All About Families
Home Page
Previous Issues
Subscribe
Message Board
Volume 2 Number 38       October 13, 1997       Norman Bales, Editor

CONTENTS

JUST VISITING - - A CHANGE IN OUR MINISTRY

On Sunday, October 5, I notified the church in Minden, Louisiana, where I have served for the last five years, that I have accepted an invitation to become "Minister to Families" at the Southern Hills church in Shreveport. Actually, Ann and I will work together as a team in this role.

Over the past few years, we have felt like the Lord has been leading us more and more in the direction of helping families. We went through a terrible marriage crisis more than twenty years ago. We learned valuable lessons the hard way and we want to pass along some of the things we've learned as a means of helping others.

Several years ago, I conducted a marriage workshop on a secular college campus in Iowa and I became convinced that America's families are hurting and many people will listen to us if we will address their pain. In the succeeding years, we have encouraged family betterment in a number of different ways through our radio broadcasts, our newspaper column, classes and sermons on family concerns and the All About Families e-mail newsletter which goes out to nearly 2,000 people. Our website received about 9,000 "hits" in September. More recently we have developed the Mending a Messed Up Marriage seminar which has been enthusiastically received.

When Southern Hills offered us the opportunity to make All About Families a full time "hands on" ministry, we felt like it was a door the Lord had opened. In addition to the email and website ministries and the seminars, we will be developing outreach programs, support groups, publications, scheduling special events and many other family related activities. We are scheduled to begin our work at Southern Hills on December 1. We will continue the newsletter and the AAF website. The domain will change within the next few weeks and we may add some new features to the site, but you will be able to access all our past issues just as you have in the past.

Norman

MARRIAGE IS NOT FIFTY-FIFTY

by Norman Bales

According to conventional wisdom, marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition. If each married partner will meet the other partner half way, a couple can expect to put together a satisfying relationship. It sounds good in theory, but the "meet-you-half-way" proposal is really a "half-baked" idea.

When you stop to think about it, numerous circumstances in domestic living render the "fifty-fifty" concept impractical. Like most married couples, Ann and I take on different responsibilities around the house. I carry the dirty clothes to the laundry room; she launders them. She prepares the meals; I clean up the mess. I'm not a bean counter by nature, so I don't know if the work load evens itself out or not. I do know that occasions arise when both of us have to do things that normally don't fall into our usual areas of responsibility. If we worry to much about load leveling, we'll wind up in frustration.

As I write these words, Ann is out of town. If I want to eat, I have two options

(1) prepare meals myself

(2) visit a local fast food establishment.

She can't give her fifty right now. Perhaps, she could have left some pre-cooked meals that I would only need to pop in the oven, but then she would have been going beyond her "fifty." We would then have to figure out which additional tasks I need to perform in order to level the load. Besides that, the process of normal living imposes many situations which make it impossible for one spouse to meet the other half way - business trips, illnesses and crises of various sorts.

The real problem with fifty-fifty becomes apparent when our self absorption is exposed. We really can't deny our self centeredness. It rears its ugly head in domestic situations almost every day. Because of selfishness, we worry more about whether we're getting everything we're supposed to get out of the relationship than we do about what we're supposed to be giving. Given our egocentric mindsets, we almost never agree on how much fifty percent is supposed to be. I've never met an accountant sharp enough to quantify relationship expectations.

From a Biblical standpoint, human relationships are based on the servanthood mentality. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he took the lead in serving. Significantly, John prefaced the story by saying, "Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." (John 13:1). After having ministered to their needs in a self denying manner he said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (verse 15). In the fifty-fifty arrangement, the emphasis is on getting love. In the example of Jesus, the emphasis is on giving the full extent of love. That's the only basis on which a satisfying marriage relationship can thrive.

