Thursday, November 08, 2012

The "Heart"

Referencing the Paul Tripp marriage conference entitled, "What Did You Expect" that Lawrence and I had the privilege to attend a few weekends ago, Tripp draws our attention to a popular "game" we all play, especially with our spouse. I'm sure you've heard of it and play it yourself from time to time: the blame game. You know the rules of this game; I don't have to spell them out for you. Most likely, you started playing this game around the same time I did, as a toddler perhaps even before we could walk or talk.

In marriage, we play the blame game any time we become convinced that our marriage would be so much better if our spouse would change.  Tripp confronts this thought saying, "The 'blame game' is heresy--it never leads to a good marriage; it never leads to unity, understanding or love."

How often are we caught in that trap?  When we think that, we are believing a lie. My speech and/or behavior is NEVER caused by my husband. It can be a response to something he's done or said, but it comes from within my own heart. A person cannot say or do anything that wasn't birthed within the desires, motivations and inclinations of her own heart.

Our hearts are what Paul Tripp calls the "causal core of one's personhood", the steering wheel, if you want to think of it that way, determining what comes out of your mouth and what dictates your actions.

"My words and actions always tell me more about ME than they do about my spouse".

So what have my words and actions told me about ME this week?
It depends on the moment. But, many times I must say that my words and actions toward my family especially indicated that I love myself a lot more than I love them.
I have grown irritated and impatient with my children when they haven't obeyed me right away.
I have demonstrated anger toward my husband when he neglected to demonstrate thoughtfulness toward me in a way I expected him to.

I can gratefully say, however, that God has been right there with me in those moments, convicting me of my self-centeredness, pride and anger. By God's grace, confession and repentance came quickly in those moments when I took a harsh tone with my children or gave the "cold shoulder" to Lawrence.

Truthfully, I can grow quickly discouraged that I am still growing so easily angered with my children and husband. But, instead I want to see the grace there has been in these moments....not grace that removes temptation but rather causes me to confess sin when I've blown it and even sometimes not give into the temptation in the first place. Those are really sweet moments.  I experienced some of that this morning with my daughter.

She was having a really hard time focusing on school, staring out the window rather than attending to the work she had to do, fidgeting in her seat, with her hair and fingernails. I just wanted to get through the lessons and move on to helping the boys so that they could be finished with their school work before their Abuelo (grandfather) arrived to teach them Spanish. I had a long list of "to do" items clamoring for my attention. I did not appreciate her dragging her feet with her school work.

Impatience was "knocking at my door"; anger was welling up, and I wanted to be coercive and manipulative in that parenting moment to get her to pay attention and do her work. Here's one of those "little moments" that matter. By God's kindness, He captured my attention in the moment and allowed me to see the opportunity that lie before me to grow in godliness!

In my mind over and over again, I cried out to Jesus to help me demonstrate patience and long suffering to Bella, to persevere with her and encourage her rather than grow frustrated with her. He gave me empathy for her recalling times and circumstances when I've been asked to do something I don't want to do or have the energy to do. Most significant of all, He reminded me of how HE has treated me--with long suffering, patience, always being for me not against me, always wanting me to grow and thrive, never brow-beating me or manipulating me into obedience to Him.

I took many deep breaths, "breathing in" the Holy Spirit's power to do what is so far beyond me to do, rule over my emotions rather than allowing them to rule over me.  And, we got through the work. It wasn't fun; it wasn't easy, but God was there with us in that moment.

My heart is a storehouse of desires, motivations, will and emotions and so is yours. Out of those full hearts, we speak and act. What have your words and actions communicated about what's in your heart this week?

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Made for Worship

The first principle Paul Tripp points out about marriage is that a "marriage of unity, understanding, and love is not rooted in romance, but in worship".

Say what?

Consider this truth: All mankind was born for worship--not to BE worshiped, though don't we all think so at times, but TO worship another, namely our Creator.  If you need a little convincing, ponder your experience of  the most recent sporting event you watched or attended, an amazingly scrumptious meal or dessert you ate, or even a museum you walked through. It's likely either you or another were participating in inferior forms of worship...what the Merriam Webster dictionary would call the giving of "extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem".

