (even if you’ve been a complete jerk!).  You deserve better!  When you’re in-love, the person you’re “in love with” completes you and meets your needs (flawlessly and naturally, without effort).  If it feels good, do it.  If you’re unhappy, leave–it’s your spouse’s fault because they “made” you unhappy.  Some of the New Age gurus even go so far as to say that each individual is a small bit or spark of God!!  If you look in the dictionary, the word “selfish” is defined as:

1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only foroneself:

3.  self-interested, self-seeking, egoistic; illiberal, parsimonious,stingy.

Yet I Corinthians 13: 5 tells us the exact opposite… that “[Love] does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking,  is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs.”  This means that to keep your marriage affair-free, the focus needs to shift from “me, me, Me, Me, ME!” to being devoted to and caring for another human being–namely our spouse!  Our primary (first and foremost) concern would be the interests, benefits, and welfare of someone other than ourselves–and that would be the interests of our spouse, the benefit of our spouse, and the welfare of our spouse (because doing so is what God told us to do, and even before our spouse we want to do what pleases God!).  It means we REGARD others and think of how what we do and say will affect them.  It means that our actions would be characterized by and manifest concern or care for our spouse!

Can you imagine the impact to marriages if people were taught that before they got married?  Can you imagine how that would put a hedge of protection against infidelity if you thought about how “chatting and”texting” or “going to lunch with that person from work” would affect your spouse?  How affair-free would your marriage be if your actions were characterized by care for your spouse?    WOW!  Just wow.  We have the whole selfishness thing exactly backwards.

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Wage Peace on Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I had a really hard time deciding on a topic for today’s blog. On the one hand, I am not one of those folks who’s all “Rah Rah! U.S.A.! Red, white and blue! Let’s remember our soldiers who died for our freedom!” kind of gal. I have known friends who went to serve and were killed, and their whole family died with them that day. I have known friends who went to serve and did not die, but while they were gone their spouse cheated, in their grief they did what they were trained to do, and now their whole life is gone. I have known friends who went to serve and did not die, and they suffer for it to this day. I don’t swallow the story that “war defends us” or that sending the people we love to die is somehow good for us. Personally I think PEACE is much more patriotic, yet on this day I do remember my friends, and I do honor their sacrifice by doing what I believe shows them the most honor–I work for PEACE.

Yet how often do we do the same thing in our marriages, especially after an affair? How often do we continue the “war” because it profits us, rather than taking the risk of peace?

The loyal spouse is a lot like the soldier who went to war and now has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“triggers”). Much like our soldiers, the loyal spouse has been through something so traumatic that when something occurs that their mind associates with the trauma…they relive it. Part of ending the “war” of an affair is learning how to let go of the trauma triggers and live in the present. Another big part of ending the “war” is to put down your weapon–holding the affair over your disloyal’s head as your trump card to win all arguments.

The disloyal spouse is a lot like the soldier who went to war and then realized that murder is wrong and they shouldn’t be there. They justify what they’re doing (“just following orders”) but keep doing it and don’t leave. Much like our soldiers, for a disloyal spouse to stop doing what they know is wrong takes a great act of courage. Part of ending the “war” of an affair is to forgive yourself and change what you’re doing so that you boldly follow a moral code of honesty and faithfulness. Another big part of ending the “war” is to put down your weapon–sitting on the fence.

The threat of “war” can make us let someone else be in-charge. Loyal spouses tend to want to keep their weapon of holding the affair over their disloyal’s head so they can control their spouse. They want the disloyal to do what THEY want…the way they want it…when they want it! If they bring up the affair, the disloyal is automatically ashamed and forced to repay the loyal spouse for what they did. Likewise the disloyal spouse keeps their weapon of sitting on the fence in an effort to control their spouse! They don’t make a decision and constantly remind their loyal that if the loyal doesn’t “do it their way”…they might leave the marriage. So both sides continue to fight and the casualties of the “war” are the marriage and the families that die.

In order to end the war, the weapons HAVE TO be put down. Both sides have to not only put their weapons down, but also refuse to ever pick them up again–beat the swords into plowshares. Waging PEACE is a risk because it means that both sides could be tricked…and both sides leave themselves vulnerable if the other one decides to pick up their weapon again! But if both sides really do lay their weapons down, and get to know each other, and talk openly…then slowly an alliance can be built and peaceful mutuality can grow.

So this Memorial Day, honor those who sacrificed so much by being PEACEFULLY patriotic -AND- end the “war” at home, after the affair, by laying down your weapons. Instead, make Memorial Day the day that you went to your spouse and wrote a PEACE TREATY.

 

Crossing the Line…

Lots of times people ask questions like this: “Is having a friend of the opposite sex wrong?” or “What about chatting and texting all hours of the day and night? It’s just chitchat—is that okay?” “Is sexting really an affair?  It’s just flirting, it’s not physical and it’s just words!” or “How about cybersex.  I mean it’s not like we had REAL sex!  Is that crossing the line?”  

