Friday, March 30, 2007

Stop Stealing From Your Spouse

I almost never dream.

But last night I had not one, but three very vivid dreams.

In the first one I had friends who owned a large ATV dealership.  They showed me a pair of customized “four-wheelers” designed to go together, perfect for some romantic couple for Valentine’s Day.

Now these owners trusted me a lot.  I even had keys to their dealership. 

Well I thought of the perfect couple for those romantic four-wheelers.  So I let myself in, hitched them together and drove them off to show this other couple. 

Somehow (you know how dreams are) the four-wheelers got lost.  We couldn’t find them anywhere.  I thought, “How can I face my friends?  They trusted me completely, and I was just trying to help, but look what I’ve done.”

Then immediately came my second dream.

It was halftime at a college basketball game.  The band was playing, and I was out in the hall.  A band from another school, all dressed up, came down the hall.  They said they wanted to hear the band that was playing, and wanted to know if it was okay if they went in and watched.  I said, “Sure, why not?”

I held the door while they funneled in.  Then to my horror they started playing, blasting their horns louder than the actual halftime band.  The halftime show was ruined, and I was to blame.

Then came my third dream.

I was alone in a friend’s garage.  He was restoring a really old pickup.  I got in, and immediately the truck began to roll.  I hit the brakes, but they weren’t hooked up.  I jumped out and got it to stop, but not before it bumped into a work bench, putting a big dent in the hood.

I woke up, and it was all so vivid I prayed, “Lord, is this just nonsense, or is there something to it?”

Immediately I thought of the person who told me recently about an “emotional affair,” and I thought of this phrase, “Stop stealing from your spouse.”

What do my dreams have to do with stealing from your spouse?

Your spouse has put their trust in you.  You probably share houses and cars and bank accounts.  They sacrificed all future romantic possibilities just to be with you.  They have put all their eggs in your basket.

Like my friends who owned the dealership.  They trusted me completely, even with the keys to their business.  I didn’t mean to steal from them, but that’s what I did.  I took what belonged to them and lost it.

Your heart and emotional energy belong to your spouse.  They are trusting you.  If you are giving your emotional energy to someone else, you have stolen from them, even if you didn’t mean to.

In my second dream, I gave that band permission to go where they did not belong.  I thought it was no big deal, but I was wrong.  As soon as I opened that door, the situation was out of my control. 

In an emotional affair, you let someone go where they do not belong, into your heart.    You think you have it under control, but you do not.  That band will begin blasting so loud it will ruin what the rightful band is playing.  What seemed so innocent, even helpful at the beginning, will turn into an obnoxious, discordant mess. 

In my third dream, no one knew I was in that garage.  No one knew I slipped into my friend’s old truck.  But what I didn’t know was that once it began rolling, I couldn’t stop it. 

Maybe you are having an emotional affair, and no one knows.  Your secret is safe, and you can stop it anytime you want.  My friend, you have been deceived.  Those brakes don’t work.  Once an emotional affair gets rolling, it’s hard to stop.  And here is one thing you can bet on, there will be damage.

This may not sound like a nice, romantic story.  But for someone, it will be the best thing you can do for your spouse.  Sure, you may not be involved physically, but if you are giving your emotional energy to someone else, then stop it.  Make it a gift.  Decide today to stop stealing from your spouse.

(as heard on Wave 94.1 FM)


Monday, March 26, 2007

Who Do You Love?

“I can’t wait to retire,” she said.

“What are you going to do then?” I asked.

“I’m gonna move way out in the country, where I can be near God’s creation.”

“ And away from people…” I added for her.

“Yes, away from all these crazy people,” she said.

“But people are the CROWN of God’s creation!” I said. “If you want to be near God’s creation, you need to surround yourself with people, then love them like God loves them.”

We get so busy with our duties that we forget our supreme duty - to love people.

One time I was driving home from church with my teenage son. You know how sometimes you have to pry things out of your teenagers? In this case I pried it out, then wished I could put it back!

So we’re driving along in the dark, and my son suddenly says, “When I move out, the first thing I’m going to do is get my lip pierced.”

“Why on earth would you do that?” I said.

“Just over on the side,” he said, as if that would make me feel better.

Then he said, “Well, what would you do if I did that?”

I said, “First of all, I would still love you. I will love you no matter what.”

Jesus calls us to love everyone. But being finite, I can’t really get to everyone in order to love them, so I made up this priority list about who to love first.