Worship is innate. It is something we were born to do. But, the object of our worship for which we were created is often replaced by lesser things.

Romans 1: 25 says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised".

Daily, in some form, we make this exchange. We forget or deny that we were born to worship One and only One, and it's not ourselves.

What does this have to do with marriage?

There are many implications of this truth on marriage, but the one I'm going to focus on first is this: When we are not worshiping God, our Creator, giving our devotion and respect and ultimate admiration to God, we can assume that in some way we are worshiping ourselves. I am tempted a gazillion times a day to take God off the throne of my heart and put myself in His place, mindful only of what I want, what I need, what I feel. When that happens, there's bound to be marriage problems.

Here's one example of what it looks like for me...
My hubby comes home from work and I am tired from a full day of homeschooling, running errands, doing housework, breaking up sibling squabbles. I am not interested in serving another person. I've served all day. At that moment, I am really not thinking about anyone else's needs or desires or feelings other than my own. And, boy am I acutely aware of my own. I describe them in vivid detail almost every evening to my husband.

I want my husband to come in and take over, to know precisely the "line" I've required my children to tow all day and not lower the standard thereby undermining my authority. I want him to correct and train and encourage the children so I can emotionally and mentally "check out". If he'd help with the dinner dishes and picking up the house, that would just be a bonus.

So, when the kids don't respond to my call to come set the table or they complain about the meal I prepared and LA doesn't verbally jump all over them for it, if he's just a bit slower to respond than I normally am, I can absolutely lose it...on him and on the kids. I make the assumption that he was never going to address the children, he doesn't care or see the level of disrespect they have toward me. It goes further then to character judgments as well--he's checked out on us emotionally or is being lazy not wanting to address my children's hearts or behavior. He's apathetic toward my feelings.

All this happens within a snap.
Ever been there or somewhere similar?

And, you can imagine that what comes out of my mouth (because this girl has trouble keeping it shut!) is harsh, judgmental, accusatory and disrespectful (oh the irony). On the rare occasion I do manage to keep my mouth shut, the silence and slamming ensues. Slam cupboards and dishes all while pursing my precious lips tightly shut.

Believe it or not, I am worshiping in these moments. What I want, for my husband to engage with my children, is not a bad thing. It's a good thing; I should want that. When it takes the form of worship in my heart is when I am wanting it more than I am wanting God and His will for that moment in time. He wants me to grow in patience. Perhaps, He wants to help my children grow in hearing and responding to His Spirit convicting them in the quiet of their thoughts and heart versus being reprimanded immediately by their parent. He certainly doesn't want me to be bitterly spewing angry statements at my husband.

So, what do I do knowing my inclination to worship my desires, needs and wants?
Where do I go when the worship of myself has eclipsed the worship of God?

I'm grateful that God continues to stop me in moments like what I just described to convict me of my self worship. Sadly, I don't always bow to His conviction right away. Sometimes it takes me awhile. But, God's Spirit, thankfully, always wins and brings me to a godly sorrow over my sin. And, it is then that I can confess that sin, run to Jesus, the One who bore all the wrath of God that I deserved for all my moments of self worship.

And, God reminds me in I John 1:9 that when I confess my sin, HE is faithful and just to forgive me of that sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

Then, I think upon God, upon HIS perfection, HIS wisdom, HIS righteousness, HIS beauty, goodness, grace and mercy and bow again to HIS will for this small moment in my life.

In "real life", I ask for forgiveness from Lawrence (and my children if they were witnesses of my behavior or speech) and think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy about those brief moments around the dinner table. I think about what God may have been seeking to accomplish in my life, in my children's lives and in my husband's life at that instant. And, I consider God's redemption of my wrongs. I ponder all the ways God could be making good on my bad, and it's at this moment that I'm typically undone....for at least 3 minutes before something else may tempt me toward self worship. ;)

It's moment by moment here in my world. The little moments DO matter.