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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
Communication is the highway upon which love travels. You can love one another, you can love God, you can be committed to one another.
And if you can’t get out inside of you, what you really think and what you really feel and if your mate can’t do it in a way that doesn’t attack and wound one another, I will tell you, in years and years of marriage counseling, there are people that love one another, love God, and no longer are together because they could not communicate and get to the heart of the issues.
I told you earlier about that first couple years of my life and that professor sent us to marriage counseling. And I bet ninety percent of it was learning to communicate. We didn’t know how to resolve anger and we didn’t know how to communicate.
Well, you know what? There’s a lot of issues that if you can’t get the love traveling on the highway of communication, you’re dead. And the frustration boils over, especially if you really love God and you want to get through and you want to express this to your mate but you just keep getting knocked down. Pretty soon, the blame starts.
The greatest, most vivid example. It’s in your notes. It starts with, it all started with the car. It was an early pastorate that I had in Texas many, many years ago and I love to play basketball, if you’ve ever heard me speak, you know I’m a basketball junkie.
And had the privilege of playing in college and then around the world for a couple, three summers.
And these neighbors had a hoop. And so I knew, these are going to be my friends. Because I’m going to go play. And we started playing and he had three boys and I had boys.
And one thing led to another. And I found out that he was there, he’d been through a couple very difficult relationships and he had four teenagers. And he was living with a gal who’d been through some really painful relationships and a couple, three marriages.
And she had a tiny, little girl and they were all living together. And so we went down and played basketball. Six, seven, eight, nine months. And little by little got a chance to share Christ with him and then he came down one day and I can still remember. You know, I was weeding next to my mailbox and Dan comes by. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said, “What do you mean?” “Why didn’t you tell me?” I said, “Man, why didn’t I tell you what? “That you’re one of those preacher types. You’re a pastor.” I said, “Well, yeah, I am.”
He said, “Well, we’ve been kind of watching you and Theresa and we’ve been listening and we want to get married. Will you marry us?” And I’m thinking, Oh boy.
I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. One of the things I have is I always do six weeks minimum of counseling and you really need to know what marriage is and it’s kind of hard. And so I want to talk about how that works and I would love to meet with you and your wife and Theresa will do it too.”
Well, we did it. By about the third session, they both came to Christ. Amazing stories. Great redemption.
And went through the whole process. And then now we’re into this new marriage. Six or nine months. They’re both brand new in Christ. They both love God. They’re both in God’s Word. They’re both going, I will say it was a good church, I got to be the pastor. It was a great group of people.
And so I came by and he was in this traveling job where like Monday through Thursday or even all the way to Friday, he’d be traveling all over America in sales and then he’d come home.
Well, she’s with four teenagers that aren’t hers, okay? And they’re making her nuts. And so, he comes home and he’s thinking, Oh, I haven’t seen my wife. Let’s go out to dinner. I’m going to really love her. We’re going to have a date. Lists all this stuff. And she’s thinking, we’ve got to resolve conflict with Bob at school and your other son and your daughter,
she’s dating this guy and she’s juggling all this stuff.
And so anyway, they come home and she’s listening and she’s meeting with Theresa and he’s meeting with me.
So, this is, listen. Listen. They love each other, remember. They’re committed to the Lord, remember. They’re actually growing spiritually, remember.
And so, he comes home for the weekend and she says, I want to be others-centered and grace-giving. So they go out to a beautiful dinner, they have a romantic evening, they take walks the next day and but she keeps waiting for: When are we going to have the big talk? When are you going to sit down and talk about: am I going to discipline these kids? And they’re too big for me and what about these issues and we’ve got all kind of things we need to do.
Well, he wants to be others-centered. And it’s getting cold in Texas so it’s Sunday afternoon and he’s going to get on a plane in about five or six hours so he is out, underneath the car, changing the oil of her car to make sure the antifreeze.
So he’s loving her. All right? You got the story.
I walk down, I know we’re not going to get to play basketball and my, one of my kids runs out of the house and says, “Dad, you better watch out. It’s going like crazy down there.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?”
So I walk up and by the time I get there, it is a no holds barred, he’s half under the car, sitting up like that. There is veins, eyes bulging, plates have already been flowing, there is cursing, there is “You are this.” Everything they’ve ever thought.
Oh, everything they brought into their marriage that was ugly, bad they just spewed it on one another. And my kid ran out, I said, “What happened?” “Well, that plate almost hit me when it went by and crashed against the wall. You know.” And I said, “Well, get home.” You know?
