I need to lose an electron…

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. -Philippians 4:4

In other words, I’m negative. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. I’ll be nice and translate my nerd-speak: I am coming to the conclusion that I am an extremely negative person. I am only recently learning how that affects me and my relationships with others, specifically this relationship I’m about to enter called “marriage.”

Attitude is extremely important. It can make or break you and your spouse. Your circumstances will only bring you down if you let them bring you down. We are all basically positive or basically negative people.

I am currently reading Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before — and After — You Marry by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. One story in the book involves Les (the husband) feeling extremely negative toward their neighbors. They and their neighbors shared some traits. For example, they were all in grad school, all of them were living in the same apartment building, and they were both newly-wed couples. They were basically the same except that their neighbor couple seemed to get all the breaks. Nice car, nice clothes because of discounts, job opportunities, everything just seemed to fall into place for them. So Les (husband) got extremely negative about his own circumstances, and this caused him to become irritable with his wife. Every little thing she did would annoy him. Or rather, to paraphrase his own words, he allowed it to annoy him. Then the answer came to him in a statistics class (see, it can be good for something other than torturing students). He was frustrated even with his computer when his teacher asked what was wrong. The resulting conversation led to this:

[A] computer takes an iota of data and gives it a positive…or negative electrical impulse and stores it. After that, the computer simply recalls the information from its memory and combines it in new ways. Then he said, ‘It basically works like a human brain…Our brains are programmed much like a computer. Just before we put any sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, or intuition into our mental computers, we stamp it ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ Then we store the sensation in our brains, and it permanently stays there. That’s why you can’t always remember a person’s name, but you can always remember how you felt about them…Unlike computers, however, humans develop a habit of programming their minds to be either mostly negative or mostly positive.

Upon doing the exercise for this part of the book, which included writing down your “self-talk” (the way you talk about yourself), I realized that much of the way that I perceive things is negative. Some of my top bad-mood-putter-inners were:

  1. Not being on time, or when someone else is late.
  2. People around me being nasty to each other or to me.
  3. Envying what others have when it is something that I cannot seem to obtain (I’m the big green monster, it turns out).

These are all huge problems for me. As I thought about it, I realized that I also become negative and moody and mean toward TJ (my fiancee) when I am in these funks. It’s really not because of anything he’s doing. It’s that I’m allowing what he is doing to annoy or upset me because of these negative feelings that I am harboring over issues that probably have nothing to do with him at all. So you can see, I’m sure, how in the long run this could break down a marriage if it’s not addressed.

So the next part of the exercise was to write down what you are telling yourself that makes you feel so terrible. I said:

  1. “I deserve their punctuality/People will think badly of me if I’m late.”
  2. “What did I do to them to deserve that meanness?”
  3. “They get everything. I can’t have anything. Why am I so unlucky? I must be a loser.”

This is where I started seeing the negativity I’ve been feeding myself… I used to think that I was an incredibly positive person, but that just shows the separate issue of an inflated ego. I totally thought I was more positive than all y’all. So the next part was to write down three alternative statements that would not lead to feeling so bad.

  1. “People are late sometimes. Nobody is perfect. It will not make a difference in the grand scheme of things.”
  2. “They don’t owe me a good attitude. I am not entitled to their kindness. Be kind to them anyway.”
  3. “I am incredibly blessed to have what I do. God is all I need, and He always provides.”

So basically, the point is that we have a choice in whether or not we are happily married. It’s not something that just happens, or whatever. It’s something that we actually have to choose and work for. By the grace of God, we can do it. There will be days when we screw up and start telling ourselves that “I’d be happier if…” but that’s a lie. Our happiness does not come from our circumstances. Bad things happen and we may have sad or depressing seasons, but ultimately our overall attitudes are up to us.

I would strongly encourage you to try this exercise. Write down three situations that get you all grumped-up. Then write down what you are typically telling yourself when you’re in those situations that feeds the grumpiness. Then write down your own 3 alternative statements to help turn around the terrible feelings. Then start talking to yourself that way. Feel free to share. What were your situations, thoughts, and alternative statements? Are you a basically negative person, or a basically positive person? Could you stand to lose an electron? 😉

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Singleness and stuff…

1 Cor. 7: Singleness according to the Bible = a blessing. According to the world, it’s a curse. However, the world also demonizes marriage, which is also referred to over and over again as a blessing. The world doesn’t think of the opposite of “singleness” as being “marriage.” Rather, the opposite of singleness for the world, is “in a relationship that is potentially going nowhere because the idea of marriage scares me, but I can sleep with this person (use them for sex), so who cares?”

Almost everybody in society is scared of being “forever alone,” but at the same time almost nobody wants to be “forever together.” At least, not with one person, and not with a ring on their finger to actually, you know, show everybody that they’re committed. Because “I don’t need a ring.” So…what you’re saying is, “I’m afraid to commit.” Okay, dude.

