Spending Quality Time Together as Friends

The Philosopher, Plato, once quoted a story from Greek mythology that said human beings “were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces.”

The king of the gods, Zeus, afraid of the power that humans might wield, decided to limit them, splitting them into two different people which resulted in them spending the rest of their lives seeking their other half.

From this myth arose the idea of the soul mate, that special person who is said to complete you and with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

Some of you may cringe at the idea of your partner being your soul mate – I agree it can be overstated at times – but I think that at the heart of the concept is the idea of friendship.

And what could be better than being married to someone who is also your best friend?

It must be said, however, that the idea of friendship/the soul mate is not something that just happens in a relationship. Like everything else in life that is worthwhile, a growing and fulfilling friendship with your spouse is the result of intentionality.

One of my favourite books my mum read to me as a child began like this: “A friend is someone who likes you…”

All friendships begin at this point – you like the other person – but how does the friendship grow?

It grows as you spend quality time together, discovering you share a number of interests with each other.

To quote the Greeks again, the word for this “friendship love” is “philia.”

Philia meant that you had genuine, warm feelings toward the other person and that you shared a number of common interests and activities.

This is how friendship in marriage develops as well.

You obviously like each other – you are married – but what do you enjoy doing together?

Over the course of my marriage with Karen we have developed a great number of interests and activities in common and one of the things I have learned is that for an interest to be shared, you do not have to both “be into it” it from the outset.

This is what I mean.

When I met Karen, she could not tell you the difference between a googly or an out swinger, so in the early stages of our friendship and marriage, I introduced her to the joys of watching that greatest of all sports, cricket!

On the other hand, I could not dance to save my life but Karen loves dancing. Thanks to her tutelage and encouragement, I have regularly braved the dance floor with her over the years and now instead of looking like I have three left feet, it only looks like I have two!

The point here is that we both chose to show an interest in what each other liked and discovered the joy of not only learning something new but also spending fun time together.

Some years ago James Dobson quoted research that demonstrated that one of the key elements that predicted longevity in marriage was that the couple had various “interests in common and genuinely liked doing things together.”

Sadly, this factor is often missing in marriage.

A husband returns home at the end of the day and after exchanging a few pleasantries with his wife, quickly retreats to his shed or garage.

Or a wife chooses the company of her friends more regularly than the opportunity of being out with her husband.

A growing friendship with each other is an important aspect of a healthy marriage.

If you are struggling with doing something together as a couple, why not start by talking about the things you enjoyed doing together when you were dating?

Who knows, a night out at a bowling alley could end up being the best fun you have had together in years!

God Values Women

In October 2017, following allegations of sexual assault brought against movie producer Harvey Weinstein by several high profile actresses, the #MeToo campaign was launched and went viral around the world.

Since that time, thousands upon thousands of women have been empowered to tell their own story about unwanted sexual advances and sexual violence that they have endured over the years.

The World Health Organization has estimated that one third of women worldwide are affected by sexual violence.

Two 2017 polls conducted in the United States revealed that 54% of women reported that they had received “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances with 95% saying that such behavior usually goes unpunished.”

And there have been similar claims made in various parts of Australian society.

It may seem an odd way to begin an article, especially given that May is the month we celebrate our mums, and women in general.

But it asks us a question that demands an answer:

What do we, as men, really think of women?

In answering this question myself, there are two thoughts that shape my thinking.

Women are full image bearers of the God Who created them.

Genesis 1:27 states that “God created mankind in His own image…male and female He created them.”

This does not say that women bear part of the image of God – they are full image bearers.

This means that by virtue of their relation to the Creator, women have inherent worth, value and dignity.

I have grown tired of the old cliché remarks about, “It was the woman who led the man astray in the Garden!”

The undertone seems to be that all the problems of the world can be blamed on women.

Interestingly, when the Genesis account is properly understood, Adam was right there beside Eve when she took the first bite of the forbidden fruit … and he did nothing to dissuade her.

Equally, I dislike the statement, “After God made man, He said, ‘I can do better!'”

