1 Samuel 5-6 – When God Parents Teens

Parent is a difficult job, no matter the age of your children. But it is especially difficult to parent teens. Teens strongly demonstrate and exercise their self-will. They are also very good at diverting blame and misrepresenting loving discipline as punitive retribution.

1 Samuel chapters 5-6 portray the Israelites much like teenagers. In chapter 4, the Israelites independently do what they want to do, without consulting God. Because of this (and previous offenses,) they bring about a disconnect in the relationship…symbolized by their separation from the Ark of the Covenant.

As a good parent, God works behind the scenes (unbeknownst to them) to reconnect the relationship and return the Ark. Like teenagers, the Israelites are happy to receive the blessing of the Ark’s return, but they continue to do what they want to do. They continue to treat God with casual disrespect. And when God disciplines them for this attitude, the Israelites respond as if God is to blame (1 Sam. 7:2)

Too often, I respond to my Heavenly father as if I’m a teenager. I want what I want, when I want it. I’m glad to receive His benefits, but hurt when He disciplines me. And I’m usually more concerned with Him not leaving me, then with me not leaving Him.

I tend not to recognize:

  • All He did behind the scenes to restore our relationship.
  • The fact that He, more often than not, is the one who makes the first move to restore the relationship.

Yes, 1 Samuel chapters 5-6 make theological statements about the omnipresence of God in a pagan culture. And yes, you see teachings about God’s sovereignty and holiness. But mostly you see a God who goes out of His way to move towards His children…even when they have rebelled and disconnected from Him.

Be grateful God has a heart for teenagers…like us!

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

Deuteronomy 31 – God Knows You Better Than You Do.

“I know you better than you know yourself.” My teens would bristle every time I said this to them. Yet, with a few exceptions, it was usually true. I had observed them from the first minute of their life. I knew their temperament, their personality, their facial expressions, their tone of voice, their likes and dislikes…I knew them. Even during their teen years, when they were changing so rapidly and intensely, the basic thumb print of who they were continued to shine through.

But even though I knew so much about them…even though I knew both their strengths and weaknesses…even though I knew when they made mistakes, or lied, or rebelled…

Read moreDeuteronomy 31 – God Knows You Better Than You Do.

How Parenting Can Improve Partnering

In my last post (How Partnering Can Improve Parenting,) we looked at how improving your marriage could improve your parenting. It stressed the importance of making sure your partnering takes precedence over your parenting. (If you’ve not read that post, I encourage you to go back and read it.)

Now, we need to answer how parenting can improve partnering, and the answer is simply this…

 “Your parenting should instruct your partnering.” 

Yes, your partnering should take priority over your parenting, but your parenting can teach you to be a better partner. Here’s what I mean by this. If you listed the things you do for your kids, your list would look something like this…

Read moreHow Parenting Can Improve Partnering

How Partnering Can Improve Parenting

We don’t often think of how parenting can improve partnering. Usually, we think of just the opposite…how parenting makes partnering harder. We instantly think of all the demands parenting makes on our time, money, energy, and resources, and how those demands complicate marriage.

It’s true that being a parent can make being a partner more difficult. This is why I always tell spouses, “You’re partnering should  take precedent over your parenting.” I firmly believe this to be true for every marriage…

  • Young spouses as well as senior adults spouses.
  • Spouses who have biological children as well as those who have step children or adopted children.
  • Those who have just one child as well as those who have twelve.

No matter the situation, the principle is the same. You’re partnering should take precedence over your parenting, because:

Read moreHow Partnering Can Improve Parenting

Kids and Marriage – What Were We Thinking?

There are some things in life that seem like a good idea at the time, but later cause you to ask, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe it was that person who seemed so good on the first couple of dates that later left you asking, “What was I thinking?” Maybe it was training for that half marathon that caused you to say, “What was I thinking?” Or maybe it was that job change that looked good on paper, but left you wondering, “What was I thinking?” (For more ideas, take a look at your high school yearbook pictures.)

Having kids can be one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time, but can leave you wondering, “What was I thinking?”

Read moreKids and Marriage – What Were We Thinking?

How to Put Your Kids and Your Marriage in Their Proper Place

When I stepped into the waiting room, I noticed that Bryan and Christine (not their real names) were sitting in separate chairs and weren’t talking. As they took separate seats in my office, I asked them why they had come to counseling. The question was met with sighs and silence. After some awkward attempts to get Bryan to go first, Christine finally said, “We’re really struggling in our marriage. ” From there, the story began to roll out.

They were once good friends and playful lovers who talked, laughed, and spent time together. But now they were more like room mates who only talked when they needed to. Christine was focused on their 3 active kids and the mounds of laundry and homework that came with them. Bryan was focused on the increasing demands of providing for their family, and the occasional game of golf. Their time together was spent discussing kids, schedules, or money. This seemed to be the only thing holding them together.

Read moreHow to Put Your Kids and Your Marriage in Their Proper Place