Relationships & Losing Control

Am slowly working through Lesslie Newbigin’s “Christian Freedom in the Modern World.” In light of the last post from The Marrow of Modern Divinity, I thought this a mighty helpful teasing out of not only the human relationship we were intended to have but also the ultimate relationship of God to his people.

When I turn from dealing with natual objects to dealing with another person, I am in a quite new world. I am no longer in the position of a subject dealing with objects; I am no longer the single centre of decision and will, and a centre which is inaccessible to my will in a way that nothing in the natural world can ever be. I am in the presence, therefore, of something which can resist me finally in a way no natural force can, with something which can hide itself from me as no natural secret can. A secret of the natural world can in the end be wrested from it by persistent and painstaking research. THe simplest secret of my friend’s will towards me can never be so reached. I can only know it when he chooses to speak–he, a new subject not in my control.

It is this quality of ultimate resistance which is a big part of true friendship. Loneliness, the terrible loneliness of the egocentric man, means, above all, being without any such resistances. It means being the sole subject in a world which is all objects, being alone on a wide sea where one can go everywhere and see everything, where no path is closed and nothing will ever finally resist, where one is always at the centre of the world with a vast horizon all around. The joy of friendship, or a large part of it, is the knowledge that my friend is not in my power, that he is not merely one of the objects in my world, but that he can do to me what only another subject can do–challenge and resist me.

So it is with any and all relationships we have or hope to have. Blissful infatuation eventually gives way to the battle of the wills. Rather than being frustrated, we can embrace the joy and secret and challenge of being vulnerable and enjoying the fact that another subject willingly opens up his/her life to me.

In the same way, we cannot study God as though he is an object. We receive his self-disclosure as an act of grace and opportunity. We relish the secrets he reveals to us when he wants and how he wants. We cannot shake our fists when he is not ours to command.

Brad Pitt on Choosing to Love

I confess. I have a love-hate relationship with Brad Pitt. I found myself enjoying his acting (love), but every girl I have ever had a crush on was in love with him (hate). Thus, I was reticent to post this due to that strange relationship. Yet, I found his explanation of loving by volition to be so instructive that I could not help but post it.

“My girl got sick. She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and children. She lost 30 pounds and weighted about 90 pounds. She got very skinny and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs. She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the mornings and got tired very quickly during the day.

Our relationship was on the verge of a break up. Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. I lost hope and thought that we’ll get separated soon…

But then I decided to act. After all I’ve got the MOST Beautiful Woman on earth. She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her. I began to shower her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised and pleased her every minute. I gave her a lot of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends. You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became better. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much.

And then I realized one thing: the woman is the reflection of her man.

If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it.”

I may take issue with his calling her “the MOST beautiful woman in the world.” After all, this video shares my sentiments in a very humorous way (worth the time!!)

I want to draw your attention to a few things he says that are great reminders for how men ought to love their significant others:

1. In spite of how he was feeling towards her, he decided to act. He decided to act. He intentionally turned his actions and affections toward her in a concerted way. The result? “She blossomed.” She began to come alive.

2. Expect the object of your love to change. In fact, this is inherent to being human. We change both everyday and over a series of days. I am not the same man I was eleven years–and I am SO thankful!

3. His view of decision, reconfigures his love. Notice that their relationship was on the verge of breakup due to the darkness she was going through. Love was primarily defined by things going well.

4. The woman is the reflection of her man. Such a great way to put it! The converse is also true–but that’s for another blog post. I at times wonder how my affections toward my beloved are reflected in her life.  I have an amazing wife. She is sacrificial. Loves people. Serves with nothing expected in return. Feels deeply when people hurt and rejoice. Is the best friend toward me. Is my ideal for friendship. Prays constantly for those she loves. I could go on, but I digress. Tim and Kathy Keller challenge us to look at our spouses through the lens of eternity. What are the wonderful qualities that God has bestowed on this person you love. How might he use these gifts to reflect his glory to a watching world? What might they look like 10 years from now. Look to that future person, and love them in that regard. If you want him/her to be more tender or more assertive, love them in that regard. Don’t clench your fists. Open your hand and accept them as they are. Help them see what they could be through time and conversation–not through shaking fists or rolling eyes.

In case you didn’t click the video, I thought I’d share it here.

A Simple Conversation with a Profound Presence

It was a simple conversation in the afternoon during a lunch break. I had called my wife to see how her day was going. I could tell she was a little flabbergasted as my three young children were screaming in the background. I miraculously found myself listening and asking questions.

Rewind one year.

Same conversation. Same people. Difference outcome. I got upset because my wife wasn’t listening. I hung up. I didn’t call back to apologize. Why would I do such a thing? I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting the attention I deserved. My desire for pleasant conversation was ruined by screaming and distraction. My children were a nuisance to my three-minute agenda.

