191 posts categorized "Marriage"

SUM Nation Lynn Donovan Here Today

Hi Everyone, TWO AWESOME THINGS TO SHARE TODAY. 

First, the Lord showed up strong and right now Mike is on his way to recovery. Hallelujah. I'll keep you posted.

Marriage initiative
Second, I want to share an interview with Amy Morgan. Her fabulous ministry is The Marriage Initiative. And it's filled with so much helpful marriage information. The link is below. But I want to share some of the feedback from a listener about the interview. I hope you are encouraged in your unequally yoked marriage. 

(From a listener)

"I wanted to thank you again for the invite to the marriage initiative presentation. It was timely and there were things that were said that I so needed to hear. Lynn Donovan's experience is so similar to mine in some ways, and it was so inspiring to hear how God used her challenges with an unbelieving husband to change not only her own marriage but to positively impact others going through the same. It was so touching. I felt so seen and so much of what she talks about I have experienced. It hits at a hard time for me. This year has been such a struggle. Homeschooling hasn't been what I had hoped and has negatively impacted my mental health and not been the best for (her daughter) either. I've been down and unmotivated for some time now, and the transitions and moving have put me in a very "sad, stuck" place. It has affected every part of my life, including my walk with God. Hearing this today, and what to do about it, was very encouraging. I loved when Lynn said to step up bravely to be the spiritual leader of your family if your husband cannot or will not. I had not heard it put like that before and I needed to hear it. I also loved how she encouraged us by saying we become strong warriors in prayer and spiritual warfare as a spouse to an unbeliever. It made me realize how important it is to stay in prayer and scripture, to not give up, that I'm not alone. (Her husband) is a very "hardened" person and I often struggle with the way he perceives life and people and purpose, and this presentation just reminded me that I'm not doing this alone, that God is with me. 

I immediately purchased a copy of Winning Him without Words and I'm looking forward to reading it. 

Here is the link to the broadcast on YouTube.


Boundaries -- A Whistle-Stop Tour

Hi SUMites Two pronged approach

Today we are wrapping up our series on boundaries. How about today we take a quick whistle-stop tour of where we've gone with this topic?

Ok, let's go!

In part one we talked about the fact we walk a two-pronged approach in our spiritually mismatched marriages. On the one hand, we throw ourselves into LOVING our spouse generously, but equally we stand up for certain non-negotiables.

In other words: We set certain boundaries in our marriage, where we don't allow our spouse to take certain important things away from us. That might sound tough but I believe it is a critical part of walking out a spiritually mismatched marriage well.

We talked about what kinds of boundaries are important to set. Here's what we agreed:

But with all that said, there's an important boundary that we, in turn, must respect in our spouse's life, and it's this: Honor their free will, and do not override it.

Well, that concludes our series on boundaries. My friends, there are a number of books on boundaries in marriage -- And while our series on this blog looked specifically at SUM-related issues, there are wider areas of marriage that call for boundaries. For example, it might be important in your marriage to set boundaries in the area of sex, verbal communication, finances, time together, friendships, addictions, extended family and so on. In some of these areas we might set boundaries naturally, but in other areas we might need to have a think. It's a big topic -- But thankfully one that these days is getting air-time. 

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share on boundaries?

Love to you all,

Ann


An Area We Must Not Over-Step ......

Dear friends Close

Over the last week or so, we've been talking about boundaries in marriage. We've toughened ourselves up, discussing areas in which we must stand our ground.

It's important to stand our ground on certain issues, in certain ways. It's important to be strong.

However, now let's turn to a different side of this topic:

What lines must we not overstep when it comes to our spouse?

In what ways do we need to be careful not to negatively invade our spouse? 

It's worth mulling this over, as it is so tempting when we are in a SUM to try to control our spouse, especially to control their church attendance and beliefs. What about their friends or activities -- To what degree is it tempting to want to control that? To what degree is it ok to control those things for the sake of our spouse's spiritual health, and to what degree should we back off?

When we're married, we're one flesh. Whether or not we feel close to our spouse physically and emotionally, there's that spiritual truth.

... A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh (Genesis 2:24, NIV).

Shared house, shared activities, shared bodies, shared life. And so that shared nature of daily, physical life, including bodily intimacy, suggests a boundaryless existence. This boundaryless existence -- if it plays out in a healthy sex life -- is illustrated here, also:

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:2-5, NIV).

We might find when we're old we have to care for each other's bodies in other ways too -- like showering or washing the hair of an unwell spouse, acting as their eyes and ears if they go blind/deaf, or even wiping their butt!  

But even though we are one flesh, and share our bodies, we are two spirits, and this is important. We feel this keenly as SUMites, don't we? We are two separate spirits who each have free will when it comes to responding to God.

Free will is an invention of God, and one that feels a little painful, but we have to trust God knew what he was doing when he created it. If he had made us without free will, we would be like robots -- Like the movie 'The Stepford Wives' where everyone acted in submissive obedience. How boring for God that would be! No, instead, he gave us the choice to fall in love with him or walk away. And, in so doing he consciously does not overstep our free will.

He never forces us to church, he never forces us to believe, he never forces us to love him. 

And so in the same way, we are encouraged to honor our spouse's free will and allow them some leeway of their own in making a choice.

This has played out for me this week:

Right now, while Bryce and I are in France, I'd love him to come to church with me. In my mind I want him to help me meet the locals, stand by my side as my partner, and soak up the atmosphere of the worship and God's felt presence. Well, I asked him yesterday if he'd go with me, and he said 'No'. Oh. Well ((dusting myself off)), so be it. I won't guilt-trip or try to force it -- I'll leave him be, and I will do so cheerfully.

... And in that way I guess I'm respecting his free will, and a boundary of some sort.

Your thoughts? When do you think it's appropriate to control our spouses, and when is it not? 

Much love

Ann


Boundaries in Marriage, Part Five: Respect

Hello dear SUMites Boundaries 2

It's Ann here and I'm writing from France, where Bryce and I arrived yesterday. We're staying for a month in a town called Foix in the very south of France. It has always been a dream of mine to live in France, and so perhaps this is the closest I can get. 

If there are any French SUMites out there reading, please write to me, say hello and tell me where you're from! 

Our first activity in France has been to go to the supermarket to plan our next couple of days of food. We negotiated over every ... single ... item we put in the trolley LOL. Marriage! 

On the plus, this morning I got up early and went to the bakery a few doors down, to ask for "Deux croissants s'il vous plait" -- Two croissants please. I paid for them with my Euro coins and took them back for a lovely coffee-n-croissant breakfast with my hubby. Ahhh.

**

Anyway, back to SUM matters! We're talking about boundaries that are relevant to spiritually mismatched marriage, and we're now on the last boundary in this series: Respect. Today's post is about asking our spouse to respect us but, of course, it works both ways: We should make every effort to respect our spouse, which is something we've talked about a lot on this blog.

