Redemption

Shelley and I talk often about redemption. We try (as best we can in the face of adversity) to stay eternally optimistic that everyone’s story can lead to redemption. We trust that change is possible. We get emails every week from husbands and wives who want a glimmer of hope and to know that somehow, on the other side of this pain, God might use it. Use them.

Shelley and I did a short video segment on this in our KitchenConvos video course. Take a look below-

redemptionphoto

Conflict Avoidance

Last week I had a client’s wife say something very profound.

“The absence of conflict is not connection.”

Dang! I hate that that saying is right. Sometimes I want so badly to just let sleeping dogs lie and not rock the boat. We’re okay if she’s not mad at me, right? Do we have to engage intense fellowship or can we just leave well enough alone?

You know the answer. I do too. Conflict is inevitable. I’ll even go a step farther and say, Conflict is vital.

Conflict is intimacy too, even though it often doesn’t feel like it. If we always agreed, all the time, not only would it be scary, but it would mean there is no diversity, no alternative view. We would remain stuck inside the same patterns of thinking that blew up our lives in the first place!

I love that Shelley challenges my thinking. I highly dislike the conflict, but when it’s there I know we have the opportunity to go deeper in our relationship. Now that’s different for me. I used to think every fight was just the next iteration of a setback; but it doesn’t have to be. We can go through it and grow through it. Here are 3 keys that help me navigate our conflicts for growth, both within myself and our relationship.

  1. Reminding myself that I’m not a monster. Silly as it sounds, when Shelley is mad at me it taps into my shame and within seconds I can feel like a big, dumb, idiot that has no business being in any type of relationship, much less a marriage. She can be mad at me for something innocuous, like not putting my shoes away, and I’ll tie it back to my infidelity and jerkiness (I just made that up) from early on in our marriage. Once that train has left the station, every stop it makes is onboarding more negative self talk. So I cannot allow it to depart. I have to fight the earliest inklings of shame with the truth.
    1. I am not that man anymore. I am a new man.
    2. God is redeeming me and us.
    3. I am dearly loved and infinitely valuable. I am not a monster.
  2. Reminding myself that she’s not a monster. It’s so tempting to make her out to be the villain. Truly, she didn’t wake up this morning to make me feel like an incompetent man or husband; as much as I’d like to assume she did. She didn’t. She isn’t trying to push my buttons (most of the time).
  3. Reminding myself to listen and try to understand. I want to be heard. I want to be understood. I want to feel respected and like my opinion matters. I want to know she actually cares what I have to say and think. I should get a little grace even if I raise my voice and act like a petulant child. I deserve the dignity of having a voice. Newsflash – so does she.  And in my Biblical understanding, I’m called to extend to her what I want and expect. I have to go first. So practically that means not interrupting, correcting, excusing, manipulating, downplaying, blameshifting or going into 50/50 mode. It’s 100/0 at that point. I am 100% responsible for modeling the love of Christ to her by giving her grace, listening and trying to understand. Then I can hope she’ll extend the same in return. Sometimes that happens in a back-and-forth, give and take sort of way. Sometimes that happens in a she-just-has-to-vent-and-I-need-to-zip-it sort of way. No what I mean? Oh and by the way, rarely does she tie something like my misplaced shoes to my infidelity. I do it way more than she does.

Remember, conflict is intimacy too. It doesn’t have to be a setback, in fact it can be a growth moment. I can tell you there have been so many fights that have later resulted in one or both of us saying Thank You to other one, because we saw and experienced such character in the other person, right in the middle of the conflict.

Bounce Your Eyes

In talking to alumni over the past few weeks, the thing that seems to keep cropping up is, “It’s summertime, and the women are wearing less clothing. How do I deal with that?” This summer is the perfect opportunity to practice ‘bouncing the eyes’ as Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker wrote about in the ‘Every Man’s Battle‘ book.

First of all, what exactly is meant by ‘bouncing the eyes?’ Well, as those of you who have read the book will know, it’s not complicated, but it is extremely effective. Steve writes: “The problem is that your eyes have always bounced toward the sexual, and you’ve made no attempt to end this habit. To combat it, you need to build a reflex action by training your eyes to immediately bounce away from the sexual, like the jerk of your hand away from a hot stove. Let’s repeat that for emphasis: “When your eyes bounce toward a woman, they must bounce away immediately. . .”
If you bounce your eyes for six weeks, you can win this war. As I write this, it is the middle of July, which means there are six weeks left of summer. Coincidence? I think not!

First Step: Make a List of Your Enemies!
The first way to start, Fred tells us, is by making a list of your “greatest enemies”. These could be lingerie ads, either in a seemingly harmless department store catalog, or that Victoria’s Secret magazine that your wife left laying around. It could include billboards, it could be TV shows or ads, it may be female joggers, or maybe it’s that female co-worker who tends to dress a little suggestively. And then there’s always the beach.

Second Step: Set up a Battle Plan!
In any event, the second step is to set up a “battle plan”, a way you are going to get victory. Let’s look at each of our examples:

  •  If you are looking at a department store catalog, make a covenant with your eyes and with yourself that   you will only look at men’s clothes, and then you will close it.
  • And if Victoria’s Secret is an issue, simply ask your wife to be discreet with where she leaves it. She will respect you for being honest with her.
  • If billboards are a problem on your drive into work, and an alternate route is out of the question, make a mental note of which streets or exits on the freeway the billboards falls between, and then as you approach that area, focus on something else; prayer, some verses you’ve memorized, or even something else near the road that is neutral.
  • As far as the TV goes, use your TV guide, turn on one show that you know is safe, and don’t flip around during commercials. Or if you’re watching a ball game and the advertisements are the problem, have the remote handy, and when the commercials come on, go to a program that you have already designated as being safe.
  • Joggers. Practice bouncing your eyes to the other side of the road, or straight ahead. It will be tough at first but if you continue to do it, it will get easier as time goes on.
  • At work, again, practice bouncing the eyes onto something else when that female comes into your line of sight. Have a picture of your family at your work place. Pretend that your wife, or if you’re single, maybe Jesus, is sitting next to you at your desk or wherever you’re working.
  • If you have a problem at the beach, don’t go, at least until you feel this part of your life is under control. There are other ways to have fun during the summer.

The above suggestions are admittedly not rocket science, but too many of us neglect them. Let’s use this summer as a way to get victory, not an excuse to act out. Make it a goal to be regularly bouncing your eyes by Labor Day. God will honor you for it.

For more help, see Every Man’s Battle. You can also call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)