Marriage: Where does it begin? (pt. 2) Chapter 1 of The God-Wild Marriage

31 05 2012

Over the next couple of months, I will use The Inkling to introduce you to each chapter of my new book, The God-Wild Marriage.

Chapter 1: The Power to Be Out of Control

God-Wild Marriage

A journey is like a marriage. 

The certain way to be wrong is to think you can control it.

John Steinbeck

Only God can satisfy the hungry heart of man.

Hugh Black

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…

Ephesians 5:18

I like being in control. As an athlete, I captained most of the teams I played on. As a senior in high school, I was the student body president and enjoyed telling the principal how to run the high school. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not.) Then I got married.

Marriage changed everything.

Liz doesn’t like to be controlled. It took me about one day into our honeymoon to realize that I had signed up for a world that was frighteningly different than any other. We were in Hawaii and I wanted to get up early on the first day, hit the beach, go snorkeling, and then dive off some nearby cliffs. I thought it was all so ordinary. Wouldn’t anyone want to begin a honeymoon in such a way? Fat chance.

My wife wasn’t going to be controlled.

Liz was exhausted. The wedding ceremony less than 36 hours earlier and a torrential rain storm and flood just before we left Tokyo, coupled with an eight-hour flight to Hawaii, was enough to keep her in bed for at least one day. I couldn’t relate.

For me, it was a case of “You only come to Hawaii once, let’s get rolling.” It was time for fun on the beach, adventure and action! But for Liz, it was a time to recover and relax—her way. A heated argument inaugurated our first day of marriage. I lost, she won. So much for my ways; so much for my control.

All of us want to be in control of our lives. All of us want our way— because it’s the right way, right? All of us are enslaved to cultural bondage and a need for control that has infused and impacted our thinking, making it virtually impossible to understand God’s design for a wildly fruitful marriage. This was no less true in biblical times than it is today. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he referred to a cultural axiom stating that “every Roman man must have a concubine for pleasure, a mistress for adventure, and a wife for progeny.” Western culture is no different.

Marriages today are indeed out of control. The typical couple walking down the aisle is guaranteed a marriage that will last about seven years, a span of time that is less than the life of your washer, dryer, or refrigerator. As unbelievable as it may seem, the divorce rate in America has increased by over 200 percent in just the last 40 years.1 The Pew survey on marriage, the largest ever conducted, found that nearly 40 percent of us think marriage is obsolete.2 (It is interesting that of those who said marriage is headed for extinction, only 5 percent said they don’t want to be married.3 Hmmm.) If you’re the product of a broken home, your chances for a tumultuous, difficult marriage are even greater.4

As one who regularly counsels couples, I can tell you the family in general, and marriage in particular, is in real trouble. Couples are ditching their commitment to marriage at an alarming rate, even those who attend church—especially those who attend church. According to the Barna Group, those who call themselves “born-again” Christians have a higher rate of divorce than non-believers (27 percent compared to 23 percent). Those who label themselves “fundamentalist” Christians have the highest divorce rate of all, at 30 percent.

I once asked my mom if she had ever thought about divorcing my dad. “No, I’ve never considered divorce,” she replied, “but murder? Yes.” She was being humorous, but the struggle was real and is real. In just this past year, Liz and I have been continually shocked to watch many of our close friends filing for divorce. Many a morning this past year, we have sat across from each other at our breakfast nook and wept over and prayed about dear friends who are leaving their commitments to marriage. Discussing with these couples how and why they have decided to break up has been heart wrenching.

Every marriage is hard. Every marriage is a battleground. You may be feeling just this way right now. Your marriage has not turned out to be what you had hoped and dreamed. The “storybook” romance you thought you were signing up for has actually turned into some kind of Shakespearean tragedy. Your Prince Charming has turned into a frog. Your relationship with your spouse is an endless foray into either verbal arguments, quiet distance, or both. You probably have felt at times like you have a marriage lost in space—your husband is from Mars; your wife is from Venus.5

Read more in The God-Wild Marriage by Dr. Steve Holt





War, Witches and Panic

17 08 2010

Wars, witches, and panic attacks are the substance of 1 Samuel 28.  King Saul is a study in fear.  Faced with withering support and a ferocious enemy, Saul is wholly unprepared for the challenges of life that God has put before him. And in this chapter, Saul is overwhelmed by the impending battle with the Philistines.  Saul succumbs to fear, and fear has power.

