Step One: Take Out the Garbage!

Pam and I are in the car driving home from one of our quick trips out of town.  Pam mentions that both of our family reunions fall on the same weekend. She suggests that she could possibly go to her family for two days and then join me for my family reunion on Saturday. At the sound of her words my emotions took over and I expressed my dissatisfaction with that solution. My words were not gentle and the conversation left my wife feeling shut down and discouraged.  I was angry and felt abandoned by my wife.  She then tried to revisit the conversation again the next day and I went into a personal attack of her character and her lack of love for her family that has been expressed by her in the past as proof that she should be with me at my reunion. My wife said she felt attacked and judged and she couldn’t understand where the hostility was coming from. I had to take a break from these attempts at my wife to reconcile and have a gut wrenching time with God. The bitterness, rage and anger was escalating with each conversation. I felt out of control. I was being triggered and couldn’t see past my feelings, hurts and wants. I was being transported back to that little boy that had a father that chose others over me. I was putting that on my wife and felt her choosing others over me which left me feeling alone and abandoned. It didn’t seem rational but it was real. The pain was intense and the emotions were strong. In the midst of this emotional situation I was caught up in my emotions. I was triggered and responding. At some point I had to put the word of God in place and “get rid of the garbage ” in our communication that was rendering the efforts to reconcile ineffective.

 

Before we go into our study I would like you to look through a few scriptural passages. Read them in one sitting and, if necessary, more than once. It is very helpful to read them aloud. As you read them, remember there are no provisos. There are no hesitations here. From the poetry of the Psalms, to the passion of the prophets and from the narrative history of God’s ancient people to the letters of the New Testament, the message is the same.

Psalm 139:13-18

Genesis 1:27

Isaiah 43:1-7

Isaiah 49-13-18

Romans 5:6-8

Soak it in…. This is how God feels about us!

These passages don’t come with conditions and are given despite knowing that everyday we will sin and be sinned against. God, nevertheless, knows us and WANTS to know us intimately.

God turns toward us and pays intimate attention to us.  God appreciates us as his own.

When we look at the love of God for his children and how from the beginning of time he always had this elaborate plan we can begin to see what Paul means in Ephesians.

Here is the truth.We are to treat each other as God’s daughters and as God’s sons. We are both God’s children and are entrusted with His children. Each of us have one of his children with us (for a time) and will give an account for what is said, what is done and how we treat each other!

2 Corinthians 5:6-1

If you turn to Ephesians 5:1 we can see is the foundation of Christian ministry to our wives/husbands.    WE ARE TO BE IMITATING GOD.

BE Imitators of God;

Jesus said in Mark 11, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone forgive him”.  This means that we are never to place religious duty or ministry ahead of good relationships with people. We are to set things right first, and then continue on in prayer. We are to do what Paul commanded in Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

1Peter 3:7 goes on to emphasize, That your prayers may not be hindered”. The failure to live as a godly husband has serious spiritual consequences. It can and it will hinder prayer.

Some have thought that Peter has in mind here the prayers that husbands and wives pray together, but  he addresses husbands only, and because he says your prayers, he refers to the prayers of husbands in general.

Peter assumed that the fear of hindered prayer would motivate Christian husbands to love and care for their wives as they should. Many Christian men have such a low regard for prayer that this warning may not adequately motivate them. Here is a great commentary on this passage. “Indeed, to true believers prayer is so invaluable that the danger of hindering it is used by Peter as a motive why, in their marriage relationships, and household concerns, they should behave themselves with great wisdom. He bids the husband ‘dwell’ with his wife ‘according to knowledge,’ and render loving honor to her, lest their united prayers should be hindered. Anything which hinders prayer must be wrong. If any management of the family, or want of management, is injuring our power in prayer, there is an urgent demand for an alteration.” (Spurgeon)

Now,  as we as we look at Ephesians 4:29-32, I would like to encourage us to realize that understanding the great “husband” and “wife” admonitions must be seen in the overall context of how Christians are to interact with others.This challenge from Paul comes BEFORE he gets into the details of Christian marriage, in Ephesians 5, and so we can take it as the foundational standard of our interactions… with ANYBODY!

Here it is,29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling (some translations “Shouting”) and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

 

“Unwholesome Talk” Avoid the B. R. A.S. S.

Here is  a brief , but very revealing, word study *(see below) of the five ways of dealing with others that are to be avoided at all cost. Look at these definitions of the original words and I think you will find, like me, that these are more close to home than I thought. Just so you know the definition of anger characterized much of my interactions with Pam (and my children)  for quite a while.

