Questions . . .
Where does a woman go with the questions that haunt her heart, questions that fester, beg for honest answers, and yearn for solutions to set them free? When hundreds of these questions poured in to Women of Faith® as a thunderous cry for help, Marilyn Meberg?popular Women of Faith® speaker and respected counselor?took on the task of responding to that cry.
& Answers . . .
In Since You Asked, Marilyn equips readers with the most reliable relationship information available?scriptural truths from the all-knowing source who created the very first human relationship. But she doesn't stop there; she helps to apply the scripture, providing practical steps of action that can be taken today.
Be refreshed and set free by the warm, straightforward style that is Marilyn Meberg.
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Since you AskedAnswers to Women's Toughest Questions on RELATIONSHIPS
By MARILYN MEBERG
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Marilyn Meberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Soar-Wallow Syndrome
From the depths of despair, O Lord, I call for your help. -Psalm 130:1 NLT
Carl Sandburg captured well the human condition: "There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in mud." Have we not all been in that state at some point in our lives? What causes most of us to either soar or wallow are human relationships. They are capable of sending us to great heights of fulfillment (the eagle) or great depths of disappointment (the hippo).
Yesterday, I watched Oprah Winfrey interview a well-known Hollywood actor. This guy was soaring all over the place. In fact, apparently unable to contain himself, he leaped from the couch to the floor, from the floor to the back cushions, and plopped exuberantly back to the seat cushions as he described his latest and best heartthrob to Oprah.
He's never felt more deeply, loved more fully, or experienced greater joy in any relationship. This relationship is what he's been waiting for his entire life. Unfortunately, because he's a public figure, we've seen and read about him soaring and then wallowing in three previous relationships (but of course that was then, and this is now, right?).
The soar-wallow syndrome is not limited to affairs of the romantic heart. We experience it in friendships as well. Haven't we all glowed with what we assumed was the limitless potential to have our soul needs met by a new friend? That friend's heart seems to beat in synchronized rhythm with ours. Our wishes, goals, spiritual convictions, quirky ways, and rarely shared secrets all find a mutual meeting place as well as a safe haven in hours of conversation. It's what we've been waiting for our entire lives. We are eagles.
Perhaps our greatest hopes for soaring come in anticipation of perpetual wedded bliss. In that relationship we will know unconditional love, unending companionship, and emotional/physical oneness. That nagging feeling of rootless aloneness will be eliminated when we belong to someone.
Last Saturday night, Patsy Clairmont, Lana Bateman, Pat Wenger, and I were heading out for dinner after our Pittsburgh conference. As we walked by the stately First Presbyterian Church, we all stopped with rapt pleasure and attention. Standing on the sidewalk and steps to the church were people in tuxedos and gorgeous long gowns. As we watched, the Cinderella bride and her handsome groom arrived in their midst. Mounting steps that elevated them higher than those around them, they shared a kiss and then released from a gold box two exquisite white doves that soared away into the lavender night. Within seconds, ten more white doves were released, which also soared away. "Ah yes," everyone sighed. "How perfect ... how lovely." The image of a hippopotamus never crossed our minds. We were not wallowing. We were soaring.
I will never forget the overwhelming tenderness and awe I felt as I stared into the perfectly formed, innocent dimpled face of our baby boy, Jeff. Sorry, God, sorry Ken, but there were moments when I didn't think either of you had anything to do with that baby's beauty. I felt unreasonable personal pride in everything about him. How could it be that my body housed such a vast miracle? What did I-we-do to deserve so rich a blessing?
Some years later, looking into that unflinching face, I wondered how he could lie to me so effortlessly. Who taught him to deny he had four Mystic Mint cookies after school at Tommy Fishbeck's house?
And how could Beth promise not to see that boy and then meet him after school at Jiminy Cricket's yogurt shop? Did she think it was okay to deceive us? Is it only wrong if you get caught? Didn't anyone take time to teach these precious ones values? Move over, hippo.
Jeff was six years old when he came to agree with Mark Twain's famous denouncement: "People are no d-good." Jeff was sitting cross-legged on his bed one morning, thumbing through a Playboy magazine. (I had no idea what magazine he was thumbing through or where he got it, but that he was enthralled was undeniable. That I was beyond horrified is a subject for another time.)
Later, when I walked by his room, he was playing quietly on the floor with Legos. Following that activity, he started making shapes out of Play-doh.
"Baby, don't you want to go outside and play? I see Tommy Fishbeck is in his front yard by himself. Why don't you invite him over?"
"No, Mama, I'm pretty much done with Tommy Fishbeck."
