Fearless Living

At the beginning of Advent we sing carols of petition and preparation such as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.  These carols echo Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s coming in Isaiah 7:14 where the Lord says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

Taken by Spencer Jarvis at the Orsett Showground, Essex.

In Luke 1 Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, also prophesies of the coming of the Messiah:  “The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”  O Come, O Come, Emmanuel turns this prophecy into a prayer: “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

Just before those words in Luke 1, however, Zechariah says, ”The Lord . . has raised up a horn of salvation . . to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Jesus came not only to rescue us but also to enable us to serve God without fear.

Do you struggle with fear?

I have often given in to fear.

At my core I love to please people.  In relationships my default setting is to do what I need to do to make certain everything is ok.  In reality this default setting can become one of fear.

If I am feeling insecure I become fearful of what others think of me.  I make assumptions about what people are thinking.  Then I adjust my behavior to suit what I think they might be thinking.

Sound confusing?  That’s because it is.  Fear complicates life and obscures reality.

Christ came to give the gift of a simple life without fear, just one of his many gifts to us.

Where in your life do you tend to act in fear?  How can you rely more on God in that area of your life?

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[Repost] The Best of 2011-12: 7 Steps That Can Rescue You and Your Marriage

Just over a year ago I began blogging.  This is the second of five posts that will be re-posts of the top five blog posts this past year.  Thanks for making this year great by reading what I have written and commenting.  I appreciate it!

When it comes to communication, I already have two strikes against me: I’m a guy and an introvert.

Guys are notorious for unclear speech when they do speak, and for not speaking enough. Introverts like to process by themselves and avoid interaction with people.

Do some swift math and you will rightly conclude that communication has been a challenge for me all of my life, and will probably continue that way for the rest of my life.

Here are some of my past pitfalls.

I don’t communicate for fear of hurting myself or my wife. My internal processor determines that my wife will respond a certain way; therefore I do not say certain things to avoid hurting her or myself.

I communicate unclearly for fear of hurting my wife or myself. My internal filters guide me to soften and blur the edges on what I say in order to avoid conflict, which only results in completely obscuring my meaning and intent.

I communicate harshly. This seems like an oxymoron, but because I fear hurting myself and my wife, and because I avoid conflict, when I do get the truth out my words can often be harsh because I am working so hard to communicate what I know needs to be said.

I am unable to verbalize my feelings and thoughts. Because I am filtering everything I say based on the supposed feelings and preferences of my wife I eventually replace my preferences with her perceived preferences.

Confused yet? Have a headache yet? Exactly. Fear of conflict, fear of getting hurt, and fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings (wanting to please) will introduce tension and frustration into your life and marriage. This tension and frustration combined with a complete focus on the happiness of your spouse will quickly blind you to yourself and make the simplest questions (What do you want to eat?) impossible to answer.

Familiar with this scenario?

Left unchecked these issues can ruin your marriage. Address them and you will see your intimacy soar.

Here are several strategies for counteracting these pitfalls.

1. Get help. If you are stuck in the mindless circle of pleasing others, find a counselor or friend who is very good at seeing through your verbal masks and who is able to challenge you. Trust me. You cannot get out of this cycle by yourself.

2. Pray. Like I said, you can’t make a change by yourself. God created you and made you unique. Ask him to reveal to you who you really are and to give you the courage to be that person.

3. Observe yourself. My counselor gave me this valuable assignment at our first session. For a week pay close attention to your moods and feelings and record them in a journal with your opinion on their origins.

4. Be honest with yourself. Admit the truth about what you have observed. You have to tell yourself the truth before you can tell the truth to your spouse.

If you have been hiding behind masks for very long this exposure will be very difficult. You will make a lot of mistakes and will probably need to ask forgiveness from your spouse for foot-in-mouth disease. Just remember that God accepts us just as we are, so we should do the same.

5. Value yourself. Value yourself enough to say and do what you need to say and do in order to be at peace with yourself and God. If you base your words and actions on what your spouse thinks (or what you think they think!!), you are placing the value of yourself below them. You are equals.

