Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's not all about me

Did you know that according to statistics, 85% of all divorces are for "non-severe" reasons?


There are many times within the last 20 plus years of pastoral ministry that people have asked Larry and I if they should stay in an unhappy marriage for others sake, or specifically for "the kids sake." Our answer is, unless you are in the situation where the Bible says divorce is an option, you should stay married. (You can find these guidelines in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, among other places in scripture.)

Since I am basing this belief on the Bible completely and not getting it out of my own head I've always thought it to be extremely reliable advice. I do realize, unfortunately that even people who consider themselves strong believers do not respect the Word of God as the final authority on marriage and make up their own rules as they go along. One thing is for sure - if you want to have controversy, just start teaching God's Word when it comes to marriage. (The Word of God is truth and sometimes the truth hurts.)

There are many times that Larry and I have not felt in love over the past 20 years and we've gone through some rough patches. We've made no secret of that to our church and shared extremely open and vulnerable our ups and downs. If there's one thing I'm really, really sure of it's that I'm so glad that through all those times I chose to stay -- sometimes for no other reason than:

1) I knew it was Biblically the right thing to do.
2) For the kid's sake.
3) For the sake of the body of Christ and those we represent.

I come from a Christian home that crumbled in dysfunction and divorce. It's not something I give all the details about because it involves so many other people and only for that reason, I'm guarded on the specifics. But I will say - it was living hell, for all involved.

It doesn't matter if you are 2 or 42 when your parents divorce...it affects you like nothing else. Some people say, "I'll wait until the kids are grown and then it will be easier." Don't be so sure. Yes, there are other hurts in the world just as deep and difficulties to overcome, but divorce is a unique wound.

Larry and I often tell our congregation that the reason God says in His word that He hates divorce is because it hurts His children and God can't stand anything that hurts His kids. If you filed for divorce and it was for an unBiblical reason of course God forgives. He also uses people for His glory who are divorced. But I wouldn't advise just because you know God forgives, that you run out and do it. The Bible says that we shouldn't sin that grace may abound. (Romans 6:1)

Thankfully there's the power of God and also this great thing called Christian counseling that helped me through when my parents got divorced. After a bazillion hours of counseling and prayer when I got through on the other side of the pain I realized it was something I needed to greatly learn from and apply to my own life.

You see, the great thing is, we can all make our own choices. I knew I had a choice to build the kind of marriage I dreamed of. And I was resolutely determined to make that choice and succeed. Author Mark Batterson says in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, to "criticize by creating." That's become one of my mottos in life with everything. You see, many people will talk on and on about the hurts of their upbringing and do nothing about it but criticize it and basically get no where with that, except more down in the dumps. I've chosen instead to criticize by creating...creating the kind of family I want. The gift God gives each of us is our own personal opportunity to "do it right." The best way to move forward in your life is to take that which the devil threatened to break you with, and allow God to SHAPE YOU with it, to be all He ever designed you to be!

I couldn't wait to start my own marriage and family and make it what I had always dreamed of. I would encourage any of you who went through any type of trauma and dysfunction as a child - don't stay stuck at that point. Don't just sit around and talk about it. You can rise above! Simply criticize by creating and step out into your dream. It may be -- in fact I can almost guarantee WILL BE - radically different from the way you were raised and the customs of your family but that's the great thing -- IT'S YOUR TURN NOW. So take your turn! LIVE YOUR DREAM. Don't let anybody change your mind or stop you. Have the marriage you want and do it your way and don't settle for anything less or be pulled back by people who want you to do it differently.

There's a song by one of my favorite groups, Sugarland, that says:

I ain't settling for just getting by
I've had enough so so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting too low, so raise the bar high
Just enough ain't enough this time
I ain't settling for anything less than everything


That's another one of my core values for my life ~ NO SETTLING.

I'm not settling for an okay marriage.
Not settling for "comfortable love."
Not settling for just living with a "buddy", a "friend" or a "roomate".
Not settling for a life of "visitation" with my kids every other weekend
Not settling for "joint custody"
Not settling for a "different definition" of family
Not settling for mediocrity...
in any aspect of my marriage...
or relationship with my kids.
No, no, no.
I'm going for the whole enchilada in this thing
and it means pursuing it hard every single day.It means, learning, growing, pursuing...
reaching ever higher.
Never being content to rest
upon the levels of the past
but reaching for MORE.

I don't want a status quo marriage. I want more. That's really what it's about in so many ways...MORE. I want more in my life. The best news is, I determine whether I get more -- the proof of desire is in my pursuit. It doesn't matter how difficult it gets -- I'm plowing through, and not just to survive, but to THRIVE.

Some people will advise people not to marry someone who came from what is often called a "broken home" because those who came from a divorced home will often be more likely themselves to get divorced. John Maxwell says that "example isn't everything, it's the only thing." I believe that's true however I personally had a hard time understanding why anybody who has ever been through the pain of their parents getting divorced would ever willingly put themselves through it for any reason knowing what literal hell it is.

I realize everyone's reactions to pain and traumas are different. With me personally, having divorced parents did not make me more prone to say, "Larry, we're giving up and getting a divorce!" when we have gone through problems. Instead I have always been as far away minded from divorce as one could possibly get. I would rather die than divorce, and I'm literally serious when I say that. And if he tried to divorce me (for reasons other than abuse/adultery) I'd contest it every turn and overturn every single rock on earth and climb every mountain if I had to, to make it work.