I decided not to press it and suggested he might want to go next door to Johnnie's house. Miss Mona was home, and I'd take a quick run to the grocery store. Then Jeff could play with Johnnie.
"No, Mama, I'm pretty much done with Johnnie."
"Well honey, how about Nell? She's out riding her bike."
Jeff gave me one of his long-suffering stares and said, "I'm pretty much done with everyone in this neighborhood, and I'm close to being pretty much done with everyone at school, including Mrs. Chopin." (Mrs. Chopin was his teacher, and to my knowledge never composed any music.)
Well, mercy! Serious stuff was going on, so I joined him in making shapes from Play-doh. Jeff filled me in with a litany of personal grievances he'd been experiencing. Tommy kept Jeff's Tonka dump truck and said he didn't have it. Nell was a girl. Johnnie stole a quarter from Jeff, then lied about it and kept the quarter. Mrs. Chopin told Jeff his printing was the worst she ever saw (hearing that made me feel pretty much done with her myself), and he really didn't know anyone who was nice. Sighing deeply, he said he just planned to stay in the house.
"How long do you plan to stay in the house?"
"Maybe 'til I'm forty."
Well, I thought to myself, this will be a long childhood.
I love C. S. Lewis's erudite description of the heart-longing we all have for relationships that satisfy our souls and quiet our murmurings. Enjoy the poetic beauty of his words, and see if you agree with his conclusion:
Are not all lifelong friendships born of the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which beneath the flax of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever been but hints of it-tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. If there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself-you would know it. You would say, "Here at last is the thing I was made for." We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds.
I interpret Lewis as saying that what we long for is never fully satisfied on this earth. We experience "tantalizing glimpses," but that which we've desired for a lifetime follows us to the end of our lifetimes. I hate to drastically alter the linguistic mood Lewis creates, but it sounds as if the best we can expect on this earth is an occasional soar followed by a prolonged wallow.
That sounds too bleak to satisfy me. Admittedly, our deepest soul-longings are often more primal echo than experiential fulfillment. We understand that truth when we remember the consequences of Eve's disobedience and Adam's witless cooperation in that disobedience-paradise lost. However, I believe we can soar more frequently when we understand God's loving intent for each of our individual lives. With that understanding, we may avoid some time-consuming wallowing. Remember, the soar-wallow syndrome was not in God's original blueprint.
In addition to a fuller understanding of God's intent, we have the opportunity to discard some life patterns that don't work. We can learn new patterns that have a better success rate. Those new patterns are established by learning new ways of thinking. Romans 12:2 states, "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (NLT).
If we think as my little Jeff did-the best way to avoid the pain of people is to avoid people-we need a new "think." We were made for relationships. Relatedness was in the original blueprint. Trying to avoid relationships is going against God's design for you, for me, for all of us. Everything in life is about relationship.
Let's flip back to the beginning of time and remember what God said prior to creating Eve. In Genesis 2:18, we read, "The Lord, God said 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him'" (NLT). It was not at this point that God created Eve. According to Genesis 2:19, God first "formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird. He brought them to Adam to see what he would call them, and Adam chose a name for each one" (NLT). But even a man and his dog were not enough. God said "still there was no companion suitable for him" (Gen. 2:20 NLT).
For those who want to avoid relationships and simply love and adore a pet to the exclusion of a human relationship, God says that's not enough. God is obviously not against loving animals, but they are not a suitable substitute, which is why God created Eve.
Adam was ecstatic! In fact, I'd say he did some soaring! Listen to his words in Genesis 2:23: "'At last!' Adam exclaimed. 'She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called "woman" because she was taken out of a man'" (NLT).
This is a sidebar thought, but it gives me a giggle to read Adam's words, "At last!" What in the world did he know about "at last"? He barely knew "at first." What he knew was that he wanted something-he had no way of knowing what-and the minute he saw it, you'd think he'd been crying out for centuries, "I need a woman. At last, at last, here she is!"
What Adam did not know, and many of us don't seem to know even yet, is that we are inherently wired for loving. We are wired for relationships. We all desperately want to be loved. We were created for it. To deny it, fight it, or ignore it is to go contrary to a God-given core instinct. And we need to know this instinct extends beyond male-female relatedness. It includes every human interaction on the planet. God seems to think it's better than a cocker spaniel.
Now, quite frankly, I can think of a number of relationships I'd rather drop off at the Humane Society. Some of those relationships have not been housebroken, and I've had enough. My patience is gone; I want them gone. And besides, I can't afford new carpeting one more time! If perchance those thoughts resonate with you, let me tell you about my neighbor's house. (Well, of course, Marilyn, -what better time to talk about your neighbor's house!)
