Father’s love and affirmation is vital

davidmeece

SINGER-SONGWRITER David Meece has produced some profoundly moving songs over his long career, many of them telling the story about his struggles with his self-worth.

If you have ever attended a Meece concert you will know that he intersperses his music with deeply personal illustrations about growing up in a family with an alcoholic father.

One of the most powerful of these is when he tells of the night that his father, in a drunken rage, drove the family car through the wall of David’s bedroom.

His father staggered out of the wreckage, held a shotgun to David’s head, stared into his eyes and said, “You’re worthless…”

When David Meece recounts this story he points out that those words were more devastating to him than had his father actually pulled the trigger.

You can hear the pain that it caused Meece through his song, When I was Seventeen:

My daddy left home when I was a kid
Said he had to move on
He took the bottle as his only friend
I didn’t know why, I didn’t know why

Mama tried to do the best that she could
But she just didn’t understand
All the confusion I was feeling inside
I didn’t know why, I didn’t know why

Feeling so alone
How I wish back then I’d known
When I was seventeen

From study hall to the senior prom
I felt like no one at all
And just a shadow in a crowded room
I didn’t know why, I didn’t know why

David Meece carried the scars of his father’s deadly words for years and despite his fame and success as a musician, they crippled him.

And many of you reading this column right now can relate to Meece’s pain.

But then something brought a radical change to Meece’s heart. He discovered the deep, deep love that God had for Him.

He discovered he wasn’t worthless but precious in God’s eyes.

He discovered what many others have discovered – that God loved him for who he was and that He called him “son”.

David Meece discovered that God was his Father and that he would never be rejected by Him.

In his song, My Father’s Chair, he contrasts the love of his Father God with the abandonment that he felt from his earthly father:

Sometimes at night I’d lie awake
Longing inside for my father’s embrace
Sometimes at night I’d wander downstairs
And pray he’d returned, but no one was there.
Oh, how I’d cry, a child all alone
Waiting for him to come home.

My father’s chair, sat in an empty room
My father’s chair, covered with sheets of gloom
My father’s chair through all the years
And all the tears I cried in vain
No one was there in my father’s chair.

Sometimes at night I dream of a throne
Of my loving God, calling me home
And as I appear, He rises and smiles
And reaches with love to welcome His child
Never to cry, never to fear
In His arms, safe and secure.

My Father’s chair sits in a royal room
My Father’s chair holds glory beyond the tomb
My Father’s chair, my God is there
And I am His eternal heir
Someday I’ll share my Father’s chair.

Study after study reiterates that a father’s love and affirmation is vital for the healthy emotional development of a child.

Many of us understand the feeling of being abandoned by our natural fathers.

And the scars and pain of this loss can be carried well into our adult years.

But here is good news!

God longs to be your heavenly Father and when you turn to Him in simple trust and faith, He accepts you as a treasured son or daughter.

You can be His much loved son or daughter –now that is reason to celebrate this Father’s Day!?

Going light: ‘keeping score’ weighs down marriages

backpack

THE OLYMPICS are here again and the world will marvel at the exploits of superbly fit athletes competing against each other for gold and a place in history.

For Aussies, when we think of the Olympics, our minds go to the pool. But there will be a lot of excitement out on the velodrome where our cyclists will also battle for glory!

Over the last several years I have been something of an on again, off again bike rider myself.

I say on again, off again because I have not been able to maintain the kind of consistency with riding that I would like.

I have all the necessary equipment – an Avanti carbon framed bike, cleats and of course, the much maligned Lycra nicks!

I have morphed into that strangest of early 21st Century suburban creatures, the MAMIL (“Middle Aged Man in Lycra”).

Yet despite all the gear I have not become the Cadel Evans of the back streets of my suburb.

Oh, and I also own a backpack.

I must say that I am rather proud of my backpack.

I have had it for about 7 to 8 years and in that time it has shared many a journey with me as well as assisting me in transporting a number of necessary items from A to B.