And so I watched all this happen. And she’s there thinking what? Man, I’m loving these four adults, teenage adults, and I’ve got all this stuff on my hands and you’ve been here two and a half days, we’ve had a decent talk, and you’re going to get on a plane. I’m stuck with all this and I don’t know what we’re going to do.
And he’s thinking, You know what? I have come home and I have wined and dined instead of getting a workout and doing some stuff I wanted to do and I took these romantic walks and talks like Chip says we’re supposed to do and all this jazz. And here I am out here trying to get your car ready for you so you’re safe and you treat…tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo, tcoo.
And I will, I remember doing a debrief about a week later and hours with him, Theresa hours with her. Bring them both together. Here’s what I can tell you. He did what he did all weekend for one reason. He loved her.
She did what she did all weekend because she loved him. They both put the other person first in a way that they understood, to obey God. And they had one of the biggest fights that put a barrier in their marriage that they never recovered from.
See, we learned you need to love God and know His plan. They knew it. We said there are barriers, they identified their barriers and they loved one another and they were operating to solve it.
But what they couldn’t do is they had not learned how, on the highway of communication, to get the love that was in his heart for his wife and her love for him on the highway of communication in a way that could get received and under pressure, they went back to the old ways.
And you know, to this day, I know two people who are no longer together who love one another, who both love God, because they didn’t learn what we’re going to learn right now.
Let’s talk about the communication process. We’re going to learn what it is and how it works.
Understanding the communication process. The definition is the meeting of meanings. Write the word “meanings.” Communication is not talking. It’s when the meaning, what’s in your heart, what do you really mean somehow goes across this highway into the heart and to the mind of your mate. Norman Wright says, “Communication is the privilege of exchanging vulnerabilities.”
By the way, the word “vulnerable” it means “open to woundedness.” See, great communication is always risky and often painful before it gets good.
Norman Wright also says, “Communication is the process of sharing yourself verbally and nonverbally in such a way that the other person,” listen, “can both accept and understand what you are saying.”
So if you say it in a way where they can’t accept it or they can’t understand it, you don’t communicate. You can say, “I said the right words. I wrote it down. This is the way it is.” If they can’t hear it, you didn’t communicate.
And a lot of times, we do things, unintentionally, completely unintentionally that shut down the communication process.
Many of us think, especially us as men, we think communication, “Look, that’s what I said. I said, I love you. Okay? Look. I love you. You don’t get it? What’s the deal? I love you! Hey, I said it once. I said it twice. You know, well…I love you, okay? Get over it.”
Now, what do my words say? Someone could have put that in a transcript and said, “Oh my. Chip’s such a wonderful husband. He just said six times in a row, ‘I love you.’” Except that wasn’t my tone of voice, was it?
Notice on your notes the complete message. Words alone are about seven percent. Tone of voice, thirty-eight percent. Facial expression, gestures, posture, the nonverbal, fifty-five percent.
And by the way, that’s sometimes, as men, we get really frustrated because we we’re really trying.
But they can read behind. And some of you guys can do it too. You know, it’s kind of like, “Yeah let’s, yeah, we need the deep talk. Uh, yeah, go ahead hon, what whatever. Just tell me. I really want to hear. [Yawn] Yeah, yeah, communication. Kids. Yeah, let’s go, no, I’m listening, I’m listening.” Right?
You see, your body, your presence, your face, your tone of voice, your eyes. All of that is how we communicate with one another.
And if we think I said the right thing or I even meant the right thing and if you think you got through, you may not at all.
And then notice, it’s a skill. It’s the highway on which love travels. It is a skill. It can be learned. But most of us did not grow up with models where people communicated clearly and well.
And most of us don’t know how. I spent about ninety dollars and that was a student rate. I spent ninety dollars. I’m making a thousand dollars a month in seminary. And I’ve got three kids, I’m working full-time, going to school full time.
And I’ve got this little tiny apartment that you could live all that on a thousand. I paid ninety dollars for twelve weeks in a row to learn how to communicate. So, actually, I should be charging most of you for me telling you what these counselors taught me. All right? And then I have some passages that will be helpful too. But it’s a skill.
There’s five levels of communication, according to author John Powell, who wrote the book, Why I’m Afraid to Tell You Who I Am. He says, there’s the cliché, level one, safe, shallow “How are you?” “I’m fine.”
There’s level two, reporting facts. Refers to, basically, third person. “Have you heard about the weather today?” “No.” “I think it’s going to rain.”
There’s level three, ideas or judgment. Risk begins here because there’s attachment of yourself with the facts. “So, what did you think of that message last week in church?” “What do you think about the current political situation?” “What do you think about what we need to do with our money?”
Do you see? Now what you say may cause a little conflict so it’s getting a little bit more dangerous.