Have you heard those kinds of questions?  It’s as if the people asking the question want to go RIGHT UP TO THE LINE of doing the wrong thing, but not cross the line.  Many of these questions come up precisely BECAUSE we have an incorrect view of what fidelity and sex even ARE!  If you think of sex as “doing things to myself (or using someone else) physically which result in an amazing physical sensation and relaxing release” … well it does do those things but that’s like the tiny tip of the iceberg of what sex is meant to be!  Likewise, as we’ve already discussed in the blog “Fidelity is not asking ‘How Far Can I Go?’ ” faithfulness (fidelity) is “devotion to a person or duties: allegiance , constancy , fealty , loyalty…the state of loyalty and devotion to obligations, duties, and observances that are owed to a certain person (namely your spouse).”  In our marriages, we are supposed to reflect Christ‘s marriage to His Bride, the Church.  This is why husbands have federal headship over their wives–to reflect God‘s headship over Christ and Christ’s headship over His bride, the Church!  Further, when a wife is submissive to her husband, she is directly demonstrating a living example of how Christ was submissive to God and how we (the Church) are in submission to Christ! 

Taken in that context, where our marriages reflect Christ and His Church–did Christ come as the Son of God, with all the authority and glory of God in the flesh, and say “Hey everybody!  I’m GOD!  Serve me!”??  Or did He demonstrate a servant heart, even to the point of laying down his life in obedience, saying “I am indeed God but I’m going to act in a way that obeys God and is for your best interest, not self-centeredly focused on my own”??  If our marriages are a mirror of Christ, then how can our sex life be “doing things to myself (or using someone else) physically which result in an amazing physical sensation and relaxing release”?  Our sex lives, as a gift of God to intimately KNOW our spouse, would have to reflect that attitude of “…I’m going to act in your best interest instead of my own…”!  Right? Our sexuality is reserved for one person with whom we are in a lifelong covenant marriage, to get to KNOW each other intimately on every level: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.  Likewise our faithfulness to our spouse also would reflect that attitude of “…I’m going to act in a way that focuses on showing you the loyalty that is owed to you by my promise–not on what I can get away with!”  So now let’s look at those questions again, from that point of view!  

“Is having a friend of the opposite sex wrong?”  Well let’s use those two standards: Sexuality is reserved for one person with whom you are in a lifelong covenant marriage, and it is a servant’s attitude  “…acting in your spouse’s best interests (pleasures) instead of your own.”  How far can you go?  You tell me.  When we marry someone we stand before God and our families as witnesses and promise to give 100% of our affection and loyalty to that one person ONLY (forsaking all others…until death parts us).  So how far can you go before you are giving some percent of your affection to that opposite sex friend?  Or some part of you gives some loyalty to the friend and the remainder of the loyalty to your spouse?  Does this reflect an attitude of “…acting in your spouse’s best interests (pleasures) instead of your own” -OR- does it put your own selfish desires ahead of your spouse?  Then I guess you have your answer don’t you?  

See how easy it is to answer these questions when you get the right point of view!
“What about chatting and texting all hours of the day and night? It’s just chitchat—is that okay?”   Again, let’s use those two standards: Sexuality is reserved for one person with whom you are in a lifelong covenant marriage, and it is a servant’s attitude  “…acting in your spouse’s best interests (pleasures) instead of your own.”  Well again you tell me: how does chatting and texting with another person of ANY gender indicate that you’ve reserved intimate knowledge of yourself for the one person with whom you are in a lifelong covenant marriage?  How does chatting and texting with another person demonstrate acting in your spouse’s best interests and pleasures?  I don’t see how it does!  I see a self-centered focus on what makes YOU feel good or feel happy or whatever!  
There is even more to consider too.  Two of my favorite verses are I Corinthians 10:23-24 and Philippians 4:8 .  In I Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul is talking to the Church about our freedom–how we are free to eat or drink anything that God has created–but he is very clear in telling the Corinthians that not all things are BENEFICIAL and not all things are CONSTRUCTIVE.  We can use that as a pattern to determine if things “cross the line” too!  How does it benefit YOUR SPOUSE for you to chat and text with another person of any gender all hours of the day and night?  Does that kind of behavior benefit the Church–the body of Christ?  How about is it constructive?  Does chatting and texting with another person build your marriage and make it a living testimony of God’s faithfulness to us?  Is it constructive to the Body of Christ or is it another example of hypocrisy to unbelievers?  And in Philippians, the apostle Paul is nice enough to list for us the KINDS of things we should be thinking about: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…”  COOL!!  Is chatting and texting with someone all hours of the day and night true (as in “true hearted”)?  How about noble?  Is it right?  What about pure–is it pure?  Lovely?  Behavior to-be-admired?  Is texting with another person acting in a way that is excellent and worthy of praise?  
Seems like the answer is pretty clear to me!  
“Is sexting really an affair?  It’s just flirting, it’s not physical and it’s just words!”  I’ll let you do this one on your own.  But remember our criteria:
1. Intimacy (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) is reserved for one person with whom you are in a lifelong covenant marriage.  Does sexting reserve intimate knowledge of you on all those levels for only your spouse?
2.  Does it demonstrate a servant’s attitude  “…acting in your spouse’s best interests (pleasures) instead of your own”?  How would sexting be acting in your spouse’s best interests?  Isn’t the sexting focused on YOU and YOUR pleasure?  
3. Is it BENEFICIAL?  Is it CONSTRUCTIVE?   Does the sexting benefit your spouse or your marriage?  Does it benefit the Church?  Is sexting constructive to your marriage or family?  Is it constructive to the Church?  Does sexting help lead the unsaved to salvation?
4. Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy?   I think you get the drift by now, don’t you?  
“How about cybersex.  I mean it’s not like we had REAL sex!  Is that crossing the line?”   You know, I’m just going to remind you of our four criteria:  
1. Intimacy (physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) is reserved for one person with whom you are in a lifelong covenant marriage.
2.  Does it demonstrate a servant’s attitude  “…acting in your spouse’s best interests (pleasures) instead of your own”?   
3. Is it BENEFICIAL?  Is it CONSTRUCTIVE?  (I Cor. 10:23-24)
4. Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? (Phil. 4:8)  
Gentle reader, I challenge you today to change your perspective.  Rather than asking “Where is the line, so I can come RIGHT UP TO THE LINE but not cross it” I challenge you to look at your marriage, your sexuality, and what you do with others in a wholly new way: “Where is the line, so I can stay as far away from it as possible!!”  