I have also become quite adept at what I can actually pack into it.

On a recent trip I managed to find room for a heavy bike chain, three highlighter pens, two standard pens for writing, a complete change of clothes and a pair of shoes (bike cleats won’t cut it around the office!), a stoutly packed lunch box, at least one book, some writing paper and preparation notes for a sermon I was working on.

I was even able to squeeze in my wallet, watch and phone when I discovered I had left them out in the original packing!

We marvel at what a woman can put into her hand bag but people are in awe of what I can cram into a backpack!

It occurs to me that many people carry backpacks in their marriages.

I wrote recently about the baggage that we bring with us into our marriages and how important it is to deal with that.

What about the baggage we also accumulate after we are married and which we stuff into our backpack called “for future use, as needed?”

You know what I mean!

There was the time your wife smashed the car. Into the backpack it goes, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice to remind her of her incompetence.

What about that time when your husband forgot to bring the washing in as you had asked him to?

In the middle of an argument, you reach into your backpack and draw out your deadly weapon: “You always let me down like this! Remember the time when you…”

On and on it goes, with our backpacks becoming heavier as the years pass, bulging at the seams.

We human beings can cram an awful lot into our emotional backpacks!

And we take great delight in dumping their contents on our husband or wife when we feel we need to emphasise a point.

One thing I have noticed about cyclists at the Olympics.

Regardless of what event they compete in, they don’t carry backpacks! Olympic cyclists know that they must travel light to ensure maximum speed.

It’s good advice for a marriage – travel as lightly as possible.

Carrying around your emotional backpack, waiting to dump it on your partner, only undermines your relationship.

Better to dump the whole backpack into the hands of God and let Him free you of its contents.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

Backpacks might be good for MAMILs on suburban streets but they are lousy “accessories” for an Olympic cyclist…and a marriage.?

Forgiving others removes emotional baggage

sorry

Some of the emotional baggage that we carry with us into our relationships is found in a sack labelled un-forgiveness.

The idea that someone has wronged us and that they should pay has been likened to a debt – the person owes us for what they have done.

But when we carry this kind of baggage around with us we also end up carrying what author David Seamands calls the “Fearsome Four of guilt, resentment, striving and anxiety.”

That is a lot of baggage to lug around!

More importantly, if our practice in life has been to not forgive, then we can be sure that this will also be our habit in marriage.

Forgiveness is a complicated subject because there are so many intricate avenues and nuances associated with it.

“I was the victim of verbal and emotional abuse for twenty years in my marriage – how can I be expected to forgive that?”

“My father suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of a brutal regime. Surely you don’t mean he needs to forgive them?”

I want to assure you that I understand these statements. While I have not experienced treatment like that or other horrors inflicted on people, I can appreciate how difficult a thing like forgiveness can be in these situations.

But I am also challenged by this statement:

“The world is made for forgiveness; it is made for grace; it is made for love in all of life. The need for these has been built into the structure of our bodies, in every interpersonal relationship. We are made for grace and love and acceptance.”

Every one of us hungers for grace. Every one of us longs to be accepted. We all want to be loved.

And if this is true, then there lies within all of us the capacity to demonstrate that same grace, acceptance and love to others.

The problem is that some of us feel we have a right to hang on to our hurts and to withhold forgiveness to those who have mistreated us.

This kind of thinking leads to destruction. We slowly torture the other person by our refusal to forgive, forever keeping them imprisoned by their misdeed and our lack of grace toward them.

But we also keep ourselves imprisoned. While ever we refuse to forgive the other person, we give them power over us to keep us locked up in our bitterness, pain and rejection.

Yet at the heart of the word forgiveness are two incredible concepts.

The first is that to forgive is “to let go”. When we forgive someone we make a deliberate choice to let go of the offence as well as letting go of our perceived right to make them pay or to exact revenge.