Level four is feelings and emotions. Laying self on the line. “I feel hurt.” “I’m struggling.” “I’m depressed.” “I was really offended last night when we were with that couple and you brought that subject up that you never talked with me about that. I felt really damaged.”
Level five is open communication. Total honesty, mutual understanding, vulnerability. No holds barred.
Now, on the left side of your notes, at the very top where it says level one. I want you to write the word “safe” and put a box around it. And then at the very bottom where it says level five, I want you to write the word “dangerous.”
Because here’s what you need to understand. Shallow communication is very safe but it doesn’t lead to intimacy. Intimacy occurs at levels four and five.
It moves from safe to dangerous but deeply fulfilling along with deeply painful conversations happen at levels four and especially at level five.
And if you don’t understand, then you’ll start opening up and you’ll start sharing and then some hard things are going to come out and you’re going to get wounded and you’re going to get hurt, and instead of realizing, Oh, this is normal, this is like we’re at level four point five and I guess I need to be real sensitive to what the Spirit’s saying so that before it comes out of my mouth I really process it. And instead of striking back maybe I really need to listen carefully. There may be a nugget of truth into this.
See, if you don’t know it’s dangerous, then you’ll react, right? And pretty soon, you’ll close down.
And what I want to talk about, so how in the world do you move from level one down, progressively in different areas, to level five? Intimacy always occurs at levels four and five.
But some of you might be having this thought. Well, wait a minute. You know, I’ve tried that before and you’re right. There is a lot of pain. I was really open before.
And we’ve done some of that and, you know what? If you’re going to ask me to go there again, I’m not going to do it. Because it hurt too badly.
And what I want to suggest is that you need some rules. You need some principles from God to build that highway of communication so you can go there without getting hurt. All right?
So with that, let me give you five principles, I believe, that will transform communication in your home. If you’ll open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4. The context is really exciting because you know, the first three chapters are about all these wonderful great things that God has done. You’re a new person in Christ.
Then chapter 4 opens up, “Now walk in a manner worthy of your calling.” In other words, how do you live out this new, supernatural life? The Spirit of God has taken up residence in you.
You’ve been taken out of the kingdom of darkness. You’ve been pulled into the kingdom of light.
Your sins are gone. You have peace. The Spirit lives in you. You’re a part of a new family called the Church. You are going to be transformed. He says, how does it work?
And in the first seventeen verses, he begins to explain about who you are in Christ and how your mind needs to be transformed.
And this supernatural thing called the Church, it’s called a community where He gives apostles and prophets and evangelists and teachers so to equip the saints to do the work in the ministry until everyone is mature. And the idea is, where we, all the fullness. We become more and more like Jesus.
And then after he lays all that out, he picks it up and he says, okay, now, let me target about five specific areas about how this practically works out in your relationships.
How do you live out this new, supernatural life, the Spirit of God in you, you’re born again. You’re a Christian. How does it work in relationships? And he gives five very simple principles.
Principle number one, you pick it up in verse 15 but he develops it in verse 25. And it’s simply put: be honest. Write those two words down. Speak the truth in love. This is the key to communication.
It is easy to speak the truth. It is easy to speak in love. It is very hard to speak the truth in love. It’s easy to speak the truth. “You gained a lot of weight lately. What’s the problem?” “Oh nothing really. I think it’s the lazy guy I’m married to!” The truth is just right there on the table, no problem here, right?
But I’m not sure that’s going to bring about good communication. Or you don’t ever mention areas that are of pain or a problem.
“Oh, you’re wonderful. I’m wonderful. You’re wonderful. I’m wonderful. No, you. No you’re more wonderful. No, no, no, no, no. You’re wonderful but I’m more wonderful.”
And you just take all that junk and you don’t face it and you push it down. Speaking the truth isn’t hard. Speaking in love isn’t hard. Speaking the truth in love requires tremendous Spirit-directed capacity.
Notice what he says in verse 15. “But speaking the truth in love,” notice what happens. “We are to grow up into all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. Finish, then, with lying and tell your neighbor the truth.” Well, your mate is a neighbor. “We are not separate units but intimately related to one another in Christ.”
It means that we stop pretending. It means we don’t lie. And it means that in a very calculated, wise, God-ordained way, we begin to move into levels four and five and we start talking honestly about areas that are of conflict. Areas that are hard. Areas where you’re dissatisfied. Areas where you feel wounded.
But you speak the truth in a way where the other person can hear it because it’s couched in: “I’m not down on you. This is not payback.” And I’m going to give you some specific skills toward the end about how to do this, okay?
But what do you’ve got to do? We’ve got to be honest. You don’t grow unless we’re honest with one another.
