Saturday, February 27, 2010

Marriage Challenge Day 13: Paradigm Shift

A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in approach or assumptions about a certain subject. It is a change from one way of thinking to another, which we can apply to our marriages, jobs, relationships, homelife, parenting, health, etc.

In most cases, the circumstances or factors involved in a situation in our life are not going to change, but what can change, is how we look at those things, our attitudes towards those things, and how our attitude is shaping and maintaining a situation.

When it comes to marriage, one of the main things that keeps us discouraged is the feeling that nothing is going to ever change. We dont believe that our man will ever change in ways we feel are necessary for our happiness and our marriage, or that situations or problems will change or go away.

Maybe they will, and maybe they wont. Only God knows the future. The bad news we have to accept is that we cannot control certain circumstances, and we cannot control other peoples behaviors, actions or choices. As much as we would love to have the power to change others, we simply cannot! Continually trying to do so leads only to feelings of frustration and defeat and hopelessness.

The good news is that we always have control over our own minds, our own thoughts, our own actions and reactions, and our own choices. We always have control over the attitudes that we carry around in our hearts and minds every day. And we always have control over how we allow those attitudes to affect our life, and our marriages.

A paradigm shift refers to striving for a total transformation of the mind, like a metamorphosis of sorts. Metamorphosis is an even more powerful word regarding change than transformation is, because it means a radical change, from the inside out.

A great example of metamorphosis is the cycle of the butterfly - it starts out as a yucky larvae, then turns into a squirmy caterpillar, then a pupa in an cocoon, into an adult butterfly. Once the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, there is no sign of the old ugly caterpillar anymore, just the beautiful butterfly spreading its colorful wings. It completely changes, inside and out.

In marriage, it is so easy to get stuck in a mindset. Whether that mindset is positive or negative, is up to us.

Positive attitudes dont just happen, they are created.

In the familiar verse found in Romans 12:2, we read "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

The "pattern" of this world, with respect to marriages, is not good. Divorce is at an all time high, even among Christian marriages. Pornography use in marriages is a huge epidemic. Infidelity plagues our TV screens as an accepted practice, in politics, reality shows, comedies, and movies. True love is equated to mushy romance scenes that are unrealistic in most relationships. Deception, lies, mistrust, revenge, bitterness, and so on. These are the patterns of our world.

God calls each of us to be set apart from the world. To live in the world, but not of the world. The only way to do that, is to experience a paradigm shift, a transformation, and metamorphosis in our own hearts and minds - so that we can set patterns in our lives and marriages that are pleasing to God, and only God.

It requires making the choice every day to live God-focused instead of world-focused. To stay focused on what God can do, instead of what it appears He is not doing. To transform just not our minds, but our hearts, our speech, our actions, our choices, our pursuits, our dreams, and our marital relationships.

In The Message Bible, Romans 12:1-2 is written in such a way that it puts a great spin on this topic of transformation, when it says ".... Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out...." Wow! I loved that.

So how do we transform our attitudes to stop focusing on what is not right in the marriage, and start focusing on what is? How can we shift our perceptions about our husbands, and allow God to change us from the inside out, and in turn, our marriages?

There is no easy answer, but a great place to start is to realize that your husband will never meet all of your needs. That sounds disappointing, but it is true, and having that expectation only sets us up for disappointment and failure.

Philippians 4:19 says "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Do we see the word "husband" in this verse? Nope. God didnt intend for our husbands, or any other person or thing in our life, to be able to meet our needs and make us fulfilled and content and joyful. Only HE can do that.

I spent a lot of years feeling like my needs were not being met in my marriage, and I have to admit that at times I still get caught up in those feelings. In fact, just recently my husband jokingly said "You are so needy!", because I was telling him that he hadnt hugged me enough lately or spent enough time with me. I laughed, but in my heart, I knew it was true.

As women, we are needy. We all long for that physical touch, romance, friendship, honesty, intimacy, provision and closeness, from the men that we have committed our life to. But the reality is, that sometimes our husbands just cannot meet all of those needs, and when that happens, our attitudes shift in the wrong direction. And Satan smiles.

My faith grew, my walk with God got more exciting, and my marriage improved - the day I truly accepted that my husband could not meet my needs, or expectations.

The day that my heart latched onto that concept, was my first step towards a better marriage, and a changed heart.

What a relief it was for me to discover that Jesus was the only person who could fill every empty space in my heart. What a gift to my husband, to release him from the expectation that it was his responsibility and obligation to try to make me happy every day.

A few years ago, I discovered that no matter what my husband was or was not doing; no matter what situations we were going through; no matter how many expectations were not met; no matter how many arguments we might have.... that I could still have joy. That I could still be fulfilled. That I could still be positive.

