Falling Out of Love

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I recently finished reading Relationships by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. Like many similar books it examined several relationships including friendships, family, dating, and marriage. However, I was caught off guard as I came to the end and discovered an entire chapter on breaking up. While it’s an unfortunate reality that takes place far too often, I have not read another book that has dedicated a whole chapter to the subject.

Maybe other books do not cover breakups because they are so difficult and bring back a flood of unwanted memories for both authors and readers. But maybe breakups are difficult, in part, because there are so few pages dedicated to addressing them. Since we do not talk about breakups, people enter them like a traveler entering the wilderness without a map.

One of the most common reasons for breaking up or splitting, is that couples say they “fall out of love.” Often the feelings that they once had for one another are no longer felt and so they decide to call it quits.

These are dangerous grounds.

There are certainly many good reasons to break up, most obviously (hopefully) when it comes to physical safety. But “falling out of love” is often a shortcut, passive, and even irresponsible reason for splitting up. Speaking from personal experience and counseling others through relationships over the past several years, “falling out of love” is an easy excuse for not trying.

That may sound harsh, but again, I’m speaking from experience. I used that excuse when I was young and unaware of the pain that it would cause others. My own short-sightedness of love led me to believe that “falling out of love” was a legitimate reason to break up. It does not help that our culture supports the “falling out of love” excuse or that some would advise to “not put off the inevitable.”

There are several things that happen which we attribute to “falling out of love”. Biologically, neurotransmitter levels change in the brain and that once euphoric feeling dissipates. We may also allow other things to steal our heart and attention like people or work. We begin to recognize flaws in our significant other that we swear were not there when we first started. While these things happen, they are not reasons to legitimize “falling out of love” as an excuse to break up or split.

However, they are reasons, to pursue love. When we recognize these changes, we get to make a conscious decisions. Do you break up? Or do you instead try to make love work, to pursue love deeper than you have before?

Love takes work. It takes effort. We have degraded love to just a feeling and so when that feeling is gone, we decide that we are done. But love is so much more than a feeling. Love is also an action. Love is going the extra mile for your significant other, even when you do not feel like it. Love is cleaning up messes that you did not make. Love is staying up late after an exhausting, long day because your wife or husband is sick. Love is putting others’ needs above your own. Love, real love, takes work and it takes sacrifice.

We choose to fall out of love, because we choose to stop making an effort to love.

What should I do, if I feel like I’m falling out of love?

  • Recognize that your significant other or spouse isn’t perfect. Two imperfect people don’t make a perfect one, they’re still imperfect and you’re still imperfect. So give grace, forgive where forgiveness is needed, and learn to grow and mature together.
  • Acknowledge the external influences that may be affecting your decision making. Is the weather or your health contributing to your feeling? Are you experiencing stress from work or school? Have you just experienced a significant life event? Are you hungry?
  • Put love into action by taking steps to serve. Go out of your way and serve the other person, without expecting recognition, a pat on the back, or anything else.
  • Pick up a book like The Five Love Languages, Saving Your Marriage before It Starts, or The Meaning of Marriage. Even if you’re just dating, these books on marriage offer a solid perspective that will help you.
  • Finally, seek counsel. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help in navigating your relationship. It will not only help your dating relationship or marriage, but it can also equip you to make a good relationship and great one.

 

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” Songs of Solomon 8:6-7

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Lawnmower Parents

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Last week I read an article written by an anonymous teacher on WeAreTeachers.com. The teacher had recently been called to the office. They assumed that it was to retrieve a student’s forgotten inhaler or money for food. To their surprise, a father was waiting in the office holding an expensive water bottle. The father explained that they had received repeated texts from his daughter who had to have that water bottle. Despite acknowledging the ample amount of water fountains at school, the student insisted on having water out of that bottle. So there the father stood, either on his way to work or having made a special trip from work, to deliver the water bottle to his daughter.

This is a sign of a lawnmower parent. It’s a parent who mows down all or many of a child’s challenges, discomforts, and struggles.

