Monday, November 26, 2007

P4E.050 Communication Breakdown

"Whut we have heeyuh, is fay-eh-yuh to communikite"
The Captain - Cool Hand Luke

I don't want to give you a false impression.
On the one hand, I realize that self-deprecation is a staple in my blog. On the other hand, I don't want you to think that I'm always a failure. Every once in a while, I slip-up and do the right thing. Many times I relate past behaviors or behaviors that I'm really trying to get a handle on. The thing about the flesh is that it's such a natural inclination for me, that if I don't keep a constant vigil on
it, I will return to it in a heartbeat.

I am not naturally a relational person. This has been a revelation to me. This self-awareness has helped me to remain open and teachable. My wife and others have helped me to see patterns in my behavior when it comes to relationships.

One of the things that I've learned that I do is that I "shut down" towards my wife for any and all types of reasons. Shutting down means so many things:

- I stop talking
- I stop listening
- I stop eye contact
- I disengage
- I become inwardly focused
- I build up a callous shell that keeps me from recognizing others emotions and my own
- I become careless with my words
- I lose perspective
- I get whiny and immature
- I get dark and cold
- I get defensive when confronted about shutting down

In short, there's a failure to communicate. What I'm learning to do is to recognize when this is happening and to take steps to "reboot." Recognizing when I'm shutting down takes a certain amount of self-awareness that only comes with practice. "Rebooting" many times involves humility.

It may start with my apologizing for having shut down and just having recognized it. I re-engage by making eye contact and focusing on my wife and trying to see things from her perspective. I listen to what she is saying and what she is expressing. What is she feeling? I try to stay open and teachable and not get defensive. I try to examine the reasons why I shut down. What am I feeling?

I talk, but I'm careful with my words. There's an old carpenter's motto that goes "measure twice, cut once." This is wise counsel when it comes to what comes out of my mouth. When I'm in the spirit, I think twice before I speak. I stay away from saying things that start with "Well, if you really want to know what I think..." or "Let me be brutally honest..." or "You always..." or "You never..." or "Why can't you just..."

I suppress my desire to be an "individual" and to renew my vow to "become one flesh." I consider my opportunity to put my wife's thoughts, wishes, desires and ideas before my own. That's a more spiritually mature attitude that puts others interests before my own.

Do you ever struggle with "communication breakdown?" Is my experience helpful to you?

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Friday, November 16, 2007

P4E.049 Abandoned

Dave, our leader at our Life Partners study, was helping one of the husbands in our group with a crisis in his marriage this week. He cut through so much and finally summarized what was going on in this fellow's life. When he did, I really identified with it and thought I would share it. It went like this:

+ I chose to become fearful.
+ I chose to refuse help.
+ I chose to blame the one who was risking to help (blame shifted).
+ I chose to abandon my help.
+ The recurring theme in the crises that come up in my marriage is: I fail to take responsibility.

There's so much here. This pattern has occurred many times in my marriage. At the heart of it is the fact that Scripture says that when God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, He created for him a "help." Someone who had his best interests at heart because she was flesh of his flesh and bones of his bones. So many of my problems stem from the fact that in spite of my wife's incredible insight, organizational skills, relational counsel, and plain good sense, I can't bring myself to accept (much less, actively seek out) her help. For so long, I have failed to take responsibility for so much and it has made my wife feel abandoned. It still happens when my flesh grabs control. It's taken me a long time to shift my attitude about her from "enemy" to "help." I see it now. God help me to keep that perspective, because she is good help.

Peace, Kim

Friday, November 9, 2007

P4E.048 An Understanding Way

The responses to the last few posts (which go out as an e-mail to many) cause me to pause...

I want to reiterate a point that my mentor, Ken Nair, has made. It's that each husband has the responsibility to understand his own wife. No one else's. The concept comes from I Peter 3:7

"You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

(side note: Ken likes to characterize the word "weaker" in this verse as meaning "spiritually/emotionally fragile," which helps me.)

One of the study helps I use defines the Greek word for understanding in this verse, "gnosis," in this way:

"Knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding

1. the general knowledge of Christian religion
2. the deeper more perfect and enlarged knowledge of this religion, such as belongs to the more advanced
3. esp. of things lawful and unlawful for Christians
4. moral wisdom, such as is seen in right living "

Note that I Peter 3:7 requires me to live with my wife in such a way that demonstrates my "knowledge" of Christ and His ways.

There are so many things that go into understanding my wife. Her parents, birth order, gender, sibling, spiritual gifting, physical environment, spiritual environment, age, motherhood, friends, experience, education, interests, tastes and so on....

Will I ever completely understand her? No. Does God require something of me that is impossible? No. So, should I suspend the quest to understand her? No.

Back to my original point, Scripture encourages me to live with my wife in an understanding way. And you with yours. That said, I believe with Ken Nair, that there are many ways that God gifted women. That God made them different from us men. That God meant for the differences to glorify Him. That wives are meant to be a "help" to us. Finally, that the encouragement to live with them in an understanding way is the vehicle through which they help us.

I have a huge tendency to be overwhelmed with projects. But in the call to understand my wife, my commitment is: (to steal a quote) I will not tire, I will not falter, I will not fail. God help me in this quest. Join me if you will...

Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness, Kim

Thursday, November 1, 2007

P4E.047 Where There's Smoke...

I can't ignore the major news that has been all around me. Living in
Southern California, fire has dominated the news over the last week
and a half.

Many of the lessons that we are learning from the fires are useful and
seem obvious:

I should keep a defensible area around my home.
I should know what my insurance coverage is and where the physical policy is.
I need a plan for evacuation if necessary.
It would be a good idea to have a list of things I would want to
gather up if I needed to evacuate quickly.
I should take pictures or video of the interior of my home to document what might be lost to my insurer.

And so on....This is where we men naturally go when faced with this
type of circumstance.

But, I come back to the idea that God puts physical circumstances in
my life to teach me spiritual lessons
. My wife has recently told me
that I've been "edgy lately." Even the fact that I felt irritated by
the remark let me know that she was right. It is ironic that I work
for a company called "EDGE," because much of my edginess finds its
roots there. So, I have been "edgy lately." That translates to
impatient, frustrated and angry. It expresses itself in scary facial
expressions, verbal outbursts and physical exhaustion.

What I've been taught is that anger, impatience and frustration are
"secondary emotions." In essence, they are the "smoke" that indicates
that a fire is burning somewhere. Other important (primary) feelings
precede anger, impatience and frustration. As I think about how the
fires have made me feel, I've come up with this list:

out of control
ill prepared
financially unstable
awed (at the power of destructive ability of fire)
relief (at the fact that fire has not come my way (yet))
wondering (about the future)
sympathy for others' losses
outrage (at the thought of arson)
inspired (by the offers by so many to help and pray)

Two questions help me to determine the spiritual lesson from the
physical circumstance of the fires:

First, did Christ ever feel any of these emotions? 2000 years have
passed, but outrage then felt as outrage feels now. And a bridge is
instantly erected that connects me to Him. He came to be one of us, to experience what we experience, to feel what we feel. And when I acknowledge that He felt what I am feeling, it honors that effort on His part.

Second, have I caused someone close to me (my wife, first) to feel any of these feelings? Being self-aware enough to know how deeply vulnerable I can be made to feel by a fire...I wonder how vulnerable I've made my wife feel when the fire of my anger flares? I don't like all (Christ did not come to make people feel vulnerable, but to be strength to them)...I apologize for it...I ask forgiveness for
it...I commit to not letting myself put my wife (or others close to me) in a vulnerable position again. God, please help me in my weakness...

Peace, Kim