I believe that our lives are by-products of our choices, not our circumstances. How we "see" things in our life, will determine what we are able to "see". We can choose to be positive and God focused, or we can choose to be negative and world focused. Whichever choice we make, will determine the level of joy we can expect to have in marriage, in life, and in our faith.

Your challenge today is to consider whether or not you need to embrace the opportunity for a paradigm shift in your way of thinking. Consider whether or not you have been expecting your husband to meet all of your expectations.

Make a list of the things that you "expect" of your husband. Make a list of the needs that you "expected" your husband to fill when you got married. Then ask God to begin helping you see what expectations you have placed on your husband, that in fact, only God can really meet.

This is a tough challenge, because any normal person would be thinking "why should I change? He is the one who needs to change? He is the one who did this/that/this and that. What good does it do for me to change, if he refuses to change?"

Im with you sister. Just remember, we only have control over our own thoughts and actions, but when we change our mindset, we might not only see things in a different light, but we also might become a role model that will inspire others to embrace change as well.

The pattern of this world would be to point fingers, but the pattern of God would be to point to Him for guidance. With Gods help, our life, and our marriages, can emerge from the cocoon, and become a beautiful butterfly. The old will be gone, and the new will take its place. All things are possible with God, and He is the King of transformation.

Here is a prayer to help you prepare your heart for this paradigm shift through the power of Christ:

Dear Jesus, please melt my heart towards my husband. Help me release him from the obligation of meeting all of my needs. But Lord, would you soften his heart so that he will understand my needs, and long to meet the ones that he can meet? You have brought us together for a reason, and I trust that You can get us through hard times, heal addictions, restore our relationship, and rekindle our love. Fill my heart with so much of You, that I do not need anything else, however You know and understand that the blessing of a happy and wonderful marriage is my hearts desire. Help me to experience personal victory in you, so that I can truly change my mindset and transform my way of thinking. Help me to be set apart. Guide my thoughts to good things about my husband, and not just the bad. Help me to forgive, and if needed, help me to forget. Give me the strength to love my husband unconditionally, just as You love me. Fill my mind and mouth with words that will help me achieve a metamorphosis in my soul, from the inside out. Help me to get rid of old thoughts and patterns, and embrace the opportunity to become a more positive person about my marriage. Most of all Lord, please make your Presence known to me. Let me see a glimpse of You at work in my marriage so that I can continue to be hopeful and excited about the changes that are to come. I trust in You Lord, forgive me for doubting that you are bigger than all my problems. Help me to always remember that it Your desire for me to happy and fulfilled in all things."

Great verses which clearly reveal the heart of God when it comes to our relationships with our spouses:

Ephesians 5:21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. (MSG)

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (NIV)

John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


Happy Saturday!

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6 comments:

Jennifer said...

Another great message! Thank you so much for continually teaching me how to turn to Jesus for help in whatever I am going through. You are a blessing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Tracie for another eye-opening message. I have prayed for people I never really got along with and not that they would change but that I would change; and that worked my heart did have a different outlook on them, God changed me. I never thought about doing that for my husband, WOW! Love it keep them coming.

Gayle said...

Tracie,
I am enjoying your series so much.. and I am forwarding the link to some women whom I know are struggling in their marriages.. Thanks.

Kelly said...

Wow! I totally agree with Jennifer. Day after day your messages have spoken right to me it seems but today especially....wow. Thank you!

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

Tracie, you are so amazing with communicating and writing. Truly, you do need to put all of this in a book.

Most of the disagreements in our almost 34 yrs of marriage have been over unmet expectations. Mostly my own due to wanting my husband to fill the void in my heart that was meant for only God to fill. Poor guy, there is no way he could begin to fill those voids, no matter how hard he tried because he wasn't suppose to. Over the many years in our marriage, I have gotten much better with going to God with my expectations and I know it's been less frustrating and confusing to my husband. It has also helped that in this empty nest season of our life, we are more relaxed with one another and the unrealistic expectations are much fewer now. We are human so it's not perfect but it is good!

Colleen said...

Tracie,

I have been following your series on marriages. From the first day I prayed for my husband, things began to change! Small but sure changes. It was amazing!

This 'paradigm shift' is exactly what is happening to me (now I have a name for it!) Not only is the change caused by my changing expectations of my husband, it is also a softening of my own heart towards him and a change in my attitude and how I view him and our marriage.

God's hand is surely working in all of this. It couldn't have happened any other way. The timing of this series was perfect. I realize that with God, all things are possible. Even the restoration of a marriage.