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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
What went wrong?
You had dreams, I’ve had dreams. If you’ve been married more than about six weeks, you found out that it’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be, right?
And if you’ve been married a long time, you’ve realized, there’s a lot of hard stuff that comes in marriage.
And a lot of people, when it gets hard, they give up. Because they think something’s wrong or I married the wrong person instead of, this is normal.
My experience is, when you can define a problem, it’s about fifty percent solved. Okay? If you can really figure out, this is the problem, you’re about fifty percent of the way there by understanding, “Oh! Okay. Now I know how to respond.”
And what I want to talk about in this session is: what went wrong? Or what are the barriers to intimacy in marriage?
Now, in your notes you’re going to see I have four premises. They’re taken from Scripture and a lot of research I’ve done over the years.
Premise number one: we all have legitimate needs and longings. The need to have open, honest, vulnerable, completing relationships. Accepting relationships. Relationships that are affirming. I long to have those. Most especially with my wife. But we all long those.
Second premise: God originally designed our spouse to be a major tool in His hands to meet those needs and longings.
Not the only tool. Your mate cannot come through for you. They can’t solve your problems.
But a major source of meeting the deepest longings and desires that you have.
Third premise: the Fall or sin, Genesis chapter 3, short-circuited man’s relationship with God, his mate, and this world.
Okay, sin entered the world and we have these longings and, literally, it’s like the wiring now is short-circuited so that premise number four becomes the reality.
What was once the most natural, relational response – others-centered, grace-giving – is now the most unnatural responses requiring supernatural enablement and hard work to achieve.
In other words, in the Garden, the first man and the first woman, when Adam was thinking, “You know, I kind of have a need in this area.” There was just something that clicked in and Eve’s says, “Oh, I’d love to fulfill that. Great. Can we do that? Can I help you there?”
Or if Eve was taking a walk and wondering, What are we going to do with that giraffe over there or we’re going to subdue the earth and do this and that. Adam – “Can I help you?”
In other words, the unconscious response to every situation before sin entered was others-centered, grace-giving. In other words, I want to help you, I want to put you ahead of me. And then the Fall occurred. And when sin occurred, that natural response is now unnatural.
You see, when sin entered the world, what was the most natural, others-centered, grace-giving, caring for others turned opposite.
And to be others-centered and grace-giving and love an individual and to meet their longings when down deep you want yours met – I want my way and I want it now.
And the picture is, we have God’s blueprint, right? We got the blueprint. God’s at the top, equilateral triangle, we want to have a relationship with God whose desire is for oneness with one another.
But notice what’s been added. There’s now a barrier between us and God. Something happened. We’re not in fellowship with God now. There’s a barrier and that barrier is sin. And now there’s another barrier. There’s a barrier between one another.
See, this idea that I had, I can still remember sitting on this chair, sipping my coffee, this beautiful blonde who I love with all my heart. Who we prayed together, we read Scripture together, was doing ministry together. We had these dreams together.
Everyone else was going to have problems but see they didn’t do it the way we did it. And they don’t know Theresa and she’s sweeter and lovelier and kinder and more wonderful than any other woman in the whole world and I was completely deluded.
And I’m just going to be this man for her. It’s all going to work out great. And we couldn’t even handle hanging a picture! And I had feelings of rejection and hurt and wound and pain and anger like I didn’t think I could even have.
And that’s because when we were hanging that picture, my way is the way to do it. How I see it is how it is. Your difference isn’t different, it’s wrong.
This is it. And so once that was just the symptom we began to attack one another. That’s what sin does.
But it’s not the only barrier. See, most of us think, here’s that myth. Here’s the myth. And it’s you, every movie you watch reinforces it. Every little book that talks about how wonderful and idyllic everything is.
Every TV show says this: if you really love one another, it’ll all work out. Loving another person is the most natural thing. You’ll be kind and others-centered. If you really love one another, it’ll be easy and it’ll be great.
That is the farthest thing from the truth. If you really love one another, it will require supernatural enablement from God and an amazing amount of hard work.
And it is the grace of God that teaches us to say “no” to worldliness and lustful passions and instead to live sober, self-disciplined lives of caring for other people.
And so I want you to pull out your pen and I want you to roll up your sleeves and I want to walk through the four barriers so that you can identify what they are and the first one is the biggie. I’ll spend the most time on the barrier of sin.
And as you open and what I want you to know is, this barrier of sin distorts the others too. The others are normal barriers. There are differences between men and women. There’s differences in terms of just our personalities.
But that barrier of sin is going to tilt things to make even those things negative or bad. Let’s look at barrier number one. And it’s spiritual barrier of sin, shame, and selfishness.