The second is that “to release”. When we release a person through the act of forgiveness we make a choice to not keep them enslaved to our bitterness or held prisoner forever for their act of wrongdoing.

And we also release ourselves!

While ever we hold on to our grudge or some so called “right” to feel the way we do, we inadvertently give the other person power over us because we are forever held captive by them and what they did to us.

Little wonder then, that people who do not forgive fall prey to the “Fearsome Foursome!”

At the height of the US Civil War, a commander told President Lincoln that he “had an enemy and (you) must slay him!”

To which Lincoln wisely replied, “If I make my enemy my friend, have I not slain my enemy?”

You were made for forgiveness, grace, love and acceptance.

And so are the people in your life that need your forgiveness…?

Finding God in the wilderness

wilderness

As I write this, God has been leading me into the wilderness again, so it is fitting that my thoughts turn to Psalm 63, written by David when he too, found himself in the wilderness.

What impresses me about Psalm 63 is the way in which David recalls moments when he has seen God’s power and glory. In fact, it was God Himself that he saw in in the house of worship.(Psalm 63:2-5).

I wonder what it was that David saw? And when have I seen evidence of God’s power and glory in my life?

I vividly recall the time that I, along with other leaders in the church I was pastoring were called to the bedside of a young expectant Mum who was in the beginnings of suffering a miscarriage.

Humanly speaking it seemed impossible that she would carry her child full term.

But we gathered around her hospital bed, held hands and prayed.

I confess that my faith was weak and I left the hospital fully expecting a call later that day to say that she had lost her baby.

But she didn’t and she gave birth a few months later to a very healthy boy!

It was certainly a demonstration of God’s power, if not His glory.

But as I said previously, David says that He saw God in the sanctuary (Psalm 63:2). I take this to mean that God Himself was the One that David sought – the One we also seek in our wilderness times – and that this was a greater blessing by far than His acts of power and glory.

So right there in the wilderness, David chooses to both praise and rejoice in God. His will be a life of constant praise and of giving glory to God with his words and songs. And the reason for all of this is a quite remarkable statement in verse three:

“Because your love is better than life…”

To know the love of God in your life and the peace, comfort and security this brings is a greater gift than life itself, even in the wilderness.

“God Himself is enough for me and my soul is satisfied.”(Psalm 63:5)

But being in the wilderness is never a fun experience. I have had many times where I have doubted God’s presence – “Are you really with me, Lord?”

Times I have doubted His goodness – “Why this, at this time, Lord?”

Times I have doubted His power – “Are you really going to heal me?”

But the message of David through Psalm 63 is fairly straightforward to me as I walk through this wilderness time.

I can choose to live a life of constant praise to my Father and to thank Him every day.

I can choose to live my life for His glory and to rest in the peace, comfort and security of God’s love for me.

I know that is easier said than done. When you are feeling emotionally exhausted, that perhaps you have become lost in this wilderness and might never find your way out, the idea of resting in the assurance of God’s love seems like a cruel joke.

But here is what I have discovered.

While it seems as if He is not there (I have felt this many times), my Father has consistently reminded me of His presence with me, even if I cannot “feel” it.

Sometimes it is a promise of Scripture: ” Fear not, I am with you…”

Or it has come through the encouragement, prayers, loyal love and faith of my wife, Karen.

And I have seen His presence in the love and support of colleagues and friends who have simply asked me how I am going.

So here, in the wilderness, I find I am able to tell God how much I love Him, thanking Him for every good gift in my life and for teaching me again about humility and my need to depend utterly upon Him.

In this my soul is satisfied – in and with God Himself.

He is enough…

True intimacy means sharing your burdens

luggage

Everyone comes into a marriage carrying emotional and relational baggage.

A skit performed in a church in the United States illustrated this by showing the young couple taking their vows while having heavy burdens labelled guilt, insecurity and fear draped over their bodies. When it came time to “kiss the bride” they were unable to do so – “how can you hold someone when you are carrying so much baggage on your arms?”

