Treasure #2: Fulfillment

There are three areas of fulfillment that will help a couple deepen their love for each other while establishing an internal foundation of joy and happiness that will carry them through life’s struggles and disappointments.

First, it’s important for couples to pursue faith and spirituality together. Research demonstrates that couples who are spiritual together have a higher marital success rate. According to Proverbs 3:5-6, the Lord will straighten the path and smooth the road for those who trust in Him. This is the same thought expressed in Isaiah 40:3-4, where the prophet talks about preparing the way for the Messiah. The crooked path shall be made straight. The lowlands shall be filled in, the mountains leveled, and the rough and bumpy ways made smooth. That’s what the Lord wants to do in your marriage, and that’s what husband and wife can do for each other.

Second, Hebrews 13:4 teaches you to honor marriage in general, and to honor your marriage in particular, especially concerning sexuality. First Peter 3:7 adds that your prayers will be hindered if you don’t honor each other.

And third, Song of Songs 5:16 says, “This is my love, and this is my friend.” Maintaining friendship in marriage is too easily ignored by many couples.

These three areas of fulfillment (Spirituality, Sexuality, Friendship) combine to bring an inner strength for you as an individual as well as for you as a couple. Your life can be pleasant, prosperous, and deeply satisfying when you get the wisdom contained in these principles. According to the scriptures, your prayers will be answered and your dreams will come true.

In other words, maybe you really can live happily ever after. Now that’s a treasure worth adding to the décor of your home!

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Treasure #1: Unity

Proverbs 24:3-4 tells us that a house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.

Treasure? When I read these verses one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “What are those treasures?” So I searched the Bible, studied the writings of psychologists, and looked at my own marriage experience, and I concluded that there are four treasures. The first one is Unity.

Jesus said whenever two come together in unity, he promises to be there with them. He followed that with another guarantee: whenever two are in agreement and ask for something, he will do it for them.

Do you catch the significance of this? Unity invites the presence of God and ignites the power of God. That’s what makes unity a priceless commodity in your home. It’s the single most-important component of an effective marriage.

The first treasure you need, then, to decorate your home is unity, and the first three Biblical Principles of Marriage will show you how to do that. When a couple puts these concepts into action in their home, they are able to create the dynamics that will sustain them and provide a deep awareness of the behaviors that contribute toward unity. They’ll learn to avoid the words and behaviors that destroy unity.

When you are committed to building and maintaining unity in your marriage, you will experience the active presence of God and the awesome power of God. You’ll start to decorate your home with this beautiful, priceless jewel, paving the way for more treasures to follow.

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What Does Jack Reacher Have to Do with Marriage

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, tells about a time when he was unemployed. While trying to begin his writing career, he got into the habit of helping his wife with chores around the house. Then, he started going to the supermarket with her to help carry the groceries. She liked this, because he was quite a bit taller, able to reach items on the top shelves. On one occasion, a little old lady asked for his help. After Lee helped the woman, his wife said, “If this writing thing doesn’t work out, you can always be a reacher in a supermarket.” Instantly he thought, “What a great name for my character.” And Jack Reacher was born.

The irony is that he was helping her in the supermarket, and she helped him by giving him a name for the hero in his stories.

Having a proper understanding of the teaching on “help” in the Bible, couples who want their marriage to last a lifetime become extremely practical and intentional about helping their spouse in both small ways and big ways. They get good at it.

Christian psychologist Gary Smalley said helping is a powerful way of loving, empowering the partner to overcome the disasters that happen to everyone. According to Smalley, an “interest in being with and helping others during a crisis is a demonstration of love.”  Helping during the tough times can make or break a marriage, but having a helpful attitude and demeanor in the give and take of ordinary life is also essential.

Norman Wright and Gary Oliver point out that most couples begin their marriage responding to their partner’s needs by going out of their way to meet those needs. “But in time, this changes. Where previously most of our attention was focused on our spouse’s needs, our attention begins to focus on the fulfillment of our own needs. Each of us moves into the stage of giving less and expecting more.” A relationship that began good, turns into disillusionment, and disillusionment invites what John Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Dr. Gottman explains that once these behaviors are in the mix, the relationship is headed in the wrong direction, and may be in serious trouble. These actions simply don’t help the situation, nor do they help the people involved. Talking seems useless. Husband and wife start living parallel lives. And loneliness sets in. Couples in a marriage where this is happening might feel like calling it quits. After all, that’s what their friends, their families, their therapist, and the media are telling them to do. You fell in love, it didn’t work out, you fell out of love. Get over it, and move on.

Throwing in the towel, however, might not be the best thing to do. That might just add more pain and failure to lives already in trouble. Instead, the wise couple will look for ways to help each other through the tough times. And, they’ll look for responses that will help the marriage itself.

Marriage isn’t a partnership where one is always weak and the other always strong. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to help each other maximize strengths, and overcome weaknesses.