Ephesians 4:31 “Get Rid Of…”

  1. Bitterness
    Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
    Transliteration: pikria
    Phonetic Spelling: (pik-ree’-ah)
    Short Definition: bitterness
    Definition: bitterness, harshness, hence met: an embittered (resentful) spirit.

 

  1. Rage

thymós (from thyō, “rush along, getting heated up, breathing violently,” cf. J. Thayer) – properly, passion-driven behavior, i.e. actions emerging out of strong impulses (intense emotion).

When 2372 /thymós (“expressed passion”) is used of people it indicates rage (personal venting of anger, worth). This flaw is completely absent of the Lord expressing (inspiring) intense anger. Accordingly, 2372 (thymós) is used of God’s perfect, holy wrath inRevelation (Rev 14:10,19,15:1, etc.). This anger is directed against sin.

 

  1. Anger

3709 orgḗ (from orgáō, “to teem, swelling up to constitutionally oppose”) – properly, settled anger (opposition), i.e. rising up from an ongoing (fixed) opposition.

3709 /orgḗ (“settled anger”) proceeds from an internal disposition which steadfastly opposes someone or something based on extended personal exposure, i.e. solidifying what the beholder considers wrong (unjust, evil).

[“Orgē comes from the verb oragō meaning, ‘to teem, to swell‘; and thus implies that it is not a sudden outburst, but rather (referring to God’s) fixed, controlled, passionate feeling against sin . . . a settled indignation (so Hendriksen)” (D. E. Hiebert, at 1 Thes 1:10).]

 

  1. “Brawling”- Shouting  kraugḗ(from 2896 /krázō, “cry out”) – loud crying, done with pathos (great emotion); clamorous screaming (shrieking) that is extremely boisterous, like a wounded person emitting “unearthly” (non-human) types of sounds.

 

  1. Slander

blasphēmía (from blax, “sluggish/slow,” and 5345/phḗmē, “reputation, fame”) – blasphemy – literally, slow (sluggish) to call something good (that really is good) – and slow to identify what is truly bad (that really is evil).

further…

Blasphemy (988 /blasphēmía) “switches” right for wrong (wrong for right), i.e. calls what God disapproves, “right” which “exchanges the truth of God for a lie” (Ro 1:25). See 987 (blasphēmeō).

 

Bitterness, rage, anger, shouting and slander, together or apart, are symptoms that something is very wrong. We all have fallen into being this way, myself included but, it must be said, that these ways are simply evil…period. We are to love our spouses the same way Christ loved the church and is loved by the church. There is simply no room for the above. It is not an option and it is absolute. The moments we do slip up and allow them in to our relationship we place our marriage on shaky ground and hinder our connection with God.

Are these a lifestyle for your marriage?

Read/listen to the words mentioned at the beginning of this study once again and be reminded that your Father’s viewpoint and ways of dealing with of you are so NOT like these. I think the best encouragement I can give to all is the same phrase that I recently read from a NYC tourism ad, “You live in New York City (or God’s acceptance). Live like it!”

Pam and I got through this emotional hump. It took a couple of weeks and Pam was  patient as I uncovered  what was triggering me. It was a very hurtful and difficult time for both of us  as we talked and talked and talked. We were not close. The hurt was separating. The decision to not fall back on “BRASS” in our pain was tempting. But we persevered and God revealed the issues and calmed the storm. We exercised our spiritual muscles and grew closer.  Once I suspended judgement and was vulnerable in presenting my heart in a way that Pam could hear me. Once she felt she had the  choice to do what she honestly felt good about.  Pam was  able to respond with a personal decision to go with me and be by my side.

 

*The above word studies are a combination of references fromimg_3733 Strong’s Concordance, the NAS Exhaustive Concordance and HELPS Word Studies all from Biblehub.com!

About the author

Antoine Lee MEd, MC is a recent graduate of Nyack Christian College with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling. Currently he has been an independent Contractor for organizations such as Community Access as well as for the HIV/AIDS Center, Project HEAL and Women’s Support Services at Montefiore Hospital. He provided mental health in-service presentations and workshops in mindfulness training and assisted in and supported facilitation of peer support groups. He has recently completed an internship at University Behavioral Associates (Montefiore) where he helped to support transitional families. Antoine has been a pre-marital and marital counseling volunteer for over 20 years; Youth and Family leader for over ten years; motivated teaching professional with over 13 years experience addressing student needs and ensuring proper student development and an experienced 8th grade teacher with an excellent parent-teacher communication record and student motivation techniques. Antoine brings to the counseling setting his deep biblical knowledge and practical application that he has learned over the years as he has grown and matured while raising his family and helping people for over 25 years at his church. He is a creative professional with extensive project experience from concept to development.

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