Why Christians are Losing the Culture War

Christians may be losing the Culture War--but maybe that's not the worst thing in the world if it gets us back to reaching out to our neighbors.
Christians are in a Culture War. And I don’t think we’re doing a particularly good job.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I posted about the Duggar abuse scandal. Which got read a lot. And which kind of consumed the day (I didn’t even get cake).

So perhaps I’m just feeling a little contemplative today, but I have a bunch of thoughts in my brain that I thought I should try to get down. I hope they make sense, but after a weekend of watching many Christians defend the Duggars’ decision not to immediately remove Josh from the home; saying “the girls are absolutely fine! You can tell because we see that on TV!”; and “it was only touching; it wouldn’t have done that much harm”, I guess I’m just a little restless and rather sad.

So I want to give my hypothesis of what’s happening in our culture.

Western culture, and especially American culture, used to be quite Christian.

We had Christian values, even if not everybody believed. And, to a large extent, people felt that our country was blessed because the country reflected Christ’s values.

Then everything went off the rails starting in the 1960s. The family was attacked. Marriage was attacked. The church was attacked.

So we went into defense mode. Every time we were attacked we’d fight. We decided that we wanted to stand out from the world, so we created more and more rigid standards of what it means to be a Christian–even more rigid than in the 1950s (take purity, for example. No one was arguing for no hand holding until you’re engaged in the 1950s. This is a new cultural phenomenon).

And we treat this like a war. We’ve decided there are two sides: Us and Them.

We retreat into our own sides on the internet and in news media. Whenever one of ours is attacked, we fight back, regardless of the merits of the situation. We can’t give ground, after all, or we very well may lose everything.

Right now Christians are waiting, scared, for the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage to come down. What will happen if they allow gay marriage everywhere? What will we do?

And I guess I’m just afraid that we’ve gone a bit off track and we’re losing the bigger picture.

Our main job on this earth is not to fight a culture war. Our main job is to reach people for Jesus and to show Christ’s love to a hurting world.

I live in a country (Canada) where the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage years ago, despite the votes of elected officials. I was despondent when that decision came down, and I wrote articles in papers before the decision talking about why traditional marriage matters. Because it does. And once you allow gay marriage, a whole lot of other consequences follow. Marriage becomes about a lifestyle choice, making it less likely people will marry. Adoption issues become messed up. Custody issues become messed up. It’s just plain sad.

But you know what? Our laws simply reflect our culture, and our culture is already there. And sometimes a country gets what it deserves.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care; it’s only to say that even if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow gay marriage, I’m not sure what difference that will make because people’s hearts are no longer for traditional commitment. They just aren’t. And your laws reflect your culture, so within 10-15 years you will have gay marriage anyway, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Abortion is a separate issue; we’re winning there. But that’s because both issues have as an undercurrent justice and human rights. The world sees gay marriage as a human right and as a justice issue (gays should not be discriminated against). They see abortion in a similar way, because ultrasounds have let us see that this is a child. And so people are against abortion but for gay marriage, and in their minds that’s perfectly consistent.

So what do we do?

We can keep fighting, pointing out every bit of liberal hypocrisy to show that we’re right. We can keep fighting this war and funding this war and try to keep our ground.

And there likely is need for this. I think of it as a day job–we need professional Christians to fight the culture war on a 9-5 basis. But then let’s get back to our real life with real neighbours and real friends and real individuals.

Fighting the Culture War can’t be our main strategy or our main effort for evangelism, because it can backfire.

First, because we think in terms of strategy rather than in terms of Truth, Compassion, and Love. Sometimes strategically it seems better to slam your opponent rather than to admit that your Culture War soldier may have been off base. But that’s not standing for Truth.

But it’s not just because it can turn people away from God; it’s also because it blinds us to our own mission.

I had a woman say this on Facebook yesterday about my post about the Duggars: “I totally agree with your post, but I don’t see how saying all of this will show non-Christians we’re reasonable or that we love the victims. The media would never report this anyway. They just like to play “gotcha”.

That’s the problem. We think the Christian life is lived out in the Culture War, and it’s not. The Culture War is important, but it is not our Christian life, nor should it be our main focus.

Let me give you one example: both of my girls have large numbers of non-Christian friends on Facebook–from work, from university, etc. And they saw non-Christians saying things like, “The Duggar scandal proves God doesn’t exist”, or much worse things. So the girls posted Rebecca’s article, and talked about how appalled they were, too. And their friends understood, and many messaged them and said, “I’m so glad you said that. I thought all Christians were excusing the Duggar parents. I’m so glad to know that’s not true. Thank you for standing up for what’s right.”

In fact, in the whole hubbub, the girls were attacked by Christians and comforted by non-Christians. Katie, especially, had non-believers messaging her and saying, “thank you for standing strong. I’m sorry for all the hate you’re getting, but we’re with you. You’re a great person.”

The media didn’t share the article. The media didn’t say, “some Christians aren’t supporting the Duggars.” But these people got the message because the girls said it themselves.

I’m afraid that we have put ourselves in such enclaves that most of us don’t have non-Christian friends, so the only way we communicate with non-Christians IS through the media.

And we forget that evangelism is supposed to be one on one. It’s relationship building. And that’s the only thing that will bring people back to Christ.

The disciples wanted Jesus to lead an army and win Israel by force. I sometimes think that’s what Christians want for America, too. Look, I’m not against having Christian leaders–Canada’s Prime Minister is a Christian and I pray everyday that he will win the next election. A country is blessed when it has Christian leaders.

But our main goal on this earth is not to make America into a Christian nation; it is to reach individuals for Christ.

And sometimes in the way that we frame the culture war as Us vs. Them, and circle the wagons, we turn off the individuals. And we feel like we are so busy winning people to Christ because we are so engaged in the Culture War–supporting politicians, giving political contributions, keeping up on the news, writing political letters–that we forget we have neighbors who just need to see Jesus. Not a letter writing campaign.

One more thing: In our attempt to be Us vs. Them, we have created even more legalistic rules of what it means to be a Christian, so that you can be sure you’re on the right side of the Culture War. To me, one of the main problems of the Duggar show was that it made it seem like the only way to be pure was to save hand holding until engagement and kissing until marriage. By showing something so counter-cultural, we thought we could show the world there is an alternative and win people to Christ that way.

But we’re just setting up rigid rules that the Bible doesn’t have. If you choose those things for yourself I completely support you. But saving hand-holding until engagement is not the biblical definition of purity.

The more that we elevate these kinds of extreme rules for Christian living, the more we solidify the Us vs. Them.

Let’s remember that Jesus was radical–but He was radical because He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and they enjoyed Him! He was actually, for His time, radically Progressive. We’re trying to be radically Conservative. And by doing that, we’re almost becoming radical Pharisees. (I’m not saying we should become today’s version of Progressives, by the way; I’m just noting that we’ve turned the idea of radical on its head.)

I just want us to get back to a life where it’s not about rules; it’s about Jesus. And when Jesus (not rules) is real in our lives, we will have a true love for our neighbours, not a disdain for them because of the Us vs. Them Culture War.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense; I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. And, like I said, I do think it’s important to have good laws and Christian leaders. I do think holiness matters. But the Culture War can’t be our main focus of evangelism. It doesn’t work first of all, but it also makes us all feel like we’re part of the Great Commission when we’re really doing nothing of the sort. We will win the Culture War when we start winning individuals. And the louder and more stridently we fight the Culture War, the more we lose those individuals all around us.

