BUILDING A HEALTHY FAMILY
Depressurize Your Marriage
February 12, 2006
Constructing a strong family in the 21st Century is no easy task. What tools does God’s Word give us when it comes to marriage, parenting, discipline, and even finding rest? Join Ben Young in the series, Building A Healthy Family, as he takes a look at how to practically assemble a healthy family and a healthy life.
Pressures invade our lives from every angle…from family, to finances, to careers. What do all these pressures lead to? What do we do when we are tired of juggling? How does God’s word advise us to handle the life He has set before us? Join Ben Young in the first message of this series as he looks at three questions which may help us depressurize all the external forces in our lives.
One of the most incredible structures on planet earth has to be the Taj Mahal. I didn’t know this until recently, but do you know what the Taj Mahal is? Does anybody know? Yes! You are exactly right! It is a memorial. It is basically a big tomb. There was a guy who was the ruler of India named Shah Jahan, back in 1629; and he was grieving, and wanted to remember the life of one of his most special wives. So, he took her casket, and he put it in the middle of this big parcel of land; and actually began construction of the Taj Mahal around his wife’s casket.
Now, you can imagine all the time, all the energy, all the construction that went into this; and the Shah was passionately devoted to this project.
Months passed—years passed. One day, he was out surveying the construction site, and he stumbled across this wooden box. He said, “What is this doing here?” He said, “Get this out of here—remove it!” And so, some of the workers removed it, and he went on about his day. It wasn’t until months later that he realized that that little wooden box that he stumbled over was actually the casket of his beloved wife.
Now, what happened to the Shah? The Shah got so consumed with the pressures and details of the construction; he forgot the original purpose of the memorial.
Now, it is easy to look back and say, “How in the world would anybody get so consumed with something like that and miss that?” Don’t we do it so many, many times in our lives? Think about it—-all the pressure—all the constraints on our lives. Many, many times, we lose sight—we lost focus of our original purpose.
Life is a lot about pressure, and how you and how I handle the various pressures in life. It starts at a young age. We have what I call these big, pressure-packed questions. I don’t know what it is in this culture we live in; but you have these questions that float around, right? You are in high school—the big question is, “Are you going to go to college?” And then, if you go to college, then you have to ask, “Well, where are you going to go to college?” And then, once you are in college, “Well, what are you going to major in?”
And then once you tell what you are going to major in, the big question is, “What are you going to do when you get out?” When you get out, in your 20’s, for the first time, you are considered “single”, whatever that means! So when you are single, people are asking you “Have you found anybody yet? Are you going to get married?”
You get annoying phone calls from friends or relatives, right? You pick up the phone—“Hello?” “Hey—when are you going to settle down?” Or, “Have you found anybody yet?” And the proper way to respond to those questions is, “Have you lost those extra 15 pounds yet? Oh, I didn’t think so! I am sorry!”
And then, let’s say you do find someone, right? You fall head-over heels, slaphappy in love; and you whisk down the aisle, and you get married! Once you get married, people say, “Hey, you’re married (just back from your honeymoon). When are you going to have a kid?” You have a kid—“Are you going to have another kid? Are you going to have another one? When are you going to get a dog?”
You have all these questions that you feel like you have to answer, and give an account for in your life! It is kind of crazy—all these pressure-packed questions. But if you do get married, and you do start building a family, you realize that your life is all of a sudden filled with all kinds of pressure points. Have you noticed that?
I mean, most couples will tell you that when you get married, one of the big pressure points is money. Money is a biggie. It is a big-time pressure. It doesn’t matter if you are very rich, if you are middle class, or if you are poor; money is a big deal in relationships, and especially in marriage.
Many of us are carrying way too much debt! I am not talking about a mortgage or a car payment, or school loans; but you have all this life style that you want to live, right? And your outcome exceeds your income, and you are in debt.
Or, maybe you are doing pretty well financially, but in your relationship, perhaps there is always fighting over what you are buying, right? “I can’t believe you went out and paid $125 for that pair of shoes!” But of course, it is okay for you to spend $300 for a shotgun, right? So, you have all of these hypothetical conflicts going on in marriage, all about money!
Another pressure point in marriage is work. Man! Work, work, work! We have just surpassed Japan as the nation that works more hours per week than any other nation in the world!
We have less vacation than any other industrialized country in the world. We work 40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week! Many times, both partners are working jobs, and you are trying to balance the demands of job, your relationship, and of family. It is a big-time pressure!
