Why Share your Baggage

A profound change happens during week 3 of  Awaken-Love, as we take turns sharing baggage that has impacted our marriage. I ask the women to share whatever they like, large or small, but to focus on how the baggage has impacted them or their marriage bed.

We share our baggage for several reasons…

Sharing our stories helps us to realize we are not alone. Every woman in the room has something that has impacted her marriage bed. Stories of shame or pain are received with grace and love. Stories of bad messages are greeted with nods that know and understand.  Women recognize their own story in each other. Even though the details of our lives are different, we have much in common.

Healing comes from sharing hurts and sins with one another.

James 5:16  says, Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Healing comes simply from speaking things out loud to others. I have heard women share stories of shame carried from their childhood that they have never shared with another soul. Given an opportunity, they wrestle thru tears and pull themselves out of their hiding spot. The question lurking in the back of their mind, “What if someone finds out?” no longer paralyzes them as they are received with acceptance and compassion. As shame loses power, women go home to share with their husband and continue healing.

Sharing our baggage forces us to dig deep and really examine what past experiences have impacted our marriage bed – even small things. It is funny what God brings to our mind…

  • the overreaction of a parent when we received a dirty phone call as a child
  • the constant message that we should not enjoy anything too much
  • feelings of violation caused by powerlessness at a doctor’s exam
  • the confusion of knowing their parents enjoyed sex together but ultimately divorced

We all have things that have impacted what we believe about sex, or about men, or about us. Something that might seem like nothing to someone else can have a huge impact on us. When God brings something to your mind, there is a reason.

Most important, we share our stories of sexual healing because they are a testimony of who God is. God heals our sexual baggage and hurts. He forgives our sexual sins and he can make us new again. We are not ruined or condemned to an awful sex life because we had sex outside of marriage. God can heal anything. He can heal us from the effects of abuse, promiscuity, shame, or wrong messages. He wants us to step into freedom in our marriage bed and He is reaching out His hands and saying, “here, take it. A free gift.”

Other women need to hear our stories, not just the women in class. Our testimony of sexual healing is powerful and we need to watch for opportunities to speak life into other woman. They need to hear our testimony of how God healed us and forgave us, and how we stepped into the freedom He has for us in our marriage bed.

I have to be honest, baggage night is really hard for me. I hear a lot of heart ache and pain, and all I want to do is take it away and make everything ok, but I can’t. I am completely powerless. God is the one who transforms us and makes us new. So we pray. We gather around women with huge hurts, and we ask God for big things. We ask God for very specific things that only He can do,  we challenge women to take a step of faith into freedom, and then we trust God.

Sometimes I think afterwards, “What if God doesn’t show up and do what we ask?”

But the truth is, “He already has shown up. He gave women the courage to brings things to the light”, and things are always better in the light.

Thirst

God created us to thirst. He gave us a drive that causes us to reach for something that will truly satisfy. When we reach for all kinds of other things that distract us, our thirst doesn’t go away. It continues to drive us toward what we really need, toward what God wants for us.

When we don’t drink enough water, our body becomes dehydrated, and we thirst. Sometimes we try to quench our thirst with other things like sweets or munchies. We grab a handful on the run but the more we eat, the more dissatisfied we feel. Sometimes we try to satisfy our thirst with counterfeits like soda pop, beer or coffee, and though they may wet our whistle for a time, we still end up thirsty. We keep trying to quench our thirst with the wrong thing, while we continue to get thirstier and thirstier. When we finally drink fresh water, it tastes so good. We chug it down and we feel satisfied. We no longer thirst.

God gave us a thirst for Him too.

In  John 4:13-15 ESV Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.”

God created in us a desire to be in relationship with Him and to know Him more. We search after money, power, or love to fill our thirst and make us happy, but no matter how much we have, it never satisfies. Sometimes we try to ignore our thirst or hide it with parties, drugs or sex, but it doesn’t go away. It is always there calling us to living water, to the only one that will ever satisfy us.

I remember times when I was not very close to God, and I ignored my thirst. I became self-sufficient, proud, and cynical. But when I encountered God in small ways, I became thirsty again. It was as if I was putting a glass of water to my lips, but didn’t quite know how to drink it – or was too afraid to drink it. It is so hard to stop looking around at other things to satisfy us, or stop trying to control our happiness. Sometimes it seems like the hardest thing in the world is to just be and to drink fully of  living water.

