By: Ariadne Crane, MA, APC, AMFT
If we were to compare deities from various religions, we would notice that the God from the Christian Bible is the only God that left his throne and met his people face to face. He literally came down from the high mountain to meet us and interact with us. We were created to be in relationships with others, modeled by God. Not only is it important to Him to relate to us, He also desires for us to relate to Him. He came to live among His people to model how to relate to one another.
One of the most significant versus in the Bible is in Matthew 22:37-40: "Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The word love has been used and abused throughout the centuries and thousands of books have been published interpreting the significance of love, so let's introduce a few questions that help identify the love demonstrations between a couple.
Often Marriage and Family Therapists begin a session with a focus on how the couple interacts and shows affection. Is there a friendship between them or a connection at all and if so is it purely physical? Do they trust each other? It is important to know how they connect or bond with one another. Do they feel protected as well as respected and do they feel they can count on each other no matter what. How the couple communicates is vital. How they solve conflict is also important. In most relationships there will be disagreements, but how they are worked through is critical.
What God models best is that being in relationships can be difficult because it often means having to give up our wants and needs. Being in a relationship takes sacrificial love to forgo one's own goals and dreams. This goes beyond being united or part of the team. It is the selfless act of wanting the other to succeed, to be part of the same team fighting and defending for the same objectives. This sacrificial love is not an obligation, but a desire to serve one another due to the commitment to the relationship, even if there is no benefit to the giver.
We can rely on His Word for guidance, though not everything is spelled out for us in the Bible. Jesus Christ demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice when He laid His life down for all of us. I believe that there is only one God; He is also known through Jesus Christ (our Advocate) and the Holy Spirit. No verse in the New Testament describes sacrificial love better than John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
In order to put the relationship ahead of the individual one must put his or her needs and desires aside and follow Christ's example of sacrificial love. This is love in its truest manifestation.
Photo Credit: Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash
Tray Tankersley, Th.M, Counseling Intern
In the counseling industry, I've discovered a key ingredient to marriages that “succeed” in therapy and those that don’t. You may venture your own guess- Is it improved communication techniques, great conflict resolution skills, proficiency in identifying feelings? I love all of those…and they are ALL important to building marital satisfaction.
What about discovering my spouse’s love language? Becoming more attuned to the other? Yep, those are good, too!
Praying together, attending church, joining a small group? Fabulous choices!
However, what stands out to me in counseling as a key factor for working towards greater fulfillment in marriage is HUMILITY.
I wish I had a nickel for every moment in couple’s therapy when I thought to myself – “if one of you, just one of you, would self-administer one small dosage of humility, the entire tone of this conversation and marriage would change.” I call it a Neil Armstrong moment – “One small step for spouse…one giant leap for marriage.”
Here’s the catch- Easy to say…hard to do! It's easy to talk about humility and the need for its presence in all relationships. But inviting humility into the counseling room and into every corner of the marriage relationship? Well, therein lies the challenge. We all know, however, that we must build our marriage on more than words.
An ancient hymn provides the Christian with a well-lit path to developing a heart of humility. Before referencing the hymn’s words, the author instructs his readers, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
In other words, have the same mindset as Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!”
The thing is, we cannot manufacture humility in our life. Humility flows only from a heart that is consistently reminded that God made himself nothing so that we might have everything. Our God left the security and comforts of heaven to come to this broken world and experience its brokenness and injustice so that we might avoid the justice of God for our multiple wrong doings. Instead of walking around demanding that people recognize him, bow down to him, serve at his beck and call, our God used his divinity to pay our debt.
The language of humility is simple – “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I did not intend to do that, but I clearly see how you experienced my words like that. Will you forgive me?” Good words! My hope is that those words come from a heart transformed by the Good News that our Creator humbled himself, valued us above his own interests and died so we could live!
M. Diane Pearce, Ph.D., LMFT
When doubts creep in or we grow tired and weary, God has some advice for us. Abba Father knows best the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ of my needs more than I. Whether I am in want of recognition, comfort, or guidance, He tells me what to do, in no uncertain terms and with no candy coating. He is ‘to the point,’ time and time again! In Deuteronomy 10:20, He says “HOLD FAST”! We will be at peace if we can listen to His advice to us as His children.
H - Humility In the Soul
Humility puts into perspective how very little power I have & how much power He has. (Deut. 9:5-6)
O – OBEY GOD’S WAYS
Observing & Obeying His ways gives us strength to do what He has called us to do. (Deut. 11:8-13)
L – LAY CLAIM TO WHAT HE GIVES
Laying claim and holding onto what He calls us to do (and where He provides for us to do it), no matter how small the territory or how big, is an act of obedience. (Deut. 11:24-31)
D – DEFENDING and LOVING THOSE IN NEED
Because we all have been or will become weak, poor, aged or alone, He asks us to defend and love those who are in need, following His example and command. (Deut. 10:17-20)
F – FEAR GOD ALONE
Having a fear of God that outweighs our fear of a circumstance or a person is the path to ensuring that I will not lose my way. (Deut. 6:13 and 11:12)
A – ASSURANCE COMES FROM GOD
Being assured by God requires that I see that my strength comes from His mighty power and outstretched arm. My confidence does not come from my own skills or integrity. (Deut. 9:3-4)
S – SERVE GOD’S AGENDA ONLY
Serving God’s agenda and being careful, lest I get distracted by what may even appear to be good, will ensure that the responsibilities and territory that God wants me to manage will be given to me by His strength. (Deut. 11:16-24)
T –TRUSTING IN HIS WAYS
Trusting in God’s redemption of myself and those I care for, more than I trust in my own logic, requires that I believe in His plan and in His Great Power. (Deut. 9:23-29)
Love the Lord your God, walk in His ways and Hold Fast to Him!