Since being published, other teachers have shared similar stories. One teacher described how a parent once requested that someone blow on their child’s hot lunch to cool it down. Another recalled a parent scheduling a make-up test for their student, who had the ability and time to request it themselves.

We don’t know why every parent steps in like this for their student. It may be that they genuinely need assistance or they’re trying to do better than their own parents who were absent while growing up. While most parents in these situations are coming with the best of intentions, there is an underlying issue that can cause significant harm that they may not be aware of.

If you’ve ever watched a butterfly emerge from their chrysalis, it’s a beautiful process. The downside; you have to watch the butterfly struggle. Over a few minutes, the butterfly will push and shove to break free from their encapsulation. We might feel bad for the poor butterfly, but the worst thing we can do is help it. The butterfly must struggle to build strength. When it emerges the wings may look small and crumpled, but do not help unravel them. Again, the butterfly must do this on their own, otherwise it will not develop properly and will die.

Like the butterfly, as well as many animals and plants, humans need to experience struggles and challenges in order to properly develop. When we do not learn at an early age how to handle struggles and failures, the consequences are devastating.

 

According to Dr. Jillian Roberts, associate professor at the University of Victoria, who spoke to Global News Canada on the lawn mower parent phenomenon,

When parents deprive their children of opportunities to practice these skills, their parenting is actually detrimental to their kids. In fact, what they are communicating is: ‘I do not think you are capable of handling this on your own.’”

As a result, it has been observed that students and latter on adults, suffer with communication difficulties, lack of personal motivation, and believe that they are not good enough to accomplish anything on their own. With a lack of experience in handling life’s daily challenges, students are more prone to panicking at the idea of rejection and failure. They are more apt to blaming their teachers and professors, having mental breakdowns due to stress, and giving up completely. Children need to experience struggles and learn to deal with challenges from an early age, otherwise they are ill prepared for their future.

Now this is my concern, for myself and others. Beyond the social, mental, and academic ramifications, there are also spiritual ramifications. As a Christians, Jesus and His followers, make it clear in the Bible that we will all experience struggles, trials, and temptations in life (Isaiah 66:5; Matthew 24:9, 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:9, 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12 to list a few). Specifically for Christians, the Bible says that we will be hated and persecuted because of our faith.

If parents mow down challenges in their children’s’ lives, how are they preparing them to be mature and faithful followers of God? By taking away the opportunity to learn how to process challenges, parents throw down sand on which children build their lives of faith. And when the storms of this world hit and their faith is challenged, they will fall. But when we help them process challenges and give them those opportunities to do it on their own, they lay down stone instead of sand. And when the storms of this world rage through, they are able to stand firm on the Rock. (Matthew 7:24-27)

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

More can be found at http://www.weareteachers.com/lawnmower-parents/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/allthemoms/2018/09/19/meet-lawnmower-parent-new-helicopter-parents-types-parents-tiger-attachment/1347358002/

Dehydration

water spill.jpgIt is a little fact of life that when you do not drink water, your body becomes dehydrated and is unable to function properly. The body responds by trying to retain more water than its releasing. As a result you may experience headaches, dizziness, and many other symptoms. Everything that you do becomes much more difficult as the body struggles to operate without water. All of the this could have been avoided. It is so easy to just pick up a glass of water and yet so many of us fail to stay hydrated as we should.

Amidst our busy lives it can be easy to get dehydrated, it is also just as easy to get spiritually dehydrated. When I am busy, I admit I have not always reached for my Bible as regularly as I should. It’s an easy task to pick up the Word just as it’s easy to pick up a glass of water. But because we see it as simple, we are quick to put it aside for another time.

Why have we made spending time with God an afterthought? We have bought into the lie that we can get by without it and therefore it does not take priority in our busy schedules. However, when our schedule is packed, that is when we need to spend time with God the most. That is when we are more likely to lose energy, lose focus, and lose hope, especially when we are relying more on ourselves than God.