In Proverbs 5:15-20, Solomon warns, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”

Our spouse is supposed to satisfy our thirst in marriage. Distractions like pornography or erotica will never satisfy us. They are a cheap imitation that entice us, wastes our time and leave us feeling more thirsty. Intimate connection with our beloved, enjoying sex like God wants us to, is what satisfies us. We are supposed to create a cistern, a reservoir of memories, so that when we are going thru a dry spell, we can draw on amazing times together to satisfy us and help find our way back. We are supposed to save ourselves for each other – our energy, our creativity, our thoughts – and freely share them we each other. God wants to bless our marriage and our sex life. He wants us to drink fully of each other and be full satisfied in each other.

I have no greater desire than for my husband to be fully satisfied in me. I want him to feast his eyes on me and be thrilled. When I need refreshment or comfort, I thirst for my husband’s embrace. Becoming One helps my husband and I face the day as God blesses us.  God has given me a thirst for intimacy with my husband and it is so very good.

Knowing – Our Deepest Desire

Do you think you can have sex without getting to know your spouse?

I think a couple could  figure out what works and then just stick with it. They could rely on mechanics and physical responsiveness for a while… But eventually, things aren’t so great, because they get bored – because they aren’t getting to know each other. And if they are like most couples, they don’t talk about sex, so they just adapt. The wife may begin to check out mentally and fantasize about whatever creates enough excitement for her body to work.  Or she may just decide she doesn’t like sex, so she puts it at the bottom a very long “to do” list.

Women are very intuitive about whether you are getting to know each other during sex.  Many women relate to the frustration of a husband going through his routine without any clue whether his wife is actually enjoying things. She is laying there thinking, “here we go again. Yep. Here we go again”. Because she knows every step that is next. And because the husband is more intent on getting her to the finish line, then discovering something new, he just keeps at it. He tries harder and harder, while she becomes more and more frustrated.  He is not paying attention to the signs of her body, and he is not getting to know her.

It is like when you meet with God and you have your own agenda. You have your own idea of what you are supposed to pray and do. You read your scripture for the day, pray through your requests and all the while God is yelling, “Hey, can you hear me? I’m here.  Stop. Listen to me. Just come and be with me and discover something new about who I am.  “

We are trying so hard, that we totally miss God.

God wants to know us and He wants us to know Him. We can’t just go about our routine. We have to stop ourselves and we have to be with him.

Ephesians 1:17 (NIV) –  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better

We have to listen and ask questions. We have to be open to experiencing new things. We have to ask Him to show us who He is so that we recognize His voice. We have to be awed by Him as we encounter His glory. We have to be interruptible and let go of our own agenda. We have to study Him and experience Him and there is always more to know.

Just like there is always more to know about God, there is always more to know about our spouse. God’s design is that we get to know each other through sex. But just like our relationship with God, we have to intentionally seek to know our spouse through sex. It doesn’t just happen.

We have to change our idea of sex from,”how do I make sure they have an orgasm”, to “what can I discover about my spouse”. We have to be present mind, body and soul and we have to use all 5 of our senses to see what we can discover. We can’t just rub them, we have to feel them. We have to put away our agenda and our expectations. I love it when my husband slyly share after sex, “I learned something new about you tonight,” with the sparkle in eyes of a kid with a new toy.

But this getting to know each other is a 2 way street. If you want your spouse to know you, then you have to let yourself be known. You have to allow yourself to be felt and you have to respond. You have to communicate your desires, your dreams and your hurts. You have to be vulnerable and share the most intimate corners of your soul, and that is not easy. That is why we have to be grounded in who we are in Christ. What we most desire is to know each other, but it is also risky.

God designed us for intimacy because we are made in His image. Like him, our deepest desire is to have deep meaningful relationships. He created us to know Him and he created us to know our spouse. But it doesn’t just magically happen, we have to intentionally seek God out. We have to begin a life long journey of getting to know each other through sex  – and that – is never boring.

What has made a difference in getting to know your spouse?

Spiritual Leadership

Most Christian wives have a deep desire for their husband to lead spiritually. Many of us have this romantic idea that when we get married our husband will suddenly be transformed into the spiritual leader. He will gather the family around the table for an evening bible study to share deep insights.  He will intuitively sense when we are struggling and gently lay his hands on us to pray. He will energize the family to get to church when all we want to do is sleep.

But why would getting married suddenly change our husband into the spiritual leader?

My guess is that leading spiritually is another area that men feel they can never live up to their wife’s expectations. It was an area that I  found myself critical, and I had to take a hard look at myself to realize that I was a big part of the issue.

When our kids were young, my husband began using simple prayers the kids learned at Preschool. Things like, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” My husband also made prayers part of the bedtime routine with our kids. Yet I remember feeling critical . My husband was leading our family spiritually and I missed opportunities to affirm and encourage him.

