Staying off the Crazy Train in 2019

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

So long, 2018, hello 2019! There is something about a new year that gives a renewed sense of hope. It’s like our internal optimist rallies and says, “This year is going to be my year.” It can happen if you determine to make peace your top priority.

As a therapist I know if you don’t have peace, you are not going to be happy. Last I checked, this broken world does not prioritize peace. It thrives on drama and chaos. To remain peaceful, you need to develop a plan to stay off the crazy train. If you follow these tips, you will not only stay off the train, you may avoid getting on the platform.

1. Pay close attention to what you are putting in your head. The need to be informed cannot override your need for peace. Too much time watching Fox News or CNN is correlated with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic over-thinking. Predetermine how much time you want to spend listening to the news. Once you have hit your limit, turn it off. Don’t even let it play in the background, as your subconscious will pick it up. Limit your time on social media, as well. Remember, garbage in equals garbage out.

2. Begin each day with some quiet time of prayer, praise, or Bible reading. Even if it’s only a five minute Psalm or a short devotional. Open your day with your focus on God, and how He loves you. On your way to work, turn on worship music. It’s amazing how something as simple as changing the dial on the radio can be life-changing, but it can. Our local station, WBVN (104.5) is a perfect drive-to-work companion.

3. Increase your gratitude and decrease your anger. Keep a notebook by your bed. Each night jot down a couple of things from the day you enjoyed. Hot coffee and a warm bed are two of my favorites. Simple things to be grateful for. Then reflect on your day and see if there is anyone who angered you. If there is, ask God to help you forgive them and let it go. Give God a quick prayer of gratitude, then you are ready for sleep.

That’s it. Three easy steps. But what have you done with these simple changes? You have now opened and closed your day focusing on positive things. We all know when it comes to our diet, junk food and no exercise equals disastrous results to our health and waistline. Why would we think what we put in our brain would be any different?

I just read this in my Jesus Calling devotional, “My Peace is still your deepest need, and I, your Prince of Peace, long to pour Myself into your neediness. My abundance and your emptiness are a perfect match. I designed you to have no sufficiency of your own. I created you as a jar of clay, set apart for sacred use. I want you to be filled with My very Being, permeated through and through with Peace. Thank Me for My peaceful Presence, regardless of your feelings. Whisper My Name in loving tenderness. My Peace, which lives continually in your spirit, will gradually work its way through your entire being.”

That’s a refreshing drink of water to a thirsty soul, isn’t it? In 2019, do yourself a solid and bookend your days with Jesus. Let the world do whatever it wants, be as crazy as it wants, and realize that other than prayer, there is nothing you can do to stop the crazy train from rolling. However, if you stick close to the Prince of Peace, you do not have to be on board.

Christmas in Mayberry

People can grumble all they want about Southern Illinois, but I love it, and I love living in Marion! Especially at Christmas. My husband, Nathan, and I took some friends to the WBVN Very Merry Christmas concert last night. It reminded me of all the things I adore about this community. A packed auditorium filled with some of the nicest people you ever want to meet. Many of them rocking their crazy Christmas sweaters and Santa hats, joining together to sing praises to Jesus.

There is something about the community, with all its diversity, singing Christmas carols that makes my heart melt. I am so grateful to our local radio station, WBVN, for giving us that gift. And our beautiful Civic Center, for making these events possible and affordable. In a time when a family can’t afford to go to the movies and buy popcorn, people can take their children out for a wonderful night of top-notch entertainment and snacks in downtown Marion.

Our town square looks lovely! We have a beautiful nativity scene, a spot for Santa, and the Hanukkah Candle. And guess what? No one is bent out of shape about any of it. And right off the square, at Southern Illinois Mercantile, you can find the coolest gifts ever, all made by area residents. It’s like walking into a Pinterest display with an ice cream counter and fresh coffee! Heaven.

What a blessing it is to have towns that go out of their way to provide holiday meals and entertainment for their residents. I’m happy I can go in stores and hear Christmas songs about Jesus and have checkout people say Merry Christmas. I love piling in the car and going to Candy Cane Lane with my family and dogs. But you know what I like best? There is always someone standing out there to greet us when we go through, AND they hand out dog biscuits to our pooches. They don’t have to do that, but they are giving a gift of love to our community. Look around. Our towns are full of people looking for creative ways to spread some joy. That’s beautiful, and in case you’ve lived here all your life, let me assure you, it’s quite unique.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to bust out of this town and see the world, so I joined the military and did some traveling. I lived in Europe for 2 years, came back stateside, bounced around, and wound up in Florida. I had nearly 25 Christmases away from Marion in places from London to Key West, and while those were great, what we have is better.