When we are working hard and sweat is dripping off our bodies in the heat of the day, it is ignorant not to stay hydrated. Likewise, when our schedules are full, it is ignorant to ignore spending time in God’s Word. Merely replacing the Bible with other texts will not cut it. While they are beneficial and fun, they cannot offer the same spiritual nutrients. Soda, coffee and energy drinks do not offer the same quality per quantity that our bodies receive from a good glass of water. Just as other drinks do not completely fill our needs as water does, neither can other books on Christ, religion, or the Christian life completely fill us like the Bible.

The importance we place on getting in the Word cannot fall by the wayside, even amidst the chaos of life. Rather than being quick to pass it by, it should be at the top of our schedule every day. The Word strengthens our defenses against the voices of this world and brings growth to our relationship with Christ. Without it, life is like trying to fight a battle without training, it’s futile to lead the charge when we do not know what we are doing. We should consider our time with God more important than life giving water.

It takes discipline for it to become habit, but doesn’t God deserve our time and attention? The Word should be just as important in our daily routine as staying hydrated, because without it we cannot function as God intended us to.

The Name Game

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When does the game stop?

School has started and children are crowded into classrooms once again. There is an excitement to the chaos as new sights and smells are coupled with the sunset of summer. But it doesn’t take long for the last rays of summer’s sun to fade away. After only the second day of classes, my wife came home from teaching and shared that some students had already started calling each other names. They weren’t doing it to be funny, from the sounds of it they were actually quite vicious. But maybe they will stop playing the name game when they get older.

After being in college ministry for more than eight years, I have seen a fair amount of protests. Students have been a powerful force in bringing awareness and catalyzing change. However, I have sometimes witnessed individuals or small groups use these events to attack others. They chant slurs, condemn bystanders, call others by profanities. The name game continues. But maybe they will stop playing the game when they get older.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the game cease at any age. No matter the age, no matter whether its face to face or over social media, people continue to play the game. They just come up with new and more “sophisticated” names to call one another. We belittle people and tear them down. We reach into dark parts of their past and present to tell them just who they really are. If we cannot find anything, we fabricate it and stamp a new identity on their foreheads to put them in their place. The name game plays on.

I was struck this last week as I was studying the Gospel of John as to how Jesus engaged two disciples early on. The first was Simon. In the Greek, Simon means “listen” or “hearing”. This name is ironic as the reader of the four gospels comes to learn that Simon is not a good listener. Jesus is fully aware of the what it’s going to be like living with this loud and outspoken man for the next few years. We wouldn’t expect Jesus to call Simon any condescending names but it is astonishing what He does next. Jesus gives Simon a new name. He calls him Peter, which means “rock”. Jesus does not focus on Peter’s shortcomings, He focuses on the potential and treats Peter as if he is already a rock of an individual (John 1:42).

Next, Jesus meets Nathanael. We do not know a lot about Nathanael, but John gives us plenty of insight during his first interaction with Jesus. Before Nathanael and Jesus even meet, Philip is the one who comes to Nathanael to tell him that they found the Messiah who is from Nazareth. Nathanael is skeptical to say the least and throws a diss in saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth.” (Jn. 1:46). Yet when Jesus meets Nathanael, He calls him an “Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (Jn. 1:47). Quite the compliment, especially as we read further and find that Jesus was probably fully aware of what Nathanael had said to Philip earlier on. Again, Jesus does not focus on Nathanael’s shortcomings, He focuses on the good in him. Jesus capitalizes on developing and encouraging that part of Nathanael in his ministry.

Jesus does not play the name game like many people do today. He may in fact play a different name game all together. Rather than seeing the worst in people, He sees the best and calls them by that name. It’s not that He is naive or oblivious to our shortcomings, on the contrary Jesus is more aware of it than we are. Yet, He chooses to call us by our potential and by our strengths. When we let Christ in, He nurtures those parts of our lives and watches them develop into something of beauty. All while uprooting and allowing the bad parts to wither and die.

Name calling is a game that I do not want to play. I have been on both sides and nobody ever wins. It’s a game that can have lasting and detrimental effects. It’s a game the devil plays and I want no part in it. Maybe you’ve heard this saying before.

