God Sees the Good Guys

fathers-dayContinued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

The final point I’d like to focus on from Thomas’ article is this:

I do want to encourage the men who feel taken for granted and who often get lumped in with those who deserve censure: God sees your service and your sacrifice…For the good (not perfect) guys: thanks for your sacrifice.

I echo Thomas’ comment. Thank you to all of you good guys – the ones whose sacrifices seemingly go unnoticed. God sees you. He knows what you have done, are doing, and will continue to do. He knows the heavy price your sacrifices have cost you, even if nobody else in your life does.

I honor you this Father’s Day, whether or not you are a father. Fathers are so sorely needed in society. Did you know that the vast majority of people in prison grew up without a father? The one characteristic that the vast majority of inmates have in common is not race, religion (or lack of religion), gender, socio-economic class, or education level. It’s the lack of a meaningful relationship with a father!

Good guys – I know you are out there. I know because you are in my life. I see you. I see the sacrifices you make for the people in your life. I see you carry the weight of judgmental comments because of poor behavior by the bad guys out there. And yet, you continue on. You continue sacrificing, providing, protecting, and encouraging, even when it’s not appreciated. And what’s much more important – God sees it so much more than I or anyone else does. He sees all you do, and what you do matters. We need you – your wives, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends, congregations, and neighbors. We all need you. Society needs you.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Thank you to all of you good guys. May God bless you this Father’s Day Weekend and always!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace mowing a lawn with the words, “Happy Father’s Day!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Extending Grace to the Good Guys

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas said:

But can we do one post to celebrate the good husbands, the ones who heroically serve, authentically love, sincerely cherish, and sacrificially give to their wives and children? Can I do that without raising the anger of those who want to vent about how awful their husbands, boyfriends, bosses or pastors have been? The challenge in doing this is the simple fact that since every man has his compromises and conflicts, the question arises, how perfect does a man have to be to be celebrated?”

To me, Thomas’ question is really about grace. We all want justice for everyone else but mercy, or grace, for ourselves. We want those who have hurt us to pay for what they have done while, at the same time, want to experience God’s forgiveness, allowing Jesus to pay the penalty for the many ways that we have committed spiritual mutiny.

Thomas essentially asked why a man must be “perfect” before he can be celebrated for all he has done right. You’re not going to like the answer, Church: It’s because we, as a Church, are mired in the sin of unforgiveness. We cannot see past our own pain because we choose to continue to hold onto our ashes, even though the Bible clearly requires an exchange: God will give us a crown of beauty, but we must first release the ashes (see Is. 61:3).

I say this as a woman who has been deeply hurt by men. I was sex-trafficked as a child from ages 6-11, and rapes were not the only sin committed against me as a helpless little girl. I’ve seen and experienced firsthand just how cruel a man can be.

But you know what? I’ve also seen and experienced how kind a man can be. One man’s kindness drove him to a cross, where he paid the penalty for all of the time I spent (enjoying!) visualizing murdering my child abusers. Another kind man spent hundreds of hours guiding me through the healing process as my therapist. A third kind man stayed married to me for decades as my post-traumatic stress wreaked havoc on every aspect of our marriage. I wouldn’t have blamed him for leaving me, but he didn’t. Other kind men pastored me, changed my flat tires, opened my car doors after I locked the keys inside … and I could go on. Before I submitted to God’s instruction to forgive the bad guys, I was blinded to the numerous ways my life has been blessed and enriched by the good guys.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why? Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Lumping the “Good Guys” in with the “Bad Guys”

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas pointed out that there’s a valid reason why many women have a negative attitude about men:

I am surrounded by men who heroically serve, honor, respect, support and cherish their wives. But when I read Christian blogs and go on social media, I’m bombarded by how awful men are, how they are abusive, power-hungry, dismissive of those who prey on women, and misogynistic. I don’t doubt these stories; many of the readers of this blog have been deeply hurt by men in all those categories. I agree with the voices of many that there needs to be not just less tolerance but no tolerance for the way women have been mistreated by men. But for this one post, I’d like to highlight and pay deference to some of the good guys.”

