I have a friend who must remain nameless, but he gave me permission to discuss his situation in this blog post. He’s been struggling in his marriage. It seems he’s just very confused on how to relate to his wife or how to communicate with her and I think we can all learn a lot from what’s going on.
Frankly, it can be really hard to know what’s going on at all because he puts words in her mouth a lot. I know that there’s a lot of misrepresenting happening, but it’s hard to know how to help when he doesn’t usually listen to her much. He struggles because she’s very condemning. I have seen her tell him often how he’s just not good enough. I can understand how hard that is, but it’s like he’s overcompensating because of the idea that he has to work so hard to be accepted all the time.
Because of some of this, I’ve noticed that he’s really unappreciative for what she does do. She really does a lot to keep things working the way that it should. With all the meals she provides and everything else, he really rarely gives a ‘thank-you’.
There are times where he will go to her when he’s really struggling with something and she’ll be there to listen and help, but when things are better, it’s hard for her to get his attention. He more-or-less ignores her and just stays busy with everything that’s going on in his life or with his friends. He sees her very rarely, in fact. Once a week, he schedules a time that he sits down and sings her songs and it’s a bit awkward…. I’ve never understood that part. He’ll forget about her throughout the week so you wonder how much love there is. At best, he only speaks to her a few times a day and it’s scheduled as well. He often forgets even those “appointments”.
It gets even stranger though, if you can believe it. He’ll tell me that sometimes he’ll go and give her money. Maybe it’s meant to look like an allowance, but he’ll make a show of it. He’ll make sure to hand her some money and he feels good about it, though it almost just seems to have a strange connotation – paying your spouse like you’re using them… It’s hard to know what to say to that! How do you help with that, you know?
Sometimes it gets really ugly though. She has other kids and so many of the times that he speaks with her, he just yells about how horrible they are. He rants about how he can’t stand them and that they are always messing everything up. He’ll tell her sometimes that he can’t stand them. He does not understand how much damage is done in a marriage when one tells the other that they can’t love their children.
I hope you don’t still believe that this is a real relationship. I was thinking a bit the other day about how Christianity should not be accurately described as a religion (as the world defines it), but as a relationship with Christ. I’m sure many of you have had similar thoughts. But I do believe that so many in the American Church do treat God as if they are in an unhealthy religion rather than a marriage.
So often, people believe that God is too condemning and is always asking that we work our hardest to be acceptable. Otherwise, they believe that He gives His commands in Scripture not to be followed for the good of all but for some other mysterious and unimportant reason. The adherents then do the strangest things. Unhealthy practices of communion, tithing, worship, prayer, and even having hatred or judgment for God’s children and those made in His image are the result.
In John 14:15, Jesus tells us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He says that because religious folks of his day (and every other generation thereafter) could be tempted to disconnect Christ from His Father’s work which gives an incredibly stunted view of who God is. Therefore, we may go through the motions of religion, worshipping a god who is not the God of the Bible. He gets very upset with this strange form of idolatry. In Isaiah 58:6 and other places in Scripture (Amos 5:21-24; Deuteronomy 16:20; Proverbs 14:31, 21:3, 31:8-9; Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:17; Romans 12:15-18; Matthew 7:12; I John 3:17-18), we see that people believe themselves to be worshipping God in their different ways, but God informs them that this is not the case. They should not think of themselves to be actively following or loving Him when they choose to disobey Him.
I’ll be clear that this is not an issue of salvation, but sanctification. Someone cannot grow in relationship with God if they do not actually know who He is. We cannot pursue God when we’re choosing to follow distractions (Matthew 6:24). Christ is one with the Father and is the embodiment of our Father (John 1:1, 14:7), showing that we cannot separate His heart for the world from the Father’s mission without losing sight of Him. Rather than treating Him like the head of some man-made religion, let us engage Him like one would in a marriage relationship. When we engage Him in this way, we will have a fuller understanding of what He is doing in our lives and in the world around us. Then we may join His mission in loving indiscriminately those He seeks to save and watch as He brings glory to Himself (Matthew 4:19, 22:36-40, 28:16-20; Luke 10:25-37, 19:10).
And just remember, if we don’t engage our spouses in impersonal ritualistic ways like in man-made religion, we don’t have to engage our God that way either.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff