Hysterical Marital Issues?

Two weeks ago, Patrick and I wrapped up our Sunday school class called, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. It’s a video series produced by Mark Gungor, head pastor of Celebration Church in Wisconsin. Patrick and I missed the first week, but had no problem jumping into the second video. We had a small class, probably the few bold couples who could endure Gungor’s humor. 

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage is exactly what it says. Every problem you ever faced, argument you ever had, moment you nearly left – is fodder for mocking by the merciless pastor. Don’t get me wrong, Gungor is tasteful – moderately. Everything he says is entirely supported Biblically and the gospel message is threaded through every concept. However, as in his daily radio show, Gungor makes no effort to secure his audience’s comfort. Sex is wonderful. Pornography is a marriage destroying sin. Submission is badly misconstrued by the church as a whole. Women need to get over themselves and their expectations that men should behave like their girlfriends.

“I love to inspire people’s lives with truth and humor. There are a lot of performers that make people laugh, and there are a lot of speakers who give solid principles for living. I want to do both,” Mark says.  “Our secular culture over-romanticizes marriage and our Christian culture over-spiritualizes it. The reality is that relationships between men and women are very down to earth.”

Do you believe that? That relationships between men and women are really down to earth? In our marriage, absorbing that little nugget of truth, which dawned slowly on me like an LED bulb warming to full exposure, was life changing. Suddenly, we are more free to enjoy each other. Funny, my husband’s been telling me for years that I am too concerned about the state of our marriage. I have been constantly re-evaluating it’s health, worried if we are stronger than we were before, if we’re ignoring any warning signs, instead of simply enjoying the fact that we’re still together and applauding the nearly 10 years that we have loved each other.

For the rest of this week, I will introduce you to a few elements of Gungor’s ministry. It is multi-faceted, so you would do well to explore the site on your own, listen to his radio show and read some of his articles. Laugh hard, come back here and share your joy and relief with me.

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It’s Personal

I am quite skilled at containing two opinions in my own head and lobbying for dissenting convictions.

For many years, I hosted the little red devil on my left shoulder and the gleaming, screaming angel on my right.Simultaneously, they fed me suggestions. For a moment my head would cock to the right, imperceptibly to my acquaintances, then shift slightly to the left. My whole body would lean into one persuasion or the next, convinced of polar viewpoints, to the marrow of my bones with each new thought.

In the heat of an eating disorder, I couldn’t tell up from down as my very life hung in the balance. I often walked away from conversations unable to recall what someone had confided me; too consumed by the disagreement raging in my mind.

A counselor once told me to write out the dialogue. Maybe, if I could present the arguments to myself logically, on a page, then I could choose the merits of each opinion and come to a composite truth.

“You’re fat and ugly. You’re worthless and dispensable. In your sick obsession with anorexia, you’re a liability to your family. 

Talent? Don’t kid yourself. Did you see your sister? She’s capable of ten times what you can do.”

“Precious One! Don’t listen to that lie! You are a child of God. Eat, Dear One. God created you for His good purpose and He has promised to care for you physically as much as spiritually. You trust Jesus with eternity, you can trust Him with your weight today.”

“Your workout barely counted this morning. Three miles? Are you kidding me?”

“Rest, Child of God. Be still and know that God and cares for you intimately. He made you and knows your body inside out.”

The wrestling between my ears was agonizing. The war seethed, leaving my body a ravaged battle field and my mind wounded by fear. What ends a war? Only a victory. Peace is never found in the middle ground, the center of the battlefield, or in this case in my mind. So I simply gave up.

I don’t mean that I relinquished my life and succumbed to the death knell of self-starvation, depression and skewed pride. I quit searching for my own form of truth, a combination of the voices in my head. I quit trying to make peace between two mortal enemies.

Satan paints a pretty picture. He is the master of disguise. Genesis tells us that when Satan directed Eve’s gaze to the forbidden fruit, “it looked good to her.” Just like Eve, I can be convinced that his arguments make sense. Sometimes God’s law seems harsh and tolerance of sin seems like the easiest option.

“So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body?”

What to do? I’m exhausted. I’m not strong enough to get it right, to banish sinful behaviors or stand up for truth one more time. I am in good company. The apostle Paul understood this internal argument. But he didn’t tell me to suck it up, tighten my belt, or try harder. He simply told me, let the best man win.

“I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me!”

Romans 7:21-25a