Preventative Maintenance

Fighting Fair

Most systems have warnings when something is going wrong. Computers have error messages. Our phones will tell us when the battery is getting low. And our cars have the famous “Check Engine” light.

Marriages don’t have warning lights. I wish they did, but they don’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are signs. Our spouses have ways of telling us something is wrong. But because most of us hate conflict, when we see the trouble signs, we don’t engage. We withdraw.

By withdrawing, the space between our spouses and us widens. In other words, the problem gets worse.

How do we avoid this? In the same way we do in every other part of our lives—preventive maintenance.

Our marriages need tune-ups and adjustments just like anything else. And like other maintenance programs, we have to be intentional about it.

Let me suggest the following:

  • On date nights (you do have date night, right?), ask open-ended but specific questions. (Asking, “What are you excited about?” is a better question than “How are you?”)
  • Bring up problems while they’re still small.
  • Agree on an action plan. Then check back with it.
  • Always close by reconnecting.

Life is bumpy and no marriage is perfect. By paying attention to preventive maintenance, we can make the ride a lot smoother—and a lot longer.

Holding Love

I didn’t grow up in the country, but my cousins did.

One time, while visiting my country cousins, we walked over to a large hole in the ground surrounded by large earth dams my uncle had pushed up with his tractor. The big hole was supposed to be a pond, but it was bone dry.

My cousin told me there was something wrong with it, that it wouldn’t hold water. There was something about the ground that made water pour through the pond rather than stand in it.

Sometimes, my soul is like that.

Love pours through it, but for some reason, I’m not able to hold it. Whatever love is given to me quickly leaks away.

There’s a reason the Great Commandment has three loves in it—love for God, love for neighbor, and love for self. You literally can’t do one without doing all three.

Yes, it all starts with love for God. But if our souls leak, then we’re left with nothing for our neighbors or ourselves.

So, like my cousin’s pond, the problem isn’t a lack of love, but our inability to hold the love that comes to us.

Without God’s healing, our souls just leak more and more, and when we leak, we demand more and more from those around us. Trying to pour love into a leaky soul is frustrating for everyone concerned.

So, here are the questions for today: do you really suffer from a lack of love, or do you just leak too badly to hold the love offered to you?

The 2-Step Process

I’ve been a Southern Baptist all of my life. I’ve never belonged to another denomination.

Southern Baptists don’t do everything right, but we do a lot of things pretty well.

For instance, we do evangelism pretty well. You can’t be around a good Southern Baptist for more than five minutes without hearing about “being born again.

But what you won’t hear as much about is “growing again.” For however well we do in evangelism, we do as poorly in discipleship. And that’s a problem.

We don’t live in a world that’s safe for children. No responsible parent would leave their child alone in our neighborhoods. It’s just not safe. In the same way, it’s not a safe world for baby Christians.

The challenges of our world (from the breakdown of the family to the engagement with different faiths) demand a growing, mature, and vital faith. This means an intentional and determined study of Scripture to know Jesus as fully as we can and apply His teachings to our living.

Every day, we must grow deeper and stronger in what we believe and who we are in Christ. The challenge before us is just too tough for a shallow and immature understanding of Jesus.

Yes, being born again is vitally important, but so is growing again. After all, growing again is the whole point of being born again.

Everything That Isn’t Jesus

Legend tells us that when Michelangelo was asked how he carved his masterpiece of David, he said, “I chipped away everything that wasn’t David.”

Somehow, in a way that only artists can see, Michelangelo looked at a block of marble and saw David inside.

The type of marble used for the statue is very difficult to work with and has to be sculpted by chipping away very small bits or the marble will crack. He patiently worked until all that was left was a statue of a man so realistic you expect David to talk to you.

Discipleship is a lot like this. We look at Christ then at our own lives and chip away everything that doesn’t look like Him.

This process begins in worship. In worship, we behold the compelling image of Christ. Everything God wanted to say is in Christ—the Word became flesh.

As we encounter His Presence, we’re drawn to become more like Him. This involves a two-step process. Paul describes it in Colossians 3.

We put to death everything in us that resembles our old natures and we put on our new natures in Christ. We look at Christ in worship and first remove from our lives those things that don’t look like Him.

We put on those things we see in Christ, but don’t see in our lives. This is the step most of us miss.

The word “no” is an important one, and we say it to a lot of things. Yet “no,” in and of itself, isn’t enough. We also have to say “yes” to the attributes of the godly life Christ modeled for us.

Think about it. Let’s say you got rid of everything in your life that wasn’t pleasing to Christ. What are you left with? Not much.

That’s why the “yes” of the gospel is so critical. God desires for our lives to be filled with good things that last—the things Jesus showed us in His living.

So, I guess that leads us with two questions:

  1. What’s in your life that you need to get rid of?
  2. What’s lacking in your life that you need to add?

Focus on one thing at a time. You can’t rush this process. Masterpieces require a patient but determined touch.