Christian Self Help
The Line In The Sand
(Part 2) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 9a. - No Canyon
2. No Canyon
Life is good. You are meeting my needs. I am meeting your needs. We are talking to each other openly and honestly. We are praising and encouraging each other. We are serving each other out of the desire to genuinely show our love for one another. We are doing activities together and enjoying one another’s company. We are working through problems and compromising with one another. We seek to give first and choose to receive with genuine heart-felt gratitude. We are humble and gentle and slow to anger. We accept one another for just who God made us to be, and look forward to what comes next. We each experience daily personal joy and abundant joy in our relationship. We live completely in the present (while looking forward to the future with great anticipation). We desire to spend as much time as possible with each other to learn more and more about the wondrous creation that God has placed before us in our life.
Isn’t that the relationship you desire? Wouldn’t it be awesome if that described your precious bride or your precious groom? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God were preparing exactly that person to be your future precious bride or groom?
In marriage, abundant joy prevails when we are deeply connected physically, emotionally and spiritually. We connect spiritually when we place God first, spend time reading the bible, and pray together. As we humble ourselves before the creator, shed off the person we were and take on the new creation we are because of Jesus conquering our sin for us, we can then be used by God for the purpose of meeting the emotional needs of our spouse. When the spiritual and emotional connections are consistently and securely made, the physical connection will naturally follow and will be completely fulfilling.
There is so much to be said about the beauty of a connected relationship. It is the desire of my heart. It is the desire of my precious bride’s heart, too. Because we have that in common, we are regularly turning inward to observe the state of our relationship. There are times when we hear static as we tune in. Static is one of those warning signs that says, “Stop!”
The static that can be found in every worldly relationship can be compared to the static you get when you unplug the cable from your television set. Disconnect the communication signal and the result is a fuzzy picture and annoying distorted sound. Static consists of three basic elements. You can see, hear and feel static in your relationship. Hmmm, it might even leave a bad taste in your mouth.
First, your vision allows you to observe the actions of the other person in your relationship. There will be indications of static as consistent connection erodes. A look, a gesture, a posture, an expression, an action, a change in behavior, all can represent that snowy distortion.
Second, your sense of hearing provides clues to identify when the connection is weakening or is disconnected altogether. Tone of voice, loudness of words, choice of words, deafening silence, slamming doors, banging pots and pans, pounding fists, all compare to the incessant hiss static possesses. Sometimes significantly, static slowly erodes your sweet closeness (emphasis on the “S’s). Can you hear it now? The hissing of the static can be subtle, and yet it is something you can either tune in or tune out. The choice is yours.
Third, the vibration you feel with your heart. Where the actions and words were once pleasant, respectful and joyful, they are now disrespectful or unpleasant, and quite frankly you are getting on my nerves. I am able to feel that pain. I want to be alone in my foxhole again protected from the incoming I know is on the way! I am feeling the distance growing. The water is trickling in the crack now forming in the sand between us.
Naivety, ignorance, apathy, selfishness, pride, and image management are traits or choices, which will inevitably lead to the construction of a grand canyon and sadly to the destruction of your precious relationship. One spoonful at a time, the canyon grows and the closeness goes.
Life is good. Life is good. Life is good. Life, in its simplest form, is such a marvel and an awesome wonder. I can't even comprehend how life began. I couldn’t create any form of life even if my life depended on it. Life is quite simply a gift. Life is. I know that life exists because I’m writing this book and you are reading it. How cool is that? Life, yours and mine, is a reality and there is nothing we can do to make it happen or to stop it. Good life is our heart’s desire. Good is the life of any person who is not alone. Life is so good when you are connected to your creator and to another person who knows you the way God knows you, well, as close as possible. Is your life good? How are you measuring the volume and value of the goodness? When you give of your time, energy and resources, are you able to count the baskets that return full of bread and fish? Life is good.
You are meeting my needs. In any fulfilling and close relationship, there is an exchange of giving resulting in the meeting of needs. These needs are deeply rooted in the soul of each one of us. For example, I have a need to feel respected and appreciated. I guess that is two needs, isn’t it? When I am shown respect and appreciation in the context of my marriage relationship, I feel worth something. I am lifted up for a time to get through the day or through a difficult time.
I am meeting your needs. From a sincere desire to connect with you, I have the opportunity to observe you and to seek for signs that there is a need that you desire to have met. What happens when this is the only source for discovering what you’re needing is this: I will miss many of the things you need, and I assure you that I will disappoint you. A better way to understand what your needs are is to have you communicate to me directly what they are. An example would look something like this: “Scott, I know you are trying to understand my needs, and yet I am finding myself feeling insecure when you flirt with the cashier at the grocery store. It would mean a lot to me if you would consider the message I receive when this happens.” This process will take some practice to master and can be very difficult to initiate. Just remember, it is very important to have a mutual and sincere desire to meet specific needs within your close relationships.
We are talking to each other openly and honestly. Enough said. Or is it? When I say a simple and concise sentence, I may think that you actually understand. I understand, so why wouldn’t you? This is only one aspect of speaking openly. I would hope that during your conversation, when you don’t understand the words, or the meaning of the words, that you would politely and respectfully ask for clarification. This is a wonderful opportunity to honor the other person, by fully understanding what they are saying. Of course, it is very important to concentrate on what they are saying, and to actually be interested in them and what they have to say. Open conversation assumes that you are being completely truthful, and that you feel safe enough to say the hard stuff, like revealing the sin in your life and discussing your temptations. Also, something important to consider here is to openly communicate your feelings. (Examples: I am sad. I am frustrated. I am confused. I am lonely. I am feeling unappreciated. I am feeling disrespected.)
We are praising and encouraging each other. “Good job!” “You are beautiful.” I am really lifted up when I hear that my precious bride is proud of me. I feel cared about and important when she says I look handsome. Genuine praise for positive actions is one of the most connecting things you can do in a relationship. As you build up the other person, they are filled with a sense of worth and along with that sensation, are filled with a gratitude that naturally happens as a result of being built up. What happens next is the true miracle. They desire to build you up and praise you because they have a grateful heart. This is the source of a give-give relationship. I give to you. You are grateful. You give to me. I am grateful, and so on. If I am having a difficult time getting through some experience in my life, you have the opportunity to speak words of encouragement to me. “I have confidence in you. I know you can do it.” Those words spoken with concern and genuinely from the heart can make the difference between pressing on through the challenge, or simply giving up.
We are serving each other out of the desire to genuinely show our love for one another. There are two reasons I have discovered for serving others. One is to give. I want to do things for my wife to serve her. These might be things that she can do for herself. Something as simple as making a cup of coffee for her in the morning can be a pleasant and uplifting thing to do. It might be something that is necessary or important and that she does not desire to do, or believes is my responsibility. A good example could be routine car maintenance. I can serve her by scheduling routine maintenance on the car she regularly drives. I can serve her by providing leadership in the area of our spirituality. Planned time to read the bible. Prioritizing her by scheduling time for a regular weekly date. I can serve her by making her birthday special. I may have to go out of my way to get things in order and pull off a plan, but what an honor, to make a special person feel special on a special day. I could go on, but I think you’re getting the idea. I want to spend some time on the other reason for serving. I can choose to serve in a controlling way. This could be because I am attempting to control what others think. What this may look like is when I do things that I know will be pleasing to you in an effort to “keep you happy,” or pacify you with general niceties. By repeating this behavior of pleasing you, I can create a place where I can hide who I am, or what I am doing, or even what I'm thinking. This may take a shift in thinking to understand. I mean, “How can serving others be a bad thing?” I know, because I have a history in my life of serving to please others. In my family of origin, my father was an alcoholic. He would often be drunk and would get angry easily. I learned at a young age that the anger could be minimized if I did or said something nice for dad's benefit. Later in life I found that I could just as easily hide my sins by serving to please, so as to create the image that I was prioritizing my precious bride. All the while, I was falling deeper and deeper into isolation. The result of my choice to hide in my foxhole was deeply rooted in my failure to forgive the pain of my past and move forward. I came to understand, after much counseling to open the lines of communication, what I was specifically doing through my twisted idea of serving others. I was serving my addictions and my selfish desires.
We are doing activities together and enjoying one another’s company. What activities do you truly and mutually enjoy doing together? The reason I ask is that there are two ways to look at this issue. On one hand, I can do something you like just to enter your world, or you can do the same for me. This does not mean that you both truly enjoy the activity. On the other hand, we can discuss, plan and prioritize activities that we find enjoyable. Note the first part is to discuss them. By discussing the things that bring enjoyment you grow closer because you know more about one another.
We are working through problems and compromising with one another. Problems are inconvenient and yet inescapable. Get used to it! The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it exists and write it down or say what it is, aloud, to someone else. This will bring the problem into the light of reality. Then, and only then, you can begin to work the problem through to its solution. In close relationship, open lines of communication create an atmosphere where you feel confident that it is safe to say anything. You can talk about weather, war, politics, religion, economics, money, dreams, desires, emotional needs, successes, failures, temptations, lusts, and sins you have committed against God and the person listening. Problems arrive at our doorstep in three ways. One way is to create your own problem through something you say or do (or don’t say or do). The second way is when an external person or circumstance delivers them. The self-made problems are the result of our choices. Correct choices cause fewer problems than incorrect choices. External problems are the result of another person’s choice. The resulting problem is either intentional or unintentional. The third way problems happen is just that, they just happen. No matter which way they hit you, it is affecting you on your side of the line in the sand. I would hope your choice of how to deal with the problem would intentionally glorify God and show love to the other person.
