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scales of justice -- michigan gay marriage ban overturned

Image courtesy of DonkeyHotey, on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

It’s official. Michigan’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage has been declared unconstitutional. Things in Michigan are about to change, big-time.

I was one of the people going to door to door having people sign petitions to get the gay marriage ban onto the ballot in 2004. As a pastor, I even encouraged people in my church to do it. I now regret that very deeply.

I know I hurt some people at the time and drove wedges between myself and others unnecessarily.

What can I say? I was 35 — just a youngster! I was trying to hard to be “radical for Jesus,” but now I understand that the kind of radical Jesus was went way beyond my small-minded notions at that time.

Jesus was, and is, radical enough to let people make their own choices. Jesus never forced anyone to believe, or tried to shout down his opponents. He simply allowed people to live their lives, and let them know that, whether they realized it or not, they were already standing in the refreshing stream of the mercy and love of God, which was available to them freely.

That mercy and love is available to you too, no matter who you are. God created you and loves you. You may be gay or straight. You may struggle with your sexuality or embrace it. You are a creation of God, a work in progress, a gift to the world.

I apologize to those I hurt and have wronged by my well-intended zeal on this issue.

If you are gay, I want you to know that for some time now I have supported your right to live according to your best understanding of how you should live. That’s not a religious issue, it’s an issue of how we treat human beings in a free and pluralistic society.

Justice has been served today.

men grow up women put up

image courtesy of 123rf.com

[This post was previously titled My Book About Sex]

If I could write just one book that would transform most marriages, it would have two chapters, and six words. In fact, I’ll write that book right now. I will release all copyrights to it, and you are free to distribute this fantastic advice from a seasoned counseling professional to as many people as you’d like.

Chapter 1

Men, grow up.

Chapter 2

Women, put out.

THE END

young couple, healthy relationship

image courtesy of 123rf.com

What is a healthy relationship?

It seems like an easy question to answer, but there are thousands of people who would be stumped by it. Many have never seen a healthy relationship, don’t know anyone who has one, and certainly never experienced one for themselves.

Are you one of those people?

A healthy relationship is one where two healthy and whole human beings are attracted to one another and choose one another as companions on life’s journey.

This is a simple, boiled-down definition, but it has a few important implications:

1. A relationship, by definition, can only be as healthy as the individuals in it. Two broken, needy, insecure, and/or immature individuals cannot “complete” one another. When they form a relationship, they will both end up with twice the brokenness, neediness, insecurity, and/or immaturity they had before.

2. The individuals in a healthy relationship do not need each other. Each of them is a whole person by themselves. They come together not out of need, but simply because they enjoy each other’s company and want to spend life together. This is why I use the word “choose” in my definition of a healthy relationship. Only healthy people are truly free to choose one another. Broken people always think they are choosing, but they are driven by their emptiness and deep need for the other person. “I need you,” as romantic as it sounds, actually means, “I am not free to choose not to be with you.”

3. When one person in a relationship believes they are healthy and whole, but that the person they are with is broken, it is almost certainly the case that the first person is not healthy and whole. Healthy and whole people rarely choose unhealthy and broken people as partners. Brokenness is obvious to them, and is a turnoff.

4. Broken people, however, will be deeply attracted to other broken people. To a broken person, brokenness in others feels like love. They will mistake their partner’s jealousy, neediness, dominance, sometimes even aggression and violence, for love. And they will mistake their own craving and neediness to be with the other person as love. These are all signs of brokenness.

5. The work of saving a broken relationship is always the work of the broken individuals becoming healthy and whole. As that happens, the relationship will naturally begin to heal. It is next to impossible for broken people to be in a healthy relationship, and it is just as unlikely that whole people will be in a broken relationship. The only exception to this is when a broken person in a broken relationship finally sees their brokenness clearly and does what must be done to become whole.

6. Very young people can be healthy, but are rarely whole. To be whole is to have a full sense of one’s self as an individual. When very young people marry, they essentially end up raising each other, and their process of becoming whole individuals is seriously complicated. This is why marriages between partners who married young often end in divorce.

Question: How have you seen these ideas in action in your own life, both for better and for worse? Leave a thought or two in the comment section!

broken-marriage

I have mentioned Mort Fertel before. Mort is a marriage educator who has a pretty unique approach. I came across his website a few months ago and immediately signed up to receive his email updates, since that’s a great way for me to come to understand a person’s approach to helping marriages.

Today’s post is from one of Mort’s email updates. These updates contain some of the most solid marriage guidance I have ever seen, and I recommend that every person reading this who needs marriage help sign up for the updates at MarriageMax.com. Though there are no miracle cures when it comes to healing marriages, Mort consistently offers some of the most practical and excellent insights I have seen, and I commend his approach wholeheartedly to you.

Hi David,

When it comes to your emotions, there’s a big difference between being in pain and true suffering. What’s the difference? And how does this relate to your marriage? Let me illustrate with a story.