Through these years I've learned that every marriage has ups and downs. Many people don't spend significant time working through the downs and just get their eyes on what they view as "greener grass." Remember, the grass on the other side of the fence may be green but it still needs to be mowed. Everything looks rosier with someone you aren't paying the bills with or going through the difficulties of raising kids with. I realize some people would differ with me on that and would say, "I'm glad I divorced...my happiness was more important" or, "I don't regret my divorce, I'm much better off now" but again what does the Bible say? Is your own comfort all you have to think about?

Let me say I know some of you reading this have been the one cheated on, the one who was beaten, the one who was abused. You didn't ask for this to happen to you. You weren't the one who mistreated, or filed for divorce. And you don't deserve any of it. It is not cases such as yours that I refer to, please know that. God help you as you pick up the pieces...I know how hard this must be for you and my heart goes out to you. You are living in a new normal that you didn't ask for and I can only pray that God re-pays you 100 fold for what you've gone through.

Those aforementioned situations are EXCEPTIONS. Remember, 85 % of divorces are for unBiblical or non-severe reasons. Did you know also that in the majority of divorce cases, only ONE partner actually WANTS THE DIVORCE? Amazing. What does this all add up to? Somebody in the relationship is simply saying, "it's all about me."

Larry and I teach in our marriage conferences is that marriage is an everyday exercise in getting beyond your selfishness. This is not just true not just for the married couple. Because see, when you decide to have kids, it's important to remember that you don't just prioritize your marriage for YOU, you also prioritize it for THEM -- because you are the first example they have of a Godly marriage.

Larry and I are cognizant of the fact every day that we are the model for our three and we want them to see, Mom and Dad are in a relationship of unconditional love. They know life has not been easy all the time for us, but they know we are radically committed and in love. They have absolutely no doubt that we are not just committed - nor are we just "business partners" - nor are we simply two best buds living in the same house - but they know we are absolutely in passionate love with each other. And when that passion starts to wane a little bit, we work on it all the harder. This is so important to the health of their future marriages. I want to teach them what to do, not have them learn from me what NOT TO DO as so many have to learn from their parents.

When I see how God has blessed our family so much, and others around me comment on what the Lord is doing in my kids and through our family, I say to myself..."was staying through the rough patches worth it? You bet."

It's worth it to see the benefits for my kids and also, for those around me in the church. Larry and I are also the example for our church. We are the spiritual parents of our church. When I see our spiritual children follow in our footsteps, the blessing is indescribable. When I hear one of our couples say, "We started doing such and such just like Pastors Larry & Deanna taught us", it just gives me a feeling of joy that is unexplainable!!! We have to set the standard for marriage GOD'S WAY and show people what is possible, and that YES, THEY CAN DO IT...they can not just survive, but THRIVE.

Some of you reading this might be going through a tough spot and wonder if you'd be better off leaving. I was reading Dear Abby one day and saw that a reader asked her, "should I leave him?" Abby advised that the wife ask, "is my life better off with him or without him?" I guess my only question about that is, is it really all about YOUR LIFE? With some people, I truly believe when they are at the courthouse and receive their divorce decree, the judge should hand them a t-shirt as they leave that says, "It's all about me!"

One day we were doing testimonies in the church and a lady shared, "I'd like to thank God for my divorce. Since I filed for divorce, I've had so much more time for myself and it's been just wonderful." What a load of doo-doo!!! Again, is it really all about us? Our time? Our life? Our personal happiness?

God never said would be easy. But it is possible.

So when you need to, remind yourself - "it's not all about me." When you get to heaven one day do you think the most important question God will ask you is, "were you happy?" I don't think so.

I believe His first question might possibly be, "were you faithful?"

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to go to church with a lady whose "testimony" was that God saw that she wasn't happy and "released" her from her husband.

This child of divorced parents wanted to reach over and wring her scrawny little neck every time she said that. The nerve!! I'd like to ask her kids if they share the same testimony. My mom visited our church once and heard her babbling about her "God-sanctioned" divorce and had a similar reaction...

I totally agree - marriage is forever!!! Period.

Toots said...

My husband and I were married right out of high school and saying we had ups and downs would not even begin to be the right words. But through God's love and mercy we have made it, we have been married for almost 16 years. I feel so blessed that I have Pastor Larry and Pastor Deanna as an example that I can count on to give us the truth when we need to hear it.And show us how to live through their great example of what marriage is all about.

susan said...

I just wanted to let you know I agree on everything you are teaching on marriage. I am not married yet and hopefully one day I will . You have taught me so much ! Thank you not only for being honest about it but also for everything you have taught me.

Love you !

Kristan said...

Deanna,

I want to applaud you for having the courage to write about things that would make many blush. I still remember the day you walked into my 7th-grade class - all girls, separated from the boys, who Larry was addressing at the same time - and you opened with the line, "God wants you to have an amazing sex life!" I have chuckled about that numerous times over the years, and the point being, it stuck with me.

Forget the negative reactions - I, as well as many others, are both enjoying AND learning from your "things I've learned" series - keep them coming!

-Kristan

Deanna Shrodes said...

Thank you, Kristan! Just want you to know how proud Larry and I are of you and the wonderful wife, and woman of God you have become. Youth pastors have no idea the impact they have made until many years later when they see how "the kids" have turned out and may I say you've turned out quite incredible and your parents sure do have a lot to be proud of. Love ya

Anonymous said...

This particular blog is another phenomenal one! We are very likeminded when it comes to marriage partnership and focus!

Are we related? Two As One

We are one in the spirit ... We are one in the Lord. Yes, I guess we're related. Bless your marriage.