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.” (vs. 5) Saul is a beaten man before he’s entered the battlefield. Let’s look at the process of paralyzing fear in Saul’s life, and the confusing questions that are created:

vs. 6  Because of his fear, Saul can’t hear from God even when he prays.  (Where is God in my life?)

Vs. 7  Because of his fear, Saul compromises his convictions and morals and seeks out a witch.  (What do I believe anymore?)

Vs. 8  Because of fear, Saul loses his sense of identity and “disguises himself.”  (Who am I anyway?)

Vs. 16-18 Because of fear, Saul can no longer listen to sound advice and wisdom.  (No one understand me?)

Vs. 20 Because of fear, Saul is overtaken by a panic attack and collapses.  (Am I losing my mind?)

Vs. 21-22  Because of fear, Saul is broken down physically and unable to sleep or eat.   (What is happening to my body?)

Vs. 23-25 Because of fear, Saul can no longer lead with strategy and clear thinking.  (What do I do next?)

If you have asked such questions, then you just might understand the power of fear.  Fear has power. Fear combined with worry can have a paralytic power.  Satan uses fear to create panic and confusion in our mind.  Fear not only affects our mind, but also our body and spirit in ways that can shut down the flow of our physical and spiritual antibodies.

Sick of Fear

Have you ever been sick of fear?  You probably have.  In a landmark study entitled “Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods and Thoughts Affect Health,” Dr. Blair Justice found that a life based in fear and worry was one of the most common denominators of those people who contracted cancer.  Fear could be traced closely to all forms of cardio vascular disease as well as many other physio psychological ailments.  The study found that fear has a paralyzing impact on our natural abilities to cope with life.

Undealt with fear has the potential to immobilize our physical immune system, thus creating a domino effect that can bring with it panic attacks, disease, and despair.  This is exactly what happens to Saul.  We read in our passage, “Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear…” (vs. 20)  The panic attack that Saul is experiencing continues and eventually leads to a loss of all appetite and an inability to sleep (vss 21-23).  Fear has power.

Attacked in L.A.

Ten years ago I fell under the power of fear and was shrouded with an anxiety attack.  I was enveloped with a blanket of claustrophobia that left me in a fetal position in a California hotel.  I was emotionally paralyzed, wept uncontrollably, and experienced insomnia.  The sense of foreboding, depression, and distress that followed took all my efforts, prayer, and seeking of God’s power to overcome.

As I sought wise counsel, at times fasted and prayed, and talked to several doctor friends, I realized that if I was going to live a healthy rest of my life, I needed to seriously reevaluate my lifestyle.  In due course this led to a new set of daily habits that included exercise, more laughter, and a deeper relationship with Jesus and people.

Created for Intimacy

You can break the cycle of fear.  But you will have to get off the anxiety merry-go-round and seriously reassess your lifestyle.  I did almost ten years ago and it’s made all the difference in my world.

I believe the heart of every human being was formed for intimacy.  Intimacy with God, made known through Jesus, and intimacy with people is the key to peace.  This is why when Jesus was challenged by religious leaders as to which Law was the greatest, responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  Love is the strongest form of intimacy.  Jesus is commanding us to love Him with every ounce of our spiritual, emotional, and physical energy, and then, as a result to love people with equal passion and zeal.

I believe that a deep growing maturing friendship with Jesus releases spiritual antibodies that strengthen our immune system.  Intimacy with Jesus brings a new power, the power to break the insidious satanic pressure of fear.   Intimacy with Jesus and people fills up our spiritual and emotional tank.  This then enables us to have the spiritual immune system needed to withstand the many anxious thoughts that we are bombarded with each day.

So, enjoy Jesus today through prayer and Bible study.  Build deep friendships and laugh often.  Exercise is vital.  Surrender your need to be in control and give God your worries.  Don’t hesitate, boldly jump into a new life of faith and peace.  Then, fear will have no power!