I used to sarcastically call this town “Mayberry, USA.” After my scorch-and-burn lifestyle chewed me up and spit me out, I realized what an idiot I was. I found out Mayberry/Marion is a pretty great place to live. All the things I used to despise are now the things I love. Maybe that’s middle age, or perhaps it’s because I have finally found the things in life that matter. Faith in God and caring for others. This area exemplifies those values.

Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” I had a lot of Christmas parties where I laughed all night but woke the next day with a hunger in my heart and an emptiness in my soul. I thank God those days are over. And while Christmas in Key West is a sight to behold, take it from someone who’s been there, what we have is worth coming home for. So, from me, Nathan, and the McCloskey Dog Pack, All our Love and Merry Christmas!

Christmas is about Forgiveness

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I’m angry right now. A deep down hurt laced with anger, and it’s stuck in my craw. I’m holding a grudge and trying to justify it to God. It won’t work. Unforgiveness is never justified. I know I’m being stubborn. So I’m wrestling it out with God. Here are the rules of our wrestling match; I can tell Him it hurts, and I can say to Him I was wounded, but I can’t tell Him forgiveness is hard. Especially not at Christmas time, when I’m surrounded by evidence of how hard it was for Him to forgive me.

We look at the manger scene and take it for granted. Yep, there’s baby Jesus, asleep in the hay. Do you ever stop and think what it took to get Him there? Prior to Him being placed as an embryo in Mary’s womb, He had existed for all eternity. I don’t know what form He had, but it was not flesh, or the Bible wouldn’t say “the Word became flesh.” I bet He looked a lot like unapproachable light. Breathtaking and beautiful. He was never tired, hungry, felt pain, or had a hard day. He had never been separated from the Father. He existed in an eternal state of bliss and held all the wisdom of the universe in His omnipresent brain.

He went from that to this. The Father had to entrust His beloved Son to the care of a teenage girl. I know parents who won’t leave their kids in the church nursery, but God placed Jesus in the hands of men. Jesus had to experience dirty diapers, hunger, pain, dependency, and submission. The Word had to learn to speak Hebrew. And He, who had written the Torah (Law), had to learn it.

If that isn’t astonishing enough, He did it all without sin. He never had evil thoughts about His parents or his siblings. He was always humble. He was the only one on the face of the planet who had a reason to feel uppity, and He didn’t. He never held a grudge, not even when they nailed Him to a tree. Then He became our sin. My current sins of unforgiveness and pride were placed in His body as He died. He took the judgment for our sin and buried it in the grave. Then He rose from the dead. All this was so we could be reconciled to the Father. Geez and Wow!! Now that’s the definition of hard!

I used to wonder why Jesus had to come in the flesh. But now (especially whenI’m being a stubborn a**) I realize He had to come because I am so bad Jesus had to die to move my mountain of sin off me. So are you. That’s why, even when I’m sitting here, all up in my emotions and feeling hurt, I won’t tell God that forgiving someone is hard. Forgiving me was hard. Forgiving you was hard.

Now that he lives inside me, He won’t let me rest until I extend forgiveness to others. Even as I write this, I feel Him winning the wrestling match. I’m so grateful to Him for that because being hurt and angry is awful!

How about you? As Christmas approaches is there anyone you should be in contact with, but can’t bring yourself to forgive because you think it’s too “hard?” This is my plea for you to wrestle it out with God. You already know the rules. You can cry, you can tell Him why it hurts, you can do all that. You just can’t tell Him it’s hard. Not in the light of what hard really is. Now, it’s Christmas. Quit being a stubborn a** and extend some Christmas forgiveness.

The Real Grinch that Steals Christmas

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

When we were kids, my brother and I got fevered when gifts would start amassing under the Christmas tree. One year the Mac Daddy of all gift boxes appeared. It was huge and heavy, with a tag addressed to us both. We fantasized about the treasure trove of toys we were sure awaited us in that box. On Christmas morning we tore into it, quivering with anticipation. What did we find? ENCYCLOPEDIAS! All our Christmas dreams were dashed as we stared at an (almost) complete set of (nearly) new (mom was a thrifty shopper) Worldbook Encyclopedias. That was the first time I discovered the real Grinch that steals Christmas is disappointment.