How much disrespect or criticism of our faith is too much? Well, as carriers of the Gospel we are going to have persecution. Jesus said --

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20, NIV)

He also said some of that persecution will come from our family --

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— (Matthew 10:34-35, NIV)

And --

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:11-12, NIV)

Persecution is a natural outworking of what we carry. Our family members won't always 'get' us, and sometimes things will be said that hurt. We will feel alien, sometimes. Fine. It's the deal.

Jesus got whipped, stripped, and crucified, and, interestingly, he did not put up boundaries there. He allowed his tormentors to cross that boundary because it was God's purpose. Similarly, for a season, we may find that people make fun of our faith or are unfairly critical of it, and we might quietly ride that out until those people come to a softer place.

However, if it's happening in our marriage, and if it's happening too much, there can come a point where we say "That's enough," as a way of standing up for God's purpose in marriage. It is God's will that spouses honor each other, and that's ultimately the kind of marriage we want to fight for.

I guess what I'm saying, then, is that a little persecution will happen, but there can come a point where too much might call for a boundary to be put in place. After all, it is possible to disagree but still respect each other.

Every marriage is different, and some in our community are unfortunately in very difficult marriages. My heart goes out to you if that's the case for you - I know it is an extremely difficult path. If disrespect is part of that, it could be time to say "Stop, or I will need to remove myself from you for a time." And, of course, we encourage those who are enduring abuse of any sort -- including emotional abuse -- to seek help and not stay in that situation.

I guess it's all a balancing act, and one that takes discernment and prayer. But our hope in this community is that -- where we possibly can -- we can grow healthy marriages where there is respect despite the faith difference. 

Do any thoughts spring to mind for you about this topic? If so, I look forward to chatting in the comments. 

Much love.

Ann


Boundaries in Marriage, Part Four: Bringing the Gospel to Your Children

Hi everyone Boundaries 2

A few times over this past year I've received an email from a young person who has found themselves in a spiritually mismatched marriage. In each of those cases, they have expressed their fear about having children: "What do I do when it comes to teaching our kids? Should I even have children? I am fearful of whether I have the ability raise them in faith."

Yikes -- Those thoughts are so hard.

The first thing I say is: "YES, you should so have kids! God will sustain you and surround you as you raise them in faith,"

I tell them that Jesus in them is so strong that they have every ability to walk in victory in this area.

But second, there is the question of what are our rights and responsibilities when raising young children? Say I am a Christian, and my spouse is atheist, what should I fight for in terms of my desire to raise them in faith, and what should I allow my spouse to bring in? This is another area where it's helpful to figure out what some appropriate boundaries might look like.

I really liked Amanda's comment this week, where she said one boundary she and her hubby have agreed on is that neither of them disrespect each other's beliefs. 

I think the same can be a good rule when raising children. Each spouse in a marriage may feel strongly that their own views are correct. They might even feel strongly that the other's views will damage the kids: Certainly being Christian, it would mortify us to think of our spouse expressing atheist views to our kids; but, to be fair, an atheist might feel the same way: It might mortify them to think of a Christian parent bringing faith to kids.

Aggh!!! Catch 22 -- What's to be done? How do you walk this one out honorably to your spouse, but faithfully to God? 

Bryce and I have friends who are in a SUM with young kids. The Dad is the believer. He takes them to church, which he finds very difficult to do solo, but he does it. However, I was heartened when the mum told me once, "When I'm reading books to the kids about the world, I say to them "Your Dad believes God made this... Whereas other people believe xyz." She said it matter-of-factly. I guess they've fostered an atmosphere of respect.

So in terms of rights and responsibilities, here's a good way forward --

First of all, courageously bring faith to your children, even if your spouse reacts negatively. Be brave, be bold. We have to be! If this is currently challenging for you I pray boldness into your soul!

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).

It may be that it causes unhappiness for your spouse; if so, express to them respectfully that you do have a right to share your views with your child and expose them to faith so that they can make an informed choice of their own. However, to be fair, if you ask for that from your spouse, you should really give them the same courtesy. In the spirit of walking out a respectful marriage, don't muzzle your spouse, just as you would hope they wouldn't muzzle you. Just explain to your children that you each see things differently but you respect and love each other.

Then, pray your heart out. Prayer is the most powerful thing you'll ever do for your children anyway. Pray for protection of your children's ears, eyes and hearts. And fear not, because what's in you is stronger than what's in the world --

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world (1 John 4:4, NLT)

Our children will always come across other views, but as long as you have made sure they have plentiful access to the Gospel, you have done your bit.

Tough stuff! For those of you who've walked this out, how has all of this gone for you? Let's share our ups and downs in the comments.

Love,

Ann


Boundaries in Marriage, Part Three: Get Me To Church!

My friends, Boundaries 2

We're writing about boundaries in marriage; and to catch up, here are the previous posts:

Boundaries in marriage: Part one

Boundaries in marriage: Part two

On Monday we talked about how important it is to guard our own oil -- that is, guard our own connection with God, our own flame for him, our own infilling of the Holy Spirit. In a spiritually mismatched marriage our spouse can pull us away from that -- even if they don't mean to -- so we do have to take steps to fight for it.

So, what are some healthy boundaries that we can put in place to protect our own oil?

For me, this has taken two forms:

(1) I fight to protect my personal time with God

(2) I fight to protect my connections with the church

Fight to protect time with God

Our spouses will often, quite rightly, want our time; and in honor of marriage we should give that to them generously -- IF they want it. But that can come at the expense of our quiet time with God. Remember COVID lockdown? I don't know about you, but I struggled to connect with God when Bryce and I were constantly in each other's space. Well, Bryce and I are once again together 24/7 now as he is not working, so I am currently having to think through what is reasonable for me to ring-fence, in terms of my own personal time.

A couple of weeks ago Bryce -- newly unemployed -- came into the bedroom where I was sat reading my Bible. He was ready to start the day -- And I was in my God space. "So, how's this going to go?" he said. "There's you, sitting in bed reading, and here's me, wanting to do stuff with you -- Can we chat about this?"

"Ok!" I said. "Look, in the mornings before I hang out with you I'm going to need a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, then another coffee and four chapters of the Bible. After that I'm all yours!"

"Mm."

"I need it."

"Mm. OK"

So that's how it goes. He's since been coming in and saying "Are you on your first, second or third cup so far? Just so I can plan..."

I have told him it's non-negotiable; that I won't be well and happy unless I have that time. And that is my boundary.

I know other SUMites have said they've been criticised by their spouses when in prayer or with a Bible. Perhaps a boundary there might be to swallow the fear of their views and press in: Keep the Bible open, and keep going. After all, what harm does it do them? Press in to know the Lord, against all the odds!

Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him (Hosea 6:3, NLT)

Fight to protect connections with the church

The second boundary is around church. I think many of us have had a season in our SUM walk when we've stayed away from church for weeks on end to please our spouse. Uggh, well I have.

But the longer this SUM walk continues, the more I become like tough old boots on this one, and my boots must be on the ground in church. Attending church -- in some form -- is so critical to our spiritual life, and to the Body of Christ, that it's perfectly OK to say to our spouse that our church attendance is non-negotiable.