There once was a man who was sentenced to 25 years of backbreaking labor. His wrists were tied to the handle of a huge wheel that was inlaid in the wall. His job was to turn the wheel 10 hours a day.

For years, day in and day out, the prisoner would wonder what he was doing with this wheel. What was the meaning of his work? What was on the other side of this wall?

Was he grinding grain? Pulling up water? Moving some sort of conveyor belt?

For 25 years he contemplated the meaning of his work, and for 25 years he spun that wheel. It was grueling, but he survived.

When his sentence was complete he was released from prison. The first thing he did was run to the other side of the wall to see what he had been doing all this time.

What did he see?

Nothing!

There was nothing attached to the wheel. For 25 years, 10 hours a day, he was spinning a wheel for absolutely no purpose. When the man realized his true sentence, he collapsed and died.

The prisoner was able to survive 25 years of backbreaking labor, but when he realized that it was all for nothing, he couldn’t survive for another moment.

So what’s the difference between pain and suffering?

Pain has a purpose.

Suffering is true torture because it has no meaning.

Pain is bearable. Suffering for no reason is devastating.

Ask any woman about child labor. How was it? Would you do it again? Most women will answer: It was painful, but I didn’t suffer. I would do it again.

This is the key to surviving marital problems and making it through to a new love and peace with your spouse.

If you think there’s no purpose to your emotional hurt, you’ll just want out. You’ll run from your kids, your responsibility, your vows…you’ll run from it all just to get relief from an unbearable suffering.

But if you can come to understand why you’re in this situation, then you’ll succeed to make it through like a woman in child labor.

Why is this happening to you? What are you supposed to be learning from all of this? Can you see how your marital problems are really an opportunity for you and your spouse?

I remember when my wife and I were going through what seemed to be unbearable emotional pain as a result of the loss of our 3 children and our marriage problems. But now I see it all differently. Yes, we were in pain, but we didn’t suffer. And although I might script things differently if I were God, my wife and I now feel a sense of peace and happiness that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Yes, we lost a lot, but we gained each other and forged a marriage that has become a wellspring of joy in our life.

Since those painful times, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead thousands of people who are suffering in their marriage to a new peace and happiness with their spouse. I’ve found a way to do it even with the most difficult and unusual situations.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mort in any way. I am not selling his products, nor do I receive commissions from people who buy his products from my referrals to his website. I have nothing to gain in commending him to you, other than believing I am directing you towards someone who really gets it and who will, from all appearances, be able to lead you along right paths. As always, your results may vary, yadda, yadda, yadda.

divorce

Image courtesy of JCOterhal, used under Creative Commons

The power of choice

Years ago I came to what felt like a dead-end in a job I had previously loved. As the months passed I grew more and more frustrated and would occasionally call a friend and complain to him about how miserable I was and how trapped I felt. I would go on about how I could be making more money in certain other jobs. One evening he replied, “Then you are there because you choose to be. If you know you could get another job making more money, then you have simply chosen not to do that.” This reinvigorated me. I realized he was right. I was choosing. I was not trapped, and I was not a victim.

I still hated my job, but I felt emboldened when I realized that, for specific reasons, it was better for me to stay in that job than to leave at that time in my life. Instead of seeing the job as a trap someone had laid for me, I was able to start seeing it as a choice I had made for specific reasons, and that although I didn’t like the job, it was in my best interests to stay a while longer.

Marriage is a terrible place to be trapped

I used to tell couples that divorce must never be an option. I felt couples would run to divorce too soon if they saw divorce as even a remote possibility. I don’t give this counsel anymore. Though it’s still a good idea not to use the D word flippantly, I now believe that in order for a marriage to be healthy, divorce actually must be an option.

After all, the likelihood that you will face times of major frustration and discouragement in your marriage is extremely high. If you don’t consider divorce an option and choose to stay in the marriage, what will your attitude be? I assure you that you will feel as trapped in your marriage as I felt in my job. Maybe more. It stinks to feel trapped in a job, but you get to leave a job and go home. However, marriage is 24/7. Marriage is not something you want to feel trapped in.

On your wedding day, you made a promise to your spouse. Of course promises should be kept, but that does not mean you are trapped. You could leave if you really wanted to. Of course it would be inconvenient in many ways, but you could do it if you wanted to. Remember that you are married because you choose to be. Probably no one made you get married, and no one is making you stay married. You are where you are either because a) is it what you have chosen and what you really want for reasons only you can know; b) you are afraid of change, and divorce always means change. Of course, so does becoming the person you need to be to fix your marriage, which is why people will sometimes stay in bad marriages for decades. They are trapped not by their marriage vow, and almost certainly not by their honor (as such people will often believe), but by their fear.

Embrace that it’s your choice to divorce OR to stay married

Embracing your option to divorce helps you see that marriage is always a choice, and that choice is yours. Only when you fully realize this will you have an opportunity to feel like you are married not because you have to be but because you want to be. When you realize you are married because you want to be, you might get around to finding out why you want to be. When you discover that, you’re really onto something.