Everyone has tangled with this Grinch, and once that happens, people try all sorts of ways to avoid him. Some employ the Disaster Preparedness Method. They psych themselves into a pre-holiday state of despair. Early on they start to believe their holidays are going to suck. Their rationale is if they expect a terrible Christmas, if it happens, they won’t be disappointed. That’s like inviting the Grinch to visit so you won’t be surprised when he shows up! If this is you, you are ruining weeks to avoid a few bad days. This also becomes self-fulfilling, because nobody wants to invite Debbie Downer to Christmas dinner.

The other method to avoid the Grinch is the All-In Method. These people are running around in crazy Christmas sweaters and have been shopping since last December 26th. They go to strenuous efforts to ensure everyone has the “perfect” gifts and get to sit down to the “perfect” meal. Alas, they are surrounded by imperfect people who are destined to ruin their holiday vision.

So, it looks like either method you choose, Disaster Preparedness or All-In, you are setting yourself us for an appointment with the Grinch. What’s a person to do?

We do what the Who’s do! Remember in the story how the Grinch gleefully awaited the Who’s disappointment when they discovered their Christmas had been stolen? But the Who’s foiled his plans (and won his heart,) by their unshakable joy because the Grinch couldn’t steal their love. The Who’s knew love was what Christmas was all about.

I can hear the chorus of naysayers from here, “but you don’t understand! My family doesn’t love me…I’m all alone.” Or, “My family is nuts, they are impossible to love!” Luckily, Christmas is not about the love of people, Christmas is about the love of God.

To be Grinched (disappointed), you have to have unmet expectations. This is why God is never disappointed in you. He expects you to be a mess, and you are. He expected it so much, He knew He had to intervene on your behalf. So He sent His Son as the ultimate gift to humanity. Christmas is about “For God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”

If you focus on the love of God found in Christ Jesus, you will be Grinch-proof! Plus, you may discover, like the Grinch, your heart is growing, and you want to go give some of that love away. Go on, give it away, and don’t expect a thing in return. That’s God’s idea of the Christmas spirit. It’s like wearing Grinch-Replant, which is way more fun to put on than an ugly Christmas sweater.

I’m Lousy at Following God’s Rules

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

It’s time I get honest with you. Here it is…I’m lousy at obeying God’s rules. Embarrassing, but true. I’m in ministry, so I’m supposed to be good at this stuff. Besides, there are only a couple of things God asks. Jesus, God in the flesh, summarized God’s rules into two commands. All we have to do is love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). I honestly gave it my best shot.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out I was terrible at loving others. As a therapist, I know a lot of lonely people. But I don’t always invite them over or do home visits. And I don’t think all my neighbors know Jesus. I suspect some are on drugs. What is my response? Sometimes I do prayer walks (meaning I pray for them as I walk my dogs past their house). One year I burnt/baked them Christmas cookies. But most days I ignore them. Since I couldn’t find a scripture about Jesus handing out burnt cookies or ignoring people, I had to admit I sucked at obeying this rule.

When I saw my shortcoming with the loving my neighbor thing, I doubled down on my efforts to love God. And I got pretty good at it…most of the time. Until those times when my desire to binge watch YouTube videos over road my desire to pray or praise. This forced me to admit I’m bad at the loving God thing, as well. Uh oh! If I’m bad at loving God and my neighbor, I have a serious problem.

As Elyse Fitzpatrick points out, “Since God declares He hates injustice and it’s an abomination to Him when a guilty person goes unpunished, our only hope of avoiding His just sentence is to obey these two rules.” Problem is, we can’t. Don’t pretend you’re good at it. You aren’t. Getting these rules right demands our mind, will, and emotions all agree in a trifecta of loving obedience. Not just once, but continuously. How are you doing with that? See, we are in the same boat. Left on our own, we can’t please a Holy God. Simple rules (don’t eat that fruit) or complex (love your neighbor), we will fail every time.

