Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Marriages of all shapes, varieties, and forms sprinkle the societal landscape, including those set up from day one as forlorn, particularly from the aspect of hindsight. Many marriages are borne of a poor pedigree, notably within unequal yoking, and struggle from their inception. From tiresome early days such marriages may never reach maturity, whilst others that do can be impinged by a season where unequal yoking, again, becomes an issue.
Firstly, let’s find a biblical reference point:
“It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.”
~1 Corinthians 7:15b-16 (NRSV)
In the Apostle Paul’s harmonising treatise on marriage (all of 1 Corinthians 7) his intent is to make the best communal advantage of marriage. Marriage, as people choose, should be a blessing for those married. Likewise, marriage will be a distraction from the central focus of things holy, but this, as Paul mentions in verses 32-35, is every bit permissible. Paul is, here, building upon the premise that “all things are yours” (3:21), meaning that whether we find ourselves married or not we’re free. If we’re married, our marriages should receive our fullest commitment and focus.
That freedom, when we’re married, is intended to extend to peace for both parties in the marriage, for the marriage takes precedence over devout things.
Using the Corinthian context, where they became overly pious, neglecting their marriages, we that find ourselves married cannot go back on that covenant to present ourselves to the Lord as wholly devoted to the exclusion of our marriages.
In the simplest possible terms, though God may be first priority, God’s expectation of us as Christians is to make our love practical, first and foremost, within marriage; for, by our marriages we’re otherwise known. By our marriages all of life is further connected. By our marriages we glorify God (or not).
A Practical Case Of Spiritual Misdirection
Many believers have put God before their marriages and, in attending to their spiritual development, have neglected their partners. In such circumstances a love for God has outstripped and negated the covenant love that God has, initially and eternally, willed. The love that the believer’s partner should receive is diverted to direct loving devotion for God; hence, the partner misses out. This cannot be God’s will. Paul is best interpreted supporting devotedness to marriage over devoted piousness for married people in 1 Corinthians 7.
We can well imagine a polarising illustration. A believing wife is married to a non-believing husband, however unequal the yoking was initially or not. If the wife was to become zealous for God she might exasperate her husband who receives less love and recognition than ever. The wife is clearly to love her husband better, not worse. The opposite applies; the believing husband with his non-believing wife. The believer is to facilitate a positive perception of God, as far as that’s possible, in their non-believing partner.
A Godly Image Of Unequal Yoking Made Equal
I recall a woman in her early 30s, a believer, with a non-believing husband. This woman and her two young children went to church and she was actively engaged in ministry. Her husband was, to say the least, negative about faith. No amount of her conniving and spiritual matchmaking would convert him. Evidence of these things would only anger him.
But, upon reaching a mature acceptance within herself, she decided to back off and simply focus on being the best wife a woman could be—to be as Christlike as possible. Now it doesn’t always or even often occur, but a few years afterward this woman’s husband began to gently explore his spirituality; from there attendance at church; and from there, baptism. The last I heard, he had become a deacon.
There are, without doubt, stories of the reverse; where believing husbands have ‘led’ their non-believing wives to the Lord.
These cases occur without browbeating; growth toward God occurs only in the absence of pressure.
The broadest lesson is that marriage comes before piousness. It does not glorify God for the believing partner to be a ‘first-class Christian’ but a second-class husband or wife. A married Christian’s obedience must be visible in the marriage first and foremost. That, and not a misdirected devotion to God, is how God will be obeyed in marital context.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Monday, March 26, 2012
A basic requirement in the formation and maintenance of a human being is to feel accepted. Within our world, though, there are many more affirmations of rejection that threaten the balance we need in becoming and staying psychologically healthy.
As we reflect over our present lives, thinking about the different relationships we have, and the amount of those that affirm us as acceptable versus those where we find ourselves rejected, we might note an important correlation. We may have a lot of our self-worth attached to how others receive us.
And as we change our focus toward our acceptance and rejection of others we find our influence is actually more powerful than we think. Our actions and words speak loudly.
The Lack Of Care In Rejection
It might be surprising to become aware of the many subtle rejections we’re involved in, simply by reflecting over the numerous rejections we might, personally, be affected by. Not that others feel rejected the same way that we do, for we’re all different.