*******

IF I WERE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT, I WOULD


.... THE CHRIST-CENTERED WIFE


FORGIVENESS: TWO PLUS TWO DOES NOT EQUAL FOUR


by Mikal Frazier

He drew a circle that shut me out --- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had a wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in. (Edwin Markham)

"Mamma, listen to this," spoke the familiar voice of my youngest. In her freshman year at Abilene Christian University, she was eager to share with me a statement spoken by her professor. "When your marriage goes to the dogs, you've got it made," she said quoting Willard Tate, a professor in the Department of Communication. Anna went on to explain to me the comparison her professor had drawn using the instant forgiveness a dog gives to his owner. Tate, author of several books on loving relationships, states in Learning to Love, "I'm saying that a lack of forgiveness is the only thing that will ultimately separate a husband and wife and destroy a marriage." Wow, just think if we could be as willing as the canine species to mend relationships!

DESTRUCTIVE ENTITLEMENT

Dr. Terry Hargrave in a book entitled, Families and Forgiveness: Healing Wounds in the Intergenerational Family, gives an apt description of the pain which exists in relationships when forgiveness is needed. He describes a balance of give and take which, over time, produces a sense of trustworthiness in a relationship. An imbalance in the give-and-take is created when destructive behaviors are committed against one member of the relationship by the other member of the relationship. In turn, these destructive behaviors will cause trust to decline gradually or be totally destroyed in one fell swoop, depending on the severity of the behavior and the length of time it occurs.

Dr. Hargrave goes on to explain that we each have within us an innate sense of justice. When an imbalance in the relational give-and-take becomes severe, "trust is drained, and the members of the relationship feel that their just entitlement is threatened. It is the innate sense of justice that sets individuals in the relationship on this self-justifying effort toward securing compensation for their just entitlement." Hargrave quotes Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy as referring to "this violent pursuit of one's entitlement as 'destructive entitlement.'" Hargrave states, "It is this destructive entitlement that is at the very root of family pain and hurt."

THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness is the only solution for healing such relationship or family pain. If such healing does not occur, the pain will continue, becoming more destructive with time, and will be passed on to succeeding generations, with greater intensity. So how do we go about the work of forgiving? Our first work is on ourselves. Our feelings are born of our belief systems and we must go to work to change our belief systems.

First and foremost, as I have discussed before, we must remember that we are not entitled. As slaves to Jesus Christ, we have no entitlements here. Therefore, if a sense of entitlement is at the core of this human pain, we must rid ourselves of such a belief in entitlement, and place our sights on the One who is entitled. We must remind ourselves that our entitlement would be death were it not for Jesus who redeemed us.

Secondly, we must remember that we are all sinners, and are in need of forgiveness just as much as anyone who has wronged us. From time to time some really horrendous acts of violence are committed by one against another, yet we must remember that we are each guilty of placing Jesus on that cross. There is not a more heinous act in all of human history. This knowledge reminds us that we are guilty of sin just as the one who wrongs us is guilty of sin. Casarjian quotes Hugh Prather as saying, "forgiveness is not some futile act in rosy self-deception, but rather the calm recognition that below our egos, we are all exactly the same."

Thirdly, I must come to recognize the underlying pain of my offender. Casarjian says, "People don't victimize, aggress upon others, or try to control others unless they feel out of control, helpless and powerless themselves." The depth of the offense reveals the brokenness of the one who would break me. It reveals the victimization of the one who would victimize me. Casarjian suggests we should consider approaching each day with, "Today I will see all anger (insensitivity, irritability, hostility, "stupid" behavior, etc.) as a call for acknowledgment, respect, help and love." You see when one would wound me, he does it out of his emptiness and pain and fear, not out of his fullness and love.

Fourthly, I must deal with the hurt I feel. But now I work with this hurt from a position supported by these three beliefs and convictions. They are:

  1. I am not entitled, but I belong to the One who is entitled.
  2. I am a sinner in need of forgiveness as much as the one who has wronged me
  3. My offender must be filled with very great pain himself.

Now from this position, I can acknowledge the pain I feel. Sure it hurts, in spite of these three beliefs. To try to convince myself that it does not hurt, would be denial and a most unhealthy response. This would also be a decision which would come back to haunt me later in very destructive ways. And if I were to decide it did not hurt, or the other person just could not help himself and was not really responsible, then forgiveness is not necessary.