And this is why Christmas is something to get excited about. Not because of shopping, gifts, or even family. Christmas is about Jesus and the fantastic news we call the gospel. “When the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Now, instead of trying to please God (and failing) with the rules, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ…For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:22-25). None of this would have been possible had it not been for God’s love and faithfulness, manifesting in the birth of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

I know once Black Friday hit, most of us went into a Holiday lather. This is a horrible season for loneliness, debt, anxiety, and depression. It’s not supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be about God’s kindness and mercy in the form of a tiny baby, born to die because we are lousy at following God’s rules. Keep that in mind, and you will find your holiday happy.

When God Feels A Million Miles Away

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Do you ever feel God is a million miles away? I am in one of those seasons. It started a couple of months ago. At first, I was distracted during morning quiet time. I started rushing through prayer, spending little time in the Word, but a lot of time on Facebook. Then my evening routine began to suffer. Books that would typically help me experience the presence of God have not been as engaging. I even feel distracted at church. It’s like I have rebellious squirrels in my brain.

I hate these seasons. As a former drug addict who spent the bulk of her life chasing feelings, not “feeling” the presence of God freaks me out. But this is something every believer experiences. In the past, my normal “go to” in times like these has been to engage in religious rituals. That way I would think I was doing my part to keep God and I’s relationship on track. But I have learned a few things since then.

One thing I’ve learned is I can’t escape the presence of an Omnipresent God. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the LORD “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? Am I a God who is near, and not a God far off?” And in Psalm 139 David declares there is no place we can go to flee God’s presence. And those are Old Covenant promises.

As New Covenant believers we have the Spirit of God in us and around us. No matter how far off God “feels,” He lives inside us. I may not always “feel” the presence of my spleen, but I trust it is there. Same with the Holy Spirit. He moved inside us, so He was able to promise He will never, ever, leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Do you hear that, believer? God himself, your Creator, has made a promise that He will never, ever leave you. He cannot lie. He is faithful, He is with us, and He will not let us go (John 10:28).

This relationship between Him and us has always been and still is, His idea. He started it! It says in the first chapter of Ephesians He was dreaming of us before the beginning of time. He knew us. He had plans for us to be adopted as His children. He took great pleasure in dreaming up how He would redeem us through Christ’s blood. That is the same Christ who calls Himself our “Good Shepherd” and promised He would chase down any of His sheep that wandered off the path (Luke 15:4).

Where does all of this leave us when we are feeling lost and alone? Right smack dab in the middle of His presence, His will, and His promises. Philippians 1:6 says we are to be confident because He “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

Knowing all of this, I am choosing to resist the panic, and rest in His promises. I know the squirrels are not permanent. God has not left me, and I will be okay. So will you. Remember, saving us was His idea, and He’s good at being God. Keep on keeping on, and remember, we walk by faith and not by sight…or feelings!

Our American Jesus

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Its the American Jesus, we only want him to please us, just wear a suit and tie,
have a wink in his eye, just a really neat guy. ~ Lyrics to American Jesus by August Rain

I recently traveled to the Dominican Republic and Grand Turk Island. Both places had breathtaking beauty, horrific poverty, and some of the happiest, kindest people I’ve met. They had joy, peace, and abiding faith in Jesus I rarely see here in the States.

Upon our return, we had an Uber driver from the Dominican Republic. He migrated here in search of a better life. When asked if he missed his country he said, “We were so poor there, but we were so happy.” His wistfulness indicated his American dream had come at a cost he hadn’t expected to pay. Why is it, with all we have here, happiness remains so elusive?

In America our faith is a mile wide, but only about an inch deep. Many of us claim faith in God, but we are unhappy, and our Christianity feels meaningless compared to our struggles. I have had people tell me, “I don’t want much, just family, a home, and security.” From our American perspective, that doesn’t seem like much. Why can’t God just deliver?

Andrew Farley says if the gospel we believe doesn’t hold up in an impoverished country, we believe the wrong gospel. I think of Mother Teresa and her Home for the Dying in Calcutta. I wonder what gospel she offered.

I bet she shared a gospel that tells us to rejoice in hardship (Romans 5:3) and I’m sure she cited Jesus when He said “in me, you will find peace, but in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). She undoubtedly told them of a Savior who poured out His life in service to others, then challenged us to do the same. In other words, she shared the Jesus of the Bible, not the American Jesus we’ve created.

Our American Jesus is supposed to be interested in our prosperity and comfort above all else. We want Him to make sure we don’t suffer, protect our family, pay off our home, and help us with a retirement fund. The Jesus we’ve created is more interested in our spouses and houses than things like feeding the poor or healing the sick. Last I checked, that is not the Jesus of the Bible. No wonder we are disillusioned and disappointed with our Christian experience!

