Monday, December 22, 2003

Christian Digest Magazine On-Line
- Families Where Grace Is In Place
Getting free from the burden of pressuring, controlling and manipulating your spouse and children

By Jeff Van Vonderen

Editors comment: When people spend their lives trying to transform or fix their spouses and their kids, the natural result is exhaustion, depression and the hopeless sense of wanting to bail out of it all. Here’s a message about how God’s grace can transform relationships within a marriage and family. The first step is learning the simple difference between God’s job and ours. God’s part is to fix and change. Our responsibility is to depend on the holy Spirit, serve our families and to help equip them to be all they can be. The Christian family’s ultimate goals of harmony, obedience and full potential can be arrived at without using legalistic and manipulative methods. No wonder Bill Hybels called it, "The single best book on the family that I’ve read in recent years."

"Mark was one of the most dedicated Christian men I'd ever met. In the community, he had a sterling reputation as a business and civic leader; in his church, he was a hard working deacon and an excellent Sunday school teacher. In large part, his apparent success at everything he put his hand to came from a "can do" attitude. He often sacrificed his own comfort and needs to help someone else or to work for some higher goal. When problems came up for his wife and kids, Mark directed them to what he always did: "Quit complaining-when you focus on a problem, you become a problem. Just do the right thing. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not. The kingdom of God is not a democracy."

One day, reality gave Mark an alarming wake up call. His wife, Karin, began to suffer symptoms of a breakdown and checked herself into a local health clinic. Mark received the emergency call at work. He rushed to her bedside and, holding her hand, tried to offer comfort. "You can lick this, hon. I don't know what's happening here, but if you'll just call on the Lord"

Karin exploded. "Look at me, Mark! Look at me. Do you see what's happening to me? Have you ever really seen me or what I need? Do you really know the kids, or what they need? I didn’t marry you to have an 'answer man.' And if you tell me one more time, 'Just pray about it,' I'll go over the edge. Stop giving us your mechanical answers, and love us." Tears of frustration that had been building for years-finally choked off her plea.

Two of their three children had come to the clinic with Karin. Their eyes, full of tears, met his-and all Mark could see, suddenly, belatedly, was the depth of pain they carried, pain he'd stifled in them. All he could hear in his mind were the years of Christian principles he'd cited to his family-the standards Christians were supposed to live up to in order to be good Christians. Had he been wrong somehow, even while he was speaking the "right" words? On the other hand, maybe this was just some kind of spiritual attack.

Mark's twelve-year-old daughter was sobbing too hard to speak. But his teenaged son looked him in the eye and, in the most impassioned voice Mark had ever heard, pleaded with him. "Dad, we love you. But you make us feel like we're never going to be good enough. Please listen to what Mom's saying. Help her!"....."

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