Like Father, Like Son

Families have a powerful influence on you throughout your life. Parents, siblings, and extended family shape you, teach you, and help establish your values and worldview. A lot of people look like, sound like, and think like their parents, sometimes even the ways they laugh, sing, or walk. I read about some cities that have an annual father-son and mother-daughter look-alike contest, and the entries are fascinating. It takes just a few minutes on a computer to find some hilarious parent-child look-alikes.

Personal interests, skills, and education often come from parents. It’s pretty common for a child to grow up and go into the same line of work as mother or father. People tend to follow their parents’ preferences in politics and religion, too. It makes sense, because parents set the tone in the home their children grow up in, and what the kids experience there, usually becomes the norm.

There’s a short film about an interview with a Qantas Airline pilot whose son became a flier for the same airline. Steve Gist and his son, Taylor, eventually were assigned to fly together, with the dad as the lead pilot, and the son as the co-pilot. It’s a great story, demonstrating some of the ways kids learn skills, knowledge, interests, and even careers from their parents.

I know of preachers’ kids who become ministers, school teachers’ kids who go into education, athletes’ kids who play ball. The same happens with hobbies. In June 2011, two men (father and son) both scored their first-ever 300-point game at the same bowling alley during the same week.

When I was in high school, I played Lieutenant Joe Cable in the musical South Pacific. One of the songs was titled “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” According to lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, we pick up hate and prejudice from our families.

We also learn how to behave in relationships from our families of origin, and that’s what brings us to this principle. You see, most of us don’t have very good role models when it comes to marriage. My wife and I both came from parents who had a pretty bad marriage, so when we got married, we didn’t know what to do. We loved each other, but didn’t know how to treat each other in positive ways, day after day.

When talking about letting one’s past influence the present, we often say the person is carrying some baggage. What we mean is, there’s been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it, letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

Not all of the baggage we carry through life is painful or negative, though. In fact, sometimes it’s the good stuff in our past that gets in the way of building a good marriage. People who come from a good family often have just as much difficulty forming a new marriage, because of the influence of the parents.

The second Biblical Principle of Marriage is found in Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14, But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. The point of these scriptures is that in order to fully live in the present, you have to let go of the past.

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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, 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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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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Goodbye to Love

Falling in love is a wonderful experience. You’re on top of the world, and you feel like you’re the luckiest person in the world, hoping it’ll last forever. Then it starts to change. At first it just doesn’t feel the same. Then comes the pain, followed by the realization that it’s over. Soon, you’re singing the oldie from the Carpenters, Goodbye to Love.

Too many marriages in the United States end in divorce, and many of those who stay together aren’t happy. The burning question is this. What are you and your spouse going to do to make sure you stay together and are happy?

After we’d been married five years, my wife and I came to a point where life was hard. We didn’t have enough money to pay the bills. Linda was stuck at home with a toddler and an infant. She noticed that I invested a lot more time, energy, and thought in my work than I gave to our marriage. We were both dissatisfied and unhappy. We weren’t getting enough sleep. Stress was high. We got angry easily, and didn’t laugh much. We also discovered that men and women speak different languages. She was too emotional, and I was too insensitive.

One day, I came home from work and Linda met me in the kitchen. Without hesitation, she blurted out, “Are we ever going to be happy again? Will our marriage ever be good again?”  I told her, “I think so, sweetheart. I’m not sure, but I think so.”

It would have been easy to throw in the towel and call it quits. Just as easy to start blaming, accusing, and getting angry with each other. Or maybe even look elsewhere for love and affection, and have an affair. But we didn’t do that. Instead, we decided to do our best to be kind to each other, treat each other right, and see what happened. Eventually, the joy did return. We got through that dark time, and we’re glad we did. But we needed to help each other through the process.

 

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Above is an excerpt from the book WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage, which can be ordered on Amazon or on my website.

Best Marriage Book in Years

front cover 8Just got this email from a pastor in Colorado . . .

Read the book. Loved it. I like the personal touch with personal examples of failures and successes. Every marriage would be better if couples would follow the lead of this book. This is the best marriage book I’ve read in years as it is easy to read and every page is helpful. Marriage challenges are over come with love and commitment. What a joy to know there is help just a few pages away. Thank you Dr. Paul Linzey for your service to the country and to the kingdom of God.

Dr. Lafe Murray, Pastor, Author of Wisdom and Beyond

Five Out of Five Stars!

I just discovered this review of WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage on Amazon.

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Based on sound biblical teaching, each turn of the page presents a new building block of understanding on which we can base a lifetime of marriage and companionship. Where was this book forty years ago? WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage just became my default wedding gift for every couple about to join their lives together. I learned many lessons the hard way. I found myself nodding in agreement and stating “wish I’d known this back then… ” so many times while reading this book. Am married 21 years now, and found things I can apply to make our marriage even better.

Every marriage should start with this foundation.  Christian Author, J.D. Wininger

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