One of the little applications I would give you, write in your notes: make direct requests. One of the things we do is we think our mates can read our minds. And so the car is a quarter low on empty and your husband drives your car and it comes back all the way on empty.
And you’re frustrated and everything and so what we go to is, “You know, I can’t believe he’s so inconsiderate. Why does he leave my car that way?”
Well I got news for you, if he’s anything like me, I don’t know where my car is, heaven knows I know what yours is.
You know, I’ll often, my wife grew up with a dad who was, like, Mr. Fix-it. You know like Mr. Rogers on steroids except Mr. Green Jeans was there.
And he painted his house every three years, whether it needed it or not. I didn’t even notice when our house needed painting. Okay? And so, she’s thinking I’m going to be like him. And so she’s assuming, “Well why, have you serviced the cars?” “Uh, they’re not running?” You know?
Or “When are we going to repair this thing?” “Doesn’t look broken to me. That’s way too much.” You know?
I wasn’t good or bad. I just, you know what my dad was good at? Catching baseballs. Hitting baseballs. Playing basketball. He was a golden glove boxer. You know what I learned? I learned how to do sports. I didn’t…you know when something broke? My dad said, “Call the repair man.”
He couldn’t do anything and he reproduced after himself. And you know what she learned? Here’s the skill. Make direct requests.
You know what she started doing? Simple things like, “Chip, are you going to use my car right now?” “Yeah, because I need it, it’s got more room.” “Would you mind filling it with gas?” “Yeah, no.” In fact, I did it, felt like a hero. “Ooh, boy, look at this.” You know? In fact, I started changing the oil. She thought I was metamorphosised right in front of her.
Speak the truth in love. Those kind of issues like that sometimes go unspoken for ten, fifteen, twenty years in marriages.
Second. You didn’t know this much was in the Bible, did you? Be angry. Deal with anger appropriately.
Notice what it says. “If you’re angry, be sure that it’s not out of wounded pride or a bad temper. Never go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that sort of foothold.”
That’s a Phillips translation of Ephesians 4:26 and 27. The literal translation is “be angry.” It’s a command. It’s an imperative. Yet, do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Anger is the most destructive emotion in any marriage relationship.
Anger is – the distance between your expectations and your experience is anger. The difference between what you thought was going to happen and what you’re currently experiencing creates anger.
Now, sometimes it’s justified and sometimes it’s not. It just, they just tick you off a little bit and it’s because you’re selfish.
But he says, “Be angry.” If you don’t deal with that anger and if you push it down. You know, some researchers say as much as ninety percent of all depression is rooted in unresolved anger. Well, I can tell you, it will cause your stomach to do this.
But here’s what’s worse. What’s this verse say? We don’t think about the Spirit world and Jesus came to – what? To give life. The enemy came to destroy. And to steal. And to kill.
What’s this verse say? Be angry yet don’t sin. Don’t let the enemy get a foothold. When you go to bed mad, when you have unresolved anger, when you push it down, you’re inviting demonic spirits to begin to divide.
And then you start playing in your mind and blame shifting. Man, I’ll tell you what, it is a serious thing to be able to say, “I feel angry. I don’t know how we need to resolve it but I feel angry about…”
One of the little tools and I feel bad giving this away because I paid my ninety dollars for twelve weeks but I’m giving it to you free. So I want you to write this down.
A skill here is what we call “I feel” messages. Our Christian counselor, you get on a 3x5 card, it was on our refrigerator for two years. “I feel blank when you blank.” Okay, you want me to go over that again slower? Okay.
I feel blank – hurt, angry, frustrated, lonely, when you blank – don’t come home on time, don’t call, are not affectionate or responsive. I feel blank when you blank.
See, what we tend to do is we use ought and should and never and always. “You should never do that. You always do that. You…” How do parents talk to children? Ought, should, never, always.
When you hear that from your mate, those are fighting words. You tell a man, “You never, you ought, you should.” His manhood is challenged. “You wanna, you wanna, hey, you think that’s it?”
And when you say that to a woman it’s like some, “You’re not my father.” Talking down to me and making me feel small. Well if you think she’s withdrawing now, you keep talking like that.
My wife and I bumped heads and we didn’t know how to resolve anger and that card was on here and I had one thing that drove her crazy.
She would make dinner and she is what we call a “dot” communicator. I’m a “dash” communicator. Dot communicators mean, when they say something, there’s a period at the end of it.
We’re going to eat at five thirty. Dot. It’s concrete. Not five thirty-one. Five thirty. And when you come in at twenty ‘til six – I’m a dash – five thirty. You say, hey, let’s meet at five thirty.