My husband is on his own spiritual journey. It is different than mine – and that is OK. When I experienced great spiritual growth and new freedom in worship, I had to resist judging my husband because he does not worship like I do.  I had to get over myself, and pull the log out of my eye before I could see the small ways my husband had been trying to lead spiritually for years.

One of the pieces of advice I hang onto is, if you want your husband to change, encourage him in every tiny step he takes in the right direction. I have begun noticing every small thing that my husband does to grow spiritually and to lead spiritually. I affirm him for teaching the kids at Sunday School. I thank him for coming to worship with me and tell him how much it means. I encourage the steady Godly man that he is and the ways he has supported me in my ministry. I encourage the way he raises up men to host a church pinewood derby for the kids. I put him at ease and assure him that what he has to say or pray is so valuable and I need to hear it.  My husband has grown tremendously since I have begun affirming the journey that he is on.

About 6 years ago, I remember saying to my husband as he held me in bed, “I want to start praying together,” and he gently replied, “I know, me too”, and then we fell asleep. A couple of nights later we did it again. Finally, the third time I said, “I want to start praying together”, the prayers just poured from my mouth as my husband held me and listened. It would be easy to say that my husband should have led, but honestly, God was calling me to pray with my husband. We started praying together because I felt I had to include my husband on what God was doing in my life. Gradually my husband has taken the role of making sure that we pray together every night. Sometimes he prays, sometimes I pray and once in a while we both pray. We don’t pray for a long time but we pray from the heart about things that we cannot carry on our own. I guess my point in all of this is, do what God is calling you to do and let your husband do what God is calling him to do. If God is calling you to pray with your husband, then pray with him. If God is calling you to share what you are wrestling with, then share it.  But don’t use the excuse, “my husband is supposed to lead” to resist what God is calling you to do.

A couple of years ago my husband and I heard Francis Chan speak about marriage and what it means for the husband to be the spiritual leader. Men hear all the time that they are supposed to lead spiritually but what does that mean? Francis put it very succinctly. He said, “Men, when you are at the gates of heaven, God is going to ask, ‘What did you do to point your wife towards knowing me?'” It could look different for every marriage and there is no formula. It could be the way you extend grace and forgiveness toward your wife. It could be how you encourage her in her growth and make opportunities for her to encounter God. It could be just lovingly modeling who Christ was – a servant. Men, don’t miss an opportunity to point your wife towards knowing God.

Ladies, God has asked much of your husband and it is not easy. Notice the small steps he takes and celebrate them. I thank God for the journey that my husband is on, for how steady my husband has remained in the midst of my insecurities and emotions. I thank God for the simple prayers that Jim speaks over me. I thank God for his love of children. I thank God for the heart He has given my husband to strengthen marriages. I am asking God to surround my husband with Godly men that can speak into his life, and to give my husband the confidence and courage to mentor other men.

What are you thanking God for about your husband, and what are you asking him for?

God Likes it Steamy Hot

We are in a battle to save marriage

The way we save marriage is by making our marriage so good that our kids say,

“I want that! I want what mom and dad have!”

We save marriage by working on ourselves and learning to love each other like Christ loved the church – by putting our spouse’s needs before ours. We save marriage by committing to never consider divorce, even while working through gut wrenching pain. We save marriage by taking a hard look at ourselves and seeing what needs to change, and then pleading for God to make it so.  We save marriage by tapping into the gift of sex to make us into one, to find refreshment in each other, and to transform our marriage from lukewarm into steamy hot.

Revelation 3:16 says So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

God hates it when Christians act lukewarm. When Christians honor him with their mouth, but their heart is far from Him. To them, God is an obligation, a box on their checklist, and a duty. They don’t make real sacrifices, but serve just enough to feel good about themselves. They have no desire to know God or spend time with him and do not understand the depths of His love for them. They take care of themselves and rely on God for nothing. Worship is simply a ritual, void of awe or heart or freedom.

What  really breaks God’s heart is that lukewarm Christians misrepresent Him. Their life does not show who God is – how good He is, how passionate He is, how he has redeemed them, or how crazy He is about them. Lukewarm Christians do not love or forgive or serve like Christ did – putting others first.  When others encounter lukewarm Christians, they become hardened to God and turn away.

Just like God hates it when Christians act lukewarm,

 I believe God hates it when marriages are lukewarm.

God hates a marriage that is just going through the motions. God wants us to have marriages that are passionate and alive. He wants us to open up our heart to our spouse, to share and be vulnerable. He wants us to depend on each other and care for one another. We ought to spend a lifetime getting to know each other. We should count it pure joy to serve one another. And God wants sex to be this amazing delight between the two of us that restores our soul.

