Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments CCEF National Conference 2012 Winston Smith

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1 Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments CCEF National Conference 2012 Winston Smith KEY IDEA: Change is the result of a dramatic event that changes things forever. Extraordinary change is the result of what we do in the ordinary moments of marriage. Anatomy of an Ordinary Moment: Dennis and Rita Ordinary Moments... Happen over and over again You no longer expect to change God seems far, far, away God-less moments What are your ordinary moments? Those moments that seem so maddeningly ordinary are actually the moments that provide tremendous opportunity for change because they are loaded with meaning. As ordinary as they may appear on the surface they are actually deeply connected to the way we understand love and God himself. If we are willing to slow those moments down, make those deep connections, and then take action, then these are moments that can dramatically change our marriages. There are three main ingredients to taking these moments that seem far too ordinary and turning them into opportunities for change: an extraordinary love, engaging love, and enduring love.

2 Ingredient 1: An Extraordinary Love The Battle for Love One of the reasons that these ordinary moments seem so persistent is that they are often deeply rooted in the way we understand love. The most difficult moments we face in marriage are usually moments in which we feel unloved, in which something that we consider central to love has been violated. We often think of love as the experience of receiving the things that we desire from another and being rescued from the things that we dislike or fear. Our definitions of love Think about the kinds of desire and fears we usually bring to our closest relationships to be accepted, affirmed, known, connected, safe, significant, peace, comfort, etc. We fear rejection, shame, fights, being ignored, etc. It s not that our experiences always lead us astray, because we know there s something right about those things. Love is like a beautiful diamond, a magnificent, multifaceted crystal, perfect in every way that dazzles the eye. Now imagine that the diamond has been shattered into a thousand pieces, just as love has been shattered in our world. KEY IDEA: Our vision for love and marriage is often distorted by something good that takes the place of the whole. We Can Know Love - Jesus is Love. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12)

3 Understanding love as a person rather than an experience are two very different ways of understanding love and they take you to two very different places. Love became flesh and blood and walked and talked and lived among us... and he was rejected. KEY IDEA: We should be willing to have our understanding of love altered in surprising, even shocking ways. Ingredient 2: Engaging Love. Extraordinary love is engaged in the most ordinary moments of marriage. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom 12:9 10) 1. Engaged Love is Ministry, not Manipulation Love must be sincere - without hypocrisy. Manipulation: It is manipulation because when I am no longer seeking to do what benefits my wife, but solely focused on benefiting myself. I m no longer really treating her as a person but as a thing something that exists simply for my pleasure.

4 Verse 10 Honor one another above yourselves. Honoring means seeing the person as someone that ultimately exists for God s purposes rather than my own. How do you know if you are being manipulative? How do you respond when you think you are loving your spouse but don t get the response you expected? KEY IDEA: Love in the details begins at the level of your own attitude toward your spouse. 2. Engaged Love Makes Contact Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. (Rom 12:15 16) Harmony is the image of different objects or people, making contact, sounding in unison in a beautiful way without insisting that they be the same. KEY IDEA: We want to solve the problems of our marriage, but in problem solving we leave out the most important ingredients of love. One of the most important ingredients of all is entering into the experience of our spouse and doing the hard work of really understanding what is happening. Harmony doesn t mean that we ignore our problems or don t have conflict. It s about putting first things first. It s about taking the necessary step of really understanding the other and caring for the other before we even try to problem solve.

5 Basic Elements of Harmony Express a desire to understand Communicate understanding Give a personal response 3. Engaged Love is Emotional Love is more than a feeling... but feelings still matter. It s helpful to look at Christ, Love himself. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 5:15 16) Sports Analogy Loving a team isn t about memorizing facts; it s about being in the game with the team and those who love it. If you re not happy when the team wins and sad when the team loses, then you don t love the team. Emotions are the currency of personal involvement. KEY IDEA: Emotions communicate the value you place on something in the same way a price tag does. When you spend a lot of money on something it demonstrates that it is of great value to you. When you feel very deeply about something it means that it has great value to you. When you express emotions, you tell yourself and others how important something is to you and how you evaluate it. The stronger the emotion the more important it is to you. But also understand that your unwillingness or inability to share your emotions makes it difficult for you to experience your spouse s sincere love for you as well.

6 Basic Guidelines for Sharing Emotions. Make room for emotions to be shared. Don t vent your feelings. Don t insist that your spouse experience and express emotions in the same way you do. 4. Speak for Yourself! If you listen closely to arguments that are going wrong you ll notice couples working furiously to expose the other, reminding them of what they ve done and said, and exactly why they said it. The most important honesty you have to give is honesty about yourself. Only you truly know what you think and what you feel and why you do anything. Your spouse can really only guess. Pouting Dropping Hints Misdirection/Smoke Screen 5. Remember Who You re Speaking to! Don t exaggerate and label

7 6. Love = Grace Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17 21) Grace, simply defined, is unmerited favor. It is love when you deserve rejection. Grace means I m not giving just to get. Grace versus the Love Bank Moving toward the other even when they don t deserve it Ingredient 3: Love that Endures One of the most dangerous moments in your marriage is when you no longer believe that your actions make a difference. 1. Your Actions Always Make a Difference Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 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 6:7 9)

8 Think of every act of marriage as a seed. The issue isn t whether or not your actions make a difference. They always make a difference. The real question is what kind of seed are you planting? Seeds of hopelessness: Giving to get, manipulation Treating your spouse like a problem to be solved rather than really connecting Pouting, labeling, attacking your spouse s identity Blaming your spouse for your own bad behavior: This appeals to pride, feels empowering at first, but it is a trap. The unspoken message is, You control me. Ultimately, the message is, You are God. If you sow to please the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. God will not be made a fool of. He will accomplish his good goals for your life. God s promise is to complete the work he has begun in you. 2. Staying Focused The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matt 13:44) This treasure is easy to miss.

9 This treasure seems foolish. This treasure is worth it. This is a treasure that you must set before your eyes every day. It isn t easy. It requires discipline.

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