I don’t like when people make assumptions about me because of what other people who share a characteristic with me have done. For example, I don’t like when people assume that I cannot handle a direct conversation because I am a woman or that I’m an intolerant bigot because I am a Christian. And as a survivor of child abuse and rapes, I really don’t like it when people make comments that someone who has been raped is “damaged goods,” likely to abuse others, or too broken to be healed. Yes, there are child abuse survivors who remained emotionally damaged for life and even a handful who go on to abuse children themselves, but that is NOT who I am!

I don’t like being judged by the negative traits of others in a group, so why do I tolerate this widespread lumping together of all men into the same category as those who exhibit the worst traits? After all, both my husband and son are “good guys,” so I know better. I know the quality man I married and the young man I have raised, and I certainly don’t want the world assuming these awful things about them. Thus, I’m joining Thomas in speaking out, using the same platform that he did.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Double Standard in How Men versus Women are Treated

Continued from here.

This week, I’m responding to an excellent blog article entitled The Good Guys, written by my favorite blogger, Gary Thomas. I encourage you to read this article first.

Thomas pointed out that many “good guys” live with a double standard that most women fail to notice. As an example, Thomas’ article opened with his friend pointing out that when he returns from a trip, he’s expected to take an Uber home from the airport whereas when his wife returns from a trip, he’s expected to drive to the airport to pick her up. Thomas also noted the differences between how Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are treated, even within churches.

This Mother’s Day versus Father’s Day difference is something I had been pondering before reading this article because of a comment made in my Journey Group. I belong to the United Methodist Church, and my local church has reinstituted Class Meetings, but we have labeled them as Journey Groups because the members “journey together” as they grow their faith. I have been leading a Journey Group for couples since March, which has been a new experience for me. While I have been leading small groups through my church for 14 years, most have been for women. I’ve only recently been co-leading a coed Sunday School class. Leading a small group for couples as well as being in a small group as a couple is a new experience for me.

For the first 8 weeks, our Journey Group met weekly on Sunday afternoons. However, as summer rolled around, we realized that we needed to cut back to meeting every other week because of summer travel and holidays. It was a given that our Journey Group would not meet on Mother’s Day because all of the couples had big plans. Our senior pastor is retiring, and the big church celebration was scheduled for June 9, so we obviously were not going to meet on that day. I assumed we would have to skip two weeks because of June 16 being Father’s Day, but the men quickly jumped in and said that would not be necessary – that Father’s Day is quite different than Mother’s Day. Meeting as a group on Father’s Day wouldn’t interfere with anything.

All of these husbands are really great guys. They love their wives. They provide for their family. I jokingly call our Journey Group the “Reluctant Spouse” Journey Group because all of the husbands only committed because their wives asked them to. So, why was Mother’s Day so sacred that we needed to cancel the meeting and Father’s Day so unimportant that it was OK to meet on that holiday?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. Courtesy Amazon.]

A Salute to the “Good Guys”

My favorite blogger, hands down, is Gary Thomas – author of several books on godly marriage, such as Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. I subscribe to his blog and read every blog entry he posts. If you have never read one of his blog entries, I hope you will change that today. His blog entries are much longer than mine, but he generally rolls them out weekly, so it all evens out.

While Gary Thomas’ blog entries typically address an aspect of marriage, the topics often transcend marriage, making them worth reading even if you are not married. He recently wrote a blog entry entitled The Good Guys, which I have been pondering since I read it, and it’s applicable to anyone with a man in your life, whether it’s a husband, father, son, friend, pastor, neighbor, or whatever. I encourage you to go read his excellent blog entry now. Don’t worry – I’ll wait. Click here.

Thomas’ blog article opened with the stories of three men who, in his words, “heroically serve, honor, respect, support and cherish their wives.” I’m married to a man like this – one of the “good guys.” He takes his responsibility of providing for his family seriously. He has given me many options for work throughout our 27-year marriage. I’ve had seasons of not working outside the home, both without and with a child. I’ve had seasons of working both part-time and full-time. I’ve had seasons of driving a ridiculously long commute by my own choice, and I’ve had seasons of what I call the “8 step commute” as I telecommuted from home. I’ve worked as a lawyer, a temp secretary, a program administrator, a technical writer, an instructional designer, an online college instructor, and an executive director in the nonprofit world. I’ve worked in jobs that paid well with great benefits and in jobs with low pay and no benefits. My career path over the last 27 years has been all over the map, mostly by my own choice.