In fact, if a spouse is saying to their significant other that they cannot attend church, I would argue that's the kind of control that we should be careful not to bow to. After all, God loves freedom and wants us to be free; not bound in chains to the whims of another human being. 

Us SUMites need church more than most. Because we have unbelief at home we need to put ourselves into the oasis of church to keep ourselves spiritually alive. The same goes for Christian friendships and connections who pour spiritual influence into souls: Keep those relationships thriving -- As long as they don't take away anything from our precious marriage.

With all that said, then, we hold tight to those good things that help our faith life -- Because they are our oil.

My friends, have you had to put boundaries in place around church or your time with God? I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences! 

Love

Ann


Boundaries in Marriage, Part Two: Hold onto Your Oil

Hi all Boundaries

Ok, let's dive into the topic of boundaries in spiritually mismatched marriage.  Have you been thinking about what kind of boundaries are important in a SUM? I've been jotting down various ideas over the last few days.

(And in case you missed it, here's part one in this series)

To start off with, let's take a look at this parable from Jesus. Do you see boundaries in it?

The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No', they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:25, NIV).

I know as we're a Bible-reading bunch, many of us will have read this parable several times over the years. However, a parable will often have more than one lesson to it, and sometimes you see something completely new in it -- Which is what happened to me a few days ago. I happened to read it as part of my daily reading and suddenly thought 'Oh, this is about boundaries!'

See, I had always thought of this parable in terms of keeping yourself filled with the Holy Spirit. And that is certainly what it's about. But what I had never noticed before was the fact that half the virgins were trying to take the oil from the other half. And the wise virgins had to put their foot down and say 'No, that crosses a line.' In other words, the wise virgins had to put a boundary in place to protect their most precious thing.

What was their most precious thing? It was their oil, which enabled their lamps to burn, without which they could not access their master. It was their Holy Spirit, their very source of life. 100% precious.

Yes, it would have been seemingly 'generous' of them to give up a little of their oil. But the outcome of that would actually have been disastrous. So they took a step, and protected their own access to Jesus at the risk of being unloving.

The moral might be for us that we need to put boundaries around holding tight our access to Holy Spirit, our infilling of the Holy Spirit, our time with God, our ability to worship him and keep him close, and our very source of LIFE, at the risk of being a little less 'generous' to our spouse.

This can involve a little bit of a fight, because our spouse doesn't yet see the value of the oil. They naturally might want to pull us away from the oil. 'Stop reading the Bible now, you've had enough of that!' 'Turn that worship music off!'

Practically, then, what kinds of things should we fight for in a marriage in order to keep our oil? 

How do we stay considerate to our spouse without giving up our oil?

Have you had to fight to hold on to a particular thing in your faith life?

I might pause there and see what you have to say in the comments. And then we'll continue on Wednesday.

Love you all!

Ann


Spiritually Mismatched Marriage -- A Two-Pronged Approach

Hello friends, Ann here. Two pronged approach

I'm writing from Singapore airport, where Bryce and I are sipping coffee and waiting to fly to England. Once there, I have a week with my parents to look forward to, and much-anticipated time with my siblings.

Cannot wait -- I love, love, love being back in England.

Meanwhile, what to write next for SUM?

Well, over the next week or so, I'd like to reflect on a particular topic that's critical for us: Setting good boundaries in our marriages.

"Have you heard of boundaries?" I asked Bryce this week. "Nope," he said. 

A boundary can be defined as a line in the sand, where you don't allow someone to take something precious from you or invade your life in a negative way. It works the other way too. Your spouse might need to set boundaries with you, not allowing you to negatively invade or take something from them.

Too few boundaries are not a good thing, but neither are too many boundaries. What's more, any healthy marriage - or relationship, for that matter -- has boundaries in it. 

But of course, in a spiritually mismatched marriage, healthy boundaries have to address some specific areas, and are an essential part of staying alive faith-wise. I think of it as a two-pronged approach. We do two things:

(1) LOVE our spouse well

(2) Set appropriate boundaries.

LOVE involves us doing everything prescribed here:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)

We need this prescription, and we need to make this our great mission as SUMites, because that's what God asks of us: To love others.

But love doesn't mean being a doormat, and it mustn't come at the expense of our own spiritual health. It is possible to be too kind, too patient, too honorable with a person whose behaviors are unhealthy for us.

So with that thought in mind, here's a question to start us off:

What kinds of boundaries need to be put in place in a spiritually mismatched marriage? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Love to you all,

Ann


Time for an Adventure

Hello everyone, Ann here. Ann Bryce uber

Well, while Lynn has been busy releasing her spiritual warfare book, Bryce and I have had an adventure of a different kind: We've packed up our house, have left New Zealand and, as of yesterday, have started our six-month trip overseas.

As I write, I'm in sunny Brisbane, Australia, where we're staying with Bryce's sister.

One of the themes of this trip, for me, is a desire to nurture my marriage. We're going to spend an unusual amount of time together, and I'm looking forward to talking with him about what matters to us and what our life is going to look like moving forward now that our kids are grown. I want to develop new shared routines with him, and I want to love him well. 

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love (Proverbs 5:18-19, NIV)

This is a funny little passage: It's poetically archaic. Still, even though it's speaking of a man's feelings towards his wife, I often think of it in relation to my husband: Delight myself in the husband of my youth. And something along those lines is what I hope this trip is to look like.

While we are away, we will celebrate 25 years of marriage, and 30 years together.

I know many of you follow the lives of us writers, as we keep you company in your own struggles, so I might take the opportunity to share what the spiritual mismatch is looking like for Bryce and me at the moment:

I continue to go to church alone (Sigh -- hard. Always hard). But peace has settled between us, and the years of being spiritually stretched like an elastic band have given way to more of a non-chalance on my part. Is it ok to be non-chalant about my SUM? Well, the opposite is to be wound up like a top, and constantly stressed! So I guess God doesn't mind non-chalance.

I know God's got it all in hand.

However, even though I'm reasonably non-chalant these days, the outworkings of the SUM life are still mine to navigate: I do have hurts from being at church alone; I still gulp and experience stabs of fear or regret when I think about bringing faith to my children solo; I still wish I could give more to God, and so on.

What is perhaps a little easier is the loneliness: For some reason that has lessened. And there is less self-consciousness now when I talk about faith with Bryce. We can even speak freely about this blog: He is sitting opposite me right now, in fact, trying to be quiet so I can write.

While we are in Europe, I would love to ask him to go to church with me, so that we can meet local people. Will he?  I will keep you posted!

So yes, the whole thing has been a strangely evolving thing. How about you? Has the SUM situation evolved for you?

Well, next I'll be praying about our topics for the remainder of this week and will be back on Wednesday, still from here in Brisbane, and still in happy mode.

Much love to you all,

Ann


Community Fast - Day Four Prayer Prompt

SUM Fast 2024Today we are taking our prayers into real preparation for warfare.

Today, ask the Lord for revelation. And ask for wisdom. Ask God to reveal or perceive what you don’t see that is going on first in the spiritual realm and then in the natural. 

Prayer prompt: Lord, reveal the truth about my marriage and my family relationships. Provide me wisdom to process and then work through issues that are ungodly or outside of your Biblical design. Pour your discernment upon my mind and spirit to unwind complex problems and relationships with the wisdom from heaven. Reveal anything the devil is doing in secret and provide the wisdom to confront it. In Jesus name. AMEN.

Now listen. Write down what you hear.

Now ask for courage and strength to battle for truth, hope, and health in 2024. In Jesus name.

What did you learn this morning? Share in the comments. I'll see you there. Love and hugs, Lynn


Marriage: Humbly Serve

Humbly serve our spouse. Hands

We are up to part two of our series on The Meaning of Marriage*, and today we're going to talk about being servant-hearted.

To be a Christian means to have a servant heart towards others. And what better place to practice that than in our marriage? Yep!

But, my friends, I'm not sure how well I do this personally. How about you?

Every marriage is different, but it's generally agreed that marriage is not easy, beautiful as it is.

Truthfully, I find the familiarity of living with Bryce can make me get easily annoyed with him, and impatient about many of the things he asks of me. Just being honest.

I LOVE him, but I do get annoyed. To be fair, he does too. Sometimes I drive him nuts.

There are things that matter to him that do not matter a jot to me (e.g., Looking after the car). So it's hard to care about the things he cares about. I also find I take him for granted. I find it challenging to stop and think 'Let's be servant hearted here, Ann', when he is so familiar to me. 

So, perhaps in this post we can talk about what servant-heartedness can look like in marriage? Ideas would be good.

A key scripture here is this one:

Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

The word 'submit' is thrown around a lot in Christian circles, but it's important to know this word doesn't mean being a doormat. Instead, it means generously putting our own selfishness aside. It's about choosing not to be selfish. What's more, it is a call to both husbands and wives: Submit to each other and do it out of generous love.

  • Care about what your spouse cares about.
  • Treat your spouse 
  • Put their needs first as frequently as you do your own
  • Be lavishly generous-hearted

My friends, I want to do that because I have a reverence for God, as per the above scripture. How well I do that is another matter, and that's a battle between the spirit and the flesh.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13, NIV)

It is hard. Some of us are better at this than others - Some are more service-hearted than others. But, really, we can only do any of this best when filled with the Holy Spirit: We need to be so filled with him that we can, in turn, be generous.

So, a first step is to invite Holy Spirit to come in and flood us. Pray --

Flood me, Holy Spirit, and enable me to pour out humble service to my spouse!

And then perhaps ideas can help. Here's what it might look like for me. You might have a different list:

  • Bring him tea in bed.
  • Give him a back scratch while watching TV, as much as he does for me.
  • Do house jobs he cares about.
  • Help him carry stuff in from the car
  • Go on errands with him to help him
  • Hang out with his friends
  • Dish out his dessert before helping myself greedily first
  • Give him physical affection in bed when I can tell he'd like it
  • Talk to him about the things that interest him

Bryce loves listening to a political broadcaster on a Saturday and then talking to me about it. It is not my thing ... But ok, I can try to listen well.

At dinner time, I love my food. If Bryce asks me to dish something out for him on my side of the table once I'm eating ... Just do it for him.

And so on.

Now to you: What are some areas where you find it hard to serve? Or, what are some ideas for how we can humbly serve?

I look forward to hearing more about your marital adventures.

Love,

Ann

*This series is based on Tim Keller's (2013) book 'The Meaning of Marriage', published by Hodder & Stoughton, London; and today's post was based on material in chapter 2.


Let's Chat About Marriage

Let's talk marriage! Today we're beginning our series on The Meaning of Marriage, using the book of that name by Tim Keller. Ann Bryce 1995

I'll start with my own story: Bryce and I have been married 24 years now. Here's a picture of us at the beginning our relationship. We were 19 and 22 then -- Just babies, really. We are now age 47 and 50.

When I think about how I made the decision to marry Bryce, here were my criteria. These were very mature criteria, as you will see:

1. I was seriously attracted to him. Yes, my primary goal at that time was to be near/with Bryce Hutchison as much as I possibly could.

2. He made me laugh so was grrreat fun.

3. And finally, he was a guy who I could see had integrity and stability to him.

These three things made him the 'one'. He still is my 'one'.

Marriage, in my mind, was really about my goals. I was not walking with God, so what other criteria could I use except whether this man would meet my goals and needs, which were essentially sex, companionship and an interesting life. Yes, I loved Bryce selflessly and deeply, but my own needs were naturally the driver in terms of 'Do I want to marry him?'

How about you: When you chose your 'one' to marry, what were some of the things you were thinking about? 

Tim Keller in his first chapter of The Meaning of Marriage addresses this. He said --

"Men and women today see marriage not as a way of creating character and community, but as a way to reach personal life goals. They are all looking for a marriage partner who will fulfil their emotional, sexual and spiritual desires."

The problem with that, continues Keller, is that it puts sky-high expectations onto our spouse. These expectations will inevitably cause disappointment: The spouse will fail to live up to them.

"It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live up to that."

No person can be what we need them to be: No person can be the source of all fun and satisfaction. Marriage is instead two broken, sinful people, running together headlong into something that is going to be way more challenging than they realize.

"Marriage is glorious but hard. It's a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true" (Keller)

So how does God see it?

God loves marriage! It was his idea. He loves what it does to us, if it is working correctly, for it causes us to learn to love.

In Ephesians 5:32, marriage is described as one whopping mystery. It is a mystery of two imperfect people who will never meet each other's needs. God designed it so, because the goal of marriage was to build character in us. Keller

Oh dear. Character.

We know that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus and the church (Ephesians 5:25), a picture of commitment, covenant, and care. So then we must ask what Jesus did to keep the church in union with him? The answer: He gave himself up.

He gave himself up for us. And so we too could model that with our spouses. We could think in terms of giving ourselves up for this other person.

Really? I think so.

I love these words by Keller:

"The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful, and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope."

Now over to you, my friends:

  • What criteria did you focus on when you chose to marry your spouse? 
  • What are some ways we can 'give ourselves up' for our spouse, while keeping it healthy?

Note: If a marriage is abusive, it's a different picture. Seek help and counsel. But in this series, we're talking about normal marriages.

Nice chatting!

Ann


Our Next Series -- The Meaning of Marriage

Hello friends! Keller

I've had a particular book sitting by my bedside for a very long time, gathering dust ... Intending to be read.

It's a book by Tim Keller called 'The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Marriage with the Wisdom of God.'

Well, I think it's about time to read it; and what I want to do is use it as a basis for a series for us:

The meaning of marriage, and how we face the complexities of a spiritually mismatched marriage with the wisdom of God.

The book has eight chapters with intriguing titles, and what I'm going to do is read each chapter and then write a blog post for US on that chapter's topic. In each post we'll take a SUM view on the topic.

This means we're going to talk marriage, marriage, marriage for the next few posts.  

So, roll up your sleeves and settle in. Be prepared to chat in the comments, if you feel comfortable doing so. I know not all of us do, and that's fine too -- just read along if you prefer.