When couples begin to understand that the primary role in marriage is to be a helper, they realize in a very real way that they represent God to each other. The Lord is our helper, and he places husband and wife in the marriage to act on his behalf.

The bottom line is that a husband and wife who will routinely help one another in practical ways day after day will establish a friendship and an atmosphere of love that is contagious, and noticeable to everyone who knows them. They’re on their way to creating unity and developing a marriage that will last a lifetime.

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Help in the Bible

Helping is a major theme in the Bible. First, the Lord himself is our helper. Psalm 33:20 says, We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield, and in Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Second, the people of God are called to help others. Leviticus 25:35 says, If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 teaches, Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. In each of these scenarios, the helper is the stronger, richer, or more able person.

But the scriptural injunction to help others goes beyond the countryman, the friend, or the neighbor, extending even to one’s enemy. Exodus 23:5, for example, says If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it. And in Matthew 5:44, Jesus teaches his disciples, But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

A third way we see helping in the Bible is that ministry is considered to be a way of helping people. When describing Paul’s Macedonian call, Acts 16:9 says, During the night a vision appeared to Paul:  A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”

Fourth, there is a spiritual gift called the Gift of Helps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages.

And fifth, in Genesis 2:18, marriage is initiated by God to be a helping relationship.

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Help, I Need Somebody

The first time marriage is mentioned in the Bible, the word for Adam’s new companion is not wife, spouse, or partner. God doesn’t refer to Eve as Adam’s mate, lover, or better half. He definitely doesn’t call her the old lady. Not even the missus. No, the term God chose when he created marriage was “helper.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement” (Genesis 2:18).

Every time I read this, I start chuckling because this is the first time in the creation story God looks at what he made and doesn’t say, “It’s good.” Instead, when the Lord looks at the man, he says, “Hmmm. Something’s not right here. He needs help.”

You’ve probably heard the joke: God was practicing making people one day, and made a man. But after seeing the flaws and the mess he had made, he decided to try again. This time, he perfected his creation, made a bunch of improvements, and the result was a woman.

Or this one: God’s original idea was to make only men. But after taking a look at the first one, God said, “No way this dude should be on his own. He needs help!” So, he added women to the plan, and the world became a better place.

Women have known for a long time, Don’t leave a man all by himself too long. That’s not good.

OK, putting the jokes aside, at least we have to acknowledge that there’s s a startling change in the pattern established in the creation narrative, because for the first time, God looks at what he made and doesn’t say “It is good.”

As we examine the scripture, we see that God himself presents a view of marriage that is theological, practical and visionary. Right from the start, the Lord makes it clear how he wants men and women to see each other, and how to relate to each other.

Marriage was designed for husband and wife to help each other. Why? Because life is hard, and we need help. We need someone who is there day after day, committed to making our life a bit better and more bearable. With a helper like that, life is more fun. There’s more joy and satisfaction.

A lot of people think a helper is someone who is less important, less skilled, or less capable. Several dictionaries define a helper as an unskilled worker who is there to assist the tradesman or the professional. They offer synonyms like assistant, adjunct, apprentice, deputy, and sidekick. In our culture, a helper is considered an underling, a hireling, or a subordinate.

We call them gophers. We even talk about the hired help—people who do the tasks the important people don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. We see this in the novel, The Help, and the corresponding movie. It shows up in shows like Downton Abbey, too.

You can probably think of several characters in TV shows, comic books, movies, and novels who have a sidekick. There are lots of them: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman and Robin, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Andy Griffith and Barney Fife, Captain Kirk and Spock, Robinson Crusoe and Friday, Robin Hood and Little John, Shrek and Donkey, Moses and Aaron, Paul and Silas.

It seems almost every hero has a sidekick who provides comic relief, but also offers serious friendship and assistance along the way. It’s a classic technique in literature and drama, where sidekicks play an important role. They help the main character reach his goals or accomplish the mission. They offer friendship and provide insight. Usually, they perform tasks that are beneath the dignity of the hero. Sometimes they serve as a contrasting personality. The sidekick may be a commoner or a bumbler, allowing the audience someone they can relate with. Usually, the sidekick isn’t quite as smart, but helps the star come up with brilliant ideas. Always, the sidekick is of lesser importance.

The problem is that we actually think the Bible supports the concept of a helper as someone who is inferior. No wonder we tend to think of the wife, and indeed, of women in general, as less important, inferior, and easy to make fun of or dismiss. But that’s not what the Lord had in mind when he designed marriage, and that’s not what helper means in the Bible.

The Hebrew word for a helper in the Old Testament is ezer, and comes from a verb that means to rescue, deliver, or help. Whenever it’s used of human beings, it’s talking about someone who is bigger, stronger, more powerful, smarter, or richer who reaches out to the weak or needy. Most often, however, the word helper refers to God himself. The psalmist wrote God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life (Proverbs 54:4).