Jesus tells us in Luke 14:26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, spouse, children…even your life. Otherwise, you can’t be my disciple.” What the what?! That’s all the stuff I want Jesus to protect! In fact, I entered into a relationship with Him to save my own hide. Yet He challenges me to have a love for Him so deep that nothing else in my life can compare. Love like that will keep you warm, even when you’ve lost your house and your spouse. Love like that could not help but result in constant joy.

I will admit I’m not there…yet. However, I am grateful that my Savior’s goal is to take my eyes off the god I’ve created in my own image and place them on the living God. The real Jesus will not be tamed or conform to what I desire Him to be. I thank God for that! I want a God that saves me from my selfishness, not one that feeds it. With Thanksgiving only a week away, will you join me in being thankful for our most definitely Not-American Jesus?

My Poseidon Adventure

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

My husband, Nathan, and I just returned from a cruise to the Dominican Republic. Boarding the ship, Nathan joked about sailing through the Bermuda Triangle. Within hours those jokes seemed prophetic as our ship suddenly listed (tilted) to one side nearly 20 degrees. Dishes were crashing, and people were screaming as chaos and panic spread throughout the ship. Within a few moments, the ship righted itself, but many of us spent the rest of the evening carrying our life jackets.

By the next morning, we had an explanation. The ship had a technical difficulty with one of the fin stabilizers. According to Carnival, we were never in danger, and they gave each passenger $50 onboard spending money as compensation. Nathan and I knew we had a choice to make. Would we accept the compensation, and get on with having a great vacation, or would we pitch a fit and let it ruin our trip? We chose fun. Evidently, we weren’t the only ones, because the rest of the cruise went off without a hitch, and everyone we talked to was having a blast.

Imagine my surprise when we got to dry land and saw this incident was national news. Even more surprising was the comments made to reporters by our fellow passengers as they disembarked. They were talking about how awful the experience was and trash talking the cruise line for ruining their trip. We also saw on the news the entire listing incident had only lasted 1 minute. For 1 minute of bad, these people were saying it had ruined their whole week. So goes the fickle ways of man.

I remember a client who was receiving counseling for a series of personal tragedies once told me, “You know, the horrible things in life are few and far between. Those phone calls telling you about a loss really don’t happen that often. It’s our reaction to them that lasts a lifetime.” I guess to some people a 1-minute incident can have the power to ruin an entire vacation. I don’t want to be one of those people.

It says in Romans 8:35-39 that nothing in this life can ever separate us from the love of God we find in Christ Jesus. Even in the midst of trouble, calamity, danger, or when threatened with death, we are still held in God’s love. What’s the worst that can happen if you are a believer? Even the end is not the end, because we are safe in God’s love.

I think that the cruise ship experience was a lot like my life as a Christian. All of my needs were met on board, and the Captain, Cruise Director, and crew went out of their way to ensure my pleasure and safety. Even when it felt like I wasn’t safe, I was. Yet, while the crew was able to supply all of my needs, they were not capable of dictating how I reacted to the trip. That was left up to me.

For myself and my husband, we chose to overlook the negative and focus on the positive. We were pampered, ate great food, went to amazing ports, and had on heck of an adventure, listing and all! And that is precisely how I want to view this life God gave me. An amazing adventure. And while it may be peppered by occasional peril, I am always safe in the ocean of God’s grace. And if you go looking for us this time next year, don’t be surprised if you find us “out to sea,” because we are already planning our next cruise on the same cruise line.

Hard Hearted or Hard Headed?

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I have spent the past few weeks presenting a case for staying in your marriage. I’ve shown you how unrealistic expectations are often the root of our problem. But as a marriage counselor I know there is still a huge obstacle to overcome. The one that says “Yeah, but…I love him/her, but I’m not in love anymore.” In our Christian culture, we have a term for this condition. We call it the “hardened heart.”

Like many things in the Bible, that term has been taken and twisted. In this case, it gets used to support a waning emotional or sexual connection to a spouse. People will tell me, “I can’t live in a loveless marriage.” In other words, they’ve “lost that lovin’ feeling.” Those struggling with this problem believe their heart needs to “soften” to stay married.