Does anyone get what I’m saying? Or can you give me an example from your own life of how you reached out to an individual rather than seeing them as an Us vs. Them? I’m not sure I’m articulating myself well here, so I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments!

And then I’ll try to get back to regularly scheduled programming and regular type posts tomorrow. :)

 

Why The Duggar Abuse Scandal Matters

The Duggar Abuse Scandal: Why it's so sad, and why it matters
On Friday my daughter wrote a blog post about the Duggar sexual abuse scandal. I posted it on Facebook. And both of us had a whole pile of criticism thrown at us.

So today I’d like to explain, in my own words, why I think the Duggar abuse scandal matters and what we should learn from it.

Is Josh forgiven?

Absolutely.

Did the Duggar parents try to do the right thing at the time?

Inasmuch as they knew how, I suppose, though it took them a year to actually contact the police after they knew what Josh was doing; they did not remove him immediately from the home (and thus continued to put the girls in danger); and they did not get Josh counseling (Michelle has admitted that; they only sent him to a family friend where he performed manual labor).

But here’s the point:

Some of these girls had been sexually abused, some as young as 5. They were taken through a healing process to “forgive” their abuser. And then they were put on a TV show which had as its main premise that this family knows how to instill healthy sexuality into their kids.

It’s quite simple: the Duggar parents should either have been authentic about the abuse or, if they didn’t want to dredge it up publicly (a choice I completely understand and empathize with), then they should have turned down the show. That was their mistake; it was the minimization of the effects of abuse.

The Christian community as a whole has rallied around the Duggars and reacted vehemently against any who would criticize them. I think that is a serious mistake for our witness.

Here are two reasons why:

Christians Need to Be Authentic

When people see authentic Christians they are attracted to Christ. When they see Christians covering up sins they run in the opposite direction. It is hypocrisy that kills our witness.

So is Josh forgiven? Yes. He honestly repented, from everything I have seen.

But it’s not that simple. I have had people say, “David was forgiven! So what’s the big deal? He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

David wrote Psalm 51, where he laid his sin bare and held nothing back, when he was still king, knowing it would damage his reputation. But he did it because he was authentic before God and before his people. And God called David “a man after my own heart”. It was not that God approved of David despite the sin (as some are saying now about the Duggars); it was that God approved of David because of his authenticity.

If the Duggars had owned up to this at the very beginning of the show, not only would it not have been the issue that it is now, but they would have had such a powerful testimony of how God heals. Instead they have  tarnished their reputation and have lost their platform to speak for God. That is what inauthenticity does.

Many are saying, “but why should they have had to speak about something that was healed and forgotten?” Because they portrayed themselves as a family who had it all together–when they obviously did not. That is why they are in trouble now. It’s not the abuse; it’s the fact that they never acknowledged it earlier. So either don’t do the show, or own up to it. It’s that simple.

Right now, Christians believe we are in a huge culture war. And so when some of our perceived warriors–like the Duggars–are under fire, we close ranks, thinking that by preventing people from criticizing them we will somehow win that culture war.

The truth is the exact opposite. We win people by showing the world that God cares.

And despite people’s cries of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, they seem to overlook that Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 5:12: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” He was quite adamant that we were to judge those claiming to be Christians so that we do not ruin our witness. Paul knew that hypocrisy was so dangerous to the cause of Christ. So we should never cover up sin.

David and Paul were both very open about their sinful pasts, because they knew that their weakness and sin showed the power of God. The Duggars took a different approach. They chose to portray a family that did not struggle sexually, despite this huge elephant in the room, presumably thinking that showing an exemplary life would point people to Christ. Authenticity is far more effective in evangelism than perfection; it is authenticity that the world yearns for.

The Catholic church was in a world of hurt about the sexual abuse scandal in the 1990s. But the problem was not the abuse itself. It was the failure of the church to come clean along with its attempt to hide it. If we keep portraying ourselves as having it all together, and don’t admit huge failings, we ruin our witness because we are inauthentic.

I know it’s not in the same league, but when I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I decided that I couldn’t share my thoughts on sex without going public about the fact that I suffered from vaginismus when I was first married. I had never told anyone this–not even close friends. It was really embarrassing. But how could I write an authentic book without also sharing the healing that God had done in my life–and how messed up I had been? Shouldn’t I use my story to point people to Christ? I didn’t want to talk about it, but I did. I never really intended to tell my girls about it, either, but now I have to because it’s in the book. But I’m glad I did, because I have had so many people share their stories with me since.

Authenticity opens doors; self-preservation closes them.

The lesson to be learned: We Christians need to stop having “idols” and stop thinking that keeping up perfect appearances will win people to Christ. We need to start being authentic instead.

We Need to Be Real About the Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse

Can you be healed from sexual abuse? Absolutely. It’s a large part of my “Girl Talk” where I talk about sex and marriage.

But everything we know about the healing from sexual abuse shows that it is usually not quick, nor is it usually a one-step process.

A person can be healed and go on with their lives, but then something will “trigger” it again, sometimes even years later. Hitting puberty. Starting to have feelings for boys. Starting to date. Getting married. Having a child of your own. Having that child hit the age that you were when the abuse happened.

And at each stage you need to go through a deeper level of healing.

This is NORMAL. This does not mean that you weren’t healed at first; it’s only that much of healing from abuse happens in stages, because we don’t experience the full effects until later.

Almost all abuse survivors will report this.

By saying that the girls were “healed” because they “forgave” when they were so young–remember, some were only 6–the Duggar parents showed that they did not understand the normal healing process for sexual abuse.

And when supporters say, “the girls were healed back then, why dredge it up now?”, we show an extreme insensitivity to others who were also sexually abused.

Author Mary DeMuth, herself a sexual abuse survivor, puts it this way:

Instant forgiveness and “putting it behind you” only delays the healing process, a journey that only begins by stating the awfulness of the violation. By shoving the story under the rug for the sake of your family or church community, you may save the perpetrator’s reputation and the reputation of those near him or her, but you lose important ground in becoming free.

An untold story never heals. It just festers until it comes out in unwanted behavior.

Easy “forgivism” may gloss over the terrible situation in the short term, but it reinforces to everyone that the egregious, soul-siphoning sin committed against the victim was trivial, easy to get over.

I have no idea how the girls feel now. But I do know that those girls were in a position where they had to act as if their family had it all together. They even wrote a book about their sexuality and never mentioned it. Every sexual abuse survivor I know–without exception–has told me that their sexual abuse had a huge impact on their sexuality. To not be able to mention it is to invalidate a huge part of their story.

Besides that, apparently at least one victim was not part of the family. How did that victim feel watching the show where all the sisters were praising Josh? Does she matter?

The world is watching whether we will show compassion to sexual abuse survivors.

I am not asking us to string Josh up; I think he is a victim as well, and he will likely bear even more long term consequences. The incest taboo is one of the most hard-wired things in us. The fact that he was able to overcome this taboo and fondle his sisters means that he must have been going through something awful himself. It’s really very tragic for everyone.

