The Irrefutable Solution to Irreconcilable Differences

I wasn’t being nosy. I didn’t even ask. In fact, it started with a casual conversation about our dogs, and somehow we got all the way around to his admission, “Well, I used to have a family.”

In the course of seven brief minutes, in the hospital corridor, this complete stranger unveiled pieces of his story. “I was married once…you know, my son…but she kept the dog…don’t see them much…life was better then—when I had a family.”

My heart sunk a little, distracted from the surface of our conversation by the sadness in his eyes. Moments later, we parted and I’ll likely never see him again. But my heart was bruised with sympathy. What a loss! What loneliness; what a painful realization: “I used to have a family.”

The next day, I called my mom during my morning walk. Her precious voice, the assurance that I have a family who deeply loves me, filled me with joy as bright as that early morning sun peeking over the trees.

“You know, your dad and I had the strangest conversation the other day,” she told me. “Now that we have grandkids and all, it’s strange to wonder what life would have been like if we hadn’t hung in there through the first tough years of our marriage. We wouldn’t have you! We wouldn’t have your youngest sister. I can’t even imagine life with out each of our grandchildren! It’s startling to consider that if we had given up on us—we would have given up everything else! The entire course of our life would be so different. We would never had experienced the joy of each of our children and their children! So many fewer friendships, hugs, tears and promises.”

One of the most common reasons given for broken marriages is, “We just weren’t compatible anymore. We had irreconcilable differences.” Incompatibility—there is a Biblical App[lication] for that.

Ephesians 5 is often quoted over Christian marriages. You can almost see a finger wagging in your face, “The Bible says submit to your husband!” or, “The Bible tells you to love your wife!” Both statements are true, but just one verse before those instructions is another command we rush over on our way to our favorite ones.

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)

The Greek word translated “one to another” is allelon. It means, “reciprocally, mutually”. Those words are eerily similar to the English word, “compatible”, which according to thesauraus.com means, “like-minded, together, sympathetic, on the same wavelength, cooperative, congruent”.

Compatibility isn’t something that just happens. The phrase, “submit yourselves to one another”, can aptly be paraphrased, “subordinate, or arrange yourselves mutually beneath the other”. In essence, “make yourselves like-minded, together, cooperative, congruent, reciprocal”. It is not acceptable to simply be incompatible, anymore than it is okay to simply be cruel. Scripture indicates we are to make ourselves compatible.

The impossibility of this command weighs heavy on spouses that have struggled, with blood, sweat and tears, and still find themselves hopelessly at odds. But light dawns with the next two verses, the ones that usually sound ugly, harsh and demeaning:

“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:22-25)

In his book, The Power of Right Believing, Pastor Joseph Prince says, “…we need to teach the entire verse…The emphasis is on Jesus’ love for us. Everything we do today under the new covenant of grace springs from our love relationship with Jesus. His love needs to first work in us.”

Prince gives the example, “How would you like your husband to say to you, ‘God says that I should love you and that we should talk more, so let’s go out for dinner tonight.’? Then he sets a timer on his phone and says, ‘Alright, lady, your time begins now.’ Hey, no self-respecting woman would accept that, right? You want your husband to take you out for dinner not because he has to, but because he wants to.

“That’s why the Word of God doesn’t simply exhort husbands to love their wives and then stop there. It goes on to teach husbands just how to go about doing so—the power to love comes when husbands first experience how Jesus loved them and gave Himself for them.”

The instruction in Ephesians 5:21, “To submit yourselves one to another”, is a command. It’s a non-negotiable. Rather than a shackle for women, is a lock on the door to an easy escape from one’s marriage vows. However, God never leaves us in a position to “buck up” or “grit our teeth and bear it”. The Bible walks us right into the truth that Christ goes before us. “We love because He first loved us”. (1 John 4:19)

The answer to our irreconcilable differences is the irrefutable truth that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. A convinced, firm, heart-grip on the knowledge that Jesus loved us enough to die for us even when we were still sinners (and still sin), even when our abject rebellion was decisively incompatible with His holiness—that knowledge, shods our feet in the Gospel of Peace. It enables us to walk mutually, sympathetically, submissively, cooperatively and congruently. His unshakable love for us—husbands and wives, sin-stained all—sheds a new light on our differences, and if we accept it, brings peace to our homes and longevity to our marriages.

This first appeared on Start Marriage Right

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Pulling Back the Shades, A Book Review

I started this book review purely altruistically—to write a review that might help others who really need to read the book. I mean, after all, I have my own set of temptations and struggles, but erotica isn’t one of them. And my marriage of 11 years isn’t perfect by any means, but I’ve also read most of the relationship books recommended by Focus on the Family. What new, life changing information could this book have to offer?

Through the second chapter, my expectations were confirmed. But by the time I got to chapter 7, “The Spiritually Satisfied Woman”, I was convicted, challenged, inspired and refreshed.

Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh collaborate seamlessly in their new book, Pulling Back the Shades. Instead Unknownof blending their voices, they alternate, often switching authors in the middle of a chapter. Different fonts designate who is speaking. Neither woman dominates the book; both write from their expertise. Even though they admit they differ on a few issues and come from vastly different backgrounds, Dr. Slattery and Gresh present a powerful, united front on a sensitive subject that provokes many disagreements among believers, if we even have the courage to discuss it.

The first half of the book is devoted to explaining erotica. This includes the chemical effect that it has on the brain, the addictive nature, the conflicts about it within the church, a discussion of the “grey” areas and a staunch stance against it based on the Word of God. Dr. Slattery and Gresh write graphically, borrowing short segments from the book, Fifty Shades of Grey, to make their points.

The authors’ opinion is uncompromising. To sum it up in a simple statement, without re-writing the book: God’s ideal for sex is unabashed, exciting, varied, exquisite intimacy within the bonds of marriage.

I mentioned that my heart began to resonate with the book beginning in chapter 7. This is where Dr. Slattery and Gresh delve into the incredible and unique intimacy that God wants to have with each of us.

Here, they debunk the myth that God promises every woman a “happily ever after”, fulfilling, intimate relationship with a man—even after marriage.

“I bet you’ve never heard a sermon on what God does not promise. This is unfortunate because it is quite dangerous to place your trust in things you falsely assume God has promised. Jesus said that He came that you may have life and have it abundantly. His promises are great and He is trustworthy in fulfilling each one. But His ways are not our ways, and He has not promised some of the things you may have assumed or hoped He has.”

The authors mention a quote by Dr. Larry Crabb, “God is all I need, but I don’t know Him well enough for Him to be all I have.”

This brought a twinge of conviction and a huge sigh of relief. I do not need to fret over whether my husband ever becomes more like Prince Charming. I must know God well enough that He is not only all I need, but all I have.

The book closes with numerous Scripture references and gentle guidance to help readers begin deepening their intimate relationship with Jesus. It even includes discussion questions, practical resources (other books and websites) as well as enumerated suggestions for practical application.

This book is applicable to all women in all relationships—even those who are single—and those who don’t think they have a problem with erotica. The book covers all aspects of a woman’s relational needs and explains where fulfillment is found.