To me, that’s, “Aahhh, twenty after five, twenty to six, depending on traffic, depending on whatever else is happening. I’m sure you’ll understand. I understand. I’ll give you grace, you give me grace.” Okay, I’m a dash, I’m married to a dot. Yet another difference.
So it’s five thirty. And I come in, not at twenty ‘til. And I don’t call. And it’s now six o’clock and I’m thinking, you don’t understand. I’m working full time. I’m going to school full time.
Like, two afternoons, I can play pick-up basketball. When you play pick-up basketball, when you win, you stay on. Okay? Okay?
I won three games. I’m not going to leave when I’m still on. This is my one little fun. You know, I’m the skinny little white kid playing. I’m on. I’m going to, I can’t go home.
And so, I come home, like, thirty, forty minutes late. And I’ve had a great time playing basketball and then here we go again.
You ought, you should, you never. Here’s the cold supper. And, man, we fought about it. And then, so, we communicated as we did. She would shut down for two or three days. And I would try and make it up to her. And then I kept doing the same thing.
And I’ll never forget, I came home, typically late. And instead of she acting like my mother. And by the way, when your wife acts like your mother, just take it to the bank honey. We’re going to, BAM. You know? Right?
And so, she didn’t have her hands on her hips and there was candles. And it all, she goes, “Your food is in the oven. I’ll get it for you if you want to sit down.” “Uh-ooh.”
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. [sings Twilight Zone theme]. You know? You know?
I don’t know what this counselor’s teaching her but it’s getting scary. And so she brings it and she sets it down and she said, “I want you to know, the kids and I had a good meal.” I said, “Oh.” You know, I’m thinking, ooh, gosh, I’m not sure how to handle this.
And so, I sat down and I started to eat and she just waited, calm, under control, clothed, in her right mind.
And I had all my defenses up and then I’ll never forget she looked at me and she said, “Chip? I feel like you don’t love me when I spend all day cooking a meal to express my love to you and you don’t show up and you don’t call.” Swwwohh. Ahhhhhhhhh! It was like, get up and fight like a real man! You know?
Eyes watering up. I feel like, see? Do you see where the attack has gone? It’s an “I feel” message. And pretty soon it was, “I feel frustrated, I feel confused, I feel lonely, I feel left out.”
And you can learn to begin to express anger with this little message that doesn’t attack the person.
And then I don’t know. Something happened. I just thought. Now, wait a second. I love to play ball. But I love my wife. If this makes her feel like I don’t love her. Hey guys, I got news for you. You know what? Get a brother over here in this chain link fence.
I said, “You know what? This is your lucky day. I’m on and this is my team and you get my spot. I’ve got to go. Okay? You can run.” And I got home. It got to be, I rarely ever was not on time.
Because as long as she was chiding me, as long as she was trying to get to change me, instead of opening her heart and telling me how she felt, then we were in a battle. When I realized I was wounding her. Well, I may not be sensitive but I’m not a jerk.
That is what isn’t it the kindness of the Lord that brings us to repentance? It was her kindness that transformed me, not her nagging.
The third principle out of this is be diligent. Work hard on your relationships. Verse 28. “If you used to be thief, you must not only give up stealing, you must learn to make an honest living so that you may be able to give to those in need.”
And the idea here is be diligent. He’s talking about this transformation in relationships. And he says, yeah, you used to be a thief. What’s the idea of a thief? It’s a shortcut.
Stealing is no more than I want the product, I don’t want the process. You work all week and then the guy comes up and puts the gun and says, “You get your money out of the ATM,” and he takes it. You did all the work, he gets all the reward.
That violates a biblical principle of communication in relationship. He says, “Be diligent. Work hard.”
I came to realize, I don’t have the skill to relate, I have baggage, I have sin, she’s a woman, I’m a man, we got different personalities, I realize I needed to sign up for the rest of my life and make my marriage my number one priority and work at it.
And what we want is, we want these ideal marriages that are wonderful but we don’t want to put the time in. I don’t want to go through the process. Great marriages are like oak trees, not weeds. They take a lot of time and they’re really great. But you’ve got to really work.
Next, it’s be positive. Don’t wound with your words. Verse 29. “Let no more foul language but good words instead. Words suitable for the occasion, which God can use to help other people.”
“Never hurt the Holy Spirit. He is, remember, the personal pledge of your eventual full redemption. Let there be no more resentment.” It’s a form of anger. “No more slander and no more malicious remarks.”
So we’re to be positive. Don’t wound with your words. See, you express it in a way that doesn’t wound. In fact, one translation says, “Let no unwholesome word.”