I don't quite know what to expect from this book, but let's give it a go.  We will kick off with our first post on Friday.

It should be good. See you then!

Ann


13 Years

Family PictureHello my friends! Amanda here! I have a special post to share with you this week. You see, today (August 13th) is my 13th wedding anniversary! There was a time when I thought we would never make it to this point. After all, we all know being in a marriage, any marriage, is challenging. When you throw in a spiritual mismatch it certainly adds an extra layer of complex difficulties. We have faced so many storms I was sure would sink our ship, yet here we stand! On solid ground and more united than ever! Is our marriage perfect? Nope! Is he saved? Not yet :). But Daniel and I are in a place now I once thought was impossible. A place of mutual respect, strong communication, and beautiful peace. I want my message today to bring hope. Hope to anyone out there struggling in their mismatched marriage.

While I was contemplating the last few years of our marriage, I thought of a few tips I would like to share with you all. Tips that I have found to be incredibly helpful in my marriage, and I am sure they can help someone else out there as well!

**Quick side note: I know Lynn covers a few of these topics in her book "Winning Him Without Words". If you do not have it GET IT! She goes into much more detail and her God-given wisdom is vital to this journey we are on! This post is just my personal take on my experiences with my hubby :).**

First, do not allow the enemy to make you think your marriage is doomed. That is was all a huge mistake and will inevitably end in disaster. That kind of thinking is partnering with death and has no place in any marriage! You can still have a beautiful, loving marriage even as a SUMite. I have come to believe that my marriage to Daniel IS part of God's plan for my life. Being with an unbeliever has pushed me into a deeper and more intimate relationship with God that I truly do not think I would have had otherwise. This journey makes us need God in a very unique way. And I am thankful for that!

Second, be the peace in your home! My friends, it is so very important that we do not give in to the fears and anxieties of this world! As the representation of Christ in our homes part of our duty is to bring the peace. We must remember where our hope comes from. We lean on the rock that never falters and will not be shaken! But our spouses are not looking up to the father for their guidance. They are looking at the chaos all around them every day trying to find a quiet place to land and feel steady. We can help there. Give your spouse a long hug at the end of the day, ask them what you can do for them when you see their stress or anxiety rising. The change won't be immediate, but watch how the atmosphere shifts!

Third, silence! Sometimes we need to speak up, speak out, and say no. Other times we need to be still and wait on the Lord! Not every disagreement should turn into a battle. Not every thought needs to be shared. And we are NOT always right (that one I struggle with haha). Pray for wisdom in this, ask God to shut your mouth you shouldn't speak, and give you the grace to speak in love when you do. Sometimes our silence speaks the loudest. Not when we are using it as a manipulation, but when we use it in wisdom. 

My last tip is to focus on the good! It is far too easy to complain. We compile a mental list of our spouses faults and drown ourselves in self pity or self righteousness. This is a snare that catches all of us at some point. It is in those times we must take our thoughts captive and replace each complaint with a praise! Even if you can only think of two good things to say about your spouse. Repeat them over and over! After a while you start to notice more and more things worthy of praise.

In closing, here is a bonus tip, the most important tip, NEVER stop praying for them! Bring them to the Father as often as possible, they need it!

I would love to read your tips in the comments!


Ephesians Chapter 6 Part ONE

image from www.spirituallyunequalmarriage.comHello SUM Nation. Lynn Donovan here.

Wow, July is coming to an end, and we have reached the last chapter of Ephesians. Let’s jump in. Get out your paper Bible and read these verses. Numerous researchers have proof that retention is much greater when reading from a paper book verses a screen. True that!!!! I agree!

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he provides very practical advice for marriage and relationships in and through chapter five. Chapter 6 continues on in this course with several short and specific instructions.

  • Children obey your parents
  • Honor your father and mother
  • Dads, don’t provoke your children
  • Bondservants be obedient
  • Masters, show difference to those who serve you.

This portion reads like the book of Proverbs, with practical information. But did you catch the undertone? This is all about family.

Family is everything to God. We fit into family through our identity, strengths, roles, our genders, our responsibilities as well as our positions of authority or service. Even the slaves are included here. This unwritten but very clear message is a reflection of God’s heart toward family. His family.

Honor, respect, protection, kindness, difference to one another. Afterall, this is exactly how it will be for all eternity within our eternal family.

The difficulty in these instructions is the dysfunction in families today. And that my friend, is a topic to which I could write book upon book. Through my prayer ministry, I have worked with believers who have lived out or were raised in every kind of dysfunction. Alcoholism, drugs, perversion, abuse of every kind and things to horrendous to write. However, I have watch Jesus bring healing to the trauma of many hearts.

None of us were raised in a perfect family. And we are likely lacking in these areas in our own family. Yet, it’s the effort that touches God’s heart.

Is it possible to honor a parent that abused you. Yes, through forgiveness and asking Jesus for understanding. Often, he reveals how your parent was raised in horrible trauma themselves and it helps to process your pain. It doesn’t make it right. Nor is restoration of that relationship necessary. But through the great love and healing of our Savior, all things are possible and healing will come. You must want it and allow it, and work through the pain.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally, we arrive at the back half of chapter 6. The Armor of God. Currently I’m writing a book about spiritual warfare and I use this passage in the teaching. I have dedicated nearly half the book to verse eleven, alone, because it’s so powerful.

Grasping our stance is everything when we battle evil. And I hope to have the book pounded out soon. It’s deep and will change the way you view warfare. In the meantime, Paul isn’t kidding about these weapons.

Here me now: these are real and they work.

Believe you are equipped with the whole armor of God. Then stand and swing your sword. Here is an excerpt from the manuscript with an example of how I swing my sword.

I’m sorry. I just realized………. This post is too long. Tune in Wednesday for a prayer that kicks butt and takes names. Hugs, Lynn


Eve Led Him Away ... Eve Leads Him Back

By Ann Hutchison Eve's applie

There's a thought I often have in relation to spiritually mismatched marriages. It's this:

Eve led the man away, now she has to lead him back.

We've probably all noticed by now that when there is a spiritually mismatched marriage it is much more likely to be the woman who is the believer. Not always, of course: We do have male readers here and I know at least two guys in my personal life who are very strong believers with unbelieving wives.

But for the majority, the formula is believing wife + unbelieving husband. And that makes me wonder about the spiritual reasons for that.

Hmm......

Well, Eve did lead her man away, and now it seems the burden often lies on the shoulders of us women to woo some incredibly hard-won men back into Jesus' arms. 

It's amazing to see men who are full-out disciples of Jesus: That is a powerful force. But often, in contrast, some men seem to be so hard to win. For one man's soul it might take a wife decades of prayer and steadfast faith before he turns to Jesus.

And that wife has to do just what Eve did and be delicious to him! For each woman that will look different, it will have to be in a way that fits her unique marriage, husband, challenges, and style.