M. Diane Pearce, Ph.D, LMFT
As I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I tend to over schedule, over socialize, over spend, and I get overwhelmed. (Merry Christmas!) Like a clown juggler, I attempt to balance my schedule, socializing, finances, health, and holiday cheer (I think). Then I strive to focus on the One who made Christmas possible. Ironic, don’t you think?
In my constant flurry of activity, perhaps it is time to STOP! Perhaps I can take a deep breath of fresh air and consider some advice from the One who has made Christmas possible.
My Father tells me to "preserve sound judgment and discernment." He tells me to "never let it out of my sight." It does not take a doctor to know that there may be a problem here. He also tells me that If I follow this path of "sound judgment and discernment," I will "go forth in safety and I will not stumble." That sounds like a good deal to me (and, let me tell you, I know a good deal when I see one, because, as you may have guessed, I have practiced looking for good deals a lot!). Also, I need all the help I can get in the "not stumbling" part. I have been a stumbling kind of person my entire life! But, I digress, that is another story for another day.
Back to the sweet deal of walking the "sound judgment and discernment" path. This sounds like a sweet deal to my simple-minded ways. Oh, but it gets better! He also tells me that if I follow this path, I will "lie down without being afraid, and my sleep will be sweet." Sleep that is not out of pure exhaustion can be sweet (at least that is what I tell myself). Really? I am a skeptic! If a deal sounds too good to be true, don’t trust it! Right? But, this is my Father who is telling me this! He says that He is my confidence. But I am a pretty self-reliant, logical woman with a few degrees and several years of experience. Yet He tells me that my confidence should be in Him, not in myself?
My faithful and trustworthy Father who made me, who has sworn to protect me, equips me and teaches me how to do this complicated thing called life. He tells me to STOP! So I take a deep breath, and I am quiet and still, inside and outside. He reminds me that He loves me! He delights in me. He is patient with me when I go off on my own agenda, because He knows I will always return. He knows me well, because He made me, just as I am.
I am & always will be broken and in recovery.
I am & always will struggle with being too blunt to be socially acceptable.
I am & always will struggle with vacillating between being too honest and too quiet.
I am & always will be a skeptic of what appears perfect.
I am & always will be driven to find a way, when others say, there is no way.
I am & always will be unimpressed with social status and authority.
I am & always will struggle to understand social cues.
I am & always will be in recovery from asking too many questions in pursuit of truth.
I am & always will struggle with not fitting in with the majority.
Yes, I am messy and broken. I will forget some things. Dinner may get burnt or forgotten. My Christmas gifts may not be exactly as others want them to be. I will likely not get the best deal out there. I will disappoint those around me.
But, I know who my Father is! So, for now, I accept that I am incapable of the Christmas juggle. My confidence must come from my Father. Not from myself.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas!
Broken and in recovery…just as I am,
M. Diane Pearce
Co-Founder of Legacy Strategy, Inc.
(For further study, see NIV Proverbs 3:21-26, Zeph. 3:17)
The other day I was sitting at a red light. I wasn't in a particular hurry. I wasn't running late. Both nice changes of pace for me. But what I noticed was that my immediate reaction once I had stopped was to reach of my phone and see what I had missed, or better yet, if anyone had missed me and reached out. It's like I'm afraid to be alone with my own thoughts sometimes, so I just start flexing my thumbs for their workout.
Later that day, I was at the gym. I was pretty proud of myself - I was running hard, sweating...you know, doing things I pay a gym for...and I was in the moment. I was not running while staring at my phone. I was not lifting dumbbells while replying to texts in between reps. I was just in the moment. It was awesome. Better yet, it was freeing.
I had this thought - "I'm here training and conditioning my muscles, but it's my actual thumbs (Are there muscles in there? There has to be, right?) that need the most help. It's my thumbs that reach for the apps (Hello, Facebook!), for the notification of new emails, and for the keyboard letters to respond to a text. It's those dang thumbs fault I'm so addicted to my phone.
But it's actually not their fault; it's mine and no one else's. I'm the culprit who manipulates my thumbs to respond to the slightest break in my schedule to see what the world has been up to since I had last checked (no more than 12 minutes ago, I'm sure). It's my fault, and mine only. So me and my thumbs have got some work to do. Actually, I've got some work to do. My thumbs...they actually need a break.
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.