And if you would, open your Bibles again to Genesis chapter 3. And I would love to spend a bit more time than we will but let me give you an overview of how the barrier occurred, the impact that it had then, and the impact that it has now.
Beginning in verse 1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord has made. And he said to the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat of any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat from the fruit from the trees in the garden but God did say you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it.’”
Two quick observations. The first attack in sin entering in the world is in God’s Word. The first attack is, you can’t trust God’s word about what’s real, what’s right, what’s true, and how life works.
The second err, the first theological error of mankind was to add to God’s Word. God never said, “And not touch it.”
And when you add to God’s Word and then, you know what? Can you imagine what happened when she took the piece of fruit? She’s touching it. She’s not dead. Well all of a sudden, it raises, “Well, I guess the rest of it’s not true.”
We go on. He goes on to say in verse 4. “You will surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God, knowing good from evil.”
“And when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some of it and she ate it.”
The first attack is on God’s Word, the second attack is what? It’s on His character. God doesn’t have your best in mind. Don’t do it God’s way. Don’t handle your money God’s way, He’s trying to keep you from all this stuff. You can just put it on time, now.
There’s an easy way to do everything. He attacks God’s character.
You know, don’t be a prude. Are you kidding me? You know, sex before marriage. He’s trying to keep something good from you. Every command of God is guardrails because He loves you so much to protect you from getting something second-rate or something that would hurt you.
And the very first temptation, what do we have? God doesn’t have your best in mind. And the temptation always comes in the same three areas. It was for Eve, it was for Adam, it was for Jesus, and it is for us.
She saw. Lust of the eyes. The food. Lust of the flesh. It would make her wise. The pride of life.
And those are going to be the strategies of shortcuts that Satan’s going to use in this world system that we live in to pull you away and pull your marriage away from what God wants for you.
“She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.” And you might jot in your Bible, “the first passive male.”
And you know what? Isn’t it interesting that when we get to the New Testament and God begins to assign culpability to the Fall? It doesn’t say, “Eve fell.” Eve was deceived. Adam went in with his eyes wide open.
Adam had an issue of loyalty and Adam saw all the same things and he chose to disobey. Now let’s find out what happens.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
Notice, psychologically, what’s happened. The first human experience of self-consciousness occurs. They’re aware of me. What’s going on with me?
They realized they were naked. Their response? Shame. After the shame, they hide. And that has been the response of human beings to God and one another ever since.
We’re self-conscious. How am I coming off? Do people like me? Am I affirmed? What do they think? How’s it going? When I look down deep and I see me, I don’t measure up.
When I don’t measure up, oh, I don’t want to be rejected so I will hide myself. And I could hide myself behind power or money or clothes or looks or surgery.
And I can hide myself behind a paper or ESPN or a magazine or children and so the process starts of: this is how we begin to relate to one another. And you just have different fig leaves on than they had on.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they,” notice the hiding isn’t just from one another, “and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
And now we get a rhetorical question. Obviously God knows all that has happened. But He wants them to learn. So he gives them a diagnostic question. He goes, “Where are you?”
And Adam answers, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” If you have permission in your Bibles, circle the word “afraid,” “naked,” and “hid.”
It’s how we relate to God. And that’s how we relate to one another. I’m afraid. Why I’m afraid? Something’s wrong with me now. I’m insecure. I don’t measure up. I’ve done something wrong. There’s both legitimate guilt and shame. I was afraid. And so what did he do? He hid.
And the average couple spends a lot of energy hiding from one another. And hiding from God. Somehow, isn’t it amazing, the human psyche?
This all-knowing God, we play all these games thinking He won’t really see. Right? You know? He won’t really see what’s going on.
And so a lot of us have a very significant struggle in prayer, don’t we?
We have a hard time concentrating.
We have a hard time really opening up because what you know is when you have significant, prolonged, relaxed time where you open your heart to God, what’s He going to do?
He’s going to convict you of sin and righteousness and judgment. But we wrongly think it’s so He can shame us and put us down.
And instead it’s the arms of a loving God who says, “Let Me show you some things that are going to put a barrier in relationships and a barrier with Me.”
And the word “confess” means, “Why don’t you come and be honest and real and agree with Me so I can put my arms around you and forgive you and cleanse you so that we can remove that barrier?”
And that’s why, I don’t know about you, the hardest discipline in my life is praying. Praying deep, praying honest. And so, we still hide. And so, when we hide from God, we don’t get His supernatural resources to give our mates what they need.