’50 Shades’ and Infidelity–there is a connection!

A phenomenon has been hitting the U.S. like a tsunami that is literally sweeping in and flooding our culture with a new buzz: the book ’50 Shades…’.   The book (and topic) have been “exposed” on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, been featured on the cover of Newsweek (Spanking Goes Mainstream), has been topping e-book charts, has been recorded by Ellen DeGeneres, and the film rights have been purchased. Sex shops literally around the world have noticed a spike in sales and a new interest in adult toys.  So far, the book has sold 2,000,000 copies to date and the Kindle version is selling even better.    Everyday housewives…even Christian women…are picking up the book because it has been classified as “mommy porn.”

However, don’t let the euphemism fool you, especially if you are a Christian!  This book is not a somewhat eroticized romantic story.  Nope, this book and the hundreds (if not thousands) of stories like it are just exactly the way that a disloyal spouse subtly, slowly and gradually goes from an honest, decent,  maybe even a “christian” person to someone who lies, cheats and commits adultery.

I think almost everyone in the U.S.A. if they were asked about it would say something like, “Oh yes committing adultery is wrong.”   Likewise, the VAST majority of people probably recognize the damage and destruction that pornography can reek in a marriage.  However, when people think about porn, most probably envision the man in the relationship sneeking off in a raincoat in the dark to a sleazy sex shop to buy the latest nudie magazine or watch a stripper, but those of us who have dealt with porn in marriages know that it is MUCH more subtle than that!  The internet has made it easy to instantly gratify the desire for naked images, sexually explicit stories or images, even full on xxx-rated, extremely graphic movies on every possible topic and fetish!  What once took a very deliberate decision and action now can be a matter of “thinking about it” and the next second, “clicking a link” and boom…it’s all right there in your home and in front of your eyes.   And it’s the same for infidelity.  All you need to do is THINK about being bored with your spouse, wanting sizzling sex with someone again, “what if I had gone with that one from high school?” and the next second, clicking a link for one of those “have an affair” websites, clicking a link for those pop-ups saying they want to meet you, or searching for your first GF/BF on Facebook and boom…it’s all right there in your home and in front of your eyes!

When the idea occurs to us to do something sinful, it doesn’t usually pop into our head “Oh I think I’d like to commit adultery today”  “Oh I believe I’ll be consumed by lust and sexual sin today.”  Nope.  It’s subtle.  It moves by very small, deliberate, gradual steps while you bend your moral code ever so slightly.  Both porn and infidelity follow this pathway, and Psalm 1 even DESCRIBES the pathway for us!  “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take  or sit in the company of mockers.”  ~Psalm 1:1   See how the Psalmist shows that it starts with walking in the steps of the wicked…we think of a wicked thing, and rather than turning away from it and stopping those thoughts to turn them to God, we consider it a bit, entertain the idea, and then walk in that general direction?  What happens next?  Well we are in the general vicinity of other people who do this particular sinful thing (maybe with others who are “into” porn or surrounding ourselves with people who support “doing what makes you happy”)…so we stand in the way that sinners take.  What’s the final step?  We gradually walked that general direction, we hung out with others who encourage our sin, and finally we join them…we do what they do.  We sit in the company of mockers (those who mock God).  And that’s what sin is like, whether it’s pornography or whether it’s adultery.

In Romans 12:2 we Christians are told “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”  which means that our minds should do a 180 turn from the thought patterns of the world and grow ever more and more focused on glorifying God and doing what pleases Him.  With the internet, and it’s ability to instantly gratify any THOUGHT, it is very important to note the idea of our minds and our thoughts coming into line with God’s mind and thoughts!  If we allow the little foothold of one porn peek or read one little “mommy porn” book, where is our mind?  It is walking on the way of very gradually crumbling your moral code, RATHER than where our minds should be: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~Philippian 4:8