What do we do with the baggage?

Pretend it’s not there?

Hope that we lose it at the airport of life?

Expect our partner to carry it?!

Solomon gave some very helpful advice about how we might handle our baggage when he wrote:

“Two are better than one, *because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down,*one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls*and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.*But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,*two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

In the world in which Solomon lived, people would often travel at night but the journey was dangerous. There was the risk of violent robbery and, at night, falling into deep ditches carved out through the constant wear and tear of travellers and the weather upon the road.

Only if you travelled travel with someone could you be sure someone would immediately help you out.

It has been my experience in marriage that when I share my burdens – notice that I did not say dump my burdens – my wife Karen will listen to me, encourage me and pray for me.

And when this happens, I am incredibly aware of both the truth and the comfort of having a true friend beside me and who is able to lift me out of whatever emotional ditch I may have fallen into.

And of course, I do the same for Karen.

This is what true intimacy in marriage is all about.

It is the assurance that the person closest to you will listen to you when you are in trouble and not judge or reject you.

It is the confidence of knowing that there is someone traveling with you on the road of life and they will always be there for you.

Gordon MacDonald likens it to traveling through life in “the company of a happy few” – that as husband and wife you experience the joy and delight of not just being lovers, but true friends as well.

More poetically, Michael Card describes it this way:

Home is where someone is waiting and loving
And happy to see you again,
That half of your heart that somebody else treasures
The one who’s your forever friend.

We all have baggage and we do bring it into our relationships.

Some of us are unaware of our baggage and for some of us, it may take a lifetime to be rid of it.

Which is why it is much better to share the load with someone else.

How sad it is to see couples who have been married for decades but have never come to the place of truly being able to help each other out of the ditches of life.

One more thing.

Solomon spoke of the “cord of three strands.”

How much stronger is the couple that not only supports each other in tough times but also relies on God’s everlasting and unfailing strength, grace and encouragement!?

The truth about intimacy

couple

HOW would you define intimacy? In a world drowning in social media, reality TV and an endless stream of advice on sexual fulfilment, it’s a good question to ask.

I came across a good answer several years ago which defined intimacy as:
Knowing and being known
Loving and being loved
Serving and being served
Forgiving and being forgiven

It captures the essence of intimacy because it puts it in terms of the other person. There is a clear intent to know the other person deeply, love them unconditionally, serve them sacrificially and to freely forgive them when it is required.

True intimacy in a relationship also fosters other traits.

When a couple bond together in intimacy, when they become “one”, they have courage to face life together. Solomon said that “two are better than one”, going on to describe the peril of falling into a pit on your own. Sharing life with another brings the security of knowing that they are there for you in difficult times – you can both face whatever life throws at you together, courageously!

It also encourages the gift of love that chooses. I am so grateful to my wife, Karen, who held out her heart to me early in our relationship and basically said, “This is who I am – will you love me?”

And I did the same with her. And we both chose to love each other, despite our failings and weaknesses.

Love that chooses is a precious gift indeed. Honesty is also the fruit of true intimacy.

Genesis says that Adam and Eve both stood before each other “naked and not ashamed”.

The nakedness spoken of here is spiritual, mental, psychological and physical nakedness.

What freedom there is when you can stand before another without wearing any masks, to be truly “naked” before them and to feel no shame!

And what happiness we cheat ourselves of when we simply interpret such a statement as referring only to the physical!

Christopher and Rachel McCluskey explain it well when they write:

“…it is important that husbands and wives enjoy intimacy without necessarily needing to be sexual, and because (unfortunately) husbands and wives are often sexual without being intimate…there is a world of difference between simply having sex and truly making love. The world uses these phrases interchangeably and, indeed, the acts themselves are the same. But the spirit of making love is entirely different from simply having sex.”

