Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Quest To See And Value Your Amazingness – Part 2

Watch what you are seeing or focusing your attention on. Because what you focus your attention on feeds your mind and what you think about the most affects your attitude.

When we focus our attention on the things we don’t have yet, we miss the opportunity to be grateful for the things we have. We miss the amazing goodness of God on display in our lives every day when we grumble and complain about the things we want and have yet to receive.

In the first part of this blog post, I shared an example of how I failed to take note of the amazingness of my husband while focussing more on what I desired of him. My husband champions my cause. He promotes my interest, and he acts with my best interest at heart. It is very easy to miss the many quiet and seemly little ways he does this. And in missing them, I also fail to acknowledge and appreciate them. This can happen to any of us, even with the best intentions, if we have not made a conscious and deliberate decision to pay attention to the good in our spouse; to seek to see and value the unique and amazing things they do, which we often take for granted.

Our arch-enemy, the devil, is hell-bent on attacking Christian marriages. And it seems unwittingly, we are collaborating with him. We are not fighting a good fight for our marriages. We have become lethargic and slothful in this battle to erode the foundation of Christian marriage. A friend once said to me that we, the Christians, are no longer making marriages attractive. The world cannot seem to see the difference between us who professes to have God as the cornerstone of our marriage and those who don’t.

A Conscious Decision:
Craig Groeschel in his article; “It can be as good as you decide” made a profound statement that he and his wife decided their marriage will be as good as they decide it to be. They decided. They made the decision that come what may; their marriage will be good. It was a deliberate, conscious decision. They decided that they would seek God together, pray together and put God first. They decided that they would always fight towards resolution instead of towards winning, which left plenty of room for forgiveness and love. Simply put, they decided that they will make their marriage as good as they can for each other with the help of God.

They, the two of them, decided. It is taking both of them working together as one. They chose a focus for their marriage. They decided what they were going to allow to guide their attention and what will keep them working at making their marriage work.

You can decide how good your marriage will be. That is the starting point. It becomes the guiding principle for the marriage; that through the storms and the struggles we will do everything in our power to make our marriage good.

A critical element of making our marriage good is seeking to see the good in our spouse. It is paying attention to the good and unique qualities in them, acknowledging it, appreciating it and thanking God for it.

“One of the greatest secrets to a happy marriage is gratitude. Thankfulness. An overt recognition of your spouse’s amazingness” – Shauna Feldhahn.

What You Are Thinking About Matters:
You see, what you focus your attention on about your spouse will feed your thoughts about him/her—what you will be meditating on about your spouse. Eventually, what you are thinking about the most about your spouse will affect your attitude towards him/her. If your mind is filled with negative thoughts about your spouse, you will become emotionally disconnected with him/her. That will create a gap between the two of you.

Take a moment to ponder on this. Very often we find ourselves moody, cranky and sour towards our spouses. Check what you had been meditating on before your mood became foul and sour. It is most likely that you have been meditating on your spouse’s shortcomings, and weaknesses, and before long you are building an argument ready to react to him/her on the issue. Sometimes, what you are building an argument against in your heart has not even happen yet. It is simply an outcome of the subtle suggestions of the enemy. If you don’t pay attention to the negative suggestions that the enemy drops in your mind but spend time mulling over these negative suggestions, they will take root and begin to sour your attitude.

When the enemy turned on the bad channel, we need to consciously change the channel and keep changing it even when it appeared that it is automatically reverting to the bad channel. You actively change the channel by fixing your thoughts on what is right, true, pure, honourable, excellent, and of good report. Then you go a step further, and you speak it out so your ears can hear the truth of God’s Word against the lies suggested by the enemy.

Seek to see good:
Quit complaining, nagging and focusing on what your spouse is not doing right and where he/she is yet to come to par. But start taking note of and appreciating the good qualities in your spouse—there must be some if you have chosen to marry him/her. It is when you begin to notice the amazingness of your spouse, acknowledging and appreciating it that you will be able to draw out the other good qualities you desire to see in your spouse. The more we neglect to see and appreciate the good that is present now in our spouses, the less we are likely to attract the good we want to see in them. 