Some people think of a wife as the husband’s sidekick. He’s more important. He matters, and she doesn’t. He makes the decisions. She’s basically there to adorn his life and serve much like a classic sidekick. However, that’s not even close to the meaning of helper in the Bible.

An example of help given by someone who is stronger, to one who is weaker is 2 Samuel 14:4, When the woman from Tekoa came to the king, she fell with her face to the ground in homage and said, “Help me, my king! The king was obviously richer, more powerful, and of greater worth in the eyes of the people. Yet, he becomes her helper.

It’s astonishing that Genesis introduces woman this way, and that marriage is presented this way. In essence, the God who is our Helper created someone who will stand in for Him and provide the help the man needs. It absolutely cannot be construed to refer to a lower-ranking female who helps the more-important male. God didn’t make Eve to be Adam’s sidekick.

No, God designed marriage to be a relationship in which husband and wife are devoted to helping one another. This is the first responsibility on their job description when they get married. God is our helper, and those who are married have a second helper. Someone they can rely on, trust, and gain strength from. Someone whose aim in the relationship is to contribute toward wholeness and happiness. Someone who lends a hand and provides help in a thousand little ways, and in some huge ways.

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Foundation for Marriage

In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus talks about the importance of a foundation for a home. But, just like in Proverbs 24:3-4, what he’s really talking about is people, and in this case, the need for an inner, spiritual foundation.

Couples who want their marriage to survive storms and shifting sands, need to make sure they have a foundation that will last a lifetime. WisdomBuilt provides that foundation. And, these Biblical Principles of Marriage, themselves, are built on six foundational beliefs that serve as the basis for my work with couples.

  1. There is a God, and he has revealed himself to people.
  2. God made human beings, both male and female, in his likeness, the Imago Dei.
  3. God designed marriage to be a picture of the love relationship he wants to have with people.
  4. Marriage is the foundational relationship of the family and, therefore, the foundational relationship of society.
  5. The Bible contains key principles which will help a couple develop a long-lasting, fulfilling, happy marriage.
  6. God wants marriage to succeed.

Several years ago, my wife and I did a short-term missions trip to Budapest, Hungary, teaching a three-week intensive class at the Hungarian Bible college, and preaching at churches in and around the city. Our hosts were a missionary family that allowed us to stay in an upstairs bedroom in their home.

Looking out a second-story window, we noticed the neighbors were building another home on their property, immediately behind the main house. The missionaries explained that it was customary for children to grow up and live on the same property as their parents. The new building was for their son, who was about to get married. The foundation was already in place, and every day, we came back to the house, looked out the window, and followed the progress. We watched the walls grow higher as new rows of bricks were added.

That’s the model used in WisdomBuilt. The insight gained from the three sources of wisdom (the Bible, clinical research, and personal experience) will serve as your foundation. The twelve Biblical Principles of Marriage will be the bricks that you add to the walls of your house These principles, in groups of three, will comprise different treasures that’ll decorate your home, your marriage, and your life.

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Heat, Danger, Dust, and Death

I knew from the start that I could be wounded or killed. It was a weird feeling, and I came to accept it. How or when, I had no idea. But every time there was another explosion, I wondered if this was the day.

My wife also knew I might not make it home alive. Or if I did return, I might be a broken man – crippled, blind, psychologically damaged, or all of the above. With that possibility in mind, she told me before I left home, “I don’t want to find out after you get back or after you’re dead that you were in danger. I want to know right away.”

Many of our military personnel won’t tell their spouse and family what they’re going through during war, thinking they’re protecting them. Plus, we’re limited in what we’re allowed to say or write to our families. But I have a hunch there are many, like my wife, who are better off knowing what’s going on, and who want to know.

The first time I mentioned during a phone call some of the dangerous things that were happening, she said, “I already know. I saw it on TV and in the newspaper. They’re mentioning Diwaniyah and Camp Echo by name.” She scanned and sent me an LA Times article. I took it to our staff meeting the next morning, and discovered that many on our leadership team didn’t know what was going on outside the wire.

Heat, danger, dust, and death formed the context for the job I was sent to do. Operating from the philosophy that “ministry follows friendship,” I built relationships among the men and women at Camp Echo: military, civilian, American, and Coalition. This allowed me to be there when they were at their best and when they were at their worst, in their strongest moments and in their weakest.

In the heat of the battle and the heat of the desert, hours turn into days, which transition to nights, and add up to weeks and then months. The conditions wear you down, leaving an imprint on your mind and your soul: images that will be seen in dreams for months or years, sounds that reverberate long after you’re home, people you befriended and cared about and stared at death with, but will probably never hear from again. For many of us, it’s only memory now. But for others, the war continues . . . on the inside.