So, no, we should not ask for Josh to be punished. But we do need to say that to require the girls to act like all is okay; to require them to extend quick grace; to portray to the world that “we are all fine” is to denigrate sexual abuse survivors.

Even if the Duggar girls are 100% okay, 95% of sexual abuse survivors were NOT okay immediately. And those survivors are hearing Christians say, “what’s the problem? It’s all behind them!”

What do they think if it is not behind THEM? What do they think when they hear, “we should let it go and forget about it!”–when THEY cannot let it go or forget about it?

What do they think when they hear that a 6 or 7 or 8 year old girl forgave and forgot, and is never ever bothered by it again? In the Duggars’ statement, they insinuated that this was all taken care of  years ago–even when the girls were so young at the time of counseling. I don’t know any reputable counselor who would say that you can make that type of pronouncement at that young an age.

And if they really were healed completely, and it honestly never bothered them–then what a testimony! Imagine if they had been able to share on their show how they got past this! But they didn’t. And now they have burned those bridges.

The lesson to be learned: The world is watching us. This is our chance to honor the stories of sexual abuse survivors and to show true compassion for those who have endured sexual abuse.

I have heard so many Christians defend the Duggar parents, and I understand. They’re in a horrible situation and we feel sorry for them.

But let’s remember that they are not the real victims here. However sad it is, they are simply bearing the consequences of poor decisions they made a decade ago. The real victims are the Duggar girls and the girl, or girls, outside the family who were abused; sexual abuse survivors hearing terrible messages about how “it was a long time ago” and “what does it matter” and “it was just touching”; and even, to a certain extent, Josh, whose life would be far better today had his parents, his church, and the authorities handled this appropriately back then.

If our voices of compassion are louder for the Duggar parents than they are for the victims, we, whether we intend to or not, minimize the severity of the effects of abuse. And I hope none of us would honestly want to do that.

 

 

I Am Not Just a Christian Wife. I Am a Christian.

Why the church culture often gets a woman's role wrong--and what we should do about it.

I see it all the time: I’ll write a thoughtful, long post on how a woman should deal with sin in her family, and a commenter will say nothing except to quote 1 Peter 3:1-6 on how a woman should win her husband “without words”.

Or, to paraphrase, “Ladies, please shut up.”

There’s also a new book out that says that God created women to reflect the church, while men reflect Jesus. True Womanhood, apparently, is not being made fully in the image of God (read a great review of the book here).

Oh, friends, my heart hurts when I read things like these. My heart grieves that so much of the church is missing the transformational message of the gospel: that God loves ALL of us, and wants ALL of us to look more and more like Him. That God wants a close, intimate relationship with everybody–and that that relationship matters more than form or gender or church. God wants holiness and righteousness and transformed lives, not an empty, legalistic shell.

In our Christian culture today there is so much false teaching about womanhood.

Much of it is a backlash against the all-too-real negative effects of Third Wave Feminism, which has taught that marriage is just a lifestyle choice, and a ridiculous one at that; that women are better than men; or that the genders are interchangeable.

But that backlash is not a proper reflection of how Jesus feels about women, either.Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident And so today I’d like to share some truths that too often get missed when we’re talking about women. Many of these are in my upcoming book, Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (out in August; you can pre-order it now!), but I thought these were too important to wait until then.

Friends: God so loves you. He cares for you as an individual. And His desire is for transformation and redemption.

And so here are 10 truths which I pledge as a woman, created fully to reflect Christ, and created with the intent purpose of being transformed to look more and more like Him:

1. My primary identity is in Christ.

He is my Saviour. I am made in the image of God; I am not made in the image of my husband.

2. I will not encourage young women to take their primary identities as being wives.

We are first made in Christ’s image; if a young woman does not marry, she is no less of a person. If a woman has an unfaithful husband, she is no less of a person. Our value is in our Redeemer.

3. I want to see everyone around me look more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29).

This is also God’s plan for their lives. Therefore, I will not listen to messages which tell me that because I’m a woman, I should not speak up about sin. Jesus graciously forgave, but He always dealt with the sin. This is meant to be my model as well. I want to be a spouse, not an enabler.

I understand that this means that I am to act in such a way that brings people closer to Christ, not that pushes them away from God by encouraging unChristlike behaviour. Therefore, if my husband wants something that would go against what Jesus wants for us, I will say no.

4. I will be good. I will not be nice.

Jesus was not always nice; but He was always good. He always acted in such a way as to point people to God, even if it made people uncomfortable. And He is our model. I will be good, even if it occasionally means going against my husband (1 Samuel 25; Acts 5).

At the same time, being good also means reflecting Christ, which means that I must do all of this with the same mind and attitude that Christ had: humility (Philippians 2). I recognize that I am also a sinner saved by grace, and I may not be right either. So I will strive to always go before God first, to always deal with my own issues first, and to invite wise women around me to hold me accountable. I will not presume that I always know what’s right, nor will I try to control or manipulate. I will simply, in the spirit of gentleness, stand up for truth as I ask God to reveal it to me.

5. Loving my husband means wanting what is best for him.

I will learn his love language. I will shower him with encouragement and praise and admiration. I will think of his needs first. I will pray for him daily. I will be his biggest cheerleader!

But my prayer for him is for his best; it is not that he be happy. My goal is to encourage him as he pursues Christ, not placate him or cover for him if he moves away from Christ. If I prop him up as he becomes an alcoholic, or a porn addict, or a gambler (or other such things), I’m not really loving him.

True godly submission means I submit myself to my husband’s welfare, not necessarily my husband’s will. (click to tweet)

True Godly Submission

6. I will be a peace-MAKER, not a peace-KEEPER.

Peacekeepers value lack of conflict over truth; peacemakers know there is no real peace absent truth. And Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

7. I believe that I am responsible before God to work out my own salvation and my own relationship with Him.

God gave me a brain and an individual conscience, and that means that I can’t rely on others to make my faith (Philippians 2:12-13). I am allowed to question my husband’s interpretation of Scripture. I am allowed to question my pastor’s interpretation of Scripture. God wants me to be like the Bereans: to take everything I hear and compare it to what I know from Scripture to see if it is true (Acts 17:11).

8. I fully accept my responsibility to build a strong marriage–as far as it depends on me.

A strong community is built on strong families. But that also means that the Christian community has a stake in our marriages. Therefore, I will find godly mentors. I will join together with other Christians. When needed, I will seek out help and advice about my marriage BEFORE it gets to a crisis point. I will seek out Jesus’ strength and guidance for how to build my marriage up and how to love my husband the best I can.

9. However, if my church tells me that I am to follow my husband into ungodly behaviour, I will not listen.

If my church says that I am to do nothing about something which is seriously jeopardizing our family and his soul (such as porn use, gambling, refusal to work, sexual abuse of our children, etc.), I will seek out a new body of believers that has a complete picture of the gospel’s transformational power in our lives. If necessary, I will even contact civil authorities.

10. I believe that God cares more about the people in a marriage than He does about that marriage.

(Or, as Gary Thomas recently put it, God cares about the people not the shell).

Here’s what it comes down to: Jesus wants people transformed. When we hold to a rigid view of gender roles and marriage, we prevent transformation; we don’t encourage it. Instead of asking people to look Christlike, we simply ask them to follow rigid rules. We’ve replaced the heart of the gospel with a new kind of legalism that traps people in an immature faith.