Another pressure point is your in-laws! That is a pressure point, isn’t it? In-laws, out-laws, others encroaching! By the way, do you know the definition of mixed emotions? The definition of mixed emotions is watching your mother-in-law go over the cliff in your brand-new Mercedes! I’m just kidding—but that is a pressure point. Some people in their marriages have not cut the apron strings. They have not cut the apron strings from their family; and therefore, they bring all those pressures and all those tensions into their marriage.
Another big-time pressure point in marriage is kids, children. They demand a lot of attention! Have you noticed that? And for those of you who are in the infant stage, it is not about living, it is about surviving! Looking, scraping for just an hour of sleep, right? And so you kind of go through the first kid, and the first few hours, and you are just walking around—you go to Starbucks—“Give me a black-eye, shot-eye, red-eye—anything,” just to stay awake to get through the day! That is another big-time pressure.
And of course, what do all these pressures lead to? The pressure of money, the pressure of work, the pressure of kids, the pressure of in-laws, all these pressures lead to busyness! We are all so busy! And it gets exhausting. The pressure cooker is incredible! No wonder we lose sight of our original purpose.
I was watching a special recently about Steve Martin. I like Steve Martin—I think he is a comedic genius and a really funny guy. But when he was first starting out back in the 70’s, he did something unusual that a lot of comics didn’t do. A lot of comics back then were totally involved and still hung over from the 60’s and the Vietnam War, and they were all negative and cynical; but Steve Martin took some of his tricks he learned. He was a magician. He also could juggle. It showed him at one point juggling all this stuff.
I thought, “That is a lot like life.” Have you noticed that? Life is always moving from the very simple, to the very complex. So, you start off in your life, single; and you are juggling some fruit—one or two oranges. It is tough, but you can handle it. Then, someone else throws you another orange. And now, you are married, and you are juggling three things at the same time.
Then, you have a kid, and you are juggling that; and then you have money and you are spending too much. Then you have other things, and in-laws—all this stuff.
All of a sudden you are just like AAAAGGGHHH all the time; and you are wondering, “When in the world am I going to catch up?” And by the way, as you can tell, I can’t even juggle, because if I did this long enough, in a couple of minutes, I would be tired. So many times, we are juggling all this stuff, and we say, “Wouldn’t it be great to get back to just juggling one thing, or maybe just two things? I can handle that!”
So many people—so many couples just want to leave it all. They just want to leave all the pressures and all the stuff because they are simply tired of juggling. They feel like they can’t make it. Others are juggling all this stuff, but they are caught up in the routine—the mundaneness of life, and their marriage begins to eventually just kind of drift away… So, what do you do? What do you do if you are tired of juggling? What do you do with all these pressures that are coming down on you in your life? How do you handle them?
Let me give you a couple of questions—really, let’s look at three questions this morning—three questions I believe which may help us depressurize all these forces in our lives.
Here is the first question: Is everything on the table?
Bill and Angie fall in love and get married. They love each other, love their child, and love their careers. They throw themselves into the careers; but they start having issues in their marriage. They have problems with communication, and their conflict resolution skills are waning, to say the least. But instead of dealing with that, they take that issue and say, “Oh, we will just table it.” And they put it under the table. They are having problems with intimacy; they know they should really work on that, but, “You know what, we can deal with that later, because we are so busy—we have so much stuff going on—so many other pressures—we’ll just table that problem of intimacy. We have a problem with money and finances—we disagree on how we should spend it. You know what—we really need to talk about that, and many times we do, but we just need to table that.”
And all of a sudden, a couple like that is going to bed one night, and one of them gets up to adjust the thermostat. And the thermostat issue goes from “Turn it down the other way!” To, “You are so selfish!”
All of a sudden, you go from a thermostat, to money, to in-laws, to conflict, to intimacy; and all of a sudden, you are in an all-out brawl about issues that you have tabled and have been under the surface in your relationship. We looked at that a couple of weeks ago—remember that? If you have an issue, or something going on in your relationship and in your marriage—“I just can’t wait to deal with that! I am so mad!! —- Then stop, pray about it. —Wait and then deal with it. If you have issues that you know you should deal with, but don’t want to; then you have to deal with it.
So, the first question you have to ask yourself about the pressure in your life, “Is everything on the table, or have you tabled it?” “Oh, let’s just table it!” No—you’ve got to put everything on the table.
Here is one thing you could do this week that would be so helpful in getting back to the original purpose in your life, and in your marriage. Sit down, and set a time to have a nice table talk. Just do it. I recommend that you do it after Tuesday night—I’ve got to say that for us guys, all right? Find a time—it’s Valentine’s Day, by the way—-find a time that you can sit down together. Schedule it so you can sit down and talk about one of the issues. If you are looking to talk about too many issues, you can be overwhelmed; but talk about one of the issues that you have tabled—put that on the table and discuss that issue—talk about it. Negotiate, compromise, discuss that issue in a non-heated context.
