Check Your Baggage

Luggage 2When we say a person is carrying a lot of baggage, what we mean is there has been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it. We often have trouble 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.

There’s a Biblical Principle of Marriage in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will 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 straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritually, in order to fully live in the present we have to let go of the past. If we want to enjoy the Christian life and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we have to allow God’s grace to set us free from our past, and move forward in a new direction, with different habits and attitudes, forming a different lifestyle that is shaped by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. This might entail ending some relationships and forming new ones.

Relationally, if we want today’s marriage to succeed, we have to stop focusing on previous relationships, good or bad, and live the life we are currently called to live. We can’t afford to live in the past.

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While Genesis states that it is the parents who must be left in order to form a new unity, there are others besides parents we must leave behind as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover or spouse. There may be a number of people and situations that have to be included in what we let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, sports, or any number of things.

One couple lost a son in a boating accident. The woman drove her husband to divorce because she was unable to let go of the pain and loss, unable to heal, and unable to stop blaming him. She couldn’t let go of yesterday, so it ruined today.

House 1But it’s not only the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes we have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, the perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth, fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete who can no longer play is often headed for emotional and relationship disaster. A business person or a Soldier whose career comes to an end might find it hard to stop living that life and transition to retirement. Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work can have a tough time accepting the new reality, and letting go of the previous physical ability. Cancer survivors have to get used to “the new normal.” But anyone who can’t accept the new normal is in trouble. So is their marriage.

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves and others from the pain and injustice of the past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. It can’t happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, the betrayal, and the injustice. When forgiveness finishes its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and liberated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We typically carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and forgiveness is complete. The singing group Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with scars that might remain for a lifetime.

  • Heal the wound but leave the scar
  • A reminder of how merciful You are
  • I am broken, torn apart
  • Take the pieces of this heart
  • And heal the wound but leave the scar

Water and ReedsOne middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. They also felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor for guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. They also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness. They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They also asked each other for forgiveness. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.

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Marriage Seminar in Kentucky

Couple 4Linda and I are speaking at a marriage seminar in Kentucky the weekend of March 4-6. Slightly south of Lousville is a town called Radcliff, which is right next door to Fort Knox. Pastor Josh Nagel of a church called Lifeline Assembly has asked us to come. And you are invited. The focus of the weekend will be “Getting to the Next Level.”

If you’d like to join us for a fun experience that is designed to help you build a great marriage, please consider crashing the party. Here’s how you can get more information about the event.

Lifeline Assembly

Phone: (270) 351-6150

Address: 1116 South Dixie Blvd. Radcliff, Kentucky 40160

Email: lifelineag@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/57756292718/

Couple 3

Getting to the Next Level? Yep. Every couple gets to a point in their life where they need to get away, take some time to focus on where they are and what’s become of their relationship, and then do something about it. No, not punch each other in the jaw. Our approach will be to take a few Biblical Principles of Marriage, add the results of clinical research and the best writing on marriage in the country, plus our own experience as a couple. The result is a weekend experience that’ll help you take the next step in building a great marriage.

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Designed to Help

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The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word for a married person is “Helper.”

After each day of creation, God looked at what he made and said, “It’s good.” But after he made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

It’s important for both husband and wife to keep in mind that their first and most important role in the marriage is to help. It’s also a good idea to understand what “help” means and what it doesn’t mean. For example, when God made a woman to be the man’s helper, it doesn’t mean she is less important. It doesn’t mean he is the main character and she’s in a supporting role.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. We see this in Deuteronomy 33:29, “The Lord is my shield and helper,” in Psalm 10:14, “God, you are the helper to the fatherless,” Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” and in many other scriptures, as well.

In American culture, we tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important. A good analogy would be a sidekick, a companion or colleague who is usually considered to be subordinate. The sidekick is not the hero, not the leading role. It’s a support character. But this is NOT what God had in mind when he created woman for man, and man for woman.

When helper is used in the Bible, it’s just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. And this is the term used for the first woman. God has no intention of men thinking they are the more important person in the marriage. No hint that the woman is of lesser value.

The point is that in marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed, his agent to help in time of need.

We need to understand this not just in theory, but in practical ways, as well. For example, next time there’s an argument or a conflict, what would happen if the husband and wife said to themselves, “My lover is obviously upset about this. What can I do to help? What words can I choose that, instead of making things worse, will actually help make things better?”

What chore around the house does your spouse hate? You could offer to do that. Does your partner have a huge project to get started on? Perhaps you could volunteer to assist, without trying to take over and be in charge.

ID-10076456 My wife is a teacher, and has a ton of books – literally! When she had to move to a new office across campus, I volunteered to spend a day helping move her books, files, and other stuff. Then a few weeks later, I took an afternoon to help her rearrange the bookshelves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my computer because it wasn’t behaving how it was supposed to. In my desperation I called out to my wife, who stepped in and asked if she could help. YES! PLEASE! She solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

The fact is, we all need help from time to time. What if when we’re on our way home from a tough day at work, we turned our thoughts towards home and started thinking about the minute we’ll walk through the door, how we can be a helper to the people living there. Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner and kids?

Life is hard in many ways. Life beats us up. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.

  • Photos courtesy of  Nenetus, Stockimages, and Ambro at Freedigitalphotos.net

 

Biblical Principles of Marriage

Paul & Linda Linzey

About half of the marriages in America end in divorce. About half of those who stay married are not happy. They are staying together because of finances, internal or external pressure, the kids, the teaching of their faith tradition, fear, or some other reason. This means that only twenty-five percent of Americans who get married, stay together and are happy.

Unfortunately, many Christians find themselves in similar circumstances. This has far-reaching ramifications, yet many people simply do not know what to do differently. Part of the problem is that eighty-seven percent of pastors in North America admit that they do not know how to help the couples in their congregations.

This book will combine clinical research, pastoral experience, and secular and religious literature on marriage, to present a practical guide for pastors, chaplains, and congregational lay leaders who are called to help the couples in their ministry context. The result is a practical, hands-on curriculum that may be used in couples classes, sermon series, seminars, or retreats. It may also be used in counseling and private conversations.

The theme verse for the Biblical Principles of Marriage is Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”