Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marriage Matters: Constructive Communication

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that God is the author of scripture. It is "God breathed" which makes it different from all other words, especially ours which are mostly, often, or unfortunately sometimes true. God is perfectly holy. We are not. Understatement. In the previous lesson from Marriage Matters by Winston Smith we learned how we hide from God, our husbands, and ourselves. Now that we've come out of hiding we'll tackle the subject of speaking the truth in love. While we say that we believe the truth of God's love and forgiveness in Christ, we often communicate in a way that suggests otherwise.

Due to my genetic make up here I bring box turtles to my grandchildren who illustrate for us the way we communicate with our spouses. Mr. Turtle is avoiding at all cost the children's attempt at conversation. The best part is that Charlie was saying, "Come on out, Mr. Turtle. We won't hurt you." Notice the revolver in Charlie's hand. The revolver he had been tapping on Mr. Turtle's shell. With our lips we say, "Come on out, the coast is clear," but past history tells us that we are all armed and ready to shoot should our conversation head south.
Once again from Tim Keller...who says that marriage is the combination of the power of truth and love. The power of truth is marriage's ability to show you who you really are. The power of love is marriage's capacity to reprogram your self-image and to heal the past. Keller says it looks like this. Everyone can tell you that you're ugly, but if your husband says you're beautiful you feel beautiful. Your husband's words have that kind of power. But if everyone says you're beautiful and you're husband says you're ugly, you feel ugly. The words of a spouse wield great power both for good and destruction.
How do we handle Paul's instruction from Ephesians 4:25 rightly? Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truth to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. How can I speak to my spouse truthfully without crushing him? By remembering Ephesians 4:14 ...speak the truth in love that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ. God's over arching purpose in loving us through Jesus Christ is to bring all things under the headship of Christ. It is due to a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ that our desires become God's desires. Our desires in marriage become what God desires for us in marriage, to be united under the headship of Christ. To be one with each other and Him. Remembering the love of the Father that became one of us that we might be assured that God knows what it is to be man, a love so great that it lived the perfect life that I cannot, a love so deep that He died to redeem my sinful brokenness and ascended to live, reign and intercede for me gives us the context in which the content of truth is spoken.
We also join God in His purposes for speaking truth. Ephesians 4:16. We are one body in Christ and one body in marriage. Remember that Christian love is not a feeling, but an action. Here we see that loving is doing what causes the body to be whole, functioning according to purpose, and built up or encouraged.
Using words that are truthful, edifying and carefully chosen should be our priority. Proverbs 12:18 There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. In our conversations Smith says, we allow dishonesty, selfishness and emotionalism to enter the fray. How? By exaggerating. "Your first response is always negative. You never listen to me. You're the only one who can't understand this!" Words like always, only, never, and all can greatly reduce the chances that our husbands will hear what we're trying to say. We can stoke the fire in communication by using trait names or name calling. "You're a jerk. You're a liar. You're a...." In moments of frustration calling the other by a name that reduces his identity to his sinful behavior is terribly wounding and overwhelming. Try this. "I feel like you're not being honest with me. Let me say this in another way."
Some of us are particularly skilled at becoming mind readers. Poor guy doesn't have a chance with this one. I know what you're trying to do. I know what you're thinking. Oh really now. Truths that we craft in our minds to use against our husbands is not truth at all. A positive response is not likely from a man who has just had confirmed for him that you think the worst about him. Remember, building up and encouraging involves the truth, but the truth spoken with kindness, understanding, and with the purpose of building unity in Christ. Just put the crystal ball away for good.
So how do we speak the truth to our husbands? By using wholesome speech that affirms your spouse's identity as a son of God and a beloved marriage partner. Ephesians 1:3-6. Paul is telling us that from the beginning God has had a plan to make us his children and to make us more like Jesus. The plan is grace-filled, not about our ability or goodness. God asks us to grow, not as a condition of his love, but in response to it. Our speech should be crafted and delivered with this grace in mind. Even words of just anger can be spoken with words of healing in a tone that doesn't crush. How? Winston Smith has a few suggestions.
Take time to cool off.
In issues of conflict and character a few moments of regrouping and cooling off may make all the difference in the world.

Remember, God is using ordinary moments for extraordinary change.
He is the author of the truth and the mediator of every conflict.
Sometimes prayer can be very difficult.
Don't let that keep you from taking your conflict to the Lord.

Choose both the words and the time to speak words of truth.
Timing can be everything.
I know better than to talk about much of anything while LSU and Alabama are engaged in a contest.
Even checkers.
It's a no-go.

The philosophy of two famous sculptors illustrates well the point of this lesson.
Alberto Giocometti was a son of Italian refugees born in Switzerland just after the turn of the 20th century. He trained in Paris under the sculptor Roden and became famous for the stringy elongated bodies and heads of his works of art that would make his subject look like the blade of a knife. Giocometti began with a block of stone working and refining, chipping away everything offensive, chipping, chipping, chipping. Sometimes he did so much chipping that there was nothing left but a pile of rubble.
Michelangelo was and is still considered one of the finest artists of all time.
Two of his most famous works, David and the Pieta, were finished before he was 30. After the death of his mother when he was but six  years old Michelangelo went to live with a stone cutter and his wife. He said that in addition to his mother's milk he was raised with a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other. His philosophy of sculpting was very different from that of Giocometti. "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it."
Giocometti saw only what he didn't like and chiseled away until there was nothing left. Michelangelo saw the possibility of what was to be and hewed away only the rough to reveal what was hidden in the stone.
You answer the question. With your words, which kind of sculptor are you?

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