It’s time for it to stop.

And so I hope that all women (and men) reading this can endorse this, and share it on Facebook and Pinterest and social media. Let’s get this conversation going!

I’d like to end with some very wise words about this issue from Gary Thomas about how God feels about His precious children:

If a marriage “shell” is used to allow real people to be abused and hurt, God may well take it down. Keep in mind, in the first century, Jewish women weren’t allowed to divorce their husbands. Jesus fought divorce to protect women who could be easily discarded with little prospects. His comments on divorce were to protect women, not to keep them in a harmful situation. He was caring for real people more than he was idolizing a “shell.”

Haven’t we turned this around a little? When a man preys on his wife and children, refusing to repent, almost laughing that they can’t escape his abuse because he has not been sexually unfaithful and won’t abandon them so any divorce would be “unbiblical,” and then he’s supported by well-meaning Christians who essentially say “the shell of marriage matters more than the woman and children inside the shell,” I think we’ve lost the heart of God.

 Let’s all get back to the heart of God.

Why We Shouldn’t Bad Mouth our Husbands

Today’s guest post is from Wanjiru Kihusa, a marriage blogger from Kenya, who is sharing about resisting the urge to badmouth your husband–while there will be opportunities to do so, have a plan beforehand.

Resist the Urge to Bad Mouth Your Husband
Why you should never speak ill of your husband

Two months ago I was in the salon getting my hair braided. I always carry a novel with me because it keeps me busy for the several hours I have to be seated. The fact that it also distracts me from the pain and discomfort is an added advantage. This day I was reading Tis by Frank Mc Court a really awesome memoir. There were about three ladies braiding and chatting away and I was doing a great job ignoring them until one of them said “these men, what do they usually want? You feed them, look after the kids, and they still cheat. I honestly don’t know what do with mine,”

I was puzzled. Who says that about their man in public? I was waiting for the other ladies to quickly change the subject because of the discomfort they felt at their colleague’s outburst. But instead they went on to share very intimate details of how their men were bad husbands and horrible fathers. I was horrified. So I politely told them “I am uncomfortable hearing all these things you guys are saying. Could you please change the subject?” You should have seen them stare at me in shock. The only thing that saved me from being told off was that I was the customer, and they needed to get paid.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in a hair salon. Whenever I express my displeasure at listening to their stories, I always get odd glances. These women expect me to agree with them in solidarity and probably even share my disappointments about my husband. It is an appalling habit that I detest, and as a wife, I want to tell you why you should never bad mouth your husband to anyone.

Don’t speak ill of your husband to your family

My sister once shared with me advice a married friend gave her; if your husband ever does anything wrong (and he will) never tell anyone in your family. They reason for this is that if you ever tell your family bad stuff about him, they will never look at him the same way. It could even be something as major as cheating but please don’t. Here’s the thing, even if you forgive him and go back to loving him, your family will always see him as a bad guy. Why? Because they love you and want the best for you. Reason number two is your family is not going to be objective and show you where you may have gone wrong. To them you will always be their “nice little girl” and he will now be the “bastard who broke our little girl’s heart.”

Don’t speak ill about you husband to male friends – and don’t entertain men talking ill about their spouses either.

This is not only wrong but also dangerous. Having a male friend who you tell about your husband’s shortcomings is a disaster waiting to happen. One of these days in a weak moment when your husband has angered you and your friend offers you a shoulder to lean, the friend zone line will get blurry and one of you will cross it. And that, my dear, is how affairs start.

Don’t speak ill about you husband to strangers

Don’t talk about him in the salon and in other women gatherings. The girls might even contribute their part but you will come off as petty and completely lacking discretion. These people will not offer you any help on how to fix your marriage, they will just get fodder for gossip.

So, who do you talk to?

With all these people who not to talk to, who should you share with what you are going through? Since we all need someone to talk to, here are a few guidelines on who would be best to talk to.:

  • A close girlfriend who is also married – a lady who has a solid marriage
  • She should be sober minded – sharing your marriage should not be gossip, the encounter should be helpful. Get someone who offers you a listening ear but also give good advice; not afraid to call you out when something is your fault.
  • A friend who will pray for and with you – you need someone who when she says she’ll pray for you, she does.
  • She should be able to keep a secret – majority of the things you share will be so personal it would kill you if you had them somewhere else.

I have an amazing lady who has been both a mentor and a friend. I met her when my husband and I started dating. We needed a mentor couple to walk with us and even after we got married they have been really helpful. We picked them because they have a solid marriage and values we deemed very important. This lady is kind and very helpful and is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. Whenever I need advice on a marriage or faith issue I can always trust her to help.

You, too, need a friend like that. Someone sober, caring and kind; and discreet too. This kind of friendship does not happen overnight but is something we constantly work on. However, even with such a great friend, use wisdom to know how much details to give.

There will many times your husband will offend you and make you angry. Because he is human, he will constantly fall short of your expectations and will not handle issues you raise as fast as you wish he would. There will also be equally many opportunities for you to talk to ill of him to someone. Resist the urge to bad mouth him to anyone.

meWanjiru Kihusa is a Christian family blogger. She speaks and writes on marriage and relationships matters. A mother to one (in heaven), Wanjiru also speaks about miscarriages and grief caused by loss. She looks to encourage young people by giving sober and correct information about marriage and relationships. Find her at her blog Wanjiru Kihusa, or at her beautiful sister site, Family Lounge. (I had fun poking around her sites to see the things that Kenyan women are talking about! Cool.)

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

8 Prayers For Protection Over Your Marriage

Today author Jennifer White shares with us how to pray prayers for protection over our marriages!

8 Prayers for Protection Over Your Marriage
I said “I DO” in 1991 with a deep love, a sense of adventure, and joy that I had been chosen. Three years later, I said “I don’t” and “I won’t.” I was so shocked that life could be so hard and hurt so badly only three years into marriage.

Three years after the divorce, I vowed to be Mrs. David White for the rest of my life. We have been married sixteen years. But five years in, I was drowning in the same deep waters that had led me to end my first marriage. Pride and fear were suffocating me. I couldn’t see how this could ever be okay for either of us.

Exposed

“Help me Jesus” was the cry of my heart.

With that simple prayer I drew near to God and in turn, He ran to me with more help than I knew I needed. He gave me Beth Moore Bible studies, Joyce Meyer on a daily basis, and a great counselor. These women taught me how the Bible could affect the intimate details of my life.

I had read about God’s power and Satan’s fury, but I had not expected either of them to jump off of the pages of the Bible and into my life. I made it through three decades of sermons and ministry before “the battle is the Lord’s” became “God will fight your battles if you let Him, Jennifer.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b)

What a revelation! I had been completely unaware of the spiritual battle targeting my mind and my marriage. While it looked like I had a husband vs. wife problem, the real battle was exposed. God united me to Himself and to my husband. His archenemy was offering to divide us.

My life was in Christ, but I was vulnerable. I had not taken God’s Word seriously. My disregard for His way and His truth opened the door to Satan’s plan for my life.

