Tag Archives: arguing

When Your Dam Breaks

Occasionally we will hear about water-strife in California.  It was no different a century

Nagano Krobe Dam,  japan

ago.  Los Angeles was growing rapidly and was in need of more and more water, but that left the farmers with less and less.  Things got so bad that the struggle became known as the California Water Wars.  It was in the backdrop of these wars that William Mulholland came up with the idea of a dam. St. Francis Dam would be built in case the L.A. aqueducts were destroyed by an earthquake or some other disaster.  It seems however that Mulholland wanted a higher dam and ordered two 20 foot heightening projects on it.  Unfortunately, he did not widen the base to the point necessary to handle the extra water-pressure.

On March 12, 1928, leaks began to appear. While there had always been seepage, there wasn’t much concern; Mulholland was called into inspect the new leaks and even stated it was safe.  Within 12 hours of inspection,  the dam suddenly gave way.  It’s largest hunk, some 10,000 tons (that 20,000 lbs!) was found 3/4 of a mile away.  The devastation that it left in its wake is nearly unimaginable.*

Such an appropriate story demonstrating the back-story: The California Water Wars, the strife over water.  Water does not like to be contained. The more water, the more pressure, the more pressure, the more stress upon its structure, the more stress upon the structure, the more devastation when it breaks. Strife is like water. It doesn’t like to be contained either. It builds pressure and causes more stress, until it breaks free and leaves devastation, irreparable harm at times, in its wake.

The issues with St. Francis Dam are the same issues with the dams of strife.  The foundation was not strong enough to withstand the water. Often times, neither are ours. God’s Word, the Holy Bible, gives us a foundation upon which to live and build our lives, including the strife that begins to fill up in our hearts and souls.  The problem is that rather than listen and heed God’s Word, we put in our own foundations, or mix in philosophies and elemental principles and family traditions, etc., leaving a weakened base that cannot hold all that comes our way.  When leaks pop up we do an inspection, and like Mulholland, declare that we’