A great sex life changes our marriage. It transforms roommates into lovers. It insists that we spend time together face to face, eye to eye, skin to skin. Screens get turned off, lists left behind and we escape together. A great sex life requires hard communication and vulnerability as we journey towards discovering God’s best. Great sex changes us from two people doing life alongside each other to a marriage where others wonder, “what is going on there? I want to know their secret.”

God hates when we have a lukewarm marriage because it misrepresents what He wants marriage to be. Lukewarm marriages harden others to marriage and send them looking for something else.

Marriage is supposed to mirror the intimacy that God wants with us. God wants marriage to be passionate, alive, refreshing and full of trying to out love each other. Marriage is supposed to be a testimony of who He is and what He has done in our lives.

What have you done to make your marriage steamy hot?

The Roles God Calls Us To

Ingrained in Christian marriage is the expectation that the husband will lead and the wife will submit.

Ephesians 5:21-23 –And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.

I have to admit that I still prickle at the verse. As a woman that grew up climbing trees, playing Little League baseball with the boys, and attending a male dominated engineering school, I have to remind myself that this verse is not about holding women back. The verse is about bringing order to human relationships and about loving each other by denying ourselves.  And even though the verse prickles me, deep down I want my husband to lead. In fact, it is a real turn on for my husband to lead, and I constantly hear other women say the same thing.

Wives want their husband to lead spiritually by praying over them and encouraging their walk with God. They want them to lead the family by protecting them, setting up healthy boundaries, and through active involvement raising the kids. They also want them to lead as lovers by pursuing them, planning awesome dates and even by their sureness in the marriage bed.

Women often express their dismay at the lack of leadership their husband takes in their marriage.  But honestly, this is a two-way street. How can a husband lead unless we let them?

Letting my husband lead does not come naturally.  I always seem to have a better idea about everything, but I am learning that sometimes the little things make a huge difference. For instance, when my husband drives somewhere, I don’t have to question his route. I can relax and enjoy the scenery on a new path.

Many women share, that they just wish their husband would plan a date. I remember having the sudden realization that maybe my husband always delegated decisions for our dates, because I had spent years sharing my “better ideas.” Whenever he would plan something, I would say, “well, I would really rather go to ….” And then we did.

I had to repent, and say, “I am sorry for always having a better idea. I want you to plan things that you think we would enjoy. I promise I will be thrilled with whatever you plan. “

It is not that he always has to decide where we go. Recently I planned an overnight getaway for the two of us and it was awesome. But when my husband makes the plans, I don’t need to second guess him, I just get to enjoy it. If you want your husband to lead, if you want him to plan a date, then you have to let him. And you have to thoroughly enjoy it – even if you end up laughing together about a unique adventure like this.

Men leading and women submitting, really does not make a lot of sense.

Husbands are great at focusing on one thing, letting go, being spontaneous and not worrying – and God calls them to lead.

Women are great at multitasking, controlling things, making plans, and seeing the big picture – and God calls us to submit.

I think God calls us to one of the hardest things we will ever do, and I can only come to one conclusion…

God wants us to learn what does not come naturally so that we realize we cannot do this on our own, but we must depend on Him.

Come to Me

God woos us. He calls us to come to Him. To lay down our burdens and our worries and to find Him with arms open wide. He doesn’t force us. He doesn’t manipulate us. He doesn’t barter with us. He just says “Come”.

  • Rev 3:20 – Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
  • Psalm 23:6 – Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
  • Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

God loves us, even in our sin.  He loves us even if we ignore Him, or reject Him. He loves us though we forget him or get distracted. He loves us no matter what.

Romans 5:8 says, But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

God gives us free will to choose. He could have forced us to love him. He could have forced us to serve him. He could have commanded us to bow down in worship. He could have made us into robots to do his will – but He doesn’t. He wants us to choose Him. He wants us to Come to Him.

So, if we are supposed to love our spouse like Christ loved the church then…

We must love our spouse even when they are not having sex with us. We must connect with them emotionally and serve them. We must forgive them over and over and extend grace to them. Loving them cannot be conditional on how they are loving us.

For years, my husband wooed me even when we were not having much sex. He served me by helping with the kids and the house. He rubbed my tired feet and massaged the tension out of my back. He held my hand and worshiped beside me. He took me out on dates and when we did have sex, my enjoyment always came before his. My husband loved me well even when I was not loving him well. He wooed me and one day I woke up.

Our spouse has free will. We cannot force them to want sex with us or to enjoy it. Coercing and bartering will only lead to resentment and bitterness. Guilting them into having sex because of your needs will not satisfy the deep longing in your soul for connection.

Woo them…

Song of Songs 2:10 –  Come away with me, my fair one!