I do think the concept of 'delicious' is super relevant to all this. When God presented Eve to Adam, for example, there must have been such delight for Adam when he first beheld this gift from God: An image of ..... incredible deliciousness! Woman!!!!!! Adam was probably quite speechless, but he managed to declare with excitement:

This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man (Genesis 2:23)

And innately men do love women and vice versa. Unfortunately that's why there is pornography, because it got completely distorted. But in pure form women tend to be soft 'n' lovely to men - both physically and in character -- while also strong in a different way. We're comforting, perplexing, and perhaps a bit of an intrigue.

I remember being at a party once and having a deep and meaningful with a guy who lived down my road. I don't know how we got onto the topic, but he said: "Us men find women delicious." He wasn't being creepy, he said it quite factually. 

So for us women SUMites, do our husbands find us delicious? Well, sometimes we can be a complete handful to them, of course. And I know not every husband shows love well. The quality of a given marriage can get distorted, and things can fade. I know some of you are walking really hard paths there. But women remain something spiritually very important to their men, and deep-down many husbands wouldn't know what to do without their wives.

The deliciousness of a wife can be seen in the Bible too. God spoke to Ezekiel once about his wife, for example, and referred to her as the delight of Ezekiel's eyes (Ezekiel 24:16). That seems a profound truth.

So what do we do with all that?

Well, we should recognize the strength of Eve's winsomeness, strong enough to lead Adam into that fatal error -- 

And (God) said ... 'Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?' Then the man said, 'The woman who You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.' And the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' (Genesis 3:11-13, NKJV)

And then we should also recognize that because of that we have equal strength to win our men back. 

So that even if some do not obey the word [of God], they may be won over [to Christ] without discussion by the godly lives of their wives (1 Peter 3:1, AMP)

Well, there's a thought. I look forward to chatting in the comments. 

Love to you all,

Ann


Friendships with Christians of the Opposite Sex?

Hi SUMites, Ann here. Pews

Are you ready to tackle this one? It's a good one:

How do we handle friendships with Christians of the opposite sex? 

This one's tricky in a spiritually unequal marriage, right? It's not just about what is; it's also about how things look to others, and how our spouse feels.

For most of us, the minute we go near church we're not exactly going to be like a monk or nun, hanging out with our own gender. Actually, Jesus hung out with a group of women who loved him dearly (Luke 8:1-3), as well as his male disciples. And life in church means we do end up with people of the opposite sex who become important people of faith to us.

I've had a few of those: brothers in Christ of different ages who've been really important friends. Still, for our spouses' sake and our own we have to be mindful because we're human, and one of the ways the enemy could attack our marriages is by putting a Christian member of the opposite sex front and center and tempting us to look at them instead of our spouse. I guess we have to have some boundaries that we figure out in advance.   

You know, one of the hardest things that's ever happened to me in my SUM was when a single man at church developed a strong desire to be a close friend with me and started texting me frequently. I was partly to blame because when I first met this man I behaved in a very friendly manner and shared my faith heart with him. I still do that with people. Anyway, the situation became un-comfy for me.

Honestly, that one became SUCH a difficult situation. There was Bryce, at home, extremely unhappy about my churchgoing; and there was this man at church wanting my friendship. During the week, my phone would pop up with messages from him. I felt if I addressed it, I would be turning it into something that it wasn't. So I let him keep on messaging me, and nearly fell over from anxiety about it all. 

What I should have done is quite simply explained my boundaries to this man and said 'Because you're male and my husband's not a believer, I can't receive these texts any more, I'm sorry, please understand'. But somehow I found the whole situation so difficult I didn't, and instead got myself wound up into a state of anxiety. Oh dear! 

We live and learn.

That experience taught me that the whole opposite-sex thing is something I have to navigate reasonably proactively. So now, I have a few rules in my head. For example, when working on the prayer team at church I won't pray on my own with a man my age. Even if we're different ages, I don't put my hand on a guy's shoulder when praying like I would with a woman. Well, sometimes I might ... It depends on who it is and the situation.

As a woman, I find that if a guy has strong boundaries of his own that feels instantly easier; and most guys who I come across in church circles do have those safety boundaries. However, we may find at church that not every person has good boundaries, and if a situation arises that makes us uncomfortable we have to be courageous enough to express our own limits.

Ultimately, from a spiritual point of view other believers are our family, and so I personally don't shy from connections with Christians of the opposite sex. I have brothers in the church, and they are exactly that: brothers. But I do tell Bryce about my friendships and connections, and his levels of comfort are a good gauge for me.

All in all, then, we connect with the Body, stay open-hearted in love, and do our best to stay in a place of integrity. 

Now over to you in the comments: Have you had Christian friends of the opposite sex, and what boundaries do you put in place?

Love to you all!

Ann


Five Truths for the Unequally Yoked

On Thursday, January 12th, at 11 am pacific time, Lynn Donovan will teach The Five Truths we MUST know to thrive in our unequally yoked marriages. Over 30 years of walking this road, I find these five truths an anchor in difficult times, they are solid ground to stand upon, they offer us peace and real joy. They make our lives easier.

This teaching is offered for all who have supported this ministry with any gift. If you have already given, I sent you an email with the Zoom information. It's not too late to give and join us on Thursday. And a link to the video will be provided to those who can't make the live. However, join live because I will answer questions at the end.

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From there you can make a one time or recurring gift. Thank you.


The Throne of His Heart

 

THRONE

Hey there SUMites! Amanda her, I am so excited to share something God revealed to me weeks ago that really rang my bell! 

 For several years my husband struggled with an addiction to alcohol. He was never violent or dangerous, but it was still slowly taking over his life and becoming a top priority. Drinking was what he looked forward to the most at the end of every day and the start of every weekend, it truly was his idol for many years. 

One night we were reminiscing about things and he started to talk about drinking. He spoke of it fondly, and admitted to missing it. That hurt my heart in more ways than one. Suddenly, while he was talking I heard God. Now, when I say I heard God I mean I HEARD Him, loud and clear! God said to me, "Can you handle him loving ME like that? Can you give me ALL the space that I will take up in his heart?". My head was actually buzzing, it felt like someone had rang a gong in my head. I cannot remember the rest of the conversation with my husband because God was so loud in that moment. I don't think God has ever spoken to me quite like that before. I had to shake my head to regain focus on my husband and continue our conversation.

I mulled this over a lot in the days afterward. The truth was, God had caught me in a heart issue. I am a fixer, when there is a problem I want to fix it myself. I like to be the one to make people feel heard, seen, and wanted. Most of all, I like being the number one source of comfort for my husband. The more I looked into my heart the more I realized I was NOT prepared! I had not been preparing myself for what would come when Daniel got saved.

You see, when Daniel takes an interest in something it consumes him. He has been that way since we were teenagers. When he was 16-18 it was The Beatles. We have every album (CD's and vinyl), a book of the complete music scores, pictures, shirts, ect... When he was 20 it was another musician named Gotye and Daniel learned a new instrument because of him. When he decided he was an atheist, he dove head first into that as well. He was listening to and reading from every atheist influencer he could find. He would spend hours researching and arguing his point to anyone who would listen. Daniel is an all-or-nothing man, so it is very clear why I would need to have my heart prepared for when salvation comes to him!

