The Fish is Still Dead

Fish-Skeleton

There’s a story from our marriage that we tell more than any other. A story illustrating something we see again and again and again: that opposites really do attract.

I Was the Dead Fish

The story begins with Jill and I having a rather heated “discussion” about something very, very important. I was seated on our couch and Jill was – while talking – pacing back and forth across the floor.

After stating a point and asking a question, she paused for me to answer.

I sat silently thinking about my answer.

When she had enough of waiting she exclaimed, “Would you say something! I’d get more of a response from a DEAD FISH!”

We then fought about that.

You can read a detailed retelling of the story here.

I’m Not a Dead Fish

For now though, let me simply say that though we didn’t know it at the time, we had been confronted with the fact that we have opposite behavior and communication styles (like every other married couple we’ve EVER met!).

We have since learned that:

  • One of us thinks out loud and the other does not. I hear every thought Jill has with very little filtering – the good, the bad and the ugly. Jill hears only what I tell her and very little else.
  • I think, and think, and think. And think. Then I speak. Jill thinksspeaks (that’s not a typo).
  • I am quiet and reserved in my communication and expressions. Jill is well, the opposite.

So, I’m not a dead fish. Nor is Jill out of control or over the top when she says what she feels out loud.

Or better said, neither one of us is broken.

This Can’t Be Fixed

We believe this is the number one “problem” in marriages and relationships. But hear this clearly: it isn’t a problem to be solved, it is a tension to be managed (hat tip to Andy Stanley for teachings on the difference between problems and tensions).

SO, if you are the quiet, thinking, introspective one:

  • Say things like: “I’m thinking”, “Can I have a moment to think?”, “Can I be alone for a moment?”. Literally. Out loud.
  • Face issues head on instead of hiding behind thinking and hoping the issue at hand goes away.
  • Allow your spouse to think out loud without interruption or correction and don’t take every word they say literally.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to dramatically and engagingly communicate.

If you are the outspoken, outward processor:

  • Say: “This won’t make sense, but let me say…”, “I don’t mean this literally, but…”, “Can I process somethings out loud with you please?” Literally. Out loud.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to share every thought you have nor solve every issue immediately on the spot.
  • Allow your spouse the time they need to think without interruption or suggestions and don’t assume they are hiding something from you.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to carefully think through and communicate ideas.

Two Parts of One

Your spouse is not broken. You are not broken. You are two parts of one couple.

“…and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,”
– Mark 10:8

Respect, admire and learn to become the strongest couple you can be.

Peace In The Normal

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I’ve held a long time, core belief that the Christian idea of “swimming upstream” against the world is wrong. A blog post recommended this week by our daughter confirmed my belief. It is definitely worth the read.

Common vs. Normal

As I shared in our post, Our Elaborate Fig Leaves, Gayle Erwin (The Jesus Style) writes that the world teaches us to, “become unreal–untrue to ourselves–incongruent. That unreality is opposite to the nature of Jesus who is the God of reality.”

My experience says that the offer of, “peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7)” is usually found when we are brutally honest and true – to God and to ourselves. Those moments when we push through the fears and doubts and say, ‘what have I got to lose?’.

It’s in those moments that we experience a surprising comfort; like the feeling we have when we walk into our home after a week away. It simply feels good to be home.

The peace is due to the fact that God’s design for the world has never gone away, it is simply hidden by the common.

Beating 50 Percent

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Jeremy and Audrey Roloff have a blog entitled Beating 50 Percent. It is dedicated to encouraging couples to beat the odds and actually have delight-full marriages. Their most recent blog post is entitled Normal vs. Common.

This is what they shared of it on Instagram. I encourage you to read the entire blog post here.

It’s common for people to roll their eyes at engaged couples and say things like, “oh honey you don’t know what you’re in for.” It’s normal for people to encourage engaged couples and offer wisdom, council, and prayer.

It’s common to fight and disagree. It’s normal to seek reconciliation over retaliation.

It’s common to watch your spouse becoming someone else and to reject it. It’s normal to love the stranger you find yourself married to, and to let growth and change excite you.

It’s common to allow trials and conflict to breed bitterness and brokenness. It’s normal to have a marriage marked by forgiveness, grace, and fixing.

It’s common to turn into roommates. It’s normal to be best friends, lovers, and encouragers.

It’s common to struggle to connect. It’s normal to grow in intimacy and oneness.

It’s common to bicker about living habits. It’s normal to laugh at your differences, communicate the necessary changes, and learn to respond selflessly

It’s common to let circumstances define your marriage. It’s normal to allow trust and joy to permeate the circumstances of your marriage.

It’s common to cling to your own ways and cling to your independence. It’s normal to submit to one another and surrender your selfish ambition.

It’s common to fight about financial decisions. It’s normal to make wise financial decisions together, and to agree on ways to give generously.

It’s common to go weeks without having sex. It’s normal to make love regularly and enjoy sexual intimacy.

It’s common to ignore and avoid honest conversations. It’s normal to communicate consistently and with intention and honesty.

It’s common to loose your “inloveness” over time. It’s normal to grow in love each year.

It’s common for work, iPhones, pornography, Netflix, and social media to rob you from connecting with your spouse. It’s normal to prioritize your marriage and set aside time to date your spouse, to play, laugh, eliminate distractions, and just be.

It’s common to grow apart. It’s normal to always grow in love, always more.

Culture was never intended to define normal, it is was only permitted to define common.

Defined Normal

God defined normal. Let’s commit to ourselves and our spouses to access it every day.

Three C’s and 30 Years

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Jill and I were married on a snowy, icy day in Dallas 30 years ago today. I’d like to share the secret of a mostly happy and going strong marriage from our perspective – the 3 C’s.

The first C is:

Communication

I don’t mean talking and I don’t mean trying. I mean in-depth, soul baring, transparent communication. No marriage can survive without it because it is the only possible way to not drift apart.

The person you are when you marry is NOT the same person you will be at 10 years or 20 years or any other years and the same is true of your spouse. Communication is the way to ensure you make the journey through all these changes together.

And it will be hard.

Which leads us to the second C:

Covenant

Many of you know the last five years have been very tough for us financially. We have had many, many discussions, fights, struggles and arguments as we’ve tried to make sense of it all and survive the ups and downs. We’ve also transitioned from having kids to solid young adults and that is an adjustment as well.

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It has been hard and we’ve communicated…loudly.

In fact just last week we had an argument over what to do with a financial blessings. That may seem odd but one of us is practical, the other whimsical. Want vs. need. Debt vs. fun. Right vs. right and wrong vs. wrong. We’re still figuring that out.

But what’s really going on is growth – both personally and as a couple. This is what’s ALWAYS going on as God continues to form and mold us.

And this could never happen if we weren’t 100% secure in the knowledge that we are married for life.

Which leads us to the third C:

Communication

Yeah I know, it’s the same as number one but it’s not.

It’s not the same because now we can build on the solid foundation of covenant and REALLY have in-depth, soul baring, transparent communication. I’m talking about, “honey, I need to tell you something I’ve never told anyone” and, “I’m struggling with feelings for someone else,” and “if we don’t fix this between us, I’m considering leaving” and other shocking things that are real life.

And that’s the point, marriage is real life. It is not storybook or happily ever after. It is the ebb and flow of feelings, money, like mindedness, work, joy, pain, suffering, elation and all the other things of…well, real life.

It is a journey that must be made hand in hand while in conversation about everything.

Happy Anniversary to my adventuring companion of 30 years and blessings to you all.

Our Elaborate Fig Leaves

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I’m involved with an Old Testament Survey study as part of the Pastorship class I’m attending at our church. Something jumped out at me in last week’s lesson that I simply need to share.

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”” – Genesis 3:9-12

All You Need to Know

I’ve said for some time now that everything you need to know about human nature is found in the third chapter of Genesis. I’ve written about it here and a few other places but I hadn’t noticed how much three behaviors stood out in the three short verses quoted above: fear, hiding and accusing.

Sums up everyone’s behavior on the planet.

Fear

There’s a reason “do not fear” appears 365 times in the Bible in various forms, God knew we would fear. And we all fear one or both of two things:

  • Death – at the heart of our fears about money, health, love, earthquakes, control, the unknown and more is our core fear of death. Yet even this has been conquered by Christ, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55
  • God – the primary reason people don’t accept or fully accept the Lordship of Christ is fear. Not so much a fear of Him, but a fear of losing control of the life we so much want to live.