It goes on to say, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Now, I want you to just get there with me. Okay? Mentally, let’s just get there. They’ve been through this, they got some fig leaves on, their relationship has really changed.
This is a lot bigger than the picture over the fireplace. But they’ve had that relational click where they were in sync, now they’re out of sync. Now God comes.
And Eve, I don’t know how long they’ve been in the garden but we have a general idea that they’ve had a great, wonderful relationship without sin.
And now Eve is going to get her first experience of what happens when things go wrong. Is your man going to step up for you? Can you trust him? Is it safe to bear your soul and if you make a mistake, is he going to be there for you?
Ladies, I want you, in your mind’s eye, to imagine what it would feel like when God of the universe asked your husband this question and you listened to this response.
“The man said, ‘The woman that You put here with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate it.’”
Sin, shame, fear, hiding, blame shifting. It’s not my fault. You know, by the way, you know what? I was doing fine. It was a little lonely. But me and the animals, we were doing fine. I don’t know what happened, but this woman that You gave me, she’s the problem.
Probably not going to open up to a man like that are you? And she’s a quick study. So God then begins the interrogation with her.
“And then the Lord said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’ So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all the wild animals, you will crawl on your belly. And you will eat of the dust of it all the days of your life.’”
And he goes on to say, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers.”
And then we get this Messianic promise that comes out. We can’t develop. “But He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.”
And then to the woman He said, “I’ll greatly increase your pains in childbearing with a pain that you will give birth to the children. Your desire,” you might circle that word, “will be for your husband yet he will rule over you.”
So here we have it. Isn’t it interesting? What’s the problem? The man says it’s the woman. What’s the problem, woman? It’s the serpent. And kinda…and by the way, who makes that serpent, who made these animals anyway? See, ultimately, who do we blame? God. God, this is Your problem
Now, what I want you to hear is God is going to give three curses. One on the serpent, we’ve heard. One on the woman. And then as you read the text, one on the man.
Now, a woman’s greatest desire is for emotional connection. And a man’s greatest desire is for impact and significance.
And what you’re going to see is that God’s curse is going to thwart the deepest longing in a woman’s heart and soul and then the curse will thwart a man’s deepest longing in his soul.
Because He’s going to say what to the man? Now all your work, it’s going to be toil, it’s going to be painful, and there’s going to be thistles.
In other words, you want to subdue, you want to make an impact, you want to be significant, you want to make a difference. That’s godly. That’s in you. You’re made in the image of God.
He’s going to say, guess what. It’s all uphill now. It’s always going to be difficult. And as soon as you make some progress, you’re going to look back and it’s going to deteriorate.
Why? The curses are an act of grace. The curses are the kind, gentleness of a heavenly Father who knows if a woman could have relational connection and get her longings filled in an easy way, she wouldn’t need God.
The curses help her understand, she wants to be relationally connected and you women know, like, no one can know but you women, the joy of giving birth to a child and the extraordinary pain.
And every time, that’s the fruit but, boy, there’s the process. And this word for “desire” it has the idea of being in control over your husband.
See, a woman is afraid so what a woman does is she wants to control things. And she does it a lot of different ways. She wants to control the environment, she wants to control things, and she’s going to have this desire for her husband. But she wants to rule over him and God says: but he’s going to rule over you.
So those desires that are blocked will bring levels of increasing frustration that God hopes that one day, out of His mercy, a woman will say, “You know something? Life’s just too hard. I just can’t make this on my own.” And she’ll realize she needs a Savior, and a Deliverer, and a Redeemer.
And a man will keep trying and keep trying and keep trying. “I’ve got to make an impact, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.” And, ahh, then the stock market fails. Oh brother.
And I’m going to cut, I’m going to make this beautiful yard and now the weeds come up. And no matter how…
There’s always weeds in a man’s life. No matter how hard you try, how hard you work, how many degrees you get, how much money you make, how good you are at athletics, how good a musician you are.
There’s always going to be weeds in your life and there’s always junk. And you just feel like, well, I’m over the next hill, then, over the next hill, then.
And at some point in time, you wake up and smell the roses and you realize you’re never, ever going to do without tons of pain.
And God gave that curse to us as men to say: You were never intended to live like this. I’m going to frustrate you to the point where you come in dependency upon Me and realize only through My supernatural power and My forgiveness and My strength can you live out this life. Because there’s a new barrier. It’s a fallen world.
You know? It’s like the world got cancer. It’s like there was a coup. There was a cosmic conflict.
This world isn’t like this anymore. It’s tilted this way. And so living out this life is always going to be difficult and painful.
Now, notice what He says, after He disciplines the man. Verse 21. “Then the Lord,” this act of grace.