I know without a doubt in my heart that when God does reveal himself to Daniel my house is going to be turned on it's head! What a glorious day that will be! But I have had to face that, while glorious, it will also come with challenges. As God moves on to the throne of his heart, everything else has to take a step down! I will have to share him with the Father in a way I have never had to do in the 14 years we have been together. I will no longer be his main source of comfort and peace. He won't run to me first, he will run to Jesus! The dynamic of our relationship will shift, there will be a third party we are now both aware of! His views and opinions will change and grow as he changes and grows. He may want to try a new church, change what we watch, wear, and listen to. As for me, I have been the soul spiritual leader of our children for 10 years! You can bet that will not be easy for me! I like being in charge haha!

God has started this work in me slowly. This year has taught me a LOT about giving God control, about what it means to actually "give it to God". It has been no easy task, this heart change. BUT it is exciting! Because for God to speak to me in such a drastic way, it must mean that things are getting close to changing, and I better be ready!

 

Have any of you ever thought about the challenges that a newly saved spouse might bring? Has God ever spoken something so loudly to you? Drop a comment so we can talk about it! :)


An Escape Clause?

Hi family, Ann here.

I found this article in our archives this week, and it was so good that I decided to make it today's post. It addresses the issue of 'what if you want to escape?' The article is written by Lynn, and here it is. Hope it helps you along, and I'd love to hear your comments as always:

**

"We are going to discuss a very interesting verse, its interpretation and implications.  Line by line  precept upon precept

Are you ready??? 

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. —1 Corinthians 7:15 

So let’s get our head back into our discussion of this passage. Remember the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth in reply to some of their questions. Many members of the Corinthian church were recently idol worshipers and now they are brand-new Christians. They find themselves all of a sudden in a marriage where their faith and their old life collides. And specifically, this is very apparent and difficult in their marriage where their spouse has not come to faith. 

Oh how things change and yet they stay the same even 2,000 years later. 

Many of us in this family of SUM are walking this exact scenario. And many more of us are living with a spouse who proclaims faith but there is little to zero fruit or transformation in their lives. It’s difficult and painful. We become a believer and our world-view shifts. Our spouse’s world view continues to be worldly driven and shaped often through the media. Am I right in this? 

I wonder if we can be honest here with ourselves. Have you ever wished this verse was written like this: But if the believer wants to leave, let it be so……. 

I bet if you are honest there were days when you peaked in your Bible hoping to find a possible escape clause. But can I ask you this: If God included an easy way out. If He allowed us to abandon our unbeliever, wouldn’t you be disappointed in God? Wouldn’t it make God small and powerless? 

Why would you want to worship and serve a God like that? 

You know, for me, every hard thing, every struggle, every maddening challenge in my life has been met with God’s power and love. It’s in these struggles that my faith grew, I saw miracles, powerful answers to prayer and His Presence proved strong in my life and relationships. Yes, our High and Holy calling of marriage and parenting isn’t supposed to be easy. I really believe these ministries of our home are difficult on purpose. 

Think about this: We live for only a breath of time on this planet. But eternity is forever. And I believe with all of my heart, so fully, so boldly, that I stake my life upon it; My husband, Mike, will be saved and he will spend eternity in God’s love and presence because I chose to do the HARD things. I chose to obey God. I choose every day to love this man even when he’s unlovely, to pray for him without ceasing and to live with grace, forgiveness and hope. To live with him as his wife for as long as we both shall live. 

Any you know why? Let’s look at the very next verse. 

How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? —1 Corinthians 7:16 

That’s why! 

Eternity is a very long time. And if you have ever read anything about the horror of hell, it will move you to pray harder. For our spouse, kids and friends. 

Now don’t heap condemnation upon yourself if you struggle with the “want to.” I don’t want to stay married to this man. I don’t want to pray for him. 

I lived in that season for awhile myself…. And there were days I didn’t want to either. But on those days I prayed something like this. 

O Jesus, today I’m so very heartbroken. My dreams of a life I have held in my heart aren’t happening. They may never come true. I hurt. I have pain in my heart. So I give it all to you. Jesus come and hold me. Just hold me. Take away my pain. Make me stronger than I am to walk into my marriage with hope. Grant me Your Presence and ability to see the good and the gifts I have in this relationship. Don’t let me compare but look fully into Your face. Help me to want to love this man and remain strong and hopeful. Let me see where You are working in me and continue to change me. I love you Jesus. Fill me with more love for You and for people, especially my spouse and children. In Your powerful name, Jesus. Amen."

In his grace  Lynn


Let's Talk Live and Fall Bible Study

Hi SUMites,

Today we have a couple of things to update you on --

Let's Talk Live and Fall Bible Study

We're going to pause our Let's Talk Live videos for the next few weeks, until 19 October 2022. So, you won't see us streaming on YouTube or Facebook for a while. BUT, instead, we'll be running our study of the Book of James on Zoom for five weeks, starting today. We really can't wait to see you. It is free, and if you haven't already there's still time for you to sign up:

REGISTER NOW! Study of the Book of James (Spiritually Unequal Marriage)

Latest Video on Difficult Marriages

I also wanted to share the last live video that Lynn and I did, about difficult marriages. We know that some in our community are battling through a very challenging marriage, and you really have our hearts. In this video we had a conversation about how a believer can navigate that situation.

So, those are our two updates today. Looking forward to seeing as many of you on Zoom this week as can make it, and we will be back again on the blog on Friday.

Love,

Ann


The Love Dare

Ann here! Love dare 2

I've been having a little adventure lately with a book called The Love Dare. *

Here on this blog we talked in January about some of the things we want to focus on this year, and some of you said you'd like help with the area of how to love your spouse better.

Well, as we know, love is an action, and that brings me to this adventurous book.

I was recommended this book by one of our SUMites here in Auckland, Paula Blackie. She said, "It's really, really good." So, curiously, I ordered it.

Books take a while to get to New Zealand, but eventually it landed in my letter box, I ripped open the package, and here's what I found:

The book is a set of forty dares that you do over a period of forty days. Each dare is something you are asked to do for your spouse. Preceding each dare in the book there is a devotional first, with scripture references. 

There's also a movie called 'Fireproof' that's linked with the book, and it's about a firefighter who puts the forty dares into action in his own marriage. Sounds good, but I haven't watched it yet.

Anyway, I decided not to tell Bryce about the dares and instead to just dive in quietly. Here's how it began --

Day #1.

Day #1 was called 'Love is patient', and it went like this:

"For the next day resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It's better to hold your tongue than to say something you'll regret." 

"Righty ho", I thought, rolling up my sleeves. "This should be easy"; and for most of the day I didn't even see Bryce so that definitely was easy. However, we then sat down to the evening news with the boys, which we don't normally do. As soon as the news began, my whole family began speaking over the news, one on one side of me, two on the other. I didn't manage to hear a single part of the news that evening.

Irritation welled up immediately (Crikey, is this how easily I get irritated?!) and so I got to practice this good quality: patience.