This house is three doors down from me on the other side of the street. I thought it would be a great house for Pat Wenger. It was for sale, it was gorgeous, and it was in the center of our new little Women of Faith hub. Of course, the fact that Pat transcribes all my writing into the computer meant she would be well-located for those many occasions when her technological prowess could pull me out of a wallow. She'd also be well located for those times when the soul longs for patio time munching on pizza and simply loving the Texas skies.
She made a bid on the house, and it was accepted. Everyone in the hub was thrilled. One huge problem: the building inspector found significant structural damage evidenced by huge cracks in the foundation. According to the inspector, it was only a matter of time before the house would be uninhabitable. Appalling! Shocking!
Pat withdrew her offer, got her money back, and we sat on the curb staring in disbelief. Such a gorgeous house-perfect landscaping, inviting little side patio complete with fountain softly gurgling in quiet serenity for those who would never guess the existence of structural damage and potential collapse.
But that's not the end of the story. Since its condemning report, the owners no longer had the option of selling the house. So they hired experts to fix the foundation. For months there was a constant flurry of reconstruction going on down there. Funny-looking little bulldozers scurried about, the lawn was torn up, and the flowers were destroyed. Strange building sounds filled the air.
Now, five months later, the little bulldozers have crawled back onto their truck and been driven away. The lawn has been replaced and the flowers replanted, and everything looks spontaneously renewed. Instead of moving to Florida, as the owners had originally intended, they plan to stay. Their house is declared safe and inhabitable, the fountain gurgles with renewed optimism, and the owners can't imagine why they ever wanted to move in the first place.
But here's the less-than-admirable reality. They wanted to move because they didn't want to face their house problems. Instead, they wanted to escape their house problems-sell the house problems to someone else and make a quick escape to Florida. Didn't work. Had to face the house and fix it! Now they're glad they did, but it was not their first choice. Their first choice was to run and not look back.
Since moving to Frisco, Texas, I've learned that foundational problems here are a continual challenge. One builder told me the ground is not stable enough to support all the sudden building going on in this part of the state. As a result, it is not uncommon for many foundations to have little hairline cracks as the soil settles, searching for stability.
So what does my neighbor's house have to do with the topic of relationships? What does the slightly shifting ground in and around Frisco have to do with whether or not we are tempted to drop a few of our relationships off at the Humane Society? I think the house can serve as a metaphor for all of us as we work our way through the shifting soil of relationships.
Quite frankly, if I didn't have a few hairline cracks of my own and certainly a touch of foundational instability, some relationships would not put me in a wallow. If I don't stand up and take a look at those fundamental issues, I'm going to be searching madly for a ticket to Florida.
I believe all soul foundations are fixable, capable of repair, and not hopelessly destined for collapse. The key to that repair is not running away but facing the challenges.
The purpose of this book is to suggest a major scriptural guideline for the repair of your relational foundations. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, that guideline is found in Romans 12:2: "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (NLT). It is possible to learn new patterns of behaving by thinking about what did not work "last time." Based on what has not worked, we can change directions and not fall into the rut of unwise pattern repetition. By the same token, we can remember what did work last time and what process brought it about.
Over and above it all is God's promise to be with us as He lovingly leads us into new patterns. The verse does not say "Get your stuff straightened out, baby ... Don't count on Me to be there while you're working on it ... You make too many dumb mistakes for Me to hang around and watch ... You create too much foundational stress ... I'm going to Florida."
The key phrase is, "Let God transform you." He is vitally, energetically, lovingly orchestrating your transformation. You are in partnership with Him in this process. You are not in it alone. However, the word "let" makes it clear what we do to be in this partnership. We choose. We "let" God do what He does best-transform us. My part? Choose to participate.
Excerpted from Since you Asked by MARILYN MEBERG Copyright © 2007 by Marilyn Meberg. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
One: The Soar-Wallow Syndrome....................1
Two: Transformed Thinking....................15
Three: Two Shall Become One....................25
Four: Domination and Resistance....................37
Five: His Secret Sin....................51
Six: Where Is God?....................65
Seven: Meet the In-laws....................77
Eight: He Wants Me to Do What?....................89
Nine: Looking for Loopholes....................101
Ten: I Want to Start Over....................123
Eleven: What About the Kids?....................135
Twelve: Facing the Grotesque....................151
Thirteen: Forgiving and Forgetting....................167
Fourteen: Managing Our Expectations....................179