It’s not the things we get or don’t get from people that have us feeling rejected; it’s the motive behind their words and actions; it’s what’s hidden, generally, that’s the problem. This is easily illustrated in the maintenance of boundaries. We wouldn’t feel so rejected by somebody if they simply enforced a boundary; when they’re clear about it. When people are honest, and they care about how we receive the communication, there’s very little felt rejection. It’s because things have been explained.
We can afford to maintain safe boundaries, and retain our vital ownership, whenever we’re prepared to be authentic and loving. Maintaining boundaries in an authentic and loving sense converts the attribution of our behaviour from that of rejection to that of acceptance. We don’t have to feel guilty because they understand.
Being A Happy Accepter
We can’t be happy in our acceptance people if we’re submitting to them all the time; by way of giving them what they want every time. That would be transgressing our precious God-blessed boundaries.
But being an accepter of people, by way of our interaction, happily at ease, isn’t hard if we maintain safe carriage of our boundaries whilst committing to a courageous discharge of authenticity and care. Their psychological wellbeing is as important as ours is. When we believe this as a core value we have the capacity to be an accepter and not a rejecter. Our relationships blossom and trust is built.
The biggest favour we can do for others is to accept them with unconditional authenticity and care. We achieve love when we do nothing else. We don’t need to give people the world; just to care enough to give them our true selves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
~Ephesians 4:15-16 (NRSV).
Abundant strength in all departments, any good team has few (if any) weak links. It is not a complement of stars, but a star complement.
The giver of gifts—the Father of Lights (James 1:17)—has apportioned gifting for each one in the Body of Christ: an entity for the glorification of God here on earth and the worship of God in heaven. Those individual gifts must complement the overall sortie-of-grace or God isn’t glorified and the mission of the Church is diminished.
Awkwardness of Maintaining a Functioning Body
The older I get the more I realise the aches and pains of the physical body, though my lower back was much worse twenty years ago than it is now.
Notwithstanding, we injure ourselves and deal with niggles all the time. If it’s not a sore neck then we have a digestive problem, or we’re depressed, or we have limited use of another part of our bodies. It can seem a massive task just getting the body to the starting line at times.
At any one time there is at least one thing wrong with my body; no sooner do I ‘welcome’ the newest ailment, the old one gone I’m thankful for, praying it won’t revisit me.
In much the same way issues and contentions mount up against the Body of Christ. Links of any chain come under surprising sudden strain. They contend against the body’s maturity.
The Body’s Growth to/in Maturity
Just like the physical body—which is governed in certain ways by the mind (beyond external limitations)—the Body of Christ is governed by the Spirit of God.
The purpose of both bodies is to function—efficiently and with effect.
Through the select and grace-apportioned use of gifts, the Body of Christ is honed and hopefully poised to glorify God here on earth to the very heights of the will of God. Per the physical body setting itself to run life’s race, everything is prepared and all risks are to be mitigated. Both are wisdom activities... like running in machine-like unison.
Maturity is the hope for the realisation of optimisation. In other words, when life turns real we want a body fit for duty—one that can attend to both the diversity of the task (using all the body parts or gifts required) and task specifics.
The body serves us (and the Body, the Lord) and not the other way around. Additionally, the individual body part serves the overall body, and the disciple with their gift serves the Body of Christ, not the other way around. But there are also times when the larger part (the body/Body) ministers to the smaller as a parent helps a child.
Speaking the truth in love is the very manifestation of the mature Body’s modus operandi. It’s a key sign that the Body is fit for the task God gives it.
It is most important that the Church attains and maintains the fullness of Christ these very ways. Each of us has a key role; to exercise our gifts and our overall way, maturely.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Three words mean so much for our civilisation—for men to be manly enough to respect the women around them; their wives, mothers, sisters and co-workers, particularly.
Yet, gutless, fearful men cannot bring themselves to respect women. Their abuse and neglect of women spurns from a pitiful lack within them, as they strive for their self-esteem through the folly of macho ends.
Perhaps as a father of three daughters, and being at times a very flawed husband, I will identify myself as a man who’s struggled to appropriately respect the women in my life. The failure of my first marriage taught me much about the importance of men respecting women. I’ve learned first-hand that treating women like one of the guys, or without the appropriate care, can be a big mistake. Not that I would’ve been described as anything abnormal so far as husbands are concerned. That’s the point. Men very often don’t get it. We must rise above ourselves to achieve a level of respect that God requires when it comes to women.