The latter conversation took place during what I have called our “Remedial Year” of marriage. I was finishing up some work at Southern Seminary when we moved from Louisville to Gaithersburg so that I could attend Sovereign Grace’s Pastors’ College 2011-2012.

Sure, I was going to be taking classes on systematic theology, hermeneutics, preaching, counseling, etc. But I told my wife that we needed to focus on our marriage–a focus she had been gently and patiently waiting for me to admit. This emphasis on marriage and parenting and life application at the Pastors’ College is what won my heart. Since being a Christian, my only mentors had been dead ones or only accessible by ink in a book. I readily welcomed people into our lives to ask questions and counsel us in how we could communicate better and worship Christ in the midst of arguments. Yet, people were too busy. I get that. I don’t blame anyone for my proclivity toward laziness or deferment.

I remember sitting on the couch in Gary & Betsy Ricucci’s living room and saying, “We feel like we are home.” There was a sensitivity and desire to help us in our marriage that we had not experienced before. There was flavor of grace where before we had tasted blandness. The reminders to care for our wives, while at the PC, was not rote. . . rather, it was a lifestyle that permeated the thoughts for Mr. Ricucci. His love for Betsy helped me see that my wife was more than merely a helper, but she was God’s gift in my sanctification and ministry.

This tendency to prefer my wife was experienced the first time I spoke to Mark Prater on the phone, as I sought to move toward partnership with Sovereign Grace.

I remember our first phone call when Mark asked me how Ashley was thinking through a move to Gaithersburg. You see, I had interviewed with a few churches before this imminent move and my wife’s feelings and thoughts were not asked or considered. It was merely assumed that she would be alright with it. From the start I began to sense a different emphasis in how the pastor and his family are viewed. His wife and his family make the man. They are not mere accessories to his ministry, but they inform and influence and imply his ministry outside the home.

What had subtly happened in my pursuit of ministry is the presumption that the world revolved around me–my desires, my ministry dreams, my papers, my sermons, my relationships. Because I was blessed with an amazingly patient and forbearing wife who stood beside me, I began to feel entitled to her service. I had not given too much consideration to how moves and vocational decisions would shape her life. Philippians 2 was applicable to other relationships, and even in the day-to-day grind of conflict with Ashley, but as a way of perpetually thinking, it was seemingly inoperable in my marriage. Sure, Ashley would say that I am too hard on myself or over-stating the case, but I know that thinking what was best for her was not preeminent in my thinking.

BUT God had mercy on me. God gently led me to a place where people cared that I was cross to my wife on the way out the door. . .and they weren’t afraid to ask and enter into that uncomfortable conversation I just had on the phone.

As a result, instead of hanging up this time, I waited. . .And then asked if I could pray for my wife as she had to train and teach and admonish our sweet and sour children. A year ago, I had cut off the opportunity for grace. Through the genuine care experienced at the PC, I learned to wait on the phone. . .and to wait on God.


Real Marriage DVD Curriculum Review

Mark & Grace Driscoll

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together DVD curriculum

Mark & Grace Driscoll started a firestorm a few months ago as they wrote a book that unabashedly and openly (for some too openly!) tackles the issue of marriage and sex. Many of the reviews have given inordinate attention to one controversial chapter in the book rather than treating the book as a whole. To be fair to those reviewers, however, I agree that the Driscolls have overly simplified the questions to ask regarding “Can we _____?” chapter to questions of 1)lawful; 2)helpful; 3)enslaving. Due to limited space, I refer you to these helpful thoughts by Jeremy Pierre and Doug Wilson. Some of the reservations and qualms people have with the chapter can be alleviated by using the DVD curriculum. The leader for the small group can bring in tempering questions to this particular chapter as well as lead discussion that is edifying and not merely delving in curiosities.

As to the merits of the DVD curriculum, I found the videos helpful in seeing Mark show his softer side. A man who is dubbed as an ultimate fighter in theological arenas, it is balancing to see him as deferential to Grace and modeling tender love toward her in the videos (at times I felt like I was watching a high school boy around a college girl, which stems from a deep love and respect and affection for his wife. A model I think all men would do well to model).

A particular strength to the DVD curriculum was the practical questions offered in each section. Dialogue is encouraged between spouses. The Leader’s Guide has verses of Scripture that encapsulate the teaching. This is refreshing as so many marriage books are heavy on the practical, to the detriment of Scripture’s over-arching claims to our marriages.

Churches would do well, given their particular cultural contexts, to review and possible work through this curriculum with newly weds. I would recommend the curriculum before the book so that questions and nuance can be introduced to the conversation. This would temper and help the teaching (particularly to the “Can We _____?” chapter.

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