So, if you are feeling the pressure hit you from all different sides in your life, or you feel the pressure hitting you from all different sides in your marital relationship, you have got to go to the table—set time out for a table talk.
Second question to depressurize things—to get us back focused; the second question is essential. A couple of months ago, I was having coffee with a good friend of mine, Sean Boutros. I have known Sean for probably 20 years. We were sitting there, drinking a cup of coffee, and Shawn looked at me, and he said, “Ben, what is that in your ear?” And I said, “This ear?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “I don’t know—it is just a scab.” He kind of started looking at it, and he said, “Hey, that doesn’t look very good! Do you want me to take that off?” I said, “Sure! When do you want to do it?” He said, “Let’s go back to my office.” By the way, Sean is a surgeon…minor point!
And so I said, “Yeah—let’s go. I’ve got a meeting, but I’ll call and rearrange that and reschedule.” So, we went down to his office, he took out a little knife—-cut the thing out, and sent it off to the lab.
A couple of days pass, and he called me up and said, “Ben—it is bad news. That little thing on your ear was cancerous. It is a basal cell cancer.”
Basal cell is basically no big deal; you usually get them on your hands, or your neck, or your back—but the bad thing about this one was that it was located right near my ear canal. So, he said, “I need to cut a bigger portion out of your ear. So, when do you want to come back down to do that?” I said, “Well, how about now?”
So, I went down there, and he cut a little more. He said, “I’m going to send this off to the lab, but I am sure that I got it all.” So, I waited a few days, and I get a call back. He said, “I can’t believe it, but there is still more there! We are going to have to do some surgery.” Or at my age, you call it a procedure! He said, “When can you do it?” “How about as soon as you can? I mean, let’s go! Whatever it takes, get that thing out of my ear! And while you are at it, can you fix the little ‘Spock’ action, too?”
So, I think it was a Wednesday morning, several months ago; I went down there early in the morning for the surgery, and I am thinking, “I can’t believe I am doing this.” I get down there, and you have the gown on with the big gap in the back. It is no good; and you have that goofy hat on, and then you have all these people coming up to you—“Hey, I am your so-and-so person,” and “I am this person.” “Do you have a living will?” I was like, “I’ve got a dying will.” So, you have all these people asking you questions.
Finally, the good stuff comes, which is the anesthesia. They start putting the anesthesia in me, and I was kind of joking around before that. You start feeling it—it is really good. As I was fading out, I said, “Man—I feel like that Pink Floyd song”… I think everybody else kind of looked away in wonderment, but one wise soul at the end of the bed said, “Which one? ‘Comfortably Numb’?” And I said, “Yeah!” That is the last thing I remember man! BOOM! I am out!
Well, Sean, who is an incredible surgeon, cut the margins, measured and came back and fixed it. He took some skin from behind my donor ear! Cut and paste—just like on your computer! And he pasted it in there! And now, I am 100%—-the basal cell is gone—-I am a happy camper!
Bottom line is this: What was fascinating to me about when I discovered that I had cancer was how quickly I responded to it. I didn’t wait around and say, “Hey, I wonder what is going to happen? I’m going to let that scab grow a little bit more!” And when he said, “When can you do this?” “Hey—let’s do it now! Let’s take action, right? Let’s do whatever it takes!”
So, the second question you’ve got to ask yourself in this pressure packed life we live, and the pressures of marriage is: Are you doing whatever it takes?
Given the issues that are maybe under the table right now; perhaps once you place them on the table and look at them, and talk about them—are you then willing to do whatever it takes to deal with it?
Matthew 5:29-30—Listen to this. This is what Jesus said: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you that if one of the parts of your body perish than for your whole body to go into hell.”
What is Jesus talking about? Is he talking about self-mutilation? You got a problem with your eye—pluck it out, right? Texas chain saw, self-massacre on your hand—-is that what He is talking about? No—He is not. What is He doing? Jesus is using extreme language. He is saying, “Listen, if you have an issue in your life, if you have something going on between you and God, if something is under the table that you need to deal with, you need to get radical! You need to do whatever it takes to fix it, or to eradicate it from your life, or from your marital relationship! You can’t just sit back and let it go, and let it grow, and wonder what is going to happen! You’ve got to get it on the table, and you have to deal with it. You have got to have the attitude, “We are going to do whatever it takes to fix it.” That is what the vows are about, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part. It is a commitment to do whatever it takes.