Flaming Darts

…hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.
Ephesians 6:16 NLT

Involuntary thoughts of hurting myself and other people haunted me for several years. I didn’t act on them but they made me feel crazy. I assumed it was stress related. Eventually, I decided that God could use a divorced preacher’s wife much more than an insane one. Yes, I divorced a pastor. So.very.sad.

Similar thoughts erupted in my second marriage. Thankfully God rescued me with the news that those thoughts were actually the flaming arrows mentioned in Ephesians 6. My counselor recognized the attack.

The enemy used the feeling of being crazy as a strategic strike in my life. But he didn’t stop there. He also whispered discouragement and fear using the sound of my own voice. He nurtured in me a deep fear of confrontation. He also used the sound of a disapproving parent’s voice to encourage me to disapprove of my husband.

Shielded by Faith

The last ten years of my marriage have been the most exciting and rewarding years of my life. Studying the Word of life armed me with knowledge of who God is and what He can do. God had been developing my faith in Him and that has changed everything!

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
I John 5:4 ESV

When a thought appears in my head, I have to be ready to evaluate it. I question whose character lines up with that thought. Is it God’s or Satan’s? Does God’s Word say that I should think this way? If not, then I need to reject it because it is intended to destroy me.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 ESV

Knowing God’s truth has literally freed me from the grip of the enemy of my soul and marriage. It continues to be my best defense.

Every Wife Needs a Sword

“To think God’s thoughts requires much prayer. If you do not pray much, you are not thinking God’s thoughts. If you do not read your Bible much and often and reverently, you are not thinking God’s thoughts….” A.W. Tozer

Years before this breakthrough, counselors who were Christians listened well. They helped me see the problem. But I remained unchanged. I was powerless to fix me and my marriage. They were too.

But Jesus sent His word and healed me (Psalm 107:20). I started walking in victory when I was counseled according to God’s Word.

I had no idea how powerful God’s Word could be. Today I see it as the supernatural antibiotic for the wounded heart and infected mind. That is exactly what it has been and continues to be for me.

Wounded women are frequently bitter, jealous, fearful, resentful, prideful, and/or contentious. These are symptoms of a mind infected by those flaming darts. Pride, fear and resentment monopolized my heart.

I learned to deploy God’s word as a sword against the very strong holds sin had on my mind. I was introduced to praying God’s Word and Germaine Copeland’s Prayers that Avail Much. Here is one of the Scriptural prayers she offers:

In the name of Jesus, I loose my mind from wrong thought patterns. I tear down strongholds that have protected bad perceptions about myself. I submit to You, Father, and resist fear, discouragement, self-pity, and depression. I will not give place to the devil by harboring resentment and holding onto anger. I surround myself with songs and shouts of deliverance from depression, and I will continue to be an overcomer by the word of my testimony and the blood of the Lamb.

I read this prayer and others aloud day and night. I read them in parking lots while I waited for someone. I read them on the treadmill. As I proclaimed God’s truth and promises, I felt stronger mentally and emotionally. I found myself making decisions based on the truth instead of the lies I once believed.

I firmly believe that the Sword of the Spirit slices through the slimy tentacles of sin. Praying according to God’s Word is the antibiotic my soul desperately needs. It also how I resist the devil so he will flee from me (James 4:8).

Are you praying God’s Word over your marriage?

Marriage Armor

There were too many years of heartache in my life before I realized that I needed God and His Word to defend me against the father of lies. What if I had begun praying God’s Word before my first marriage? Our marriage could have been a beautiful reflection of Jesus, our Bridegroom, loving and serving His Bride.

What if every bride armed her marriage with God’s Word?

Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God's Armor After the Wedding DressAs a veteran of one failed marriage and one rescued by the Savior, I am sharing my experience in Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress. It’s packed with Bible teaching and prayer prompts for many of the issues every couple faces.

Prayers for New Brides is designed to help wives show up, surrender and salute the almighty God who is able to defend their marriage. It is a faith building resource to help brides avoid getting destroyed by the flaming arrows. It is for every wife who longs to see God do more in her marriage.

Swing Your Sword

We can’t let the evil one lull us into a false sense of security. We need to arm our marriages with the same discipline a solider employs in preparing for battle.

Here are seven simple prayer prompts to help you arm your marriage today with God’s transforming Word.

1. Generous and merciful God, give me a hunger and thirst for righteousness so that I can live satisfied by You. I don’t want to demand more from my husband than he is supposed to provide. Matthew 5:6

2. Teach me to hear your voice so I can follow You all the days of my life and marriage. John 10:27

3. Wonderful Counselor, make me wise to the enemy’s divisive and destructive schemes. Isaiah 9:6, James 1:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5

4. Fill me with Your wisdom so I can excel as ______’s wife. Ephesians 1:17

5. Grant me a humble heart. Help me relinquish a false sense of control. I want to live a praying life. Matthew 7:7 and Proverbs 16:18

6. Mighty God, strengthen me to stand under Your authority every day in every way. Please forgive me for the ways I have dismissed Your perfect leadership. Ephesians 6:10, 11, 13, 14

7. Jesus, pour Your faith into me so that I can deflect the flaming arrows the enemy sends my way. Use me as a warrior of Your word in our marriage. Hebrews 12:2, Ephesians 6:17

8. Father, help me see my husband through Your eyes. I want to honor and cherish Him. I want to focus his value and avoid the temptation to disregard his unique contributions to our marriage.

Did you know to pray these things for yourself when you were a new bride?

Are you aware of the spiritual battle behind the scenes of your marriage?

Today I am offering Chapter 15 of Prayers for New Brides – Seeing Your Spouse through God’s Eyes as a free download. It is one of the most important lesson I’ve learned as David’s wife. Click here to get your copy.

Jennifer White, prayers for protectionJennifer O. White is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress and Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride. Jennifer is a natural encourager who offers hope from the truths from God’s Word at her blog, Prayerfully Speaking. With every blog post, Jennifer is exalts the one true God who can empower us to do more than we can ask or imagine.

When the Way We Talk About Submission Turns People Off of Christ

Be careful how you comment! Sometimes we don't realize how too radical a view of submission can turn people away from Christ

On Mondays I always like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, and I have a quite a backlog of questions I’m getting ready to answer!

But today I thought it was important to share instead a Reader Observation and a plea for help from the vast majority of you who read this blog. I’ll get to that observation and that plea in a minute, but first, a little bit of background:

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!
Last month I published a guest post from Kate Tunstall, where she explained how after her first baby came she and her husband started to grow apart. And she grew more and more resentful about him not wanting to care for the baby until she sat down and talked to him, and realized they both were partially at fault.

They both opened up to each other, learned some new things about each other (and themselves), and sorted things out.

And it was all was because she chose to talk about it rather than keep stewing. Had she kept stewing, she wouldn’t have realized that much of their problem was due to misunderstandings. It was only in talking and creating vulnerability and openness again that they came to a solution.

I thought it was a great story that illustrated a point I’ve been trying to make on this blog a lot lately. Sometimes you have to ask your husband for help. You can’t expect your husband to know what you’re thinking unless you tell him. And in most cases, we may look for a “magic bullet” that will fix the problem, but ultimately we have to do the hard and sometimes awkward work of talking about it.

It so happens that Kate doesn’t identify herself as an evangelical Christian (though I will not presume to say what faith she does or does not have beyond that). But her post was right on about marriage and I published it.

