Problems aren’t ruining your relationships; the problems within your relationships are causing your problems.
“I found Christ, now what?”
Many folks silently ask this question days, weeks, or years after accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Similar questions may have occurred to you about marriage, having children, or while contemplating the hairy half-ton of equine attitude looking right back at you over the paddock gate.
If you have both teenagers and horses you may have already noted some similarities in expression and challenge. The teenage “attitude” and equine “attitude” often look ver-r-ry much the same.
The Marriage Lament
“Things aren’t going exactly as I expected in my marriage. My husband is not a knight in shining armor (or wife a winsome princess) and life is more drudgery than pleasure. What happened? I don’t know what to do. Did I make a bad decision? My spouse isn’t going to change, so should I just get a divorce?”
The Parental Lament
“My kids are rebellious. Obedience went out the window somewhere back along the way and I don’t know when it happened. Now the concept of “obedience” isn’t even in their encyclopedias much less respect. My kids are out of control and I don’t know what to do. Should I get them into counseling or send them off to military school? “
The Horse Lament
“My friends take their horses on trail rides, ride bareback in the pasture, and their horses are so attentive and safe. My horse just wants food and if I don’t get out of the way fast enough when I feed I’m afraid I’ll get trampled! Maybe I should just sell this rotten horse and get a better one.”
The Faith Lament
“The day I was baptized I felt so free, so peaceful, and secure. I still believe that Jesus is my Savior but my life is a wreck, I’m nervous about our finances and my family is falling apart instead of getting closer. Maybe I am just kidding myself. Other Christians seem so happy. I just feel like a failure. “
Truth is Constant and Does Not Change – Ever
The one thing that makes something true is that it will always be true in every circumstance and in every time. If it’s true most of the time then it may be a statistically-reliable generalization, but it isn’t TRUTH.
The problem in all four scenarios mentioned above is the same. Problems aren’t ruining your relationships, the problems within your relationships are causing the problems. Even if one gets a divorce, has more kids, or buys a different horse, they will still be a factor. Until they look in the mirror nothing is going to change.
The simple truth of relationships is that all fail for one of two reasons,
- Someone is unable to do what needs to be done, or
- Someone is unwilling to do what needs to be done.
That’s pretty simple and is always true. The difficulty is distinguishing one from the other. Did someone fail because he (or she) was unable to do what was needed or because he (or she) was unwilling to do what was needed?
The purpose of the rest of this article is to get you thinking. It isn’t an exhaustive treatise on relationship. If you want more, check out Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace. Our next book will be out in a couple of months and addresses the topics in this article in far more detail to help readers simplify the most important problems in life with a scriptural method to resolve them.
Is your rebellious child unable or unwilling?
If your son’s room is a complete mess, is it because he couldn’t clean it or because he wouldn’t clean it? My money is on his unwillingness to fumigate his room rather than because he was not able to do so.
Before you head down the hall to announce to your son that the only reason he did not clean his room as you asked is because he didn’t want to, let’s consider a second question:
“Why did you let him get away with not cleaning his room in the first place? Were you UNABLE to require his action or were you UNWILLING to follow through?”
This is not a gotcha question. It goes directly to the heart of why your relationships are not all you hoped for. We already know your kid could clean his room. He just didn’t want to so he didn’t. Pretty simple stuff. Would I lose my money if I bet this isn’t the first time he didn’t do as you asked? What did you do the first time he ignored you?
If your daughter wears clothing than would have embarrassed a “working girl” in previous decades, is it because she is unable to wear something more modest or because she is unwilling to wear something more modest? If so, what did you do the day she bought the first trashy piece for her wardrobe?
Why did you let her wear that first piece the day she popped out of her room looking like someone else’s kid? Were you UNABLE to get her to change her clothes or were you UNWILLING to follow through?
Why is my horse food aggressive?
What happened the first time your horse was aggressive at feeding time? Did you even notice, or were you in a hurry or decide it was out of character so you chose not to actually DO anything about it? What about the second time? The third?
Why in the world would you think it’s the horse’s fault for being aggressive at dinner time? Every time he was aggressive you rewarded him with food.
Why doesn’t my son clean his room?
Why would I think my son is being a lazy pig for not cleaning his room when I don’t expect or require him to clean it? He still gets dinner. He still has the keys to the car. He still has a TV, iPod, video game, and asks for his allowance the minute he thinks it’s due. What did I do the first time he didn’t clean his room? Did I ever require him to clean his room?
If this is the case with your kid, then it is accurate to say that he isn’t willing to clean his room, but why should he be? You never cared enough to get him to do it, so why should he? Where is his motivation to clean it? Unless you hatched a natural-born clean freak, your son is looking forward to marriage so he’ll have someone to clean his room.
If your daughter dresses like an x-rated film star what are you doing to change the situation? Does she still have the keys to the car or her extensive selection of electronic devices? One of these days she’s going to bring home Mr. Right – or will he be Mr. Wrong?
Your son obviously doesn’t respect himself enough to live in a clean room and your daughter doesn’t respect herself enough to cover up. How did that happen and what can you do about it?
What does your husband think about this mess? Do you really know?
Why doesn’t my husband talk to me?
There are a multitude of reasons why husbands don’t talk to wives. Some have to do with the Y-chromosome and the rest are usually based on the experience of being married to their wives. If this describes your husband then the wife in question would be you.