What is marriage? Marriage is a life-long commitment to unconditionally love an imperfect person. That is what it is about.
I knew a guy several years ago right here in our city; and if you had viewed him from the lens of our culture, you would say, “This guy has it all!” They could do a feature on him—-“The Wonderful Life of this guy.” He had it—-he was doing really well in the corporate world. He had climbed the ladder. He had made a lot of cash, he had a wife, a nice house, and he had three kids. This guy had it going on!
But what no one knew was that his marriage and his family was beginning to unravel. And he did something that so many people don’t do. He realized that he was really married to his work—he was married to his image; so what did he do?
He was willing to do whatever it took, so he rolled up his sleeves, and he resigned from his job. He took a different job in a different area and specialty. He scaled down his lifestyle, and he said, “I want to get right with God, and I want to get right with my family.” And that was about 8 years ago, and the guy is still on that same path! He was willing to get radical. He was willing to do whatever it took!
I don’t know what that looks like for you—-I don’t know what is going on in your life, or your marriage; but you have got to get radical. You have got to do whatever it takes to deal with it—to fix it—or to eradicate it from your life, and from your marriage.
Maybe it is a money-thing. Go see a financial planner. Go to a seminar—we teach them in our church frequently. Maybe the problem is communication in marriage, and intimacy, or other issues. Go see a Christian counselor. We will spend 80 gazillion dollars on a wedding, but you won’t even crowbar 90 bucks out of your wallet, or purse to go get some help. Do something! Because it is worth it! It’s worth it.
You say, “Well, if I could just stop juggling all these things, and get rid of these pressures and maybe get a divorce, I will be happier.” No, no, no. No you won’t! There was a study done recently, and one the head researchers from the University of Chicago showed that people who were unhappily married and got divorced, were not happier once they were divorced, or even if they got remarried. But the couples that were unhappy that stayed married, and persevered, and did whatever it took, later on, they were happy! So don’t buy the lie that if you stop juggling all the stuff and go back to juggling just two things that you will get rid of all the pressure. It doesn’t work that way.
Second question to depressurize things is: Are you doing whatever it takes?
The third question is, we miss this a lot, kind of like Shah Jahan in the middle of building the Taj Mahal, right? We skip over this last question, and that is: Do you remember the original purpose? Don’t miss this—Do you remember the original purpose?
Look at Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5 is the big marriage chapter—one of the big marriage chapters in the New Testament. It has got the “S” word in there that we are not going to read today—don’t worry. Ephesians 5:1-2—“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children. Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
I love this passage. You and I are made in the image of God. We are not lucky mud! God designed you and me for a purpose. It is to reflect who He is.
He is telling us here to be imitators of God—reflect God. God has dearly loved you and me, and out of this vertical love, we are to love horizontally.
So, once we receive God’s love for us, and we realize that in Christ, God has chosen to unconditionally love an imperfect person like you and me; once we get a hold of His love, then we are able to love others! We have to keep going back to God’s love, keep going back to the Cross, keep going back and saying, “God, fill me with your Spirit to enable me to live out this love.”
So, your love for one another in marriage is a reflection—here is the purpose—a reflection of Christ’s love for us. See? You’ve got God’s love, and you have love for others—boom! That is the big “L.” That is it.
Now, did God put everything on the table? You bet! He took all of our stuff that was under the table in our lives—-He took all that stuff upon Him! Was God willing to do whatever it took? Yeah—God did whatever it took—He even came down and became a man, and was sacrificed for us, taking our issues, our stuff on the table, and died for us. He showed us what real love is, so that we could be a reflection of that love in our lives, and especially in our marriages.
So, you say, “I don’t feel like loving this person. I don’t feel like loving my spouse—I don’t have these feelings—my needs aren’t getting met. I don’t feel it…”
Listen to this: One pastor put it this way—-He said, “Here is the big problem when it comes to love in our culture—here is the big problem. We think that love is a victim of our emotions, rather than a servant of our wills.” Did you get that? You may want to write that one down! Guys, gals—we probably need to tattoo that to our hand! We think love is an emotion! We are victims of our emotions, rather than servants of our wills! God has given us a WILL. Love is a VERB! Love is something you DO! It is an ACTION!! It is an action.
So, we mirror, we reflect—though dimly, the love—this commitment that God’s love has for us–when we take a step, and take action to do something, to deal with the issues, to do whatever it takes. We are reflecting, or mirror-imaging the love that God has for us. Because He has greatly loved us with this kind of love, we have the capacity to love, and we have hope.
I love what Augustine said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters—their names are anger, and courage. Anger at the way things are; and courage to see they do not remain the way they are.” Hope, anger, courage and love.