The Setting

Several months ago I was doing a visualization exercise with one of my groups when I had a vivid picture pop into my mind. It looked like this:

Along with the picture came a profound (to me) take on Ephesians 5:25-27 (MSG):
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. 

I’ve always thought of this passage to represent dying. We husbands are to die for our wives since that is what Christ did for the church. But this new take showed me something additional. Jesus loved the church to death, yes, but his sacrificial posture and profound surrender made it possible for us to be holy, dazzling and radiant in God’s sight. His end goal wasn’t selfish in so much as he wanted to glorify himself; he wanted to glorify the Father. And one way he glorified the Father was to bring out the best in us. Just to be sure I’ve got this straight: Jesus willingly humbled himself, enduring pain he could’ve opted out of, giving to us instead of getting from us, so that we could benefit.

Jesus was the setting, the placeholder, the foundation, the mainstay for us, God’s people to be lifted up and presented dazzling. The placeholder plus the beauty it presented ultimately pointed to the majesty of the Father.

So it is for us, as husbands. We are the placeholder; the setting for the gem. We are to be a foundation to safely, securely, and sincerely present the jewel that is our wife to the world. As her dazzling brilliance glitters and gleams, each facet of the stone reflecting her radiance, melds with the luster of the setting, the two cannot help but give honor to the Master Craftsman. 

Husbands:  what kind of setting are you? Lustrous, shining, sturdy, secure? Are you giving the jewel in your life the type of presentation you are called to?

When Resolutions Wear Off

By now, many folks who made a “No More Porn” new year’s resolution have found their resolve beginning to wane. There is only so long someone can white-knuckle it, hanging on for dear life by their will alone. If you realize that you are barely making it, I hope you’ll take it as a time to acknowledge your weakness and the futility of your own strength. The only true freedom comes in the person of Jesus; for freedom He set us free.

We have to recognize that our best effort, on our best day guided by the best of intentions will still come up short. It’s at the end of ourselves we are most likely to find the beginning of Christ. Perhaps the end of yourself will be the end of your new year’s streak? Maybe it will be the decision to come to an EMB workshop? For some men it’s the moment they decide their wife really is not the problem. For others it is when they decide they are going to happen to life instead of just letting life happen to them.

I hope your self-reliance streak ends soon. The quicker that happens the quicker you can fall back into the arms of a waiting Savior.

Heads up for the Holiday

I want to write a quick post to give a heads-up to the many men who are striving for freedom from sexual integrity issues. The holidays typically impact us in ways we don’t realize and the result is often to crash and burn. So I want alert you to a few key things that hopefully will help you.

First, holiday stress is normal. Not that it is right or should be there, but it typically is. So realize your stress is impacting you. It may be about the money and how you’ll pay off Christmas. It could be about hosting people, or about having to be “on” when folks are around. Perhaps it is stress from traveling. It could even be relational stress because you and your spouse disagree on things this time of year. Realize stress is impacting you and talk with your accountability partners & God about it.

Second, realize that family factors matter. If you are going to be around parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws or outlaws you have to acknowledge that they impact you. If there is trauma or wounding from your family of origin, be on guard for triggers. Protect your heart from them and stay connected relationally with safe people. If you know your crazy Uncle Albert only wants to talk politics with you so he can get under your skin, avoid the conversation! Maintain emotional sobriety this holiday.

Also, with family, be aware of the roles you take on. It is not uncommon for grown men who are husbands and fathers to take on a child role when they get around their parents. There is typically a well oiled family machine, and every cog has its position and role to play. At the least that role is often inauthentic and at worst it can be extremely dysfunctional. Stay true to who God is calling you to be.

Next, no “last-hurrah”. Many men do this. They plan to quit their addiction come the new year, but the addict inside urges them to get in one last binge. Don’t do it! You’ll just hate yourself that much more. If you’re planning on quitting in January, then start NOW. Fight the urge to get one last look.Tell your accountability partners and alert them if you feel the pull.

Finally, do something different. Be someone different than normal. Get out of your comfort zone this year. If you typically pig out and then watch the games, change it up. Be the first one in the kitchen to do dishes this year. If you typically avoid the kids that day then get down on the floor and play with them. If your tendency is to have shallow, empty conversations with family maybe its time to take it deeper. Volunteer to pray for the meal. Recycle instead of throwing all the wrapping paper away. Shovel snow from your neighbors sidewalk that morning. Somehow, get outside yourself and your normal mode of operating.

I hope this holiday brings you excitement and thankfulness. And I hope you enter the new year confident that you were authentically you, standing for integrity and character.