And He says, verse 21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and He clothed them.”
He sheds blood as a prefiguring of what will happen. And then he covers their shame. Isn’t that awesome? He forgives them. There’s always a price tag to forgiveness and this foreshadows the great forgiveness of Christ. And so an animal must die.
And the word “covering” here we get our same word for atonement. He’s going to do something that will cover their sin and cover their shame.
“And then the Lord God said, ‘Now, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.’ So the Lord banished him from the garden to work on the ground from which he was taken and He drove the man out and placed him on the east side of the Garden of Eden,” and then He put this cherubim. It’s this huge, powerful, I’ve never seen one personally, but the definitions I get are the most powerful angels with this flaming sword.
And another act of grace. You never can get back in here where the state that you’re in in this fallen state could become permanent.
And all the rest of Scripture, really all of Scripture is you have a reality that goes up to Genesis chapter 3 and at Genesis chapter 3 we start a parenthesis and you go all the way through all of life and all of Scripture until you get to Revelation chapter 20.
And all of life is one big parenthesis and then in 20 and 21, all of God’s reigning in a perfect environment with people that He loves comes to fruition. But you and I get to live in Genesis 3 up to Revelation 19 or a little bit of 20. Your marriage is always going to be hard. Forever.
Because you are married to a selfish person who wants their way. Now, they can get sophisticated and learn a lot of verses. And as God changes things in significant ways.
But at the core of the flesh of us as human beings, I want my way. At the core of my being, I want my wife to fulfill my needs on my terms.
In fact, I summarized all of Genesis 3. Here’s the changes that occurred. Notice in your notes. Differences. Okay, male and female, very different.
Differences originally designed to complement and complete one another have become sources of friction, confusion, and competition.
See, in a perfect world where there’s grace, you celebrate differences. Oh, Adam, I’m so glad you’re so different than me. This is wonderful.
When I was dating Theresa, she was so organized. Then I married her. She was so rigid. Do you get that? Right? So structured, made me nuts.
When we dated, I was spontaneous, adventuresome. Going to change the world. Then we get married, now I’m irresponsible and I’m doing all kinds of wild, crazy things.
Second, sharing has turned to shame. Our insecurities in shame bring condemnation and fear. So, deep in your heart and deep in my heart, you’ve got to realize there’s a barrier. Your fears, down deep, you don’t measure up.
And so you don’t want to open up who you really are, to your mate. Because you’re afraid they’ll see who you really are.
Givers have become takers and manipulators. The unconscious goal in our marriages is: meet my needs, fix me, satisfy my longings.
And it takes a radical, supernatural intervention for that to be turned around when you want them to meet your needs, when you want them, “quote,” to fix you, and to meet your needs and to say, they are unable to do that. They are hurting right now.
And so love, by the supernatural power of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit dwelling in me, empowered by His word and the community of believers, I’m going to give my mate what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost.
You know what that’s a definition of? Love. It’s what love is. Love isn’t ooey-gooey feelings, walking on the beach. Love isn’t walking down the aisle. Love isn’t everything’s wonderful. Love isn’t there’s money in the bank, the kids are healthy.
Love is giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost. And that’s what Jesus did for you and me. Didn’t He? It’s a choice. It’s not a feeling.
Now, I love all the good feelings that come with marriage but all of us, or most of us, have been so brainwashed by the culture that we keep waiting and manipulating, trying to get all the good feelings instead of realizing what we need to do is operate under, we got barriers, and learn to love our mate God’s way in God’s power. And then it’s an amazing thing, some good feelings really come.
Builders have become blamers. You know, when you have a problem in your marriage, I don’t know about you but I don’t go, “I bet I really have a bad attitude. You know, I must really be a not living up to my measure as a husband.”
When we have a problem, I’ll tell you exactly where I go. “You know what? If Theresa would shape up, this would be solved in about twenty-four hours.”
Now, I hate to say that, I’m just being honest with you, right? how many of you have a conflict and immediately you go, I must be a jerk. I must be so narrow. I must be so selfish. Personally, I don’t go there. Until the Spirit gets a hold of my life.
Finally, openness has given way to hiding. Women fear abandonment, so they hide. See, at the core, core, core of a woman, the reason you want to control, you’re afraid you’re going to get left.
And we do things we don’t even know, as men, that give you this fear that we’re going to leave you. Either emotionally or spiritually or physically.
Men fear failure so they hide. And we’re going to talk about how we compensate and how this works.
The barrier, first and foremost, is spiritual. The answer is grace. The answer is grace. The answer is, I can’t do this. The answer is, I need someone to save me. I need someone to remove the barrier from me and God and I need someone to remove the barrier from me and my wife.
I need to have open access, supernatural power. I need to be covered with His blood. I need to be forgiven. I need His Spirit deposited in me. And then I need the strength and the power to give my mate what they don’t deserve. What I don’t want to give. When they don’t really deserve to get it from me and to pay a real cost whether I get anything back or not. Only grace does that.
The second barrier is psychological barrier. And as you listen to that, these are personality differences. But as you listen to this, I just want you to remember, this spiritual barrier so colors everything that, boy, I’ll tell you. It makes all these others, it just taints them.
Psychological barrier is our personality differences. Men, women. They’re different but just people are different, aren’t they?
Example: there are introverts and extroverts. Some people go to a party and want to meet everybody and someone goes to a party, finds a corner with one or two other people and they spend four hours there, and they come home, “Oh that was an awesome party.”
And if you’re an extrovert, you’re going, how could it be an awesome party? You sat in the corner with two other people. What a bummer. You know, you’re high-fiving everybody. “Hey Jim! Bobby! Hey! Good to see you! Good to…” Right?
Now, that’s not a good or a bad. You know, an extrovert needs to get around people to get refreshed. “Oh, man, I need to get with my friends,” and an introvert goes, “Give me two days alone. Turn off the voicemail. Turn off the email. Unplug the phone. I just need to be…” And then the energy comes back.
But you know what? Some weird thing, we kind of marry the opposites, don’t we? And it causes conflict.
Or, the difference between assertive and easy-going. Some people are loving and kind but they’re just, they’re assertive, right? There’s just a little edge, “Hey, let’s get this done.” And other people are kind of laid back, right? You know?
And she’s going, “Hey! Let’s do this!” She’s assertive. And he’s going, “Well, maybe we’ll cut that yard tomorrow. You know? You know? Let’s enjoy one another, baby!” You know?
And so you have conflict. Is there, there’s not a wrong person, is there? But it’s different. Or the difference between factual and abstract. Some people are just by the book. Factual, factual, factual, factual. “You know, Chip, excuse me, it says fifty-five miles an hour.” “I know that means like, fifty-five to sixty, sixty-two. Because…” “Honey, I believe the laws of the land are very clearly written. It’s fifty…” “Got you, hon.” You know?
I want real factual people flying the planes that I am on. “Hey, this airport’s close enough.” Or when you get your teeth drilled? “Eh, is it this one, that one? Yeah, it’s close enough.” [Drilling noises] Right?
I mean, it’s not bad or wrong. You want factual people doing things that are meticulous. But people that are going to dream dreams and paint paintings. You know, I don’t want, like, “Okay, let’s do a masterpiece of art. Okay, the number one goes here, blue. Number two goes here.” Right? You want people that are abstract and dreamy and conceptual.
God made us different. But when you got the barrier of sin and then you throw these kind of differences. Some people are very systematic. I married one. Some are very spontaneous. She married one.
You know, I just think. Oh, let’s do that. She says, “Is that on the schedule or not?” You know?
And about after thirty years, I’m learning to be a lot more systematic and she has grown to be much more spontaneous.
There’s all kind of tests whether it’s Myers-Briggs, MMPI, DiSC Test. You can discover what these are but the answer is understanding. The answer is understanding. It’s getting, oh! We’re different. Let’s understand it. The differences aren’t bad but you need to figure out that you really are different.
And you know what? It takes time. As many of you know, Theresa and I came from alcoholic families. And so, if you know about systems, that creates not really good systems.
And so my first couple years of marriage, oh boy, that was wild. And so, I had a fellow named Paul Meier who was a, he was actually teaching at the seminary, the Meier-Minirth Clinics and at the same time was getting some more Bible education himself.
And so he was giving this lecture. And as he gave this lecture, he was describing our marriage and we were having all this conflict. We just flat out could not communicate.
And he described it. So I went up after class and I said, “Where did you learn all those secrets?” And he looked at me and said, “Chip, this is just normal stuff.”
But I had made all the differences of who we are a wrong and a right. Instead of understanding, oh, I guess I need to live in a world understanding she needs time alone and she needs to learn I need some time with people that it’s going to be way over the top for her.
I guess she needs to understand that if we’re not real conceptual and lay out where we want to be ten, fifteen years, we’ll never get there because life is more than just doing the task and the list the next seventy-two hours.
But did you ever think maybe that’s why God put you together? Did you ever think it was to complement and to help one another? There’s multiple areas that are different because of your personalities magnified by the spiritual barriers.