What has enabled me to have the freedom to work or not work? To work long hours or only part-time? To change from one career option to another? I’m married to a man whose career path has not varied. He’s worked the same long hours in the same stressful career for 27 years, continually sacrificing for his family to give me these options. Thomas is right – there’s a double standard that favors wives, and yet far too many women fail to appreciate the sacrifices the men in their lives make for them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Holiness in Marriage

Continued from here.

One area of my life that has been profoundly improved through holiness is my marriage. In his book Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?, Gary Chapman explores the role of holiness in marriage. I have found that when I make holiness a priority in my marriage, I am much happier, and when I find myself discontented, I realize that I have slipped back into being self-focused instead of God-focused.

What does it mean to be holy in your marriage? In a nutshell, it’s living out 1 Cor. 13. It’s choosing to humble myself in my marriage, always asking what I can do to express love to my husband better than anyone other than God has ever expressed it before. This is not only in the big things but also in the little ones, such as getting a refill for him at a fast food restaurant when his cup is empty.

Sadly, our culture encourages a self-centered view of marriage, which is focused on the many ways my spouse should be meeting my needs. If he doesn’t meet them to my satisfaction, then it’s time to move on and find another spouse who will. What we fail to realize is that we are all imperfect people who are married to imperfect people who are incapable of meeting all of our needs. Only God can do that, and we harm our marriages when we expect our spouses to do God’s job.

I agree with Chapman that marriage provides a wonderful opportunity to practice growing in holiness and humility. Because God has joined the two people into one, what I do for my husband directly affect me. As I extend kindness to him, I extend it to myself. Conversely, if I am hostile to my spouse, I bear the weight of that hostility because we are one. So, marriage provides a unique opportunity that isn’t present in any other relationship to very directly experience the benefits of holiness or the consequences in its absence. My marriage has been a wonderful training ground for developing holiness beyond that relationship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?. Courtesy Amazon.

Marriage is about HOLINESS, not Happiness

Continued from here.

Before I move on to the next stage of my transformation journey, I’d like to share more of what I have learned about living marriage God’s way. I fear that many couples within the Church have bought into society’s views of marriage, which may account for why the divorce rate among Christians is as high as it is (although see this article that notes a correlation between regular church attendance and a lower divorce rate).

God led me to Gary Thomas’ writings and the epiphany that happiness is not the point of marriage, which is the lie that society tells us. Society portrays marriage as the prince saving the damsel in distress, and then they live happily ever after. But what if the goal of marriage isn’t actually happiness, but holiness?

I heard a fabulous sermon on the radio during a road trip, but I don’t know who to credit. The pastor said these wise words: “If the person you are married to is ‘bad’ enough that Jesus had to die for his or her sins, then your spouse is going to annoy you from time to time.” Oh, the truth in those words … and it works both ways! Marriage yokes us to an imperfect person who … let’s face it … is selfish, just as we, at our cores, are also selfish. The damsel doesn’t want to clean up the prince’s dirty clothes off the floor – she wants him to meet her needs and keep her happy, regardless of her own selfishness.

God has shown my through Gary Thomas’ writings and Alex Kendrick’s and Stephen Kendrick’s book, The Love Dare, that marriage works best when I allow God to transform me into Christ’s image as I put my husband’s needs ahead of my own. Being married actually helps with the sanctification process because I have numerous opportunities to pay forward the unconditional love that God has given me. Because we are yoked together, I am more aware of my husband’s shortcomings than anyone else in the world (just as he is with mine), which puts me in a unique position to pray for him so God can intervene in places that nobody else sees.

I have also learned that God meant it when he said that a married couple is “one flesh.” When I am unconditionally loving to my husband, that love empowers me! Conversely, when I seek to harm my husband, that harm is inflicted upon me. Therefore, because you are one, God only needs one of you to submit to His authority (to actually do what He says to do) to heal your marriage. Because the Holy Spirit is in you while you are one with your spouse, your choice to align yourself with God will change your marriage, regardless of your spouse’s attitude.

Don’t believe me? I dare you to do The Love Dare for 40 days and see what happens.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage.]