Not surprisingly, this leads to greater depths of intimacy between the couple who are prepared to take the path of truly knowing each other.

What a wonderful thought lies behind this idea of truly knowing someone!

You may be familiar with the term, “…he knew his wife…” and which is so often viewed from a sexual standpoint.

But the same word is also used to describe a person as “knowing God”. The concept speaks of knowing someone “thoroughly and deeply”.

Intimate couples are those who know each other thoroughly and deeply – they seek to know the other person and they in return, feel thoroughly known.

There are things I know about Karen that no one else has ever known and never will know. And it is the same for me with her.

In our seeking to know and be known by each other we have built security, understanding and deep love.

One of the greatest gifts Karen has ever given to me was the day she said to me, “I feel safe with you!”

Please don’t be under any illusions about what I am saying here. The path to true intimacy is filled with pain, tears, hard times and frustration but I would not exchange it for what so many settle for – a shallow existence with someone they barely know.

Far better to embrace the One who made you for intimacy and the one that you call husband or wife.?

Dance with me!

dance

THE HIT SONG Shut up and dance captures the wonder and excitement of a blossoming romance:

We were victims of the night
The chemical, physical, kryptonite
Helpless to the bass and the fading light
Oh we were bound to get together
Bound to get together
She took my arm
I don’t know how it happened
We took the floor and she said
Oh don’t you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you’re holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the phrase “shut up and dance with me” is not the number one pick for encouraging love and intimacy between a couple, but I disagree!

The boy is attracted to the girl but he is hesitant to get out onto the dance floor with her. Perhaps he can’t dance; he could be afraid of making a fool of himself or that someone else will cut in and dance with his girl.

He has a question – does she really want to be out there with me or is she reluctant?

So she looks him in the eye and says, “Shut up and dance with me!”

It’s not bad advice for when a relationship hits a bump or two, regardless of how long you have been together.

A lack of good inter-personal skills can be one of those bumps. Some people are extremely shy, so sharing deeply with another person can be awkward and embarrassing.

For others, it may be that past experiences with family members or friends have them left them emotionally damaged or wary of intimacy.

The good news is that there are a wealth of tools available today that enable people to develop healthy relational and communication skills – the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality website (emotionallyhealthy.org) has a variety of resources to encourage deeper relationships among people.

Then there is the bump of fear that relationships often encounter. “What if this won’t last?” “What if the other person doesn’t really like me?” “Did I marry the wrong person?”

Unfounded fear severely hampers intimacy between two people and it will cripple a relationship.

If you are struggling with fear and it is holding you back from intimacy, then give voice to it. Speak with a counsellor or trusted friend about your fears and find healing in their objective advice.

Bring your fear into the light and see how quickly it begins to fade!

The bump of insecurity also damages a couple’s intimacy. We all have insecurities but some of us allow them to eat away at us, gnawing at our brains.

“Am I good enough for my husband/wife?”

“Does he/she really love me for who I am?”

“Will they leave me for someone else?”

I have found that the best way of dealing with some of these insecurities is to talk to your husband or wife about them. Make sure that you clearly explain to them that this is your problem, not theirs and then share openly the “what” and “why” of your insecurity.

And if you are the receiver in this conversation then listen with your ears and your heart, ready to speak the words of assurance and comfort that they need.

Every relationship will have its bumps and these need to be addressed, worked through – never ignore them.

But sometimes, as the song above suggests, we can allow the bumps to consume us and we look for reasons as to why this will fail.

Sometimes a husband or wife just needs to look their troubled lover in the eye, speak the words of love and reassurance they long for and simply say, “Shut up and dance with me!”

May you know the utter exhilaration of dancing forever with the one you love deeply!

Marriage is like dancing together

dancing

WATCHING PEOPLE DANCE can be a fascinating exercise at times.

Some are out on the dance floor, busting a move and they look great – but they dance alone.