God never intended to set men and women up in opposition to each other, but to support, encourage and strengthen each other.

This begins when we embrace the truth that both the sexes bear the full image of their Creator!

Women share equally in all the promises of God.

What a ground breaking, revolutionary statement Paul made when he declared that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile … slave nor free … male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, at the foot of the Cross, your racial pedigree, your social standing and your gender count for nothing when it comes to being accepted by God in Christ Jesus.

This is Good News for everyone living on planet earth because God accepts everyone who comes to Him in humility and repentance!

I am not on a crusade here for more women’s rights!

The proponents of the #MeToo campaign have encouraged men with some simple steps to demonstrate respect for women in their personal world:

  • Men can intervene when they witness or hear of behaviour that demeans a woman.

  • Men can take a clear stand against behaviour that objectifies women.

  • Men can listen to the pain of women who have been mistreated.

I agree with all of this.

But the treatment of women will not change until there is a fundamental change in the heart and that change can only be brought about by God Himself.

When we see a woman, or a man, or a child or a disabled person, what do we see? A person made in the image of God or a “non-person?”

Looking through the eyes of God will fundamentally change the way we see each other – as image bearers of our Creator God, worthy of our love and respect.

So thank God this Mother’s Day for the women in your life and love them through His eyes.

They will thank you for it!

Marriage Meets Our Deepest Needs

I mentioned last month about how we have become obsessed in our culture with programs like Married at First Sight or the new kid on the block, Date Night.

As I also said, I do not watch these programs, nevertheless, it is interesting to hear in the promos what people have to say about why they are prepared to put themselves on display in this way.

They speak about finding someone to share their life with and building a genuine partnership with another.

They all want a relationship that will last a lifetime.

And they want to be loved for who they are.

These desires run deep within all of us – scratch the surface and you discover that we are all looking for them – and they are part and parcel of what it means to be human.

But where do such notions come from?

For some of us, the answer will surprise us because these basic expressions of our humanness are found in the Bible!

Genesis 2 recounts for us the events surrounding the first wedding in history between Adam and Eve and it also unveils the core principles at the heart of marriage.

Marriage is about partnership.

When God announces that He intends to make for Adam a “…helper suitable” for him, He is stating that He will give Adam a partner in life, Eve, who will be his support, bring out the best in him and above all, be his counterpart.

It is tragic to see the constant struggle that goes on between the two sexes over equality when it is as plain as day that in the beginning God created men and women fully equal, both of them expressing what it means to be in “His image”.

The best marriages are about partnership where the husband and wife intentionally seek to bring out the best in each other.

Marriage is about permanency.

For the man to become “united” to his wife, or as the Old English says, “to cleave to his wife” conveys a simple but profound truth.

It simply meant that the husband was to stick like glue to his wife.

Every marriage will have its tough days and tense moments. These are the times when we are faced with a choice – will we walk or will we stay? If we are committed for life, then we will choose the latter.

Marriage is about choosing wisely and well, clinging to each other with affection and loyalty – no matter what.

Marriage is about knowing each other deeply.

This is, perhaps, our deepest longing – to be known and loved for who we truly are.

In those very familiar words of the wedding ceremony, taken from Genesis 2, we are told that the “man and the woman were both naked and not ashamed.”

This concept is beautifully described as a husband and wife being emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically naked before each other – “stripped and undisguised and totally open with each other” as one author has put it.

When a couple share their deepest emotions, thoughts, ideas, fears, hurts, celebrations and myriad other things, they build true intimacy and a strong, secure foundation for their physical relationship.

I believe that learning to know each other deeply will take a lifetime and, after a relationship with God, it is the most rewarding thing in the world.

It has been a gift from God for me to watch Karen grow into the woman that she is today as we have walked the road of our marriage together. As she has matured in her relationship with God and as a person I have had the enormous privilege of watching her blossom in so many areas – I can honestly say that I know her more deeply now than when we were first married!

Partnership. Permanency. Being truly known.

Deep desires that are met through the gift of marriage.