A mature man is one who knows how to treat a woman.
Women – The ‘Holier’ Of Human Creatures
What might sound ridiculous is, in my opinion, nevertheless true. Women might only be insensitive and uncouth when they’ve been exposed, even dominated, by the male culture around them. It may have been a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’.
Women, generally speaking, are much more principled than men are, and perhaps men have the additional pressure of the macho persona to uphold.
As I write that women are holier of the human creatures, I necessarily check myself. Is this true? Are women, generally speaking, further from tests and temptations than men are? Perhaps not entirely, but a woman’s test and temptation seems fundamentally different and more subtle than a man’s. They’re the gentler gender. Care is more their aim than it is a man’s. And without being seared beyond recognition, their consciences seem more able to be right-sized and redeemed. They’re also truer, more often than not, regarding the reality of their emotions than men are.
A Task Big Enough For A Man
Men must understand that women need to be treated like human beings and not treated as if they can be owned, utilised or used. Men can’t treat women like they often treat other men, not that other men should be treated anything less than human beings either.
The task big enough for a real man is to be sensitive enough to the needs of the moment, trying to sense and intuit how to treat the women in their midst. This is not about treating them any better than anyone else; but it’s about treating them as we would wish—if we were women—to be treated.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
If we ever wish to experience a miracle of God’s grace it’s easily manufactured. Nothing is more miraculous than the toleration of a transgression—especially in our dog-eat-dog world.
Very few people expect the extension of grace toward them, and much less when they’re in the mode of attack against us—which is so often a fear response.
As we take these fear responses—the attacks upon our mind, body and soul—and allow them to hang without counter-attack, we, by God’s miraculous grace, convert them into testimonies for later unification. Truth be told, most people are gobsmacked to find there’s no counter-attack. And their responses are strange. Our response of tolerating their fear-based attack often gives them something to reflect on. And our observation of this gives us something to think on, too.
Experiences Of Toleration Teach Us
Toleration within attack is a comparatively rare response. We hardly think in the spur of the moment to do nothing, and let our response hang upon further enquiry. So, just the fact of not responding is a miracle of itself. Yet, at one level, could there be anything easier than doing nothing? But to resist an attack by counter-attack is our unfortunate general default—a thing to unlearn.
We can learn a better way. Even just one experience of not counter-attacking can teach us so much about human nature, and about the power of wresting control by doing nothing.
We see, here, that when we resist the counter-attack, absorbing their hurts toward us, and not even counter-attacking within our minds, we’ve facilitated room for the Lord to embellish grace in the space between them and us. A godly power is made known. The agenda for aggression is converted in an instant to an agenda for reflection and the possibility for harmony.
When There’s No War At All
It’s only the enemy that wants us to think the world is full of conflict. We’re only affected negatively by conflict in our world when we live it. Otherwise, observations of conflict intuit a perspective of empathy within us. And we see so much more, including many threads of humanity, than conflict.
And there ought to be empathy present in situations where conflict abounds, for many people do not know why they fight, why they experience aggression, or why they hate. Only the love of Christ brings forth the truth in unobtrusive and bounteous ways. Only where love is presented in an entirely uncompetitive context will people see it for what it is—a cosmic game-changer.
A vital truth is this: the war, if ever there was one, exists more between our ears and between our minds and hearts than anywhere else. When we win the victory over ourselves, and over our climbing will to attack and counter-attack, we may understand that attacking behaviour comes, mostly, from disharmony within.
The power of love defeats the power of attack. When we tolerate transgressions miraculous things can occur. The space between us and them is transformed; aggression makes way for reflection. Many incalculable things of miraculous grace occur within toleration.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
As always, there should be, on this subject, a caveat: where the constancy of abuse or neglect is apparent, toleration may serve no good purpose.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I heard a story once of a girl who, upon kissing her father goodbye at the airport, would each morning thereafter put on his last-worn shirt as she ate her breakfast. It was worn for a mix of pride, the longing for her dad, and as a visible prayer for his safety and safe return. And to those close enough to her, the knowledge of this practice was okay. But if it was to be revealed to others not so close, or in circumstances she couldn’t control, a vital breach of privacy would occur. She may feel exposed to being mocked. Then upon such an experience would be embarrassment; an uncontrolled exposure leading to feelings of shame.