Others dance with a partner, moving in beautiful symmetry together as they look into each other’s eyes.

Occasionally you see a couple where one partner is fully engaged while the other stares blankly over their shoulder, plainly bored and disinterested.

In case you haven’t noticed, marriage is a lot like dancing!

Great dancing requires great communication and understanding between the couple – and when they get it right, magic happens out there on the floor!

Likewise, a great marriage requires two people who are committed to each other and who are also prepared to grow and change in ways that produce a deeper understanding and care for each other.

When one, or both, partners are disengaged in the relationship, indifference sets in and the very real likelihood that you will end up dancing alone.

When it comes to dancing, I have two left feet while Karen is the dancer in my life. Through her loving encouragement, I have mustered up the courage to get out on the dance floor with her and not make a complete fool of myself!

Yet in the dance of our marriage, neither of us can claim any expertise.

Over the years, we have had to discover and apply many valuable principles that have enabled us to dance well together in our marriage.

One principle has been a commitment to be truly present with each other when we are talking.

It can be very easy to “zone out” or become distracted by something else when your partner is talking to you.

Our simple discipline to help us break that habit is that when are aware it is happening we admit it and apologise for doing so. It is humbling to confess that you were not paying attention, but it is also an effective circuit breaker that produces real change.

The principle of apologising when you are wrong in other areas has also enabled us to dance well together in our marriage.

We keep it pretty simple. We admit our mistake, apologise sincerely for it and ask for forgiveness – there is something humbling in that as well!

Most importantly, with the apology comes a genuine commitment to change our behaviour. People who only apologise but never change are extremely “unsafe” people.

Thinking of the marriage relationship as a dance also reminds me of the great dance of life that God invites us to be a part of.

One of the beautiful images that we have of God is that of the dance of relationship that exists between the Father, Son and the Spirit. They communicate, act and love in complete harmony – it is the great dance of God!

On the night He was to leave His disciples, Jesus prayed that they would all “be one”. His prayer was grounded in the unity that exists between Himself and His Father and Jesus’ desire was that His followers would experience that same unity and oneness; that they might dance in unity and love in their relationship with God and with each other.

Interestingly, the oneness Jesus prays would be between us and God the Father is also the same concept at the heart of oneness in marriage – unity, love and openness.

It was for this oneness – with God, others and our partners – that Jesus died and rose on that first Easter centuries ago.

He invites us all to the great dance of life with Him and each other, not indifferently but as fully engaged participants!?

Clarifying expectations is vital

couple

I HAVE been reading and thinking about expectations in the context of marriage, and what interests me in the definition supplied by the Oxford Dictionary is the conviction that an expectation is something that is virtually certain, based on what someone believes.

ex¦pect|ation (noun) A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.

Every relationship is influenced by expectations – parents and children, husbands and wives, close friendships – and when expectations are not met tensions begin to surface.

“You didn’t call me on my birthday – don’t I matter to you?”

“Your school report tells me you are not trying – why can’t you apply yourself like Melinda?”

“We have missed the garbage pick up again – why can’t you remember to put the bins out?”

An author I read recently pointed out that “we expect other people to know what we want before we say it” and this is where expectations create problems in relationships.

Karen and I learnt early in our marriage the value of clearly communicating our expectations to each other in loving ways, even in the seemingly insignificant things.

I am a bit OCD when it comes to the way I like to have my shirts hung in the wardrobe – all in the same direction which makes it easier when you take them out – so imagine my surprise when I discovered that the girl I married hung them in there any old way!

I had a choice. I could simply “suck it up” and learn to adapt or I could have a potentially embarrassing conversation with my then young bride and explain to her my preference. (I say embarrassing because I genuinely feared that she would think I was some sort of pedantic, shirt hanging wardrobe loony!)

So I approached her sensitively, explained that it probably seemed silly to her, that I was not angry but would she mind if…? And her response? She had a quiet, understanding laugh about it (we both did), thanked me for telling her and said she didn’t mind hanging them my way at all.