We seek to give first and choose to receive with genuine heart-felt gratitude. God gives us everything. God gives to us out of His goodness and His love for us. God has provided for us first. He has given us a place to live, food to eat, air to breathe, water to drink, family lines to relate to, children to love and care for, He even breathed life into His Word and has made it available to us in so many forms it is overwhelming. Give, give, and give some more. Give first. It is with overwhelming gratitude, overpowering my desire to care for my wants first, that I am able to look across the line and seek out opportunity to give to another person first. Not because I have need to hide or maintain an image, but because the needs of another far outweigh the needs of me. What happens when I seek to give to you first, even if I must deny myself for a time, is this: You receive what you need or desire with no expectation of repayment, freely given, freely received. When I experience the receiving end of this type of giving, I am humbled by the act of another person thinking highly enough of me to prioritize my need or desire above theirs, and I am washed over with a sensation of gratitude. It is almost unexplainable. I feel special, important, appreciated, cared about and loved. Those positive deposits are made into my heart account, helping to balance the account. I no longer hold onto bitterness and resentment. I desire to forgive. I desire to clear out the broken glass. I desire to lay down the weapons of war and take off my defensive armor. With my heart on my sleeve, I come to you, open and vulnerable with the desire to give to you - first. Now we’re talking! I give to you, and then because of the gratitude in your heart you give to me, and so on. All of this is the result of God setting the example and giving first to all of us.
We are humble and gentle and slow to anger. Ask my children and my bride and they will tell you the truth, I struggle in this area of my life. Even though I know that Christ was slow to anger, and He desires for me to be like Him in this way, I still struggle in this area. It saddens me to the very depths of my soul because of the tremendous, almost overwhelming, amount of pain I have caused in my relationships. With my family’s help, I am slowly reversing the effects of a “yell-first-avoid-later” habit. My anger, directed at the actions of others, was extremely hurtful and was intended, sadly, to push away the people I love most in this world. How do we humble ourselves? Is there a method or thought process? I believe there is a process. To get humble and remain humble, I must, (James 5:16) “Confess your offenses to one another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.” Humility is regarding others as more important than me, or their needs are placed above or before mine. Gentleness results from the understanding that there is a line in the sand and that I have probably hurt you in the past in some significant way. Seeing you as God’s precious child and beautiful gift will also help me to treat you the way He would; with loving and gentle kindness, desiring only the best for you. If you have dealt with your own sin effectively, through confession and prayer, the Holy Spirit enters in and works in you to overcome the instantaneous jump-to-anger problem that so many of us seem to have. Self-righteousness is replaced by the righteousness of God. There is no longer a need to be angry first. It is possible now to encounter a situation, look at it for what it really is, experience the emotion and put a name to it, determine the appropriate response, and behave appropriately. Message received, mixed with love, message sent. The other person won’t need to carry another negative deposit in the heart account. Rather he or she is likely to have received a positive deposit to that very important heart account.
We accept one another for just who God made us to be, and look forward to what comes next. Acceptance. God made you. God chose to make you. God chose to make you in His image. Do we really accept one another exactly the way we were created? Or, are we really taking exception to the way we were created? Along with the miracle of being God’s precious child, we were intentionally placed in our family of origin, having been specifically and intentionally created. (Psalms 139:13) “For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb.” Acceptance should begin right there in the womb where His handiwork begins. If you are hand-made, shouldn’t I consider you to be as precious as God does? If only I could see each person as a precious child of the Father, like I was looking through the eyes of Jesus himself. Then and only then would I be accepting you for who you were created to be, and not need to take exception to who you truly are. When I look at you through eyes of complete acceptance, that opens the door of my heart with excitement, longing to see, hear, and experience the next wondrous event you experience. Not that I would live my life through your experiences, but that I would be blessed with the opportunity to live those experiences with you. What is coming next? What is down the street and around the corner? How will you handle it? How will I handle it? Can we, by enthusiastically walking together through our life experiences, glorify God? Can we experience God’s Love and Joy through our mutual acceptance of one another?
Pause now and ask God to help you see the people in your life as He sees them. “Lord, help me to see the aloneness in the people in my life. Grant me the insight to remove that aloneness.”