Or a fear of being exposed

Hiding

I have found no better explanation of hiding and it’s affects than these words of Gayle Erwin in his book, The Jesus Style:

“Our true nature is not designed for us to hide our selves. The energy that goes into hiding is costly to us as persons. Anything we hide forces us to live in a way that will keep what we hide safely hidden. In other words, we become unreal–untrue to ourselves–incongruent. That unreality is opposite to the nature of Jesus who is the God of reality. No energy was spent in covering His life with a mask. In Him, there was no darkeness at all (pages 62-63).”

Sadly, we do most of our hiding in our marriages and families. Which brings us to:

Accusations

Adam blamed Eve and then God (“the woman you gave me”) and Eve blamed the serpent and we’ve been blaming everyone else ever since.

It’s the perfect cycle: fear – hiding – accusing. And because we know the accusations are weak, because they ALWAYS are, we fear being found out so we…hide. Round and round and round and round we go.

Thankfully, the cycle has been broken and we can all participate.

Humility and Conversation

The first step is seeking and walking in true humility:

  • An accurate, healthy and positive assessment of who you are – the good, bad and the ugly. While that may sound contradictory, we can and should embrace all of who we are exactly as we are because…
  • God embraces us exactly as we are. Yes He longs to grow us in His image but this is because He loves us NOT because He can’t wait until ‘we grow up and figure it out’.

From a place of healthy humility, we can then talk:

  • To God who wants to have a relationship with us. A clear, candid, real, no-holds-barred, relationship.
  • To our spouse and family who also want a relationship but, most importantly, have been given to us to help us live life well. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”” – Genesis 2:18. The key word is helper and it’s supposed to work both ways.

We can only find what’s best for us and live the life we’re meant to live by being honest and open with God and those whom God has partnered us with. Take off your fig leaf and talk.

photo credit: Peek-a-boo via photopin (license)

How Do We Sound?

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The words we speak are important. Our words have the power to uplift others or discourage them. Thoughtless words spoken in haste cannot be erased.

How Do We Sound To Our Loved Ones?

In families, we sometimes fall into bad habits of not listening to each other and thinking we can say things to our spouses, siblings or even children because…well…they’re family. But they are the ones we most need to encourage and not tear down.

All too often, in the rush to have ourselves heard, we speak first and think next—and that usually comes with unfortunate results.

James 1:19 tells us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Translation: If we slow down enough to actually hear what the other is saying then we’ll have a chance to think about what is being said. We can take it to heart, and then carefully and wisely answer, which keeps you from blowing your top too quickly.

And if you’ve blown it? Humbly and quickly apologize.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — Proverbs 12:18

Slow To Speak

Measure your words carefully. Be mindful to use words of kindness and praise, not words that hurt or say things in anger.

“For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips form speaking deceit.” – 1 Peter 3:10

You have the power to heal others or to injure them, to lift them up or hold them back.

Famous commentator Warren Wiersbe said, “Fill the heart with the love of Christ so that only truth and purity can come out of the mouth.” The only way to do that is to stay in the Word of God. Learn from it and let it transform your life!

Study the Word

There are two ways to be involved with the Word!

  • Listen: Jill is recording her Living Through Testing Times Bible Study lectures each week. You can listen by visiting here or through iTunes (Falling In Love With God’s Word with Jill Grossman). This week’s podcast, Lesson 5, is about how to speak and encourage well.
  • Join: On Monday, November 30th, you can join the Bible Study itself at Springhouse Worship and Arts Center. We’ll be finished up with James and beginning a study of the book of Job so it’ll be the perfect opportunity to join us. We’ll also continue into the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians over the Winter.

These are terrific, easy ways to study the most valuable book ever written. Please consider joining us and contact Jill at 615-476-6698 or stillgrossman@comcast.net for more information.

photo credit: Louder than the rain via photopin (license)

Still Honored By All

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(Note: this is a post that first appeared in the first month of this blog nearly two years ago. In light of many recent conversations, it’s still relevant.)

An adult friend of mine and his Mother were at a wedding when she turned to him and said, “where is this kind of support when marriages struggle? I know a husband who is calling it quits after more than 25 years together. Where are the men questioning what he’s doing and encouraging him to stay and work it out?”

She’s right. (more…)

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