Jesus said the truth will set us free, so I have a truth bomb for you. It is IMPOSSIBLE for a believer to have a hard heart. When you accepted Christ, you got a heart transplant. It’s forever soft because it’s where Jesus lives. God promised this in Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

There are many other scriptures that will back my point, but in the interest of brevity, I will ask you to trust me on this one. You don’t have a hard heart. What you have is a hard head. That cold, numb feeling you have toward your spouse is seated in your emotions, not your heart. As any psychologist will tell you, your emotions are under the dictatorship of your head. That is why God tells us “we transform our lives by the renewing of our minds” (Romans) not by the changing of our heart.

God knew how we think and believe instructs how we feel and behave. If we have a negative belief, our brain will look for evidence to support the idea and ignore evidence to the contrary. Psychology calls this a “confirmation bias.” That’s a fancy way of saying you become stubborn and set against something. When that happens, our emotions follow the belief. Negative bias equals negative emotions. People follow those emotions into affairs and divorce court.

Think back to when you first met your mate and had on your “rose-colored glasses.” You saw everything about them a positive light. Remember the warm, fuzzy feelings that accompanied those glasses? That, my friend, is a confirmation bias set on a positive belief. Your spouse didn’t change, your glasses did.

The book of Proverbs has a scripture it repeats two times. When God says it twice He wants us to pay extra close attention. The scripture reads as follows, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” That’s a warning to tell us no matter how strongly we feel about something, if we aren’t thinking like God’s thinking, we are headed for disaster.

When it comes to your marriage, are you thinking like God’s thinking? If you have a negative mindset, I promise you are not. Fortunately, there is an antidote for that, it’s called repentance. Repentance, in the Bible, simply means to change your mind. Change your mind about your spouse. Start seeing them through Jesus glasses. Look for things they do right and forgive them for being human, and see if those warm fuzzy’s don’t return.

When the Fantasy Ends

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Here is the fantasy I brought into marriage: My future husband would be my soul mate, hand-picked by God to be perfect for me. We would fall deeply in love, and on our wedding night we would read Song of Solomon together, pray, and fall into each other’s arms, inflamed in a blaze of love.

While I did add a touch of satire, that is still the crux of what I believed. As a therapist, I know all of us enter our marriage with some fantasy driven, rose-colored expectations. But if you have been paying attention through this series, unmet, unrealistic expectations are the core of most of our problems.

Guess what? Much of what we believe about marriage is not in the Bible. Ideas such as “the one,” “soul mate,” and being “in love” are not in there. We believe our spiritual, sexual, relational, and material needs are in the pot at the end of the matrimonial rainbow. Then we say “I do,” and our fantasy meets reality. The result is never pretty.

I went into my marriage with a lot of cultural and church taught error. When my fantasy met reality, I had to find out what the Bible said about love and matrimony. There is a process called cleaving (sounds unpleasant), the idea of sacrificial love (OUCH!! That never feels good), dying to self (double ouch) and having the kind of love that covers a multitude of sins and believes the best about someone. Pepper in themes about turning the other cheek, forgiving 7 times 70, and submitting and you are closer to God’s idea of love and marriage.

If that was preached from the pulpit on a regular basis, there might be more people embracing singleness. But with the Christian divorce rate nearly equal to that of the general population, something has gone horribly awry.

We, women, want a leading man from a romance novel who will read us scripture, be our protector, and the spiritual head of our household (but he’d better lead the way we want). And since kids might read this, I’m not going to say what men want. If you enter marriage to get your needs met, you are doomed before you say “I do” because you are going in selfish with unrealistic expectations. God wants us to learn how to lay down our lives and love sacrificially. If both parties are doing that, we have harmony and God’s idea of marital bliss is achieved. But most of the time, both parties are working their own agenda and ticked off at the other for not complying.

God says He is the supplier of our needs, our protector, our safe place, and our source. While He may use your spouse to meet some of your needs, they are not supposed to be your source of love and joy. He is. Accepting that and letting your spouse off the hook is going to free you to enjoy them for who they are instead of being angry at them for not giving you what you think you need.

And here is the actual pot I discovered at the end of my matrimonial rainbow. When I killed off the fantasy and embraced a more Christ-centered view of marriage, I found joy and happiness in my marriage. There is something glorious about mutually loving another for who God made us instead of trying to force each other into a fantasy driven mold. That kind of love makes room for our flaws and throws expectations out the window. Trust me, it’s way better than the fantasy you are trying to achieve.