Post Holiday Let Down

Tis the season…and for so many folks, the season is one of tumult, anxiety, triggers and temptations. For a lot of guys though, the issues don’t really show up until the dust settles down.

For many men, the ability to power through seems innate. The holidays become another gauntlet to navigate, much like the obstacle course that work can be. We become pretty darn good at just putting our heads down and bulling through the shenanigans of shopping, cooking, Christmas lights, put up, tear down, in-laws and outlaws. I was just talking with a pastor about this the other day. He was explaining the necessity of working til 1:30am to get the music and nativity scenes right, and how the last few weeks have been the big, final push of the year at the church. He’s running on adrenaline at this point, it’s activation being 1 part pride of work and commitment to the Gospel and the other part being caught in the frenetic pace of the Holidays.

But soon the hoopla will be over. And for those of us who simply medicated our emotions with a few too many eggnogs, the dust settling can mean the anger and temptation begin to click up. So I wanted to give you a couple practical tips for navigating the aftermath.

  1. If you’ve been powering through, remember that your emotions have been affected. Your heart has been impacted. Just because you didn’t take time to engage it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. So this weekend, give yourself some time to engage your emotions. Journal. Pray for God to illuminate what needs to be dealt with.
  2. Schedule time with one or a couple of your guys to download how it all went. Be in community as a part of your process.
  3. Celebrate surviving. Hey, it can feel that way sometimes! Especially if you’re part of the production at church and cranked for the last month, give yourself a chance to celebrate. Go out to eat at your fave restaurant, go to the shooting range, play a round of golf, go to a movie, grab a good book. Something. Something besides celebrating the old way, if you know what I mean. Too many guys in recovery don’t know how to celebrate wins in a healthy way.
  4. Remember that if you’re in the marital reconciliation process right now, you can’t afford to check out. You can’t take too much time to just veg out. Your downtime is as important as your uptime. Passivity cannot win.

Love – Patience and Anger

 

Love_Overlooks

Before we dive in and unpack thes attributes, I want to point out the kind of love we’re dealing with. Remember, in the Greek there were 4 different types of love: eros, storge, philia and agape. Each had a different meaning and application. These all get lumped into our modern day term, “love”. So we use the same word when we describe our affinity for certain foods (I love fried okra) and our affection for our spouses (I love my wife). Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, what Paul is describing in these verses is Agape. To keep it simple, think of agape as “loving even without any self-benefit”. Of the 4 types of love, this one requires the most of us. It requires the most work.

P.S. – I already don’t like where this is going….

The first attribute of love that Paul names is patience. The Greek word is: makrothymeō. It means ‘to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others. To be slow to avenge or punish.’ I like what one commentator, Matthew Henry, says about it:

It will put up with many slights and neglects from the person it loves, and wait long to see the kindly effects of such patience on him.

Patience is a powerful, strong, and willful thing. It is having the position and power to punish, yet choosing not to. Isn’t it interesting that the first thing Paul says about love is that it’s slow to punish? Logically it makes sense to me; if we avenge or punish our partner quickly after an offense, there is no time for sorting things out, explaining intentions, reconciliation or redemption. It just explodes.

Let’s think about it for a minute: what does it look like to hold back punishment? For me it means not popping-off with some hurtful comment. It also looks like engaging the conversation rather than giving Shelley the cold-shoulder. Another angle is that when I am hurt I withhold compliments and/or affection; that’s punishment too.

How do you punish your spouse and what might it look like to practice patience?

This patience thing leads me to another question though:  does Love ever get angry? Does the text say that Love means I’ll never be angry with my spouse?

No, it doesn’t. In fact this is addressed by another attribute: being slow to anger. Depending on the translation you may also see it as “not irritable” and also “not easily provoked”. Here again, background is important. The Greek word is, paroxynō, meaning to ‘provoke, irritate or rouse to anger.’The concept this term conveys is easily misunderstood. We might be inclined to read it as “love does not get angry”, which misses the heart of the matter. Instead, think of it as a quick temper; Love doesn’t have a quick temper. Loving in this way means we don’t fly-off-the-handle. While we may in fact become angry, it is only after we have practiced patience. It is similar in notion to what is described in Isaiah 5:25; “Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people. “ God wasn’t irritated so he wanted to quickly prove his point. Nor was he responding to being provoked or taunted. He was roused to anger, over time, by the idolatrous lifestyle of his people. He didn’t just lose his stuff one afternoon and make a rash decision to punish his children. It took time. He was patient.

Thus, the gist of what Paul is describing for us is a love that is going to overlook as many offenses as it can, for as long as it can, in hopes of a change in relationship.

That is so counter to my concept of love. I thought love meant Shelley should change what bothers me so I don’t have to overlook anything. If she would act differently, then I would act differently. See the conditions on that? Thus the work of love was on her, not me. We now know that’s not love at all; its selfishness.

The question I’m asking myself in light of this new understanding, and perhaps you’d like to ask yourself, is this:

In what ways am I asking my wife to change to make it easier for me to be patient and slow to anger?