For all of you devout Christians out there, “considering others better than yourself,” as Paul puts it, does not mean ignoring what you think and feel at the expense of others. He was talking about humility and deference, something completely different.

6. Set boundaries. Allow the opinions of your spouse to penetrate only so far into your psyche. Far enough for you to consider the validity of what they are saying, but shallow enough that their opinion never comes close to compromising your beliefs about yourself.

7. Love through honesty. The greatest love you can show to your spouse is to be honest with them. In a world where everyone is selling something or pretending to be someone they’re not your spouse needs you to lovingly speak your mind, to be real, to be strong enough to take a little blowback and conflict.

How are you going to love your spouse more today?

7 Steps That Can Rescue You and Your Marriage

When it comes to communication, I already have two strikes against me: I’m a guy and an introvert.

Guys are notorious for unclear speech when they do speak, and for not speaking enough. Introverts like to process by themselves and avoid interaction with people.

Do some swift math and you will rightly conclude that communication has been a challenge for me all of my life, and will probably continue that way for the rest of my life.

Here are some of my past pitfalls.

I don’t communicate for fear of hurting myself or my wife. My internal processor determines that my wife will respond a certain way; therefore I do not say certain things to avoid hurting her or myself.

I communicate unclearly for fear of hurting my wife or myself. My internal filters guide me to soften and blur the edges on what I say in order to avoid conflict, which only results in completely obscuring my meaning and intent.

I communicate harshly. This seems like an oxymoron, but because I fear hurting myself and my wife, and because I avoid conflict, when I do get the truth out my words can often be harsh because I am working so hard to communicate what I know needs to be said.

I am unable to verbalize my feelings and thoughts. Because I am filtering everything I say based on the supposed feelings and preferences of my wife I eventually replace my preferences with her perceived preferences.

Confused yet? Have a headache yet? Exactly. Fear of conflict, fear of getting hurt, and fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings (wanting to please) will introduce tension and frustration into your life and marriage. This tension and frustration combined with a complete focus on the happiness of your spouse will quickly blind you to yourself and make the simplest questions (What do you want to eat?) impossible to answer.

Familiar with this scenario?

Left unchecked these issues can ruin your marriage. Address them and you will see your intimacy soar.

Here are several strategies for counteracting these pitfalls.

1. Get help. If you are stuck in the mindless circle of pleasing others, find a counselor or friend who is very good at seeing through your verbal masks and who is able to challenge you. Trust me. You cannot get out of this cycle by yourself.

2. Pray. Like I said, you can’t make a change by yourself. God created you and made you unique. Ask him to reveal to you who you really are and to give you the courage to be that person.

3. Observe yourself. My counselor gave me this valuable assignment at our first session. For a week pay close attention to your moods and feelings and record them in a journal with your opinion on their origins.

4. Be honest with yourself. Admit the truth about what you have observed. You have to tell yourself the truth before you can tell the truth to your spouse.

If you have been hiding behind masks for very long this exposure will be very difficult. You will make a lot of mistakes and will probably need to ask forgiveness from your spouse for foot-in-mouth disease. Just remember that God accepts us just as we are, so we should do the same.

5. Value yourself. Value yourself enough to say and do what you need to say and do in order to be at peace with yourself and God. If you base your words and actions on what your spouse thinks (or what you think they think!!), you are placing the value of yourself below them. You are equals.

For all of you devout Christians out there, “considering others better than yourself,” as Paul puts it, does not mean ignoring what you think and feel at the expense of others. He was talking about humility and deference, something completely different.

6. Set boundaries. Allow the opinions of your spouse to penetrate only so far into your psyche. Far enough for you to consider the validity of what they are saying, but shallow enough that their opinion never comes close to compromising your beliefs about yourself.

7. Love through honesty. The greatest love you can show to your spouse is to be honest with them. In a world where everyone is selling something or pretending to be someone they’re not your spouse needs you to lovingly speak your mind, to be real, to be strong enough to take a little blowback and conflict.

How are you going to love your spouse more today?