When we make a conscious and deliberate effort to value the amazing qualities in our spouses, it helps us to expect and have the confident hope that these qualities will show up in their lives and impact our relationship. You simply need to have eyes that seek to find the good in your spouse and be keenly aware of their amazing value or attributes. Train your eyes to see the good in your spouse and watch that good revealed at every turn. Take note of it when it is revealed and go the extra mile to acknowledge and appreciate it.

Bridging the gulf
Are there dark corners in your life and your relationships? Areas where you are not open and honest with each other, where you have hidden stuff from each other. When you have such dark corners in your relationship, it cannot be truly illuminated, flooded with light as it ought to be so that you can be deeply and truly intimate with each other.

These dark corners bring tension into the relationship and often obliterate our vision and prevents us from seeing the true value and amazingness of our spouse. They fester as they become a cesspool of filth the enemy dumps on our minds about our spouse and our relationship. Therefore, a quest to see and value your spouse amazingness requires that you have open and honest conversations so that you can deal with those dark areas that have created a gulf between you.

To have the kind of marriage that God desires for us to have, both husband and wife will have to do their fair share of forgiving. Especially forgiving what will be considered unforgivable. Perhaps, your relationship has gone sour—your spouse has broken faith, and you have experienced betrayal. Maybe you are at the point of giving up on the marriage, and you simply cannot see good anymore. This is also a pivotal point to put forgiveness into action. Forgiving the unforgivable is reflecting the forgiving nature of our God who forgave us our sins while we were still yet sinners. Whatever the outcome, forgiving your spouse will be liberating for you.

“Marriage means persevering. It means never giving up on each other.”

The principles shared in this blog post applies to all our relationships. When we complain and grumble about the things that are not going right, and we see only the things our children, our friends and government are not doing right, we will fail to see the good in anyone or situation. We, therefore, cannot be thankful for what we fail to see.

This is even more important in our relationship with God. Do you have an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness that seeks to see the goodness of God daily and in every situation even when it seems hard? An attitude of gratitude and a mindset that seeks to see good will attract God’s favour towards us. Seek to see God's goodness each day even when it seems least visible and you will find His goodness functioning at its best on your behalf.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends in the United States.

Let’s all develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving as we seek to see and value the amazingness of God in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones.

This post is dedicated to the my amazing husband. I am blessed to have you in my life. You are much loved, valued and appreciated.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Quest To See And Value Your Amazingness Part 1

It has been a long while since I wrote to enrich marriages. I have not lost sight of this part of my commitment to my readers to enrich relationships, especially marriages. I stumbled on some quotes and messages in the past few weeks coupled with my personal experience that brought enriching relationships back to the front burner. I will share in this post nuggets I have gleaned from these purposeful enlightening experience.

Paul’s prayer in the Book of Ephesians struck me, and I found it instructive for this post. I will paraphrase Chapter 1 verse 18 as follows;
"I pray that your eyes of understanding will be focused, clear and enlightened (your hearts will be flooded with light) so that you may see exactly God is calling you to do, and know and understand the confident hope He has given to those He called;"

In verse 17, Paul prayed that Jesus Christ will give us spiritual wisdom and insight, making us intelligent and discerning so that we may grow in our knowledge of God; knowing Him personally, deeply and intimately.

We need spiritual wisdom and insight to know God intimately. We need to have our eyes sharpened and focussed to see the goodness of God in our every waking moment. It is very easy for our vision to be obscured by the challenges, adversities and problems we have in life that we fail to take note of, acknowledge and appreciate the goodness of God; we often to fail to pay attention to the good that God is doing in our lives each day. In failing to do so, we also fail to appreciate God and give thanks, praise and adoration to Him for His wonderful deeds. We also fail to give Him the glory due to Him. 

This lack of gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness hinders a close and intimate relationship with God. Because we will tend to complain and grumble more about the things we are yet to have or receive from God.

Seek To See Good:
We need to seek to see God's goodness each day even when it seems least visible, and we will find His goodness functioning at its best on our behalf. We have to train our eyes to see the good God richly pours out even in the midst of our trials. When we do so will see good revealed at every turn. If we don’t make a concerted and deliberate effort to see the good in our lives each day, our eyes and minds will always focus on the part of the cup that is empty and we will miss the many blessings already in the cup.

