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Just the mention of this Bible verse from Ephesians 5 makes many wives angry and makes their husbands duck for cover.

Let’s look at the full context of this verse. The chapter begins with

“Be imitators of God… and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us”and“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ”These two commands are written equally to wives and husbands. BOTH are to love and BOTH are to submit.

So, if that is true, then why did the Apostle Paul call out the husbands to love, and the wives to submit? Our distinct gender nature.

Wives don’t need extra explanation on how to love; they get it already.

Husbands don’t need extra explanation on how to submit; they get it already.

Consider the historically male dominated industries, such as the military and police. It is immediately apparent that there are ranks, as this is the way that the male mind works. Men are intuitively accepting of hierarchies.

 

Women do not have the same intuition, so Paul felt the need to further explain to them what submission looks like. Consider the historically female dominated industries, such as day care or teaching elementary school. It is immediately apparent that there is nurturing and love. Most men are ill equipped to survive in such environments, so Paul felt the need to specifically explain to them what love looks like.

Many couples have problems because the husband is submitting to his wife, believing that if he gives her everything she asks for she will be happy. Too often, wives don’t reciprocate and then end up feeling like the entire burden of the family is on them. God was wise when he laid out the solution. Wives should work on reciprocating submission, and Husbands should work on reciprocating love.

As a husband, I can say with certainty that my wife’s submission motivates me to love and care for her. Wives, submission is NOT a sign of weakness. Submission energizes Husbands to tenderly care for you!

The Christmas season brings such joy to so many people, yet this same joyful season also yields the highest depression and suicide rates.

 

Why?

 

Expectations.

 

To the degree that we have unreasonably high expectations, we fill ourselves with potentially destructive disappointment. Surely some loved one will not call, or will give a cheap and thoughtless gift, or won’t attend your party, or won’t spend enough time with you at the party, or…

Science shows that many small annoyances are more damaging to our happiness than large calamities, and similarly, many small encouragements elevate our mood more than any major events. This being true, how can we reduce the frequency of annoyances and increase the frequency of small encouragements?

Expectations.

 

Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying “I'd rather be a pessimist because then I can only be pleasantly surprised.”

While we don’t advocate pessimism, perhaps ol’ Ben’s words have particular application to us during the exciting, yet volatile Christmas season.

 

Jesus is famously quoted as saying “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

 

It isn’t our enemies that disappoint us during the Christmas season because we don’t have any expectations of them. We do, however, have expectations of those that we love, and therein is the problem. We may have a misguided understanding of love. Love should be less about how we expect to be loved, and more about how we will love others. What Jesus was saying is that we need to refocus our expectations of others downward, as we turn up the love in ourselves.

Wise words.

My struggle with suicide happened when I was a teen. My dad had an automotive shop, so I grew up around cars. At that time, Detroit was putting out the legendary muscle cars that today are being copycatted. Fast was in, and I was directly in the middle of that subculture.

Having the full use of my dad’s shop put me at a huge advantage over the other teens, and I took pride in restoring some great muscle cars. I was so immersed that I pursued a college education in “Engine Power Technology” and actually built hot rod engines for a living.

One particular Friday night, I put the finishing touches on a frame-up restoration of a burgundy red 1967 Chevy Chevelle. For 6 months I poured my soul into every aspect of that gorgeous piece of machinery, and this night I rolled it out on the street for the very first time. Many gathered to admire it, and I graciously bestowed the honor on a few awestruck souls to actually ride in it. This was the apex of all my money, time, and energy. This automobile clarified my identity as a Master-Builder worthy of respect.

This car had considerable power, and although I had some ridiculously oversize tires on the jacked-up rear end, it was effortless to make them spin. Spinning tires is fun! Fun, that is, until you wreck the car against another car.

While others watched. Without insurance.

In an instant my self-identity plummeted from “Stud” to “Loser”, and I was filled with shame for my stupidity. My heart was filled with embarrassment, and although I knew that I needed to fix my car as soon as possible, it would never be the same. I'm referring not to the car, but to myself.

That night, the enemy of my soul tempted me for the first time to end my life. Now, perhaps you are thinking that a wrecked car is a ridiculous reason to end your life, and today I would join you in that assessment. However, it was much more than just a car; it was my identity that was wrecked on that day.

I doubt that anyone reading this has been suicidal over wrecking a car, but let's break down the anatomy of the temptation.

I wanted other people to understand how I felt. I wanted them to know the depth of my pain. I wanted them to erect a statue of me and my car for all time, as a testimony to how successful I was.