Not that such love—the wearing of her father’s shirt—ought to reasonably produce such shame, but that is the nature of privacy. We only open up when it’s safe to do so.
For everyone, there’s a vital freedom in privacy.
Owning Many Sorts Of Embarrassment
The story of the girl above is a story close to the heart of every one of us. We each have ‘secrets’ highlighting places of our identities we make known to only a few; only a few get the gate pass into discreet corners of our hearts. When it comes to children, access to such otherwise hidden places are cherished, indeed. We don’t trample them.
A feature of our humanity is we open our hearts. Exposures producing embarrassment are bound to occur because we trust, and that trust isn’t always founded soundly.
These exposures of the soul’s secrets, elucidating the way we think and feel, that we may even struggle with, only prove embarrassing when they occur beyond our control. In the case of a child, he or she chooses to open his or her world by divulging inner information. We do the same. We choose who we’ll trust with what information. Our privacy is a controlled environment, and it’s only us who has the key. But our secrets of privacy are not bad secrets at all. They’re actually good things that we keep hidden with our discernment.
This is why, even though we’re embarrassed by uncontrolled exposures of our privacy, we shouldn’t feel shame at all, but, of course, we do.
There is an important twofold lesson in this regarding the emotion of shame. Firstly, whilst we shouldn’t feel shamed we often do, and this creates many other cascading anxieties. Secondly, the shame and embarrassment within uncontrolled exposure is inevitable, yet it’s not embarrassment because we’re wrong—though, somehow, we may feel it’s wrong.
The challenge, if we’re big enough, is to ‘own’ many sorts of embarrassment so that they wouldn’t damage us, like they may have damaged us as children upon uncontrolled exposure. Owning the rights to our privacy, and protecting same, is a vital freedom of self-respect.
Accepting that we own our rights of privacy is the hallmark of our humanity. We carefully select those we trust. And embarrassment for breaches of our privacy is an appropriate feeling. Privacy is a vital freedom we should, always, hope to respect.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
There’s a time and a circumstance where we’re despised for something we’ve done or didn’t do; blame is vested toward us and the disgust of which it comes is poignant and incessant, for the season it lasts.
Perhaps we’ve had our turn at it. Someone has turned us inside out upon ourselves, and we couldn’t bear the thought of them being happy. We wanted them to get their just desserts—for things to end badly for them.
What we have here are thoughts and, certainly, deeds of hate, for wherever there’s a thought a deed is later, more often than not, actioned. We don’t have to think too far to imagine an example from our experience; examples from either side of the ledger.
The Stimulus For Hatred
Endless would be the list that proffers us toward feelings of hatred. These feelings come from deep within and cannot always be explained.
From deep within, and often several levels deeper than our conscious understanding, exists the nerve that’s piqued by given situations—for simplicity, let’s call it the hatred nerve—and we (or they) get instinctually angry and either withdraw or attack.
So often the stimulus that jangles this hatred nerve is either unacknowledged or unexplored. Either we (or they) aren’t aware or don’t understand why we get angry or we (or they) fuel the anger, justifying it as okay.
But either allowing hatred to fester or actually fuelling it is counter-productive. It never achieves for us (or them) what we (or they) set out to achieve. The demise of the hated rarely occurs. Indeed, successes are now more likely to be noticed by the hater as envy commences in full swing.
The Reason Hatred Never Works
Many people know this already, but the world works on love, on caring, on responsibility toward those ends, and in reciprocity. This is the Divine order, whether we like it or not. God has created life this way and loving action works harmoniously, whereas hating action divides, even—at its foremost—the self.
Those that hate end up despising themselves (below their awareness) and the more they refuse to acknowledge the truth the more they’re confounded by themselves; their end is never good. If it’s not resolved, they just get angrier.
Even worse is this fact: those in the position of hating will, by their thoughts and actions, twist others around them within their poisonous web. Now others are forced to choose between lies and the harder-to-see truth. And if the hater holds any influence, others will believe the lies and their lives will be compromised as a result.
Hating doesn’t just affect the hater, but it spirals off affecting others’ lives too. It can never end well for those who believe in lies.
Hating goes against the grain of life and becomes a curse to the hater and those who love the hater most. It rarely affects the person hated as much. Hating simply doesn’t work.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.