And the word there for “unwholesome word” in Ephesians 4:29, it’s a picture of milk that’s gone sour or fruit that has been completely decayed. Have you ever been on vacation and you left something in the refrigerator for, like, two or three weeks and you open it and then you open this thing. Ooh. That smell. That stench? That’s this word.
Don’t let any of those kind of words. Words that build up people are legal in your marriage. Sarcasm, picking, labeling, name calling, talking about her parents, their parents – illegal. They’re illegal.
Now, you’ve got to discipline yourself. But they’re illegal. By the way, too, you think, oh, I said I’m sorry. Guess who keeps remembering? Right? I got a second grade teacher, I can still remember what she said to me. And I’ve been out of second grade for a long time.
I got a coach in ninth grade who said some things to me. I can still remember exactly what he said to me.
Wounds with words are powerful. There’s life and death in the power of words. Be very careful. Every one of my kids, here’s a little skill. Write down Ephesians 4:29 and write the word “memorize.”
Every one of my kids had to memorize that verse. And when they said things to one another or to one of us that were put downs, you had to put money in a jar.
And I’ll tell you what. After a while, they just realized, they realized I’m going broke doing this. But I wanted them to learn, there’s a real thing. You’re either putting money in a jar and building people up or you’re taking something out of the relationship.
Be diligent, be positive, be forgiving.
Be the first to say I’m sorry. Verse 32 says, “Be kind to one another. Be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God, for Christ’s sake, as forgiven you.” And by the way, this is the key to breaking deadlock in your marriages.
The word “forgive” literally means “to release.” Okay? You release. The reason we don’t forgive is revenge. See, you’ve got to pay for this. You hurt me, you’ve got to pay for this. I can’t forget. I can’t let it go. If I let it go, then you won’t have to pay. You know what you’ll get rid of is your ulcers.
And you say, well, he doesn’t deserve it. Do you understand what he did? You know what she did? Do you know what she said? You know how much money she spent after we talked about this? You know what? You know how…?
Yeah. You don’t forgive them because they deserve it. But forgive one another just as God in Christ has forgiven you.
I give it because I got it. And when Jesus says that we’re to learn how to pray, I prayed this morning. Father, forgive me as I forgive those who’ve trespassed against me.
And then I thought of two or three names of people that I felt like had trespassed against me in maybe the last six or eight months.
And I said, I just want to remind You, Father. I want to release them and I want to pray that You bless them. Because I want You to forgive me.
There’s a little equation that goes on there, isn’t it? And so, it’s, you never can wipe the board clean and you can never start the healing process until you’re willing to let go of the past hurts.
And I know, at times, it means that’s an affair. Or that’s a squandering of money. But God has forgiven you. And you need to turn them loose and release them and treat them in the way that God has forgiven you.
And by the way, in Matthew 5, there in the Sermon on Mount, Jesus said, if you’re coming to the altar to worship and there remember your brother has something against you, He says, tell you what, you just leave your offering, your time with God and go and find your brother and make it right. Be the first to say I’m sorry.
The way we usually play the game is, “It’s ninety percent her fault. I’ll tell you what, when she comes and apologizes, we’ll get this thing straightened out.”
Well, I didn’t respond the right way. And, yeah, there was a ten percent truth. Of course, it’s, I’m an intelligent person.
And ten percent of the problem was mine. Ninety percent hers. I’ll tell you what. We haven’t talked in three days. And I’ve slept on the couch, which isn’t all that fun. She should be sleeping on the couch. But couldn’t bring myself to that.
You know what God teaches? The relationship matters more than who’s right. And go into the bedroom and wake her up and say, “You know something? Honey, I want to apologize.” And even if you only think it’s ten percent, own your part and say I’m sorry.
And isn’t it an amazing thing when the other person reality, it might have been a fifty-fifty, or a sixty-forty, or a seventy-thirty.
But isn’t it an amazing thing when another person takes the initiative and owns their part, even if it was a wrong response and asks forgiveness for that?
See, what keeps us apart is pride. And God is against the proud. It’s my rights. It’s I can’t let go. Just be the bigger person. Be the first to say I’m sorry. And what you’ll find, tremendous healing will occur in your relationship.
Well, those principles are pretty clear, aren’t they? Just right out of Scripture. Be honest, be diligent, be positive, be forgiving.
I want to give you three skills. Okay? Three quick skills. One’s a listening skill. One is a conflict resolution skill. And one is an increase your love quotient skill. All right? Are you ready?
Skill number one is what I call the conference. Tool for listening. And this is the way it works. It’s very, very, very simple.