For others, perhaps the catalyst is a failed marriage, a failed career, or the untimely death of a loved one. Issues like these are used by the enemy of our soul to trick us into doing the unthinkable. He whispers to us “If you kill yourself, everybody will understand just how much you really loved them!” “If you kill yourself, everyone will believe that you really meant what you said!” “If you kill yourself, people will have to acknowledge how much your contribution to their life really meant. Don’t you want to see them cry as they speak wonderful words of you at your funeral? Finally everyone will really appreciate you!”

Thoreau famously wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” In my professional opinion, there is a great deal of truth to this. We buy the lie that we need to 'suck it up' and put on a happy face so we don't bring anyone else down. We buy the lie that we need to do something extreme to get our point across. We buy the lie that nobody really knows us or understands us. We choose to live behind masks; prisons of our own making.

My friend, God knows more about you than even you do, and fully understands why you do everything that you do. He knows how hard you try, how much you love. He has been a silent witness your entire life, not only of what you do but what you were thinking and what motivated you. He knows all the bad stuff too, and loves you anyway. You fool yourself when you believe that you are all alone, because He is forever with you!

 

New Life Counseling Center exists to help you to express yourself in healthy and productive ways, which leads to genuine and healthy relationships. Yes, there is real evil in the world, but the world is also full of love and beauty. Let us help you to discover the unconditional love, unqualified acceptance, and unhurried presence that you need.

 

 

The well-known mythological Greek god Poseidon had an infamous son named Procrustes. Procrustes was a narrow-minded sort, who thought that he was always right. Anyone that didn’t see things his way was either strange or bad. One day he set up a rectangular metal bed on a busy road between two cities. By force, he made every traveler lay on the bed in order to measure how tall they were. When he found someone too tall, he cut off all the parts that hung over the bed, thereby killing them. When someone was too short, he stretched them to the ‘right’ size, killing them as well. The only people that were allowed to live, in Procrustes’ world, where those that he believed to be ‘just right’.

Thankfully, he made so many enemies that he was killed.

Does a version of Procrustes live on in you?

“Procrusteanism” is a term in psychology defined as “enforcing uniformity or conformity without regard to natural variation or individuality”

The Apostle Paul did a splendid job of describing the economy of love, as he likened the church community to a human body. He famously said “The body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

A large and often overlooked part of becoming mentally stable and emotionally happy is to fully appreciate and accept who you and others are uniquely created to be, and to stop trying to conform to others or reform others into your image. The divine Creator imagined your very special design and being. Equally, He uniquely shaped and formed others. Let’s learn all about who God created each of us to be. The change comes from discovery, and ceasing our striving.

This is the mission of New Life Counseling Center.

The Greek word translated to Character in English is the tool that shapes other substances. When the hammer and the stone meet, it is the stone that changes, not the hammer. In the same way, your character represents who you truly are inside, which does not change.

Personality is distinctly different. Your personality is the mask that you wear. We tend to wear whatever mask we believe will cause other people to give us what we want. It is manipulative, and is the human condition. We pretend to be friendly when we wish to sell something, we pretend to be sad or mad when we want our way with our spouse, and we pretend to be busy when we don't want to be disturbed. Perhaps when someone else close to us puts on their angry mask when they don't get their way, we put on our happy mask to avoid setting them off. Our kids put on their pout mask to get their way and we put on our.... you get the idea.

Oh the games we play.

The problem with putting on masks is that it is impossible to feel loved. Others may express a great deal of love to us, but we intuitively know that they are loving the imaginary person that we are projecting, not us. The only way that we are capable of receiving love is to expose our true selves.

Liberation from the good opinion of others is healing. The Apostle John said much about how God first loved us, and how we then reflect that love to others. God sees right past our petty masks and loves us more than anyone else possibly could. Even though that is true, we tend to wear a mask with God!

There is a sequence to our healing.

1: Start by being honest with ourselves. This sounds simple, but is actually quite hard. It takes strength and determination. Maybe you really were wrong in that argument. Maybe you really are proud, or sloppy, or insensitive. It takes a strong person to actually admit faults, even when nobody else is listening.

 

2: Be honest with God, after all, He already knows! Paul said that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ, so there is no reason to fear. Being honest with God is your first chance to experience receiving love for who you really are. Paul also said that there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.

 

3: Be honest with others, but from a position of strength and fulfillment that comes from #1 and 2.

Many find this simple teaching easy to read, but impossible to do. Therein is the benefit of professional guidance. Let us help you to actually put into practice more of what you already know.