And then third, we’ve got gender barriers. Despite many of the movements of the past twenty or thirty years, physiologically, emotionally, spiritually – men and women are different.
I love the quote by a famous theologian who said, “Our sexuality penetrates to the deepest metaphysical grounds of our personality. As a result, the physical differences between the man and the woman are a parable of the psychic and spiritual differences of a more ultimate nature.” His point’s saying when you look at the physiology of a man and a woman, it’s like a parable. And that God, we are very different at all levels. We don’t process information the same.
Now, I’m going to give you some differences out of a book called Understanding Each Other by Paul Tournier. It’s an older book, he was a Swiss psychologist who’s a believer.
And don’t go away to someone and say, “Men are always like this and women are always like this and this Chip Ingram guy said this.” I didn’t say that.
I’m going to give you tendencies. There are multiple exceptions of women who are more like this and men who are like that.
So, but there are certain tendencies that are verifiable. Males tend to be more achievement focused; women tend to be more relationally focused. Men tend to be, tend to be, more theoretical and generalist; women tend to be more specific and detail oriented.
I have a grandchild. Someone asked me, “So, tell me about your brand new grandchild.” “It’s healthy. Doing great. Name’s Nola.” We got it. We’re done. Someone calls Theresa, “What’s your grandchild?” “Twenty-one inches. Seven point nine seven three point one ounces. Was born at one point four a.m. I mean it’s drrrrrrr.
I’m just thinking. We got a healthy baby. It’s great. She’s fine. You know. Right? Don’t sweat the details. Well that’s the important stuff to her. That’s not wrong or right. But we’re different.
More information oriented in communication, men tend to be. Women tend to be more emotionally oriented. It’s not an either/or. And by the way, in the marketplace, I think one of the reasons we’re seeing women as great team builders is they don’t just look at the facts. They have that sixth sense about what’s happening in the lives and the hearts of people.
Men tend to be more action oriented. Women tend to be more verbal oriented. In fact, research that I read was a woman speaks, on average, about a third to fifty percent more than the average man. And some of you men would say, “That’s true in my home.” And for others it wouldn’t be.
But that’s not bad or good. It’s how we’re wired.
Men tend to be more facts oriented. Women tend to be more intuitively oriented. Men tend to be more goal oriented and women tend to be more supportive and nurturing oriented.
It’s interesting if you have kids, as they grow up, ask yourself: who do they go to for certain situations?
Now, I think we both have something to give and there’s a lot of women and a lot of men that have a lot of cross-over. But these are some general tendencies. Here’s the point, though. The point is, you’re a man. Your wife’s a woman. Okay? Think very clearly on this.
How he thinks, how he behaves, how he processes information. If there wasn’t a Fall, if there was no sin, you would have some struggles. At least big misunderstandings.
But when you take sin, then you take personality differences, then you take the differences between men and women. You know what? It’s amazing anybody stays married. Right?
But what are we believing? We’re believing, we love one another. We should have ooey-gooey feelings and never have any struggles. If you’ve got to work through gender issues, personality issues, and sin issues, you’re going to have big struggles and big struggles are normal.
Fourth, the answer here is appreciation.
I am glad my wife is not like me. Right? And you are glad your husband is not like you. In many, many, many ways. But it’s appreciating that instead of making them, again, areas of conflict.
The final barrier is historical barriers. Our baggage from the past. Some have more than others. Family upbringing. You know, you come from different families that have different values. Different geography. Someone was born in the country. Someone in the city. Someone in the suburbs.
Communication styles. In my home, everyone talked at the same time and no one listened. At her home, no one talked.
I can still remember, we were early dating. And I just thought, I’m going be in love with this gal and we had this forty-five minute drive and I thought, Wow, this is going to be great. And to me, my love language is meaningful conversation.
And so, we’re going to have this great talk and we’re driving through the country. And I noticed she was quiet now and then. And she has now, by God’s grace, changed a lot to not make me crazy.
But this was probably almost thirty years ago. So, we’re driving in the car and I just thought to myself, I tend to start the conversations. I’m going to let her start this time.
So, I’m driving. And this is how men are. This is so crazy. Been five minutes, no one’s said anything. And she’s, looks at me and smiles. Looks out and there’s cows on the hills and, that I didn’t notice. And a blue sky and trees and…
What’s the deal here? She must be mad at me. Insecurity, right? Okay, so now it’s ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes. Thirty-five minutes. Thirty-five minutes. I’ll tell you what, the moment she opens her mouth…
Man, I thought we were going to have this good…man, I tell you what. She I bet she doesn’t like me, she doesn’t… there’s a big problem. Why? She’s stone-walling me. I can’t figure…
Forty-five minutes. And we round this bend. Get out of the car and I’m thinking, This is the worst forty-five minutes of my life. I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. I’m going to tell her, if you treat me like this, I thought, you were the right one and now I kind of have my doubts.