And there’s three questions. And they’re very easy. And I sit down. I remember the first time we had this. I got this from marriage counseling. Thank you Dr. Dick Meyer.
Okay, I wish Theresa was here because we would have done this. “Theresa? What are you concerned about?” Excuse me… “Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.”
I ask: What are you concerned about? I don’t interrupt. I don’t talk. I don’t solve a problem. I don’t make a comment. I can verbally “Mm-hmm. Uh-huh. Yeah.” But you just listen. What are you concerned about?
And then when I get done, she says, “Well, Chip, what are you concerned about?” And she puts tape over her mouth. Well you don’t have to actually do the tape but for some you’ll find it’s far more effective.
Because even though you’re laughing, you’ll interrupt. You will. So if this is legal in this little thing that you can say, “Excuse me, I think maybe you need this tape.” All right?
And so, question one: what are you concerned about? You pour it out. And by the way, if you haven’t done this in a long time, it might take ten, twelve minutes.
But you’re not asking questions. What are you concerned about? I’m concerned about our marriage not being where it needs to be. I’m concerned about our finances. I’m concerned about, kind of, what’s happening around the world with all these wars.
I’m concerned about our daughter. I do not like that guy she’s dating. I’m concerned about, I’m concerned about, I’m concerned about.
And then when it gets quiet, just wait. Anything else? And then you flip it.
And then the next question is, what do you desire? What do you desire? So I sit down. And again, I don’t interrupt. I get the old tape out. What do you desire, honey?
Well, I desire for us to have close-knit relationship like we used to. I desire for us to get a weekend away and really talk. I desire that you would help me with the kids with their homework because, you know what? I don’t understand math anymore and you’re good in math but you’re never around.
I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire, I desire. And it doesn’t have to be super serious. I desire we’d win the lotto and we could give most the money away but we could have some real fun for ourselves. I desire, you know? Just, whatever desire you have, just get it out.
So, question. What are you concerned about? What do you desire? You don’t interrupt one another.
And then the last question, and here’s the final rule, what are you willing to do? But there’s one rule behind the rule. You don’t have to do anything. Don’t have to do anything at all.
Otherwise, it turns into manipulation. So, when I get done, I say to her, “What are you willing to do?” She can say, “I’m willing to have another conference like this in a couple days.” Or, “I’m willing to pray for you at a deeper level.” Or, in my case, I remember it was specifically, it’s not hypothetical, “I’m willing to take over all the math homework for all the kids.”
Now, here’s what you need to understand. Most of us are in levels one, two, and three. Right? Most all the time.
In about twenty minutes, what occurs is, you share all your burdens. That’s your concerns. You know what burdens do to you? They weigh you down.
And then you share your desires. That’s kind of like, that’s wind in your sails. And what you’re really doing is you have a little time where you say, “Here’s what’s weighing me down, babe. Here’s what would put wind in my sails. I don’t expect you to do anything but now you know. If you’d like to put a little wind in my sails or if you’d like to lift off a burden, at least you’re aware but I don’t expect you to do anything.”
I’ve got to tell you, our first conference took about twenty-five minutes. I learned more about what was going on in my wife than hours and hours of talking about stuff. Because we usually talk about work and stuff and logistics.
But just have a conference. It is, we did that, we had two conferences a week probably for a decade as we were repairing and working on our marriage, to be diligent.
The second is what I call word pictures. And a lot of people have done lots of good work on this but it’s just a tool for understanding. Sometimes, we can’t get into one another’s worlds and you can’t get him to really get it. You just, you say it but he doesn’t get it or you say, “Honey, this really matters.” And no matter what you do you can’t…
Consider a word picture. And a word picture is just something that comes out of their world instead of your world that you might be able to bridge so that light would come on so they go, “Oh, I get it.”
So, I won’t go into all the details of how bad I’ve been around the house. And this, I’ve actually made lots of progress. But this was years ago. And apparently, our dishwasher, whenever it was on, the water would come under the bottom but Theresa put towels under it so I thought that was okay. And then our daughter’s room, when it rained, the water would come in and it took more than a few towels but I thought, that’s better than replacing a window.
And apparently, we had three or four appliances and four or five other things like this all around the house that I didn’t notice.
Theresa asked and asked and asked and she’s angry and she’s pushing it down. And I can’t figure out, “Well, I wonder why my wife doesn’t want to be more romantic.
And so we go through this and she says, “Chip, I really need to talk to you.” And she learned – do it at the right time at the right place.
