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Some Encouragement for Married Folks!

When I heard him say it, I immediately knew this was a different perspective than what many people hold and if I’m honest, different than the current perspective I had on the subject.  Parenting can be an all consuming task and therefore put significant strain on the all-important relationship with our spouse.  There are many days and nights where my wife and I have plans to spend time together or share a significant conversation when the kids go down, only to get to that point and throw in the towel.

“You want to talk about something significant or just watch The Voice?”  “I’ve got nothing left in the tank, let’s see what Blake Shelton’s up to.”

It’s not hard to see how we can drift apart or forget what it takes to make a relationship work.  That’s why I really appreciated what this guy had to say.  He was sharing how he and his wife were at the point where divorce was feeling like a very possible outcome.  They decided that wasn’t the route they were going to go and then he said this…

“We decided divorce wasn’t an option and we needed to walk in obedience.  Eventually our love caught up to our obedience.”

Our love caught up to our obedience.

I didn’t hear anything else he said that morning.  I just kept thinking about the implications of that kind of perspective.

Don’t Throw in the Towel

In, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller shares that the perspective around the purpose of marriage has significantly shifted in our culture.  There is a growing pessimism around marriage and a quick survey of culture shows that not many feel like “walking in obedience” is worth it.

Keller shares that,  “Marriage  used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals.  Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me.

If it’s about my satisfaction, then why would I make the sacrifices it takes to walk in obedience and give time to allow my love to catch up to my obedient actions?  The current, and again, often pessimistic, perspective around marriage doesn’t make much of the institution.

However, longitudinal studies show that our current mood around marriage is not empirically supported.

“Most striking of all, longitudinal studies demonstrate that two-thirds of those unhappy marriages out there will become happy within five years if people stay married and do not get divorced.  This led University of Chicago sociologist Linda J. Waite to say, ‘the benefits of divorce have been oversold.'”

During the last two decades, the great preponderance of research evidence shows that people who are married consistently show much higher degrees of satisfaction with their lives…it also reveals that most people are happy in their marriages, and most of those who are not and who don’t get divorced will eventually become happy.  Also, children who grow up in married, two-parent families have two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not.”  The overwhelming verdict, then, is that being married and growing up with parents who are married are enormous boosts to our well-being.”

If you are struggling with your marriage, don’t throw in the towel.  Don’t listen to the many voices out there who would encourage you to seek your own personal satisfaction – we all know that is not lasting happiness.

Walk in obedience, seek professional help, or do what you need to do because it’s worth it.  Eventually, your love will catch up to your obedience.  I’m incredibly thankful for the perspective changing statement.

 

The 7:1Ratio and the Power of Words

At a conference recently, Jeff Henderson, pastor of a church in Georgia, was speaking on the power of encouragement.  He cited a study from the Gottman Institute where research found that:

For every 1 comment of encouragement we receive, there are 7 comments of criticism.

So, on average you and I hear 7 comments of criticism with only 1 positive comment in the mix.  It’s no wonder we are often down on ourselves.  Now, mix in in adolescence where students are striving to figure who they are and where they fit in and the 7:1 ratio is exaggerated.

According to Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages, from ages 6 to 12 kids are in the “Industry vs. Inferiority” stage.  This is a time of incredible growth in skills and competency.  There is also a social dynamic and students who struggle during this time will have feelings of social incompetence and potentially low self-esteem.  From ages 12 to 18, this moves to a stage of “Identity vs. Role Confusion”.  Here the student is working hard internally to answer questions of identity and “fitting in”.  Basically, kids are incredibly impressionable during these two stages of growth and words of encouragement or criticism have the potential to carry a lot of weight.

I remember sitting outside during one of our youth trips a few years ago and witnessing a youth pastor call over a student and share with them the positive attributes he had seen in him that day.  It reminded me to speak encouragement out loud to the students I was around.  It reminded me of the incredible power of words and the ways words had impacted my life in the past.  I remember as young high school student, I got a note in class one day.  It was from a friend of my youth pastor who came in town often to lead events and retreats for us.  We had met last time he was in town and the note simply read, “Kyle, I’m so glad to be back in town and I’m really looking forward to seeing you tonight.  See you soon, Curt.”  That’s it!!  It meant the world.