Did your husband ever talk to you? If not, why did you marry him? If he never talked to you and you still picked him then it’s kinda late to require him to talk to you now. I’m not saying the situation is hopeless, but when you examine why he isn’t speaking, it’s not something new. He didn’t become unwilling, he never knew he was supposed to talk and now you’ve changed the rules.
If your husband used to talk with you, when did that change? Over most candle-lit premarital dinners women hang on Mr. Right’s every word, gaze rapturously into his eyes, and never once check their watch, email or text messages.
When is the last time you did looked in your husband’s eyes and hung on his every word? I understand that life gets complicated, that time is a precious commodity, and most of us resort to multi-tasking. When your husband does speak to you how many other things are you trying to do at the same time? Dishes? Talking to kids? Surfing the web? Watching television? Fixing your hair or makeup?
Do you text your husband? It’s really tempting for a human with a Y-chromosome to get content and happy with non-verbal communication. If most of your conversations with your husband are via iPhone, you are well into a relationship problem.
Why doesn’t my wife respect my decisions?
Did your marriage vows include the phrase “honor and obey?” If your fiancé` insisted they be removed you have most of your answer right there. Did she respect and honor you before the wedding? If so, when did she change?
The first time your opinion was sacrificed on the altar of her opinion, what were the circumstances? Do you even remember? Maybe you weren’t all that clear about what your opinion was. Did you discuss what you thought and what she thought, then work through the differences until you agreed on a rational conclusion?
Or, did you say that you weren’t really sure about her idea and maybe kinda suggested one of your own then left it up to her to be obedient. Was she unable to respect your decision or unwilling to respect your decision? If you weren’t clear about what your decision actually was, did you think she would figure it out because you happen to be married to a mind reader?
Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and imagine that you were absolutely clear and your wife still chose to reject your decision. What did you do? Did you make a mental note and begin a list of grudges? Were you tempted to do something just the tiniest bit disrespectful to get back at her?
Were you unable or unwilling to speak with your wife and get to the bottom of the issue? If you ignored it you implied by an absence of a response that it was okay with you. If the first time she rejected your decision was okay then why wouldn’t the second or third? Is it possible she was the slightest bit disappointed that you didn’t support your decision enough to “win the day”? If you don’t respect your decisions, why should your wife? She respected hers enough to follow through.
Why is my horse disrespectful?
Whatever your horse does that you consider disrespectful, the same questions asked about your messy son, poorly clad daughter, and difficult spouse also apply to your horse.
Did he always behave this way? If so, why did you bring him home? If not, what happened the first time your horse acted out? Did he misbehave because he was unable to do right or because he was unwilling to do right? Approximately 80% of horse problems are diagnosed as unwillingness when in truth they represent inability caused by poor leadership.
Are you able and willing to repair your relationship with your horse? If you are and you need direction, feel free to email me. That’s one reason we’re here.
Why do other Christians have more faith than I do?
God will never ask you to do something He has not made you able to do. Never. There is no circumstance or situation too great for Him to handle. None. The only question that really matters is whether or not you are willing to do as He asks.
The only reason Christians get their faith pillowcases in a twist is because they want God to do things their way and not His way. We judge God’s behavior based on our own motivations, which leads us to the last piece of this relationship puzzle… COMMITMENT.
The number one reason relationships fail with a spouse, child, horse, or with Jesus Christ is a failure of commitment. Horses don’t fail to commit to worthy leadership and Christ’s commitment was so great that He willingly laid down His life for you.
What is the level of commitment you bring to your relationships? There is a remedy for any inability if you care enough to do the work to become able. The only reason someone is unwilling or allows unwillingness to continue is a lack of commitment.
The Beginning is Not the Journey
The world offers false expectations of what relationships are all about. The only truth about relationship, commitment, and faith is found in God’s Word and by walking it daily in real life.
- A wedding is a beginning, not a marriage.
- A birth is a beginning, not parenting.
- Buying a horse is a beginning, not the partnership.
- Finding faith at the foot of the cross through the work of the Holy Spirit is a beginning.
You will never be more married than you are the moment you become husband and wife. You will never be more of a parent than you are the moment you see your child for the first time. You will never be more responsible for the quality of your horse’s life than you are the moment he becomes your horse.
You will never be more saved than the moment Christ entered your heart.
The most important relationships make life worth living. The quality of your life is the sum of the quality of your relationships. The quality of your relationships depends on what you do every day.
If you don’t bask in the blessing of marriage, parenting, horse ownership, and your Christian walk EVERY DAY then you are missing the boat entirely.
Every day is a gift. Every day needs to be enough. If you wake every morning committed to loving your spouse, your kids, your horse, and your Savior – you will have an awesome day. The very wise Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast.”
The first time you fail to communicate with your spouse is an opportunity to make your marriage MORE. Parenting is a series of moments that shape the life of a new human and offer unique blessings to you and your spouse. The experience of raising kids is unlike any other.
The first time your horse obeys simply because you asked is the moment you realize how God must smile when you did the same in response to His request.
The only reality in life is today. If your relationships aren’t perfect, join the club. The question is what do you intend to do about it? How great is your commitment? What are you willing to change to become the bride or groom you were, the expectant parent you were, the crazy horse kid you were, and the beloved child of Christ that you are?
The answer to every relationship issue is found in relationship with Christ. Get that one right and the rest will become manageable. Are you willing? A life is built on the baby steps of minutes, hours, and days. Don’t expect to reach the heights of relationship on day one.
But delight in the opportunity that Day One brings. If you’re committed, the worst you can do is receive the blessings that await.