The way we both approached that seemingly insignificant situation has become a foundation for our marriage that we have both endeavoured to build upon for over 34 years. That does not mean that we have always got it right but the commitment to be clear with each other in communicating our expectations in loving and humble ways is stronger than it has ever been.

How do we clarify expectations?

In her marriage enrichment program, The Third Option, Pat Ennis points out expectations in a relationship “are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon” and to clarify expectations couples need to ask some important questions:
“Did either of us know that we had this expectation?”
“Is it reasonable?”
“Have we told each other about it or have we just assumed the other person should know?”

Such questions are important when considered in the light of the definition that I gave at the top of this page. If I have a “strong belief” that Karen should respond in a certain way and I think it “will happen”, what happens to me emotionally when she doesn’t do as I expected?

I might become angry, hurt, disappointed…or all of these! But if she is unaware of my expectation, if I have not clearly communicated it, then who is at fault? Instead of living in a fog of perpetual disappointment because I think she keeps on letting me down, I must take the time to lovingly and graciously communicate my expectations to her as well as asking myself if they are reasonable and something that we can both agree upon.

Unclear and unreasonable expectations can profoundly damage any relationship so taking the time as a couple to share and agree on each other’s expectations will not only enrich your marriage, it just makes good sense!

Best marriage gifts at Christmas

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DESPITE our best attempts it is difficult not to think about gifts when Christmas comes around each year and this is especially true if you have young children! There are also many voices that compete for our attention at Christmas and among them is the one that cries, “Let’s remember the true meaning of Christmas!” I agree with that sentiment but I want to ask the question – how many of us take that seriously?

I think many of us agree with the suggestion but deep down we know that there are expectations from others that we will be giving out presents and we also have an expectation that we will receive gifts.

Perhaps what is needed is a shift in our thinking about what a gift really is as well as recognizing the many gifts that we already have, so as a couple this Christmas why not think in terms of one of those gifts that you have – the wonderful and enriching gift of intimacy?

Why should a couple think of intimacy as a gift?

Because it is the gift of companionship. As a couple you have both been blessed to not go through life alone. You have been gifted with a friend with whom you can do life with! Solomon described it well when he said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” Loneliness is the only companion many will know at Christmas so be thankful for the friend by your side with whom you not only share Christmas but life as well.

It is also the gift of presence. True intimacy is so much more than merely talking with someone at a deeper level. It is also about giving the other person the gift of yourself. It is so easy to give a person the impression that you are listening to them when in reality you are thinking about being somewhere else or about what you want to say next. But presence in intimacy involves empathy, interest and genuine concern for the other person.

And it is the gift of oneness. Intimacy between a couple brings a sense of completeness; that the one I am married to makes me a stronger person and the sense that together there is no challenge too great for us to face. True oneness provides support for each other in difficult times and the security of knowing that you are deeply loved by another.

And this wonderful gift is closely tied to the true meaning of Christmas! For Christmas is the time when we are reminded of the gift by God of His Son, Jesus, to the world. His Son who would grow to manhood, point people back to His Father and ultimately die for their sin that they – and we- might experience intimacy and relationship with God.

Through Jesus we experience companionship. He walked through the same, difficult world that we do – He is not a stranger to our pain. He experienced rejection, weakness and suffering but never stopped caring for, loving or healing hurting people.

He was present with us. More than that, He was God present with us and proved beyond doubt that God loves us and is concerned for us. How easily He could have remained aloof from our pain but instead, He walked among us and saw firsthand what sin, suffering and injustice had done to the world.

And He offers us oneness. Through His life and death the door is opened up for us to know God personally and deeply and a relationship that is defined by love not fear.

Yes, let us remember “the true meaning of Christmas” but in doing so let us also be prepared to change our focus by being thankful for its presence in our lives and for the gift of knowing God through His Son Jesus.