12.19.2014

We will never have a perfect marriage - but we can try!

Last night Dennis and I sat together with our laptops while he worked and I listened to praise music. A comment here, a question there ... both of us relaxed and comfortable. It was WONderful.
And I'm sure that sounds odd, strange, or even lame. Computers + work = good? Um ... Michelle?

Okay, here's the deal. It was not what we were DOING that was good ... it was US that was good.

And "good" is not an adjective either of us would use to describe our past month as husband and wife. One or both of us have been irritable, short, unkind with our words and tone of voice, impatient, lacking sensitivity and compassion, not seeking to understand the other, inattentive, dismissive, selfish, and rude. Don't you wish YOU were married to one of us? <she says with thickly dripping sarcasm and a roll of the eyes>

It was a bad month.
Neither of us happy.
Neither one content.
Both keeping lists of offenses and grievances.
Neither one enjoying the other.
Both wishing the other would change.
Mutual encouragement and support? Um, no.
Both of us hating every minute of it but refusing to be the one to surrender first.

When you are first married you receive much grace. You are both clueless, ignorant, blind, and inexperienced as a spouse. And why wouldn't you be? You've never done this before! You HAVE to fight through the unknown pitfalls that come with living with another sinner day after day because there is no other way to do it. Experience is a great teacher.
After a while, you start to figure things out - cause and effect if you will - and you begin to do things differently. A long list of "Note to Self" items are collected, and you eventually learn how to love, respect, encourage, and challenge your spouse the way he/she needs to be loved. Your desire to meet your own needs begins to diminish as the desire to meet the needs of your spouse increases.
It is a beautiful thing.
It is a necessary thing.
It is a biblical thing.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
We are newlyweds no longer. "I didn't know" just doesn't cut it anymore. We DO know. And we are accountable.

We love each other.
We respect and cherish each other.
Enjoy each other.
We cannot imagine sharing life with anyone else.
We raise children together.
Serve in ministry together.
Walk through trials and hurts and pain, together.

But there is this pesky little thing called sin that continues to cling to us as the months and years of marriage roll by. Within the mutual love and affection, pleasure and joy of living and serving together, selfishness is always lurking nearby, waiting for the chance to show itself. And sadly, his opportunities are frequent.

Giving up self.
Thinking of another first.
Sacrificing.
Serving without expectations.
Loving unconditionally.
Encouraging consistently.
Not keeping a record of wrongs.
Forgiving.
Accepting.

All of these are a CHOICE.
Regardless of how the other person is acting, behaving, or speaking.
I get to choose whether I will love, honor, and serve my husband ...
or if I will serve - myself.

Dennis and I both chose to serve self for almost a month.
And because we chose poorly, we suffered the consequences of that choice.
Disappointment, lack of affection, annoyance, frustration, and apathy.
Not the fruits the Lord intended a husband and wife to enjoy when He designed marriage!

We will never have a perfect marriage.
But we can certainly make a better practice of perfection by intentionally choosing to outdo one another in showing honor.
In the little things.
In the big things.
In the everyday and the mundane.

Because the truth is, when Dennis and I love, serve, respect, and submit to one another - we are loving, serving, respecting, and submitting to the Lord.
And above everything else - even our selfishness and pride - that is EXACTLY what we want to do!
Honor the Lord.
In our marriage.
In our parenting.
In all things.

Oh, Lord, please continue changing us from the inside out!
Our greatest desire is to look like You.
May we be found faithful!

12.01.2014

No one needs a perfect friend - they just need an authentic one.

Every year the Lord sends me into a deep and thorough internal search.
It is always good, but it is not always pretty.
I love that I am not the same woman I was five years ago, but I still have much work to do!
And in order to grow, I must be willing to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly ~ no matter how uncomfortable ~ and see where I resemble Christ, and where I still look way too much like Michelle.
During this recent time of introspection, the Lord had me walk through my role as a friend.
And I came up with some questions.
I started with Dennis, then sent them to another friend, and will continue to do so as the Lord directs.

There is always a bit of risk in questions like these because each person perceives and defines things differently.
For instance, I ask if they feel pursued by me.
While I may pursue a friend once a week, she needs/wants me to do so three times a week, so she would respond that I do not meet this need and I fail her in this area.
Therefore, a discussion about current expectations (met and unmet), and adjusting them to reflect realistic and mutually-satisfying expectations becomes a priority.

I think one of the hardest parts of friendship, or any relationship, is the continual need for examination and conversation about expectations. We all have them. We all describe and define them differently. And it is absolutely impossible for anyone to meet all of them consistently and intentionally day after day.
We are flawed, forgetful, selfish people.
Though we desire to think of one another above ourselves, and seek to meet each other's needs, we will blow it. Either unwittingly or simply because in that moment we just don't care about anyone but ourselves.
Relationships endure hardships.
Misunderstandings.
Conflicts.
Offenses and hurts.
But that is when Christ steps in and says, "Confess your sins one to another, and forgive one another just as I have forgiven you."
It is awkward, embarrassing, and sometimes humiliating.
But when we do it, we are walking in obedience.

I am not a perfect friend. I am not a perfect anything. And it is because of this truth that I am willing to hear the hard and painful answers.
A real friend ~ a Biblical friend ~ will tell me what I need to hear, even if it is awkward to do so.
The wounds of a friend are faithful. And once the sting wears off from the initial blow, growth happens. Maturity happens. Sanctification is at work. And more of those rough edges are smoothed out  ~ and made beautiful.
I will never be a perfect friend because I cannot be all things to all people all the time.
I will hurt, offend, and disappoint. More than once. Even when I am not trying to.
But I cannot declare myself a 'failure' and avoid the human race. Instead, I need to confess, apologize, seek forgiveness, and then start fresh ... forgetting what lies behind and pressing on to what lies ahead.

This time of looking at myself from the inside out was challenging, profitable, difficult, and encouraging.
It is good to see that I have not been stagnant, but the Lord brought to light the things that need attention and care.

My friends do not need a 'perfect Michelle.'
They need a real, vulnerable, humble, sincere, and Spirit-filled Michelle.
And the only way they will ever have her is if she is seeking so hard after God they have to find HIM, to get to her.

Lord, may this be true of me!
Thank You for this time of reflection and taking a hard look inside. It was necessary ... and it was good.
Never stop showing me where I can grow, Lord! It is not always easy, and sometimes I fight You, but it IS what I want because in order to look more like You, I have to remove more of me.

                                         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A "What kind of friend am I?" Survey

~ If you had to describe me in 5 words or less, which words would you choose?
~ How would you describe me specifically in the role of a friend?
~ Am I a Biblical friend?
~ What do you consider my greatest weakness(es)?
~ When we talk, are my faith, my biblical convictions, and my love for the Lord evident, or are they difficult to see?
~ Do you feel encouraged and refreshed after spending time with me, or do you leave feeling like I am inattentive and self-focused?
~ Am I a good listener?
~ Am I quick to bear your burdens, or do you feel I neglect your hurts and cares?
~ Am I faithful to follow up after you share something vulnerable and personal with me?
~ Do I push hard enough when you need correction/rebuke?
~ Am I tender and gentle when you need a safe place to be broken and hurting?
~ Are you confident in my love and friendship, or do you doubt my commitment to you?
~ Do I pursue you?
~ Do I encourage you in your walk with the Lord?
~ Do I encourage you in any area of life?
~ Do I ask questions that matter?
~ Do you trust me?