But she told me this, for the first fifteen years of our marriage, I couldn’t hear it. And so, I was, we’re near the fireplace. I still remember this. You ever have those moments where, sort of, a turning point in your marriage? And I can remember right where I was at. And she goes, “Chip, I really want to talk to you.” I said, “You know, fine.” She goes, “No, no. You’re going to get mad. You’re really going to get mad.” “No. Surely you jest, dear. I won’t get mad.” “Will you promise?” “Okay, I won’t get mad.” “Well, then, if you don’t get mad, you’re going to get really defensive.” “Honey, I’m not going to be defensive. Would you just, just tell me?” “No. I’m really, kind of, afraid to tell you.”
And I said, “Okay. Look, will you just tell me right now and I promise I won’t be mad and I won’t be defensive.” And so she said okay. She said, “Chip, you know when we drive by the church?” And we were involved in a building program and developing a site over about a ten or twelve year period.
“And you know when you are driving by the church and the bushes are all messed up or when we walk out of a service, if songs or different things weren’t done the way you have those quick debriefing meetings and you evaluate: here’s what went well, here’s what didn’t, here’s how we need to change it or…
“Remember last week when we were driving on our date on Friday for coffee and you just saw just all this big pile of junk and you stopped and said ‘Can you take just a minute?’ And you walked into the office and you made a call to make sure that wouldn’t be there?” I said, “Well, yeah.”
I’m thinking she’s thinking about what a great husband I am who notices these things at my work.
She said, “Chip, when you notice all those things at the church and you make sure everything is right and repaired because it’s your world, I really admire you. But when you don’t even see the things that need repaired in my world, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me. Because our home, in some ways, is an extension of me.” This is like David getting it from Nathan, right?
Hey, she was telling me forever and ever and ever and ever and ever. You know, this needs fixed, that needs fixed, that needs fixed. I’m thinking, three hundred bucks, we don’t have that. Forget that. That, you know?
I want to tell you, probably in the next two and a half months, every single one of those things got fixed. Because she told me in a way that reached my heart in from my world. I just thought, Oh. I get it.
And you might have to be creative. And like Nathan made up that little story about the shepherd that had only the one little lamb. But if you can think of ways to say things that give a picture out of their world, often a light will come on.
Final thing and this is a little exercise that we’re going to run with. I call it “care list.” And it’s a tool for building.
And so, what happens is, remember I talked about the pie of life? And how you can focus on the little sliver that’s not so good and forget all the good things that you really have?
And what you really need to do is build on the good things and so those other things shrink so you get enough, kind of, positive emotions in the bank to deal with them.
A care list is list seven simple, loving, caring behaviors that are non-conflict producing and non-expensive that make you feel loved by your spouse.
So I’ve done this with lots of groups in seminars. And I get all them in together. I say, “Okay, let’s list them. Get on a white board.”
And they give me ten, twelve, fifteen things. I feel loved when my wife, and the top two are: communicates confidence in me. Man, when my wife, communicates confidence in me, I feel loved. When she shows and initiates affection, man I feel loved. And we just make a list.
And then my wife would get in the room with a bunch of ladies. So, what makes you feel loved by your husband? And ladies would say, “When he calls me from work. When he listens intently to me. When he really acts in an understanding way.”
So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take, just as we close, three, four minutes and on the part that it says “woman” if you’re a woman, I’d like you to at least put three, four, two, or three things that, when your husband does them.
Notice they’re caring behaviors, they’re non-conflict producing. In other words, like, if you’ve been arguing about a cruise for the last fifteen years, don’t put, “I feel loved when he takes me on a cruise.” Don’t do that, okay?
So non-expensive, non-conflict producing. But you feel loved when he does these things. Will you just list three or four or five things? And then, men? I want you to list three or four things that make you feel really loved.
And then this is an amazing little thing, but what you do is, ladies, when we get done, you give yours to your husband. And men, you give yours to your wife. And they don’t have to do any of them. But what I’m going to suggest is choose one of these and just do one each day. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that I can at least do one thing every day. When I do it, my wife’s going to go, “Wow, he loves me. Wow, he loves me.” And for some of you extra milers, do two a day. Right?
And what you’re going to be doing is you actually, rather than guessing, we spend so much of our energy thinking, I did that and she didn’t respond. He did that. You know?
Why not make a list and say, I really feel loved when these things happen. And then give it to the other person with ammunition to say: you are free to love me as much as you want. Right?
Christ loved so much he died for His Church. Is it too much that we would tell one another, clearly, what makes us experience love from that person? And then by a willful choice begin to do the things that communicate love.
And what you’ll find is, that sliver that bothers you will just keep shrinking. Because what you’re going to begin to do is you’re going to create an atmosphere where the deeper, more painful vulnerabilities that you will get to later, it can happen in a healthy place where you feel more secure.