H1N1, Type A flu, winter colds, pneumonia, sigh........Everyone is talking about getting sick these days. That makes sense, with all that is going around in the air, but something that is every bit as important as vaccinations and nasal mists and medications is prevention. Everyone wants to talk about getting the shot, but things like sneezing into the inside of your elbow, washing your hands, and using Germ-X doesn't seem nearly as "sensational", but is just as important. Then, there is the little matter of a healthy immune system. Being healthy can be as simple as getting a check up once in a while, and then taking good care of yourself.
Okay, so what does that have to do with marriage? I in no way want to equate a marriage with the flu...that's just asking for trouble. But, what if we could pay a little (a lot?) more attention to some work on the front end, and save ourselves the heartache at the back end more often? What if we could do a little prevention and avoid getting sick altogether? Here's a checkup for us from Colossians that might help us to know where we our relational "immune systems" might need some help:
On a scale from 0 (not at all), to 10 (this characterizes me), are we dealing with:
1) Counterfeit Intimacy--Illegitimate ways to meet a legitimate desire for love. Paul tells us to "put to death whatever belongs to (our) earthly nature; sexual immorality, impurity, lust..." (3:5). Are we struggling with pornography, an affair, or other sexual sins that have us giving our best affection to someone or something other than our spouse?
2) Counterfeit Worship--Illegitimate desire for legitimate material things. Paul goes on to tell us we should also put down "evil desire and greed, which is idolatry". (3:5b) What gets the best of our time, attention, and emotions? Is is our relationships, or our career, or our hobbies, or our retirement savings, or ..... The list can be endless. But note something. Paul equates greed with idolatry. Is there something in my life that has taken the place of God when it comes to how I devote myself to my days. If my walk, and my marriage, and my parenting have the best of me, I'm on the right track. If I spend all of my emotional and spiritual energy "keeping up with the Joneses", perhaps something besides God is sitting on the throne of my life.
3) Counterfeit Communication--Illegitimate ways of sharing legitimate thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other..." (3:8-9a) How do we use our words? Do I handle my emotions, my disagreements, my hopes, and my disappointments with my loved ones with grace, or in a way that removes my ability to speak into their lives. This can happen in a couple of ways. One, I can be harsh, cold, impatient, and angry in how and what I say. That will do nothing to encourage someone to listen to me in a loving way. Secondly, though, in a world full of Talk Radio, cell phones, twitter, 24 hour news channels and so on, sometimes we just get tired of all of it, and we stop listening to everything. Our family, and our God, included. Check yourself: how are you speaking, and to what are you listenting? Is there room to hear in your life?
4) Counterfeit Identity--Illegitimate means to acheive legitimate status or influence.
“Here, there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and is in all.” (3:11) In Paul's day, people were using anything from their ethnic heritage to their gender to "jockey for position", even in the church. Sometimes we aren't much different. We will appeal to our knowledge, our experience, the way it was in our family; all kinds of things to show that we are "Right". But when we do so, we tend to lose our audience. No one wants to be close to someone that has to win every argument, or come out on top every time we disagree. Work to make sure we see, and relate to, each other with God's perspective of their value.
If you have some answers that are higher than you would like on these scales, don't be alarmed. Most couples deal with some part of at least some of these somewhere along the way. Talk together about what you see, and pray that God would show you what the next step is. Maybe it's as simple as talking about something a different way, or changing the way you handle some situations. If the situation requires a substantial life change, or a need for some help, let someone know. A pastor, a good Christian counselor, and/or a trusted friend can help you with some deeper needs. Look elsewhere on this website for some resources if this is your situation. Most of all, don't give up. You never know how God will move to make things better until you ask Him. Grace and Peace to you, in Him,