Day #2

I seemed to be in a particularly serene frame of mind after practising patience and a controlled tongue the previous night. My task today, according to the book, was to continue not to say anything negative to my spouse, and in addition say something very kind to him at some point during the day. A short and sweet dare indeed. Well, at some point that day upstairs I trundled (to his home office), and told him something particularly nice about himself. He grinned back at me. 

I liked that dare. Who doesn't like being kind? 

Day #3

Day #3 was titled 'Love is not selfish'. The dare went like this:

"Along with refraining from any negative comments, buy your spouse something that says 'I was thinking of you today' ".

I like the fact the book has to keep telling you not to make negative comments. Oh dear! Is that what marriage is like? Well, that I can do reasonably easily. But the next part was hard as Bryce is the hardest person on earth to buy things for. I literally could not think of a thing to get him. In the end, I walked down to the local shop and bought him a Snickers bar, his favorite chocolate. I left it on his pillow. He said, "What's that for?" I said, "It's for you. Since it's your favorite."

And that's where I've got to so far. In thinking about love as an action, I guess this little book, The Love Dare, helps us try a few of the following things out:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

Thanks again to Paula Blackie for inspiring this post; and now I'd love to hear from our community: What are some practical ways you show love to your spouse?

Ann

* The Love Dare (2013), by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. Published by B&H Publishing Group, Nashville: TN.


When There is Abuse in a Marriage

Hi SUM family,Abuse

It's Ann here, and today I want to talk about a topic that perhaps needs to be talked about more in the church: Abuse in marriage.

I'll start by talking about our approach to normal marriages, and then will switch tack. So, on the topic of a normal marriage, first this:

Here at SUM we are covenant people, and that very much guides our writing. We love the institution of marriage, and we fight collectively for the wholeness and health of our marriages. So, for that reason you'll see us write a lot here about loving our spouses with gusto.

We also follow the principle that we stay in our marriages, if it is at all possible. That's scriptural guidance in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, and we believe in that. We know that some here are in very difficult marriages, while others are in easier ones. For those in difficult marriages, we know many have felt God has asked them to persevere and those of you in that boat have our respect: It is no light feat.

However, there is a time and place in a marriage where it looks different to just being a 'difficult marriage'. And then we have to reexamine that concept of covenant. If a spouse is being abusive, other spiritual principles apply too.

If you are in a situation where you fear for your physical or emotional safety, or that of your children, if you are being isolated by your spouse and repeatedly controlled, or if your spouse is oppressing you emotionally in a way that is making you feel enslaved, then it is not the case that you need to hold onto your marriage just for the sake of honoring a covenant. It is also not the case that you need to stay in order to enhance your chances of your spouse's salvation. 

There will be other forms of abuse too, besides what I've written above. You know your situation and if something is 'really not right' as opposed to just being 'pretty difficult', do seek help.

What is God's heart here? Well, I'd say God takes oppression and abuse of the vulnerable extremely seriously and does not allow it to go unchecked. We see that repeatedly in scripture (e.g., Isaiah 3:13-15; Exodus 22:21-24). Further, he views the oppression of another person to be an utterly wicked thing (Jeremiah 22:17; Jeremiah 9:9). The wrath of God is no light thing. Meanwhile, his heart is for you, his beloved, and he does not want you in unnecessary bondage.

Arguably, abuse breaks one side of the marriage covenant and then the abuser is like the unbeliever in Paul's words who has left their marriage (1 Corinthians 7:15). God does not expect you to keep turning the other cheek to this, or to try to pray your way into changing the abuser while staying in a scary or crushing situation. 

So, that's our heart too for anyone in an abusive marriage. We love covenant, but we stand against abuse.

There is so much more that could be said about abuse. It is complicated to be in it, and there are many resources written by Christians that are of help. But, all we want to say here is that if any of this is applying to you, then reach out to someone who works with domestic abuse, or a local organization that specializes in this. Keep praying, keep seeking God's voice and his help, and please know that you're always welcome to reach out to us too for prayer or counsel too.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Much love, 

Ann


The Different Kinds of Spiritually Mismatched Marriage

Ann here! Couple

Over recent years I've really enjoyed finding out about our community, and how different people found themselves in a spiritually mismatched situation. We truly have a vibrant mix among our readership, and you can be sure that if you're feeling alone there is someone else here who is going through the same thing as you!

There are different ways in which people suddenly find themselves 'spiritually mismatched', and I thought it might be interesting to look at those today. After all, everything we learn about spiritually mismatched marriage from each other helps us minister to others who come up behind us on the path.

So, here we go: Broadly, people get into a spiritually mismatched situation usually through one of five ways:

  1. They were a Christian who married an unbeliever.
  2. Their spouse was Christian when they married but then left the faith.
  3. They and their spouse have always been Christians, but one person's growth took off after marrying, or one became lukewarm.
  4. They married someone they thought was Christian, then found out that person wasn't.
  5. They became a Christian after getting married.

Have I missed any? Let me know if your circumstance isn't covered in the above, I'd love to hear it. 

In terms of the prevalence of this among males and females, we all know by now that it is more common for women to be the believers in a spiritually mismatched marriage. But there certainly are men too. In our readership, we do have men as well as women. The men comment less, but we meet them behind the scenes in emails.

There are specific kinds of pain that apply to each of the above cases. For example, if someone has a spouse who is outwardly Christian but behind closed doors it seems they might not be (i.e., nominally Christian but no fruit), that can be particularly lonely. It's impossible to explain to the church without 'outing' the spouse, and then that becomes a question of 'where do I find friendship and support?'

For those who chose to marry an unbeliever, many struggle with guilt and/or regret. They have to work through the question of 'What is God's view of this now?' We'll write a post on that soon.

For those whose spouses leave the faith, there is deep, almost unbearable grief, and they are forced to get used to having a completely new person as their spouse: One who is now welcoming new things into the home (often atheism), and a spouse who is particularly resistant to being persuaded that Jesus is true.

Finally, those who convert after marriage find it extremely difficult to move forward in their new faith. Their spouse is part of their old life, they are now a new creation, and so they must navigate how to build a new life with their spouse, who is often unhappy: A 'new normal' that fits them both.

What an interesting mix of things there. But, there are commonalities that apply to most, if not all, of us who are spiritually mismatched:

  • There is an aloneness in our walk. 
  • We build our relationship with Jesus by ourselves, not with our spouse.
  • We have the responsibility to lead our family spiritually, regardless of our gender.
  • It's difficult for us to connect with the church, and yet we must.
  • The spiritual warfare of our particular situation is intense, and so we are frequently embattled.
  • We must learn to forgive our spouse for their unbelief.
  • We focus deeply on the covenant of marriage.

So all in all, that's our picture. That's our community. And what an adventure to journey together in it. Despite the above challenges, I know that many of us reach the point where we say "I wouldn't change it for the world, because of what it's done for my relationship with Jesus."

In the comments I'd love to hear how you got into a spiritually mismatched marriage - And what challenges does that specifically bring?

Much love to you all,

Ann