“Satan knows your name but calls you by your sin, God knows your sin but calls you by your name.”

I think this is true and I believe we see it played out across Scripture and in our lives. I see how God calls people in Scripture; its full of love and encouragement. That’s the way I want to live my life. I want to live by recognizing and proclaiming the best in people. I want them to know they are loved and have the freedom to love others as Christ loves them.

When does the game stop? The game stops when we decide to call people by what God sees, rather than what the world sees.

Alive. Awake. & Breathing.

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“How are you doing?”

“Good. You?”

“Good.”

A common question with a common response in our common day. What’s the point?

We ask how someone is doing, but do we really care or are we just being polite? We respond with ‘good’, but are we actually good or are we also, just being polite? In a time when we crave deeper relationships, we are still just hovering on the surface.

Living on the surface is tedious. When I ask how someone is doing, I genuinely want to know how they are. But, I also tend to answer with ‘good’. This has not helped the conversation or shown that I am genuinely interested in the other person. I’m just part of the problem.

A few years ago, someone asked me how I was doing, just like any other day. Half a ‘good’ clumsily fumbled out of my mouth, stopping the other person in their tracks. They probably thought I was about to have a stroke. In that moment I decided to say something different and out came “I’m alive, awake, and breathing.”

For a second time, the other person was caught off guard. Their routine exchange had been interrupted and they just stared for a second. I stood there with confidence as if the words had not just been the product of sloppy improvisation. And then, we began to talk.

This change in pace started a conversation. A genuine, caring conversation.

Not only did these words push us beyond a surface conversation, but it sparked a reminder that brought fuel to our conversation. I was reminded that God had given me another day on this earth. I truly was alive, awake, and breathing. It wasn’t a right, it wasn’t something I deserved or had earned. God had gifted me with another breath in my body! And I could choose to either waste that breath on an apathetic ‘good’ or intentionally engage with the person made in God’s image.

You do not need a random phrase to start a conversation. Find anything other than just ‘good’ and you’re off and running. If we want genuine and real conversations, then we need to start giving genuine and real responses. Better yet, start with genuine questions and do not let the other person get off with a passive ‘good’. We can open up and be real with one another, even in a passing, ‘how are you?’ Engage with them, love them, and discover life beyond the surface. We have the breath to do it, so just go do it.

God has given you another breath to breathe. You are alive, awake, and breathing. How will you spend your breath today?

The Blessing of Sweaty Hands

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Prayer is gross.

Not all the time. Not even close. But there are those times that the pastor makes you hold hands for so long that your palms begin to sweat. Your prayers turn into pleas that the other person doesn’t notice as your hands begin to slowly slide across one another. Or when a bunch of people crowd together to lay hands on someone. The temperature suddenly rises and the person in the middle is covered in sweaty hands with no escape. Prayer is gross

This last week I was the one in the middle of fifty college students all trying to lay hands on me. It was my last college group after five years of ministry and they offered to pray over me. We were outside in the middle of August and many had just gotten done with some active competitions. Perfect conditions for sweat. For some, a hundred sweaty hands reaching in their direction would make them cringe or just run away screaming. I’ll admit that it was not the most glamorous moment, but it was truly a moment of beauty.

It was a grand picture of the body of Christ coming together in unity before the Father to lift up another in prayer. In that moment I was surrounded by prayer, I was surrounded by community, and I was surrounded by love.

What would the church look like if we did this more often? Rather than telling someone that we will pray for them, what if we actually prayed for them right there? I believe that the more we go to God in prayer, the more we will see Him at work in our lives.

Prayer is powerful. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Even with all the noise going on in opposition to “thoughts and prayers” and deeming prayer as useless, it simply is not true. We should absolutely step out in action toward the afflicted and extend our best efforts toward helping others, but that does not mean that we must discount the power of prayer. Prayer works.