She gets out of the car, turns to me, and she goes, “Chip, wasn’t this a great time?” You know, I’m biting my lip. “Wasn’t this a great time?”
And she goes, “You know, it’s just so good, nature so refreshes my soul. Thanks for just being understanding and giving me some room on this trip.”
She goes, “Did you notice the cows and look at those trees and the wildflowers as we came.” She goes, “This was such a neat time together.”
Ahhhhh! You know? I’m thinking, Are you kidding me? My blood pressure’s up to, way up to here. I’m just waiting for one little move so I can pound her for being so insensitive.
And then the little light went on. And I realized, you know what? We’re really different. Okay? Now, we don’t have forty-five minute drives anymore. But I have learned when to give her room. And she’s learned to initiate conversation.
Now, as you laugh, you know why you’re laughing? Because it’s you too, isn’t it? And so, you got sin, you got gender issues, personality issues. You got background issues.
The number of children. You know, one person came from a family of six or seven and the other was an only child. I got news. You think differently about family.
One comes from a family that the mom got up and cooked breakfast every morning. The other is get cereal on your own or we don’t even eat breakfast. What is that? Those aren’t wrong or righters but they cause conflict.
You also have traumatic events. Deaths, divorce, abuse. There are indelible imprints in people’s psyches and souls of big difficult pains they’ve been through. And as they start to unzip their heart and you grow toward intimacy.
“Ooh, I didn’t mean, ooh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hit that.” Well, what happened? Well, that’s where I got rejected before. My ex-husband. I’ve never told anyone my older step-brother abused me when I was fourteen.
And then lights go off and you treat this person like this and…You’ve got to understand. As a part of the Fall, you are married to someone that’s damaged goods. And you are probably more damaged than you think. And it will take incredible grace and sensitivity and understanding of their history and their baggage.
Our first two years, a lot of it was like this until I sat down with a counselor and I listened to my wife’s childhood and I listened to where she’d been and how she thought.
And you know what? My anger turned to compassion. I realized why she was so sensitive. I realized why she prayed for hours on end like no one I’ve ever met.
I realized why every time we would ever meet someone that was down and out or been abused or been hurt or every church I’ve ever been in. Man, if you were, like, totally dysfunctional my wife’s going to end up your best friend.
She’s the mercy woman who just cares for these people that no one likes. If you go to a party and someone looks lonely and out of it, she’s going to find that person.
Why? It’s a part – God redeems our hurts and our pasts and often gives us a heart to love those who are in the same situation where we’ve been. You know? And so, but if all the barriers are up and if it’s: fix me and come through for me.
If you don’t know how to communicate, if you can’t get these things on the table without, like, shooting one another, then you come to these silly conclusions like, they’re not the right person for me and we’re at this barrier and it’s an impasse and psychological differences and we’re never going to fulfill one another. That’s a bunch of baloney.
You just don’t understand, you got a big sin problem. You got different personalities. One of you is a man and one of you is a woman. And you got different backgrounds, it’s going to take a tender, gracious God and an amazing commitment on your part to take little steps of faith and grace to let Him forgive and nurture and restore and love and bring together and it’s going to be a bunch of hard work. A bunch of hard work. And it’s worth it. And it’s worth it.
And so, you have false beliefs and games that you’ve learned to play to protect yourself, right? We all do. Well guess what. Your wife came from a different family, or your husband, so they have different games. So, you’re playing this game, she’s playing that game. Right?
And then we have rejection and past relationships. The answer here is knowledge. Knowledge.
You’ve got to get inside of what’s been going on a get a picture of the background of the person that you love so that the knowledge can bring understanding. And the understanding can develop appreciation.
And the appreciation can cause you to be, do you realize the person that’s going to bring the most healing in your mate? It’s not some counselor somewhere.
You know the person with a face and with hands that touch and with arms that hold and feet that go places and do things. You know the person that’s going to be the agent of grace to bring the deepest, most significant, sanctifying healing in your mate is you.
But it requires you to see yourself: God I’m desperate in need for You to remove this barrier. I’m desperate for Your power to just get off of me long enough and my insecurities and how rejected I feel and how unsatisfied I am and how unfulfilled in this season to say, What does he need?
And that means, I get up every morning and I’m sure, like you all, I miss a morning here and there. But I have to meet with God. I’m not trying to be disciplined. I’m not trying to read my Bible to keep the devil away or pray so long so I can check something off.