It starts with my wife. If you are married, there is only one person you are “one” with. So at the top of your “love list” must be your spouse.

If you are married with children, remember your spouse comes before the children, even though the children can be more demanding and time consuming. The children need to move out and move on someday, but you are “one” with your spouse - ’til death do you part. Make sure your husband or wife is at the top of your love list everyday. Have you done something special for your spouse lately? This would be an excellent time.

Second on my love list is my children, especially while they are growing up. Of all the people on the planet, I am most responsible for my own kids. Our pastor reminded us recently that we are to be our kid’s parents, not their best friends. Yes, sometimes you just have fun with your children, like a friend would. But other times you have to lay down the law. When they are toddlers, you may have to exert authority to keep them from hurting themselves. And that holds true until they grow up and move out. But it’s always done with love as the motivation.

So, you love your spouse first, and your children second.

Now, what if you don’t have a spouse or children, or if you do, who is next on your priority list of whom to love? Your parents. The Bible offers specific instructions about how we are to treat our parents. They must be high on our love list. Then come other family members, including siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even in-laws.

And after our family members, for Christians the call is clear. We are to love our fellow believers.* Then after that we are simply called to love our “neighbor,” meaning anyone we happen to encounter on any given day.**

So here is my priority list again:

First is my spouse, then my children. Next are my parents, followed by other family members. Then come my bothers and sisters in Christ. And finally just loving anyone God brings into my life today.

I know dealing with people can be the most aggravating and irritating part of the day. That’s why we need to work on it, and keep our priorities straight.

“But wait a minute, Doug. You didn’t mention friends.”

Yes, we should love our friends, obviously. But I compare that to making sure you eat your favorite food. You don’t have to make a point to do it.

So take a look at your schedule. How do you spend your time? Who is getting your emotional energy and resources? Ask yourself the tough question, “Am I doing what I need to do to love the people I’m supposed to be loving?

Comments? E-mail me:

* Galatians 6:10 “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
** Luke 10

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Get Wisdom - No Matter What It Costs You

I was more judgmental as a young man.

When I saw a weakness in someone I judged them to be weak.

Then along came an older man whom I respected highly.  He was a successful businessman and outspoken about his faith.  He had a nice family.  He was very gracious and loving, and when he smiled you thought “Now there is the true joy of the Lord.”

I’ll never forget the day he told me that he and his wife had gone for marriage counseling. 

I wonder if the shock showed on my face.

I had always held him in high esteem, and now I find out that his marriage is crumbling?

The shock must have shown, because he said, “Oh, it’s nothing bad.  Just some things we are working on to make our marriage stronger.”

That was quite a few years ago, and over time I have grown to respect what he did more and more.

I guess I’m the typical American male.  And one thing we don’t do is admit to having weaknesses.  Oh, we know we have them, but we work on them in private.  We try to fix things ourselves before anyone finds out.

The thing is, if we don’t ask for help, we don’t get any.  And if we think we are smart enough to handle everything alone we are wrong – and dumb.

This man saw some weaknesses in his marriage.  Instead of trying to solve them alone, he knew enough to know that a wise counselor could help them be much stronger.  He was willing to humble himself.  That humbling was a price he was willing to pay in order to get some wisdom for his marriage.

His action reminds me of Proverbs 4:7 which tells us to get wisdom, no matter what it costs.

In his case it cost him the humbling of asking for help, the money for the counselor, and the time spent in counseling when he could have been conducting business.

But what if he hadn’t paid that price?  Think of the cost of a wrecked marriage.  Think of the cost of a divorce.  Or even the emotional toll of a dysfunctional marriage.  Those are all much higher prices than the cost of getting some wise counsel.

That’s why the Bible places the value of wisdom so high.  King Solomon said, “Get wisdom…though it cost you all you have…”

Then he explains the value.  “When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.”*

Do you feel like your walk is hampered?  Does it feel like just as you begin to run, you stumble? 

Maybe it’s time to stop trying to handle it by yourself.  Get some help.  Seek some wise counsel. 

Yes, there is a price.  Yes, it will be humbling.  It will cost you time and money.  But think of the time and money wasted every time you stumble.  Get those stumbling blocks out of the way. 

Think about this, you would have already removed your stumbling blocks by yourself, if you could.  So whatever stumbling blocks are still tripping you up are probably stumbling blocks you need help with.

Why wait any longer?  Get the help you need and get them out of the way. 

It’s time to get wisdom, whatever it costs you.

(as featured on Wave 94.1 FM)