Prayer is stepping out in faith to actively partner with God who is ready to partner with us. We see this throughout Scripture from Noah to Paul. People come before God in prayer, humbly setting themselves aside and stepping forward in faith to let God work in and through them. And those prayer are not wasted breaths. When we partner with God, He does amazing and mighty works.

I’ve seen people healed, stop habits after years of addiction, and find forgiveness through God. People have broken down in tears in front of me after accepting God’s love for the first time through prayer. God will meet us where we’re at when we take a step of faith toward Him. God does powerful works through prayer.

So when the church comes together in faith to pray for one another, you better believe that God is going to do something great.

Praying as the body, exemplifies the beauty of what God meant the church to look like; a unified gathering of believers glorifying the Father through faith. How wonderful that sound must be to God’s ears when we put aside our differences to pursue Him with one heart in prayer. I know that puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. And despite sweaty hands, nothing could have been a greater blessing that night than to be surrounded by friends and lifted up in prayer.

“A church that is devoted to prayer is a church that knows God’s mission is the most important pursuit on earth.” Francis Chan

Smoke Signals

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(A repost in light of ongoing fires this summer.)

I woke up this morning to the smell of smoke. It wasn’t the house, it was coming from outside. For the last few days smoke  has hovered in the valley from nearby fires. Hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon continue to burn unceasingly. The smoke plumes into the air, is blown throughout the state and some comes to rest in the Willamette Valley. This morning as I look across the cul-de-sac, the smoke has gotten thick enough to wonder if the fire is really hours away or just blocks down the street. The red sun reminds me that it could be worse. Just a week ago my wife and I were driving near one of the fires a couple hours east of our home. The smoke was so thick that we could barely make out the cars in front of us. When the smoke is that bad, you know the fire is worse.

You probably know the saying, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ This seems like quite the obvious statement and it is. We may not immediately see a fire, but its smoke is a clear sign. Rangers in fire lookout towers watch for rising smoke after a lightning storm because it is the smoke that alerts them to the danger. It is more likely that they will see the smoke before the fire’s flames. Smoke signals that there is a fire.

The campfire smell continues to play with my senses as I sit at the dining table. Taking a sip of coffee, I cannot help but think of other smoke signals in life. We say things or do things that are themselves not the main issue, but a signal that there is a deeper issue at hand. The product points to the problem.

Consider most figures in the Bible. Abraham tried to pass off Sarah as his sister before Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20). His poor actions were the signal of a greater problem of fear and lack of faith. Moses struck a rock for water rather than speaking to it as God had commanded him (Numbers 20:8-13). His disobedience was a signal of underlying anger and disbelief. Even King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah were significant smoke signals that were a product of lust, greed, and jealousy that he harbored in his heart (2 Samuel 11). These problems are all rooted in sin. Sin rarely stays silent. No matter how long we try to keep it hidden, it will eventually manifest itself in some way. Smoke will rise from the fire.

And while we think that the problems of our heart are hidden, they are not from God’s eyes. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17). God knows our hearts and He knows the problems within. Some of us see this as a terrible thing, as if Jesus is a teacher correcting a test. If He finds our mistakes, then we receive a lower grade.

While our sin is against God, I believe that He wants to be more like a doctor for our souls when it comes to sin. He wants us to come into the doctor’s office, tell Him what the problem is and then work with Him to get the proper treatment. He wants to take care of the sin problem. Ultimately, He already has. He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross that we can be forgiven and have eternal life. As we accept His grace and forgiveness, He now invites us to walk with Him and learn how to love Him and others better. We get to bring our sins to Him, so that our walk might not be hindered by their weight (Hebrews 12:1).

A fire, even a small one, when left alone will only grow. If there’s smoke in our lives, its time to recognize the fire that’s causing it. It may even be time to listen to the counsel of others who see the smoke when we cannot. If we seek to love God and love others, then we must come to God with the fires in our lives so that He can put them out. When King David realized the gravity of his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, he confessed his sin to God, accepted the consequences, and allowed God to heal. Pursue His healing and forgiveness today, don’t ignore the smoke signals any longer.

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13