I need God. I need grace. I need Him to fill me up and say, “I have covered your shame, Chip. I love you. I’ve forgiven you. I have put the Spirit of God that will manifest the presence and the power of Christ. I have given you promises that, no matter what it is, you can trust. I’ll put people around your life. Because I want you filled up so you can give and be an agent of grace to help Theresa be the woman that reflects My glory.”
And so, that’s what I’ve got to do. And that’s what she has to do. And that’s why it’s so important. That it’s not about techniques. It’s not about figuring out, let’s see, if we go three weekends away and we do this book and fill out these blanks.
We’re going to talk about communication and good techniques. But I want you to know, it starts with seeing the model and the blueprint.
And then it’s understanding the barriers. And then it’s signing up to be an agent of grace. Getting it first and then giving it.
The final page, you’ll notice, a quick summary. It says, “The result is we knowingly and unknowingly put up protective walls that keep us from being deeply touched and loved in ways we’re desperate to experience.” Isn’t that what we do? That’s what these barriers do, isn’t it?
And you might underline the word “unknowingly.” That’s where it gets tricky. I know when I’m putting up the walls, don’t you? But there’s times, I put up walls, I don’t know I’m doing it. We knowingly and unknowingly put up walls.
And then Larry Crabb has written a couple excellent books and the summary of a couple excellent books about how men and women respond are in these next lines.
Women focus on, write the word “relationships” and struggle with loneliness and the fear of abandonment. You know, just getting that. That’s going to, for all your life, ladies.
A woman’s wrong strategy centers around controlling. You want to control your husband, your world. You want everything to be in place. You want to control so you don’t get abandoned.
A man focuses on impact and struggle with futility and the fear of failure. Shows up everywhere. Impact. A man’s wrong strategy centers around compensating. Compensating.
And you say, what do I mean by that? You know what? You can be the tiger on the softball field, the football field. You can make “x” dollars. You can come into the office. You can be a construction worker and make something out here.
“Hey, hey, hey,” with the guys and get a couple beers and man aren’t we tough? And ho, ho. And put my jersey on that says whatever team as I vicariously live my life through other athletes.
And we can, as men, compensate with hobbies and work because out there what happens? You get the strokes. And yet sit around a table and realize, “I know I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader. I don’t know how to pray out loud and I don’t want to open this big book because my wife knows ten times more than me.
“And I don’t want to say something like, ‘Hey, how’d school go?’ because my kids roll their eyes. And so, because I feel inadequate and incompetent, I go compensate. And I tell them it’s because I want more money for the family and I’m building the house.
“And no, no. It’s because I’m scared to death, that I’m insecure, and I’ve got these barriers. And I don’t know where to go and I don’t know how to get help. But at least out there, I’m a somebody.”
God’s solution is honest, grace-filled understanding, communication to lovingly pull down the walls, risk vulnerability, and restore intimacy.
And I would just say, because you never know, kind of, who you’re talking to. I would just say this. The greatest application of all of this, of getting grace-filled understanding and communication and to pull those walls is, first and foremost, if there’s by any chance, someone, that you’re listening to me and the part of you that is going, “Wow. This guy is describing my life.”
And then if the next thought is, “I don’t know this God he’s talking about. I don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. I don’t have the power he’s talking about. I get the barrier part. How do you break through the barrier?”
I want you to know that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin. He, fully God, fully man, He left heaven and all the glory of heaven to live a perfect life to reveal what God the Father is like, full of grace and truth.
And He lived this perfect life and He modeled it. And then He was sinless and He died. That blood that we talked about was shed. And it was shed to atone or cover your sin and forgive you.
And then He rose from the dead the third day and He’s seated at the right hand of God and His invitation to every human being on the face of the earth is this: whoever would believe on Me, whoever would trust, I so love the world that if you believe on Me, you can have a gift of eternal life. And God wants you to know that’s the starting point.
And for many, maybe you know, I have, I’ve prayed, I’ve honestly repented and I’ve asked him to come into my life and forgive me of my sins. But you realize that your priorities in your relationship with God are really out of kilter.
God may have brought you here, first and foremost, for you to realize: I’ve got to get right with God.
Because I got news for you. You will never get right with your mate until there is a vitality and a power in your relationship with Christ.
And if you’ve never received Christ just sitting right where you’re at, you can just say we don’t need to have a prayer or you can just say, “Oh God. God, as I listen to this, I want this to work. And I desperately need You. I believe You died for me. Would You forgive me? I repent. Come into my life right now.” And He’ll meet you. He’ll just meet you right where you’re at.