But forgiveness is necessary and forgiveness is the work to be done. Therefore I must recognize where the responsibility lies for the wrong that has been committed, and get about the business of forgiving-- a tough task, but one we are commanded to do if we want to be forgiven ourselves. Jesus makes this very clear in Matthew 6:14, 15, when he says, "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

To begin the work of forgiveness, I remember the three beliefs which support me in my forgiving position, I identify and acknowledge the pain caused me by the behavior, and I must go and tell the offending party of his behavior and the pain I feel as a result. As this is a series of articles on the Spirit-filled wife, then the offending party in this case is my husband. Now my husband's response is his responsibility. I can only tell him the effect his behavior has on me. What he does with that information is up to him, but I can now begin the work of forgiving. Whether he accepts his responsibility or not, the process of forgiving is still the same. I must grieve the pain caused me and the loss of trust that has occurred in the relationship. Depending on my husband's response, the process of forgiving can be made easier, but the grief work must still be done. Perhaps the level of trust in the relationship will be changed forever, or only damaged for a short period of time. Still, my responsibility is to respond as Jesus would, act on Lordship faith in Him, and be filled with His Spirit.

PRICE OF FORGIVENESS

When forgiveness is necessary, the forgiver is the one who must always pay the price. But when I am filled with the Spirit, I can forgive and pay the price out of my fullness. And because of Him it is a fullness like the widow's oil, it will never be depleted. And remember this fullness gives forth love, joy and peace.

Two plus two never equals four when forgiveness is necessary. Just as Proverbs 6:32 tells that the adulterous mate lacks understanding and judgment, so it is when forgiveness is the order of the day. The offending one never has a good reason for the offense. We will never say, 'Okay, now I understand and of course, you had no choice but to act as you did." Yes, there was a choice and someone, perhaps your spouse made a very hurtful one, and now you must do the work of forgiving and it will never be fair. But to follow the violent pursuit of "destructive entitlement" is death itself.

Corrie Ten Boom related the story of a time when she was called upon to forgive the guard who had stood at the shower room door of the German concentration camp where she was mocked and tortured and her sister and father had given up their lives. At a particular meeting he appeared there face to face with her and thrust out his hand to shake hers. At first she did not think she could do it, but she prayed for God to give her His forgiveness and she reached out and took his hand, and she wrote:

"As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

As you bow in Lordship faith to Jesus Christ, He will give you the ability to forgive. Now, as you begin the work of forgiveness, and you have expressed your pain to the one who has wounded you, you must move toward that person in some positive way. God will give you the strength. You will experience success because you have been obedient and you will be filled with gratitude for that success - a most empowering process.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22. Dear Christian women when we are filled with the Spirit, there is no room for an unforgiving heart. The condition`` of being filled with the Spirit and the state of unforgiveness are mutually exclusive. We cannot have love, joy and peace while we at the same time cling to some unresolved hurt of the past. And the cost of not forgiving is astronomical. Tate believes "any marital problem can be solved if the partners are willing to forgive each other."

CONCLUSION
The task of forgiveness does not come naturally or easily, but it is essential for our own survival. Robin Casarjian in her wonderful book, Forgiveness, states that if we become stuck in our anger and resentment, pain can become our boss, and we can develop an addiction to these powerful, negative feelings. And all addictions, if allowed to continue their escalation, terminate in death. Scientific evidence confirms a strong connection between resentment and many diseases which result from a suppressed immune system. Casarjian cites one study which "first identified a key psychological trait of those prone to cancer as a "tendency to hold resentment and a marked inability to forgive." Through this kind of Lordship faith, we come to have the "peace that passes all understanding." Willard Tate concludes, "On life's road, you arrive at peace by the vehicle of forgiveness."

Mikal Frazier, MA, MMFT, is a licensed family therapist with a practice in Minden and Bossier City, LA. She is a wife, mother of three children and has two grandchildren.

NEXT WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLE: " "TAKE CARE OF YOUR RAT KILLING"

If you have questions about marriage and family relationships, you can "ASK THE COUNSELOR." Address your questions to Mikal Frazier. Her address is
mikalfraz@aol.com
Home page Previous Issues Subscribe Message Board