Our world is so hypocritical: “Be in as many relationships as you possibly can before you get married, because once you’re married you won’t be able to sleep with or kiss countless people. This clearly shows your dedication to your spouse, because you got all of that out of your system before you married them. Marriage ties you down, and who wants that anyway? Also, you have the option of never marrying but staying with one person, because for some reason the ability to walk out whenever you want on a person that you ‘love’ is appealing even though you’re ‘committed.'” I’m pretty sure that what “ties us down” is slavery to our sinful nature so-called romance. But the world won’t tell you that.

If, as a Christian, you are seeking affirmation, happiness, and fulfillment in a boy or girl, you will never feel affirmed, never be truly happy, and you will never be fulfilled, because you are in bondage to something that is not Jesus Christ. Only He can give you what you’re craving. All relationships are to honor Him, including marriage.

And think about this: If Jesus uses marriage to illustrate His relationship with His church, then marriage itself must be very important to Jesus if He went and died for His church in order to even have said relationship with them. He doesn’t describe the church as either his bride OR “a cohabitating person that never marries me.” No, he describes it as a marriage. And a marriage that is forever, at that.

P.S. Thanks, Matt Moore, for the inspiration.

My thoughts on marriage and what I’ve learned about it.

First, I’d like to say: please don’t think you can’t read this if you’re single or something. I love you, too! That said, recently, I’ve been binging (bingeing? Oh, well) on marriage stuff, ever since Revolution Church kicked off our relatively short marriage series, Man vs. Wife. You can listen to what a woman is called to be here, and what a man is called to be here.

Not only am I listening to the sermons at my own church, but I am also listening to Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage series. As with 60% of the population, I come from a broken home, because my parents had a broken marriage. Literally, it split them up. So, suffice to say that I have never really had biblical roles in marriage played out for me. I never realized how much that affected my view of God until my pastor, Josh, began preaching about what we are called to be as men and women who are following Christ. And then it was this amazing, “Aha!” moment of, “That’s what that is supposed to look like! That’s what God’s love for me looks like! That’s what I’m supposed to be! That’s who I am in Jesus!” and much more.

So here goes a bullet list of my thoughts and what I’ve learned from all of this (some of it will be my notes on it):

  • First of all, married people are broken people. They are not sinless. Marriage does not fix all of your problems. In fact, it may (actually it will) make them worse. When two broken people enter into a marriage covenant, their brokenness is infinitely multiplied. A marriage is made up of two really good  forgivers. Not two people who always get it right and “just go together.”
  • Something that I did not realize until recently (and even once I did realize it, I had no clue what it looked like) is that marriage is a picture of the gospel.
  • This is why Satan attacks marriages. He does not want to the world to see Christ through us, he wants the world to see a broken image of broken homes and broken people, and never get to seeing the redemptive power of Jesus through that brokenness. Because when people see Jesus’ redemptive power, they get saved.
  • Satan knows that if he can destroy a marriage, especially a Christian marriage, he can affect entire generations. He can have your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren.
  • Most of us have personal pain caused by a broken marriage. Either our own marriage, or our parents’ marriage, maybe even our grandparents’ marriage, or someone else who’s close to us.
  • Satan is going to attack your marriage. We need to be prepared, not just theologically or biblically, but practically. We can have the best theological knowledge about marriage in the entire world, but if we never prepare practically, we are doomed to fall.
  • “The deepest intimacy of all is spiritual intimacy. And if you don’t build your relationship on spiritual intimacy, invariably, it will fail.” -Mark Driscoll
  • Something else I didn’t fully realize until recently: leaving your father and mother when you get married means leave your father and mother. You detach. You’re on your own. Do not involve your extended family in the issues of your immediate family (i.e. your spouse and children). Their schedule, their finances, do not become entangled in yours.
  • The order of these four things will make or break your marriage. The order is: 1) Your friendship with Jesus Christ, 2) your friendship with your spouse, 3) your friendship with your kids, and 4) your job (both as a provider and as a father, or your job as a mother to your children). When you get an inversion in these things, you will fall, or already have fallen.
  • Want to defeat Satan in your marriage? You do it with the blood of the Lamb.
  • There is a difference between a testimony and a biography. In a biography, we’re the hero. It’s all about, “I did this and this, and now I’m happy.” A testimony means that Jesus Christ is the hero. It’s all about, “I was lost, but now I’m found, and Jesus is amazing for redeeming me, regardless of whether or not I’m happier now than I was before.”
  • Our marriage should be a testimony, not a biography.
  • Our testimonies can never be, “Jesus went to the cross and died for sinners.”
  • Our testimony has to be: “Jesus went to the cross and died for my sins, and here they are, and the blood of the Lamb was literally shed in my place, for my transgressions, to remove my shame, to cleanse my sin, and remove my filth, so that I would have a testimony.”
  • This is because if we say that Jesus died for sins, but we never talk about our sin, then it’s because, deep down, we don’t believe Jesus died for US. And we don’t really believe that his resurrection is the hope for our life (either our own, or our life with our spouse).
  • If Jesus changes you, and Jesus changes your spouse, you can  have a new marriage with the old spouse. You do not need a new spouse, you need to be a new spouse. Judge yourself first, not just your spouse.

There’s a lot more I’ve learned, and I may post more later. But that pretty much sums up what I think are some of the major points.