I was noticed.  I was known.  I was worthy of his time.

I can’t tell you how many times a student has left their Bible or journal lying around and as we try to discover whose it is, we thumb through it and a letter similar to this from a parent or youth worker is tucked away in the pages.  That’s why I always encourage our leaders and interns to be old fashioned!  Write a hand written letter once or twice a year to encourage a student.  Words, written or spoken, have power.  Hey, maybe you should try it too!  Go ahead – be old fashioned!  Your kids won’t see it coming.

One Step Further

I was listening to an interview with Craig Groeschel recently and he takes this a step further.  Craig has 6 kids and has really sought to understand the unique personalities of each of his kids.  In the the interview he says, “I was there, so I know they came from their mother and I think I’m the dad, but man – they are different!”  Craig through prayer and observation seeks to uncover each of his kids main insecurities and comes up with a phrase to speak to each one of them.  He speaks this over and over throughout their life.

Each one is different.  Each one is unique.  Each one is intentional.

He said this wasn’t easy to figure out and is even harder with introverts, but can you imagine the power of these words spoken over time to a place of great vulnerability!  Our friends at Orange will tell you that “Words over time can impact someone’s direction in life”.  It’s so true!  (Check out a quick article from Orange on this topic here:  http://theparentcue.org/the-gift-of-words/)

What a gift to give to your kids!  I’ve been thinking about this for my own kids since I heard it and I haven’t quite figured out the phrase I want to use, but nonetheless it has made me more aware of the words I speak to my kids.  Am I speaking and giving weight to their insecurities or counteracting them with words of life?  I‘m sad to say, I’m much better at the first one.

Unspoken Love Isn’t What We Think It Is

I think we all agree words have power.  We all have phrases (positive or negative) we have heard throughout our life that we replay in our heads.  These are constant reminders of words spoken to us that have consequences on past and present.

But here is something I think we all struggle with.  We’ve heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words” and have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  It’s true if your actions don’t match your words – actions win.  However…well, this might help, here is a fight I have with my wife from time to time:

“What do you mean you want to know that I love you” I say, “Here’s the 15 ways I’ve loved you in the last 3 days.”  My wife responds, “I don’t feel loved by those things.  You’re missing the point.”

While my wife appreciates everything I’ve done for her, she wants to hear my voice.  She wants me to stop what I’m doing (actions that I think show my love, but are really just part of life together) and look her in the eyes and tell her what she means to me.  She wants my words.

I think this happens in families all the time.  I imagine many parents feel like they are showering their kids in love, while their kids are just waiting for a moment to hear how special they are.  This disconnect is common in most homes with the busyness of life, school, work, sports, activities, etc. – we DO a lot for each other.  However, if we don’t stop, look each other in the eye, and speak words of life, I’m not sure that the message gets through – at least not with the weight we might hope in a world where 7:1 is the ratio.

Let’s Get Practical

Jeff Henderson, the guy from the beginning of this whole thing, mentioned in his presentation that he is so convinced by this that he writes his wife and kids a note of encouragement every week.  Every week! To which I reply, “Easy buddy.  You’re making me look bad and that’s not even realistic!”  However, in case you want to start with an every week venture or every month or every year or heck, just make it easy and write one note today and see where it goes – he provided some great note prompts to give someone “drops of encouragement”.  Here they are:

  • I remember when…
  • I have noticed…
  • I hope you know…
  • I’m really glad…
  • I’ve been thinking…

 “A generous person will prosper;  whoever refreshes others will be refreshed”  — Proverbs 11:25

Take these and use them up!  Refresh someone today and find yourself refreshed in return.  I can’t tell how much I would like to flip that ratio around in my family – 7:1 where words that build up and construct win the day.  How can you speak life to your spouse or kids today?  What are you waiting for…give it a shot!

 

(P.S. – If you want to explore the “words over time” idea along with other great “over time” concepts, the people at Orange have a great read you can find here: Playing for Keeps/Losing Your Marbles)

 

 

 

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