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Rockets and Mortars

When they told me where I was going, they said it was the Safest Place in Iraq, but by the time I got there, things had changed. On a Tuesday night, the dining facility was crowded, bustling, with hardly an empty chair, when mortars landed on the building. Of the more than two hundred people in the dining facility, eighteen were killed. Forty-seven were wounded, some seriously, but they’d survive – with or without that arm or leg or eye.

People were stunned, walking around like zombies. Most avoided eating in the DFAC, even after it was repaired and they started serving meals again. From that moment, incoming mortars and rockets became part of the routine that was soon to be my daily life.

Located on the main rail line between Baghdad and Basra, Diwaniyah is known for its manufacturing, and famous for its automobile tires. Dust-colored high-rise apartment buildings line the streets, each building home to more than a thousand people. Water from the Euphrates River irrigates the farms and groves outside the city, making the region one of the nation’s most fertile.

Men from Diwaniyah would drive to a vacant field on the edge of town, bringing their rockets and mortars to fire at us. They did this in the morning on their way to work. Sometimes it was mid-day during a lunch break, and other times in the evening on their way home from work. Occasionally it was in the middle of the night. Some of the people shooting at us were teens or even younger. Often, they would launch their missiles-of-death just before, or right after their prayers.

Camp Echo was a small, roundish Forward Operating Base, about a mile in diameter, in the middle of the desert, with temperatures ranging from 110-120 degrees. The dirt, sand, and heat were inescapable. Every day began with a new film of dust on each desk, table, chair, bed, and floor. The layer of dirt thickened as the day wore on.

Surrounding the entire FOB was a 12-foot high concrete wall. The other side of the barrier consisted of dry fields inhabited by rabbits, snakes, and camel spiders. There were also scorpions, an occasional wild dog, and, of course, the men and boys trying to kill us.

I volunteered to go. My philosophy as an Army chaplain was that I wanted to be wherever soldiers had to go, and if they were at war, I wanted to be there with them. Not because I enjoy fighting. We all know that a chaplain is a non-combatant. I wasn’t there to fight.

I was there to encourage, counsel, and pray; provide worship opportunities, friendship, and guidance; nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead; and guarantee the constitutional freedom of worship to men and women of all faiths, and the same freedom to men and women of no faith. Camp Echo was my home, my parish, my fiery furnace.

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Rare and Beautiful Treasures

A few years ago, my wife and I bought a new house. We selected the floorplan, discussed the options we wanted, chose the property, and gathered all the documents needed for the financing. But, even with a lot of prayer and communication, we didn’t agree on everything. Therefore, in order to end up with a home that we both liked and would be happy in, we had to work through the issues and take turns giving in. I had to be willing to say what really mattered to me, and Linda had to tell me what she felt strongly about. We spent hours and hours to get there, but it was worth the effort because we ended up with a house that is attractive, well-built, and meets our needs.

Once the papers were signed and the financing arranged, our house took several months to build. We made frequent visits to the property to see the progress, ooh-ing and ah-ing over every detail.

As you work together through these principles, you’ll do the same thing. You’ll talk, you’ll discover new insights, you’ll have disagreements. And you’ll ooh and ah as you see growth in your marriage, your spouse, and yourself.

You’re welcome to email me whenever you have a question. My website is paullinzey.com and the Connect page is a great way for you to reach me. If you’re part of a congregation, you should also consider talking with your pastor, priest, or other ministry leader to get his or her input.

I understand that not everyone will agree with these principles. That’s OK. What matters most is that you as a couple work together to build a home that is attractive, well-built, and meets your needs. If this book helps you do that, it will have accomplished its mission.

Based on the concept of decorating your home with every precious and beautiful treasure, the principles in WisdomBuilt are arranged in four sections or “treasures.” There are a lot of possibilities for what those treasures are; the proverb doesn’t specify.

However, the Bible, clinical research, and personal experience indicate that there are at least four priceless treasures your home must have if you’re to reach the two goals. If you have those treasures, you are light years ahead of most couples, and well on your way to a great life together.

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A Home is Built by Wisdom

Let’s simplify things here. There are two goals in marriage: stay together, and stay happy. Easy to say; tough to do. You need wisdom if you want to reach those goals. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure, and these verses provide a starting point for this book.

When the proverb uses the word house or home, it’s really talking about the people and the relationships in the home. A house is built by wisdom, means developing a great relationship requires wisdom. And filling its rooms with every precious and beautiful treasure is what every couple, family, and household should be trying to do.

The principles in WisdomBuilt show you how to build your house in such a way that you discover the beauty, the grandeur, and the immeasurable treasures God has for you. In the same way every home is decorated differently, no two marriages will look and feel the same. Your relationship will be unique because you are one-of-a-kind, but the wisdom offered here will show you how to bring out the best in yourself, your partner, and your coupleness.

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