We each experience daily personal joy and abundant joy in our relationship. Joy! (Psalms 32:11) "Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous! Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!" How can I get to the point where I can shout for joy? I mean, can you imagine being so overcome with His joy that you stood up in church and let out a shout, breaking the stiff and uncomfortable expected, routine "while-the-pastor-talks" silence? Oh, no! What would other people think? I can’t answer that, and yet I can’t help but wonder if they might from within their own heart, judge you and envy you at the same time. “Look at that crazy person making a fool of himself.” And, “I wish I could have that kind of joy.” Shout for joy! Oh, don't I wish I could shout for joy every day. I would like to say that I had abandoned myself so completely that I could jump and dance and throw my hands in the air just at the thought of God. And, I would truly love having the abundance of that joy to overflow upon those around me every day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if my heart leapt in my chest and skipped a beat every time our eyes met? Seeking a complete and fully satisfying intimate relationship with the Father creates that abundant joy.
We live completely in the present. There is so much to say on this subject that I am perplexed. What is time anyway? You can’t touch it. You can’t see it. Man has devised a way to measure it and to mark its passing, and yet it cannot be captured or kept from marching on and on. And so, we live within the confines of time. We schedule our future events and we remember our past events based on a time line. Now there’s a line in the sand! The line between our past and our future is the marker of our present. Right now. Right here. The “present” is truly a gift from God! It is a present all wrapped up in beautiful wrapping, with your name on it, waiting for you to joyfully unwrap it and experience His peaceful presence. How can anyone top that? Living completely in the present means that I am not living in the past, nor am I living in the future. I can live in the past by dwelling on past hurts and other significant or insignificant events that have happened in my life. If I hang around in the past with those things as my source of inspiration, I will be unavailable to engage in the present. I can live in the future because I am focused on the fear of being hurt in the same ways I was hurt in the past. If I hang on to the fear of being hurt, I will be focused on controlling just about everything around me, including the people I love, to keep safely away from that pain. Again, the result is that I will be unavailable in the present to relate with you because I will be trying to protect myself. I’ll be back in the foxhole taking pot shots at you. In either case, I may be able to find the line and live in the present for a short time, but I will drift away from center just as soon as my past or my future beckons to me. So how do we engage in, and remain firmly established in, the present? How do we open the present and experience the unabated, unbridled, and over-abundant joy that we know is in the present when it is opened? What would it look like to be living in the present? Imagine a beautifully wrapped box on the floor in front of you. It is large enough for you to get inside. Now quiet your thoughts and picture the present. Ignore the passing of time. The gift before you is the present. It is here right now. Ok, unwrap the gift. Take your time, it is the present, after all. Relish the moment. As you open the present and take the lid from the top of the box, you look inside. The present is filled with the presence of the timeless God and the joy of the Lord is surging up and spilling over the sides and filling the room. The present is open and is filled with peace and joy. Now hop in! Step into the present and be peaceful and free in the present and live freely in the present because the true gift of freedom is in the present! It is possible for you to step out of the present and look at it and only experience some of the freedom or you can simply just be in the present and experience the flood of joy. I’m overwhelmed as I sit in the present and search for God’s heart and his will for my life. It is almost as if time is something that exists outside the present. It’s passing seems insignificant because I’m living inside the present. The past is gone, so why dwell on it any longer? And, the future is not here yet, so why shouldn't we anticipate with joy what might happen next? Now that we are living in the present and looking forward with joyful anticipation as we stretch forward, we should do all things in the present and with a right heart. (Philippians 3:13) “Brothers, I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,”
Again, when we dwell on past events or circumstances, we lose sight of “now” and take hold of “then.” Also, when we are trapped in the past we tend to lean on that which we know and look toward the future with dread that what has happened in the past to hurt us will happen again in a similar way. When we find ourselves in that situation, we find the present is gone.
We desire to spend as much time as possible with each other to learn more and more about the wondrous creation that God has placed before us, in our life. As I leave for work in the morning, it is meaningful to me that I connect with my bride, even if it is for a short time. Because I look forward to when we will be together again, I verbalize that to her. “I look forward to seeing you this evening.” We enjoy doing things together, from the mundane household chores to romantic getaways. As I write this, I am filled with excitement because it is near to our 18th anniversary and we have scheduled vacation time and picked a destination for our getaway. I don’t know exactly what we will do, but I do know that she is prioritizing time to spend with me. During this block of time, we can get to know each other more. I believe there is no possible way to know everything about another person during the very short time we have while we are here. I desire to know her heart and to reveal my heart to her, as well.