This truth is also applicable to our relationships. So often, we fail to see the good in the lives of those God has brought into our lives; these could be our spouses, siblings, friends, etc. While my emphasis in this blog will be on our relationship with our spouse, this principle is relevant to all our relationships.

A dear Senior Sista-Friend shared with me recently The UCB Word for Today devotional titled “Strengthen Your Marriage.” In this devotional, a couple celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary shared three Cs that helped to strengthen their marriage.
1.       Commitment – putting the other person first
2.       Concern – genuinely seeking to find out what your spouse needs. “Because husbands and wives are as different as cheese and chalk.”
3.       Coping – “We can work it out.” You cannot always avoid conflict, but you can make it work for you.

A statement in the devotional caught fire in my spirit; “Closeness in marriage is not an accident; it is a decision you make, and keep making each day.”

I am strongly persuaded that one of the most important ways to develop emotional and spiritual intimacy in our marriage, and ultimately physical intimacy, is a quest to see and appreciate the good in our spouse. Beyond that, also to acknowledge and appreciate the good we see irrespective of the other changes our hearts desire to see in them. It is amazing what we can see and how much we can see when we give more than a cursory look and give attention to details.

Let me share my story with you to illustrate this point:
It was one of those weeks when so many things had to happen at the same time. It was also one of those weeks that my husband was at home in between long travels. We sat across each other on our dining table made of thousands of green glass smithereens sandwiched between two slabs of solid glass. The glass top dining table continues to be a source of inspiration to me and amazement to everyone who pays attention to it. Its uniqueness becomes more obvious as you take a closer look.

I was working with an intense focus on a protocol due for submission in less than 24 hours. My husband was also intently focused on the pile of envelopes on one side of his laptop, which he moved to the other side after working on the content of each envelope. I looked up occasionally from my laptop, wanting to catch his eyes on me or catch him looking at me with a smile. It didn’t happen. So I continued with my work.

Suddenly, my nerves fired shots of electricity through my right stump, and I winced in pain. Repeated firings had me groaning out loud. I looked across the table at my husband. He was so wrapped up in what he was doing that he didn’t hear me groaning.

So I kicked him with my left leg under the table. His head shot up, and he looked straight at me;
“You are not paying attention to me.”
He furrowed his brow. His eyes bore into mine. I winced again as another shot fired up my stump.
“My stump… Electric shocks…”
“Oh, sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t hear you.” His face lightened up, and the furrow disappeared.

The firing finally stopped. He continued with what he was doing. I continued for a while,then paused to look at him. That was when I noticed the pile on the right side had reduced while the pile on the left side mounted up. I knew what he was doing all the while. We had discussed it before he started and he asked for some clarifications as he worked. All of a sudden, the eyes of my understanding was illuminated; I realised what I had come to take for granted.

My husband was paying bills. He was crunching numbers. He was making decisions on what has to be paid, what can be paid and what would have to wait another month. He has been doing this for years. We became a single-income family when I stopped working and earning regular income at the end of 2007 because my health went downhill. It was a big deal and a huge concern for me, not to be able to contribute towards our family income in a significant way. But I would compile the bills ready for discussion and decision since I was at home all day and the one who takes receipt of the bills. In the last year leading to the lungs transplantation and the amputation of my legs, I could not even do this, and my husband had to take over completely, sorting and attending to the bills. While we discuss major stuff and pray together for God to supply our needs. Somehow, God makes provision for the huge pile of bills that comes in every month to get paid and to sustain us. The salary was just not enough.

So while I was getting angry at my husband for not paying the kind of attention I wanted to me, after all it was just the two of us at home, he was paying intent attention to keep us financially afloat. And I almost missed the intense effort he puts in every month to get it done, despite his heavy workload and frequent travels.

When we discussed the incidence later, I realized that I also missed one of the good that God did for us this year. For the past several years, my medical bills ran into many multiple hundreds of thousands Swiss francs. But in 2015, we had paid only a minute fraction in medical bills compared with the previous years. A huge hole in our finances had been sealed.

I knew more than ever before that I needed to retrain my eyes to focus on the awesome goodness of God, which He daily pour out on us. I also knew that I needed to have my eyes sharpened and focussed to see and value the amazingness of my husband; not once in all these years had he ever complained about the huge burden my medical issues had posed to our lives and our finances.

To be continued in Part 2.