The comments on that post, though, quickly veered in a really dangerous and counterproductive direction.

The first few comments are great; then they get weird. One woman wrote that this woman was wrong for expecting her husband to care for the baby; she used a rather derogatory and critical tone toward the guest poster, which other commenters (and I) tried to correct. Then someone else joined the fray and said this:

This post defies Scripture, as well as 1850 years of church teaching. Jesus did not tell us that communication was the most important thing, rather repentance and obedience.

I then commented that just because the church and our culture have sanctioned something does not automatically make it right–look at slavery, after all! (I brought up slavery because I thought NO ONE could defend slavery).

The commenter then defended slavery. And then I deleted the theological arguments they left about why slavery was justified, and banned that commenter.

Seriously, can you imagine what defending slavery in public does to the name of Christ?

I think it’s perfectly valid to wrestle in a seminary with the question, “does the fact that God let the Israelites own slaves in the Old Testament mean that God permits all kinds of slavery? Was slavery just for a time?” But to debate this in public is beyond the pale (and by the way, I still don’t believe God ever really blessed the institution of slavery).

Kate actually wrote a follow-up post on her experience guest posting on a Christian blog, and here’s some of what she said:

It is the year 2015. I was of the impression that the developed world had come a long way, even if only in the last thirty or so years. Whereas it was once acceptable, expected even, that there were gender-specific roles, I thought this narrow-mindedness had all but ended. (Having said that, men and women have different strengths, and I completely advocate the right to state such a fact without the fear of being labelled sexist. It is simple good sense.)

Do you see how sad that is? She was under the impression that the world had come a long way–and we’ve now made her think that the evangelical community is narrow-minded (even though it was a minority of the commenters).

She then says:

I was dismayed to learn that having made huge efforts, at personal cost, to ensure my husband’s needs are met (frequenting the gym regularly and never having to get up to our daughter during the night, for example), there has still been a suggestion that I expect too much of him [by wanting him to interact with our daughter]. I cannot understand or agree with this view – to me it is either antiquated chauvinism in a non-religious context, or, as Sheila discusses, misinterpretation in religion.

Sometimes we leave comments on blogs because we like debate, but we forget that people who do not share our faith will be reading them.

Be careful what you say and how you word things. You are not just debating with the author of a post; you are debating with everyone who will read this post and the comments. People who are searching are on this blog. People who are struggling with God are on this blog. We have a responsibility to the weaker brother.

And I get about 10,000 visits a day from search engines–most of whom arrive here because they use a search term that relates to a crisis in their marriage. And most do not know God. Please assume that when you are commenting here, you are not just talking to Christians. You are talking to moms and wives and even some husbands who are hurting, and who are genuinely searching for help.

One other important thing:

Sometimes our interpretation of Scripture, quite frankly, means that many non-Christian marriages are healthier than many Christian marriages.

Kate’s marriage seems very healthy–or at least her conflict resolution model is. And studies consistently show that children who interact with both parents are emotionally healthier than children who only interact with the mother. A father’s hands-on role is best.

The fact that some commenters were arguing that a husband shouldn’t be expected to interact with the children shows that many non-Christian families are psychologically healthier, which is scary.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising. If you subscribe to the interpretation of Scripture where a wife can never point out where her husband may be in error (even though being a suitable helpmeet obviously equipped us for this role), or that a wife should not express an opinion or call her husband out on sin (seriously, read the comments on this one), or that it is not a wife’s place to draw boundaries and say, “I will not tolerate you treating me in an abusive or demeaning way“, then I doubt that marriage is going to be very healthy.

And some teaching in the church I believe is downright dangerous, like that from Debi Pearl about how when a wife is abused it’s because we’ve provoked our husbands, or that the way to deal with any marriage problem (even severe sin) is to “win him without words”. This leaves far too many families in desperate straits, unable to deal with real abuse, or unable to confront sin and urge their spouses on towards godliness.

So here’s what I would ask:

1. Remember you are God’s ambassadors.

If you have an opinion which would make the majority of the public cringe and question whether or not God is really loving, then ask yourself, “Is it really important that I express it here?”, or, at least, “how can I phrase this so that I’m saying it lovingly?” Obviously we will all hold opinions that are counter-cultural; that’s what being a Christian is. But there is no need to be ungracious or to throw anything in someone else’s face. Instead, we are to relate to them in as many ways as we can so as to not make offense unnecessarily.

Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

2. EVERYONE: Please, please, please publicly correct those who give God a bad name.

If you see a comment on this (or any other site) that you think gives God a bad name, then leave a comment to say that that person is wrong, or that most Christians, in your opinion, do not share that point of view.

I’m saying this one to the vast majority of you who are silent, or who may comment but don’t want to touch the inflammatory ones with a ten foot pole. Even a simple, “I think that is the wrong interpretation of Scripture, and want to point out that you hold a minority view” would be awesome!

Right now the off-base comments seem more important than they really are, because 95% of people never comment. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if every time someone said something really inflammatory, a bunch of people said, “I don’t think that’s an accurate view of Scripture”?

3. Think about giving Kate some Encouragement

Her post where she talks about her experience on this blog is right here. If some of you want to go over and give her some encouragement, that would be great!

I, in turn, will:

1. Delete comments whose only purpose seems to be to be inflammatory.

2. Delete comments that may be well-reasoned, but that are so offensive and wrong that I think God will be maligned. (like the pro-slavery ones).

3. Allow comments through that are well-reasoned, even if I think they are wrong, if they don’t cross a threshold. And then I will try to correct them as often as possible.

4. Delete comments where the commenter is insulting another commenter, or making assumptions about other commenters that really aren’t warranted or that are too judgmental.

And I really will try to get to my backlog of Reader Questions too!

I was thinking yesterday in our wonderful Easter service, where I saw my “adopted” niece get baptized, that God is about grace and changing lives and Jesus so wants to bring the world to Himself.

I want this blog to be a part of that. But sometimes I worry that we do the opposite, when I let certain things through.

I do want to allow discussion, but I am really far more concerned about the impression we’re giving those who don’t know Christ than I am about fostering free flowing debate.

I still will always let things through that are respectful, even if I don’t always agree (as long as they’re not totally beyond the pale), but I’d just ask that all of us participate in policing this community and making it a safe place for those who aren’t yet Christians to visit and to learn from.

May we never inadvertently turn off, or turn away, a seeker.

Thanks, everybody! And let me know what you think of my comment policy.

[UPDATE: You guys are awesome! Thanks for all your helpful comments over on Kate’s blog! ]

[UPDATE 2: OH MY GOODNESS! One of the commenters I kept deleting just posted this comment over on Kate’s blog (she hasn’t approved it yet; she sent it to me first). Okay, people, this just proves that some of you don’t get it. How in the world does posting this comment on her blog further the cause of Christ?

Oh, and by the way, when I speak about what we need to do to make our marriages better by drawing boundaries, that doesn’t mean we’re ordering our husbands around. That means that we say, “you are free to choose to do that, but I will not stay here/listen to you/etc. etc. if you sin in that way in front of me.” That is perfectly legitimate and perfectly in line with the gospel, and I’m sorry people think that women should allow men to treat them disprespectfully or destructively–or even worse that God sanctions this.

Here’s the comment:

First, I want to state that we were 2/3rds of the commentors you are referencing. Second, we want to apolagize to you in the way it came across. Our differences are with Sheila and not with you. If you are not a christian and are not teaching God’s Word then we have no problem at all with what you shared. However, please understand that is not the way it was presented at a website (Sheila’s) which is about teaching how marriage should take place in a christian marriage.

As christians we have no problem with a wife asking a husband for help and we certianly think a father should be deeply involved in raising his children. We do not beleive though that God’s Word teaches a wife has the authority to tell her husband how their marriage and parenting is going to play out. Share her hopes and feelings, most certianly. Ask for help, definetly. But not tell him or order him. It goes against scripture.

So please understand our disagreement was not with you but with Sheila whose teaching deals almost exclusively anymore with teaching wives to take the authority position in their marriages and not teaching wives the scripture that pertains to them in the Bible while yet holding husbands to the teaching that pertains to them. In other words, everyday Sheila tries to What I find unacceptable is when a difference in values, and thus opinion, gives rise to anybody forcing their own beliefs upon somebody else. There is no justification for that. Or in other words she forces values and opinions on christian men/husbands through her teaching- using God’s Word as her weapon but only applying it to men.

In other words you stepped into a long running battle that unfortunately is filled with hard feelings on both sides. We are sorry you got stuck in the middle and it would have been handled much differently had we known that you were not a christian.

I know this is not a flattering comment in regards to Sheila but I ask you to do two things before you make judgement.

Review her last year (or three years of posts). Do a count on how many address women treating their husbands better or addressing what we as christians would call women’s own sins? Now count how many are addressing men’s sins. You’ll find that somewhere around 80-90% address men’s sins and yet she is speaking to women everyday. The basic theme of her blog is not how to be a better wife or even how to have a better marriage, it is simply about taking control of your husband. If that is not the case, why the vast difference in the number of posts? Are men worse then women? Are men causing more marriage problems than women?

We do not expect someone who does not share our faith to agree with what the Bible says but even people who do not share the same beliefs can agree that the only person you can change is yourself. If you are speaking to the same group everyday, why are you constantly teaching about the sins of the other?

Respectfully and wishing you & your husband the best.

And now a word to that commenter who really doesn’t get it. If you continue to try to get a non-Christian involved in a disagreement between Christians, and continue to try to post things that defame Christ, even though I have told you not to, I WILL publish your email address. This is ridiculous. Please understand: YOU ARE GOD’S AMBASSADOR. How in the world did you think that this comment furthered the cause of Christ?

[UPDATE 3]: Just thought of something even more ironic–and kinda funny!

Okay, so that commenter who is obviously more concerned with winning an argument with me than with portraying Christ in a positive light has a beef with me: I have been teaching on this blog about how women can confront their husbands when their husbands are in sin, instead of teaching women to serve their husbands.

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse
I don’t actually believe that my posts are skewed if you count them up at all, but it is true that I’ve been hammering the point about Emotionally Destructive marriages recently–and about calling your husbands out on sin. There are two main reasons for this: one is because I can see the Google searches that lead people to this page, and so, so many of them have to do with wives whose husbands use porn.

But the second is because people like this commenter keep commenting–and they scare me! Are there really that many people out there who believe that women should not confront their husbands in sin? If that’s true, then I have a lot more teaching to do! Ironically, if these commenters would stop leaving such incendiary comments about a woman’s role, I could move on to other things. But the fact that they keep popping up here shows me that there is still much teaching to do in the church about appropriate relationships. And that’s why I chose Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage to look at in our reading challenge last month–because what these people are advocating are essentially the blueprints for an emotionally destructive marriage. And the more I hear from them, the more I have to talk about it!

May You Have a Blessed and Meaningful Good Friday

Ten Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse

If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, filled with emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse, I pray that this post will help you today.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeIn January I challenged everybody to the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge–read one book a month all year, on a set subject. This month’s was on setting boundaries in your marriage. For those in marriages characterized by mutual respect, where this wasn’t an issue, I suggested the awesome book Ask It by Andy Stanley. Then I had several other suggestions for those in different situations, culminating with The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. And today I’d like to share 10 truths about those marriages, using many of Leslie’s words from the book.

1. Most Marriages Are Not Emotionally Destructive

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceIf you are reading this blog, chances are your marriage is NOT emotionally destructive. I took Leslie’s 50 question quiz to find out how my marriage ranked, and I answered “never” to every single question. I’m married to a great guy–as many of you are.

And as Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her research for Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in 90% of marriages each spouse genuinely wants the best for the other spouse.

However, even though most marriages are not emotionally destructive, emotionally abusive marriages are over-represented on this blog, because so many of you land here in crisis after a Google search.

2. Emotionally Abusive Marriages follow a pattern

In every marriage people may say cruel things during a fight. They may act inappropriately and harshly. I’ve yelled at my husband (though I haven’t called him names). He’s yelled at me.

But this isn’t typical of our marriage. Leslie Vernick says that a good marriage is one characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. We each try to make it better. If a rule applies to one person, it applies to both (for instance, if one person has to make account for the money they spent, then both do. In abusive marriages, often one person forces this on the other without any reciprocity at all). And both spouses feel free to express opinions, make decisions, and choose how to act–even if in bursts of anger we may occasionally do the opposite.

On the other hand, Leslie Vernick says,

An emotionally destructive marriage is one where one’s personhood, dignity, and freedom of choice is regularly denied, criticized, or crushed. This can be done through words, behaviors, economics, attitudes, and misusing the Scriptures…

It’s characterized by repetitive attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting her growth. This behavior is usually accompanied by a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of change…

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.

Eventually the emotionally abused spouse (and either spouse could be abused) no longer feels like “me”.

3. Emotionally Abusive marriages make you sick

The stress from living in an emotionally destructive marriage takes its toll.

Your body feels it. Your stomach churns, your teeth grind, your hands clench, your jaw tightens, your head pounds, your legs shake, and your blood pressure rises. You cry, you can’t catch your breath, and you throw up.

When your husband is near your body starts to shake. Almost all women in these types of marriages experience physical symptoms: ulcers, digestive issues, migraines. And it only gets worse.

4. Emotionally Destructive marriages make you crazy

Abusive spouses seek to control their mates through manipulation, anger, rage, and deceit. They play mind games. And then, every now and then they perform acts of kindness to keep their spouses ambivalent about leaving.

But when our personhood is systematically denied and we aren’t allowed to express, or even have, feelings, we feel as if we’re going crazy.

Leslie writes,

Our emotions always serve a purpose, like the warning lights on a car dashboard. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, and often ignoring our feelings only makes the problem worse.

5. Most typical Christian marriage advice is exactly the wrong thing to do in an emotionally abusive marriage

To me, this is the most important point. I believe in biblical submission–with a firm emphasis on the word biblical. I do not believe in just plain submission. And yet over and over again in Christian blogs and in Christian books we’re told how submission turned their marriage around. How submission was the key to marital happiness.

That may be true–as long as you’re not in an emotionally abusive marriage. As soon as you are, acting in a typically submissive way only makes it worse, as I shared in this post about how not all advice is one size fits all.

Yet too often we in the church are told that the only proper response for a wife towards her husband is to defer to him–a  position that ignores the entire book of Proverbs, most of the Pauline epistles, and how Jesus Himself acted towards injustice.

In many emotionally destructive marriages, wives have spent years reading marriage books on how to make their marriages better. They’ve tried everything they can get their hands on–but nothing works, and in fact things often get worse, because the typical advice doesn’t fit.

I’ll let Leslie Vernick speak to this,

We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical…

When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing, and working toward being a better spouse, you are a godly wife, but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage…

In some marriages, trying harder does not engender a reciprocal response. It has the opposite effect. It feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need. It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.

6. If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, be good, don’t be nice

In every marriage, our goal should be to encourage people to be more godly–and that should be all the more so in marriage because we are the helpmeet.

If we act in such a way that we solidify his self-centeredness (or her self-centeredness), then we aren’t being good or loving.

One woman said to Leslie,

I made our marriage worse by never speaking up, by being too nice, by not expressing my needs, and by accommodating Charlie even at my own expense. I went along thinking that this was my role as a godly woman, a submissive wife, a biblical helpmate.

7. To love your husband in an emotionally abusive marriage is to be concerned about his welfare and his soul

Leslie writes,

Biblically loving your husband doesn’t require you to prop him up in order to enable him to continue to hurt you. It involves something far more redemptive…

He needs a wife who will love him enough to tell him the truth and to respectfully challenge his selfishness, his self-absorption, and his self-deception.

What can you do to help your husband grow? You refuse to accept behaviour that is destructive and abusive.

When you put your foot down and say, “I will not allow myself or the kids to be treated this way anymore. It’s destructive to me, to them, and to our marriage,” you are not going against God by speaking the truth in love. You are standing for goodness, for truth, and for the healing and restoration of your marriage.

In an emotionally destructive marriage, you must learn to say no.

If you don’t know how to do that, Leslie lists some very practical examples of how you can set repercussions and boundaries for destructive behaviour while still making sure you and the children are safe. She talks practically about how to get a team around you for support, how to express to him what you will and will not accept, and how to start a process which can lead to him understanding what being a godly man is.

8. The Bible clearly says that if you are married to a fool, being nice only makes the fool worse

If people are doubting whether women have the “right” to put these kinds of ultimatums to their husbands, then I’d suggest you read the book of Proverbs and look at how God tells us to treat fools. Leslie explains in detail these Bible passages and how they apply to marriage.

And she looks at one example we have of a woman who was married to a fool–Abigail who was married to Nabal in 1 Samuel 25–and how she went against his wishes and was not submissive because she put God first.

9. We are to obey God, not man–especially an emotionally abusive man (or woman)

Following your husband into sin may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive. Allowing him to berate you and your children may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive.

As Peter says in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than man.”

10. God cares about the individuals in your family more than he cares about your marriage

Finally, if you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage, know that God sees you and grieves for you. In her book, Leslie shows through Scripture how God feels when His children are physically and emotionally hurt. He cries with you.

And she shows how the verse “God hates divorce” is often used against women in abusive marriages, rather than against the husbands who have made the rift–which is who that verse was directed at in the first place!

Leslie writes,

Maybe you think that God is more interested in preserving your marriage than the well-being of you and your children, but that is not true…

Joanne realized that her marriage, although important to her, had become idolatrous. Keeping it together was what controlled her, not the love of Christ…

A wife is not a body to use but a person to love.

And finally, let me leave you with this:

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: We Need to Learn God's Heart

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeMost of you reading this are not in emotionally abusive marriages–but some are. And I want you to know that God cares. That you are not alone. And that He wants you to get help. Maybe that first step is picking up a copy of Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, which outlines how to identify your marriage, how to seek help, and how to do the hard work of seeing if the marriage can be saved. I encourage you to get it–it will give you hope!

 

Waiting on God: Letting Him Work, Not You

Waiting on God: Learning to let go and start trusting God even when it's hard

Waiting on God is not natural for me.

I’m a Type A personality. When I see a problem, I analyze it. I tackle it. And I jump in! In fact, problems exhilirate me. I love the thrill of figuring out how to fix something and get it to go the way I want it to go.

I found this article in the archives of the blog that I wrote four years ago, and I thought it was worth running again, because it speaks to an issue I think we all struggle with: How do we let go? Here’s what I said back then, and I think it’s still relevant:

Trying to fix things didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING.

If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating my now husband, I sort of barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith.

I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people. Waiting on God became my goal.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

A few years later I had to wrestle with God again, over a problem that I couldn’t solve. My baby boy had a serious heart defect, one that was likely to kill him. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. Here I was, someone who would stay awake at night mulling over problems and strategizing my next steps to get rid of those problems, and there was absolutely no strategizing that would help. It was all about trusting God. And so I did. Even though my son didn’t make it, I learned that God was always there, and that He is enough.

And yet lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me.

Trust in the Lord

I have found in my marriage that “trust” is often the last thing I’m able to do.

Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems.

So if Keith and I had disagreements, I would stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I used my brilliant insights. I gave him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I ended up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hadn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself? If Keith hadn’t been able to explain what he wants?

Waiting on God would have been a lot more productive–and a lot more in line with what God wants for us to do.

I’m getting slowly better at stepping back and letting Keith process. I’m getting slowly better at going on with life when something is wrong in my marriage, trusting that we’ll be able to work it out later on tonight, or in a few days when we have time to sit together.

I’m getting slowly better at waiting on God, and not just bowling ahead and trying to solve everything.

But it is not working in my kids’ lives. I feel as if with them God is asking me to step back, too, and let my kids make their own mistakes. I feel as if He is saying that I have to trust God with my kids’ futures. It was hard enough to trust Him first time around with mine; now I have to trust Him with theirs! I never realized that this, in many ways, is harder.

Some problems can’t be fixed, and sometimes the efforts that we make at fixing them actually prohibit God from working.

What if God is trying to let your children go through a period of waiting, or trusting, and you try to fix it for them?

What if God is trying to wrestle with your husband about something, and you try to get your husband to talk everything out before God has really had time to soften him or convict him? What if God is planning a better solution, and you rush in because you can’t handle that uncomfortable feeling where everything is not in equilibrium?

There are times I need to step back. I am not God. I need to listen to what God says about my kids, and I need to trust Him with them. I don’t like doing that. Maybe God is telling you the same thing about your husband. Maybe you and your husband have an issue between you, and you want it solved RIGHT NOW. Ask yourself: why do I want it solved now? Is it because it needs to be solved, or is it simply because I don’t like this uncomfortable feeling? And if it’s the second, then your problem is not your husband. Your problem is your lack of trust in God to work this out.

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14

I’m learning that I have to wait on God, put my problems in His hands, and ask Him to show me when I should do something about them–and when I should do nothing.

And I’m learning that He wants me to act far less frequently than I would like.

What about you? Has God been teaching you to wait on Him? How do you handle it?

UPDATE: I wish I could have had a looking glass back when I wrote this and struggling with some of my girls’ heartache and disappointment. Right now my oldest daughter is engaged and we’re planning the wedding, and she has found someone who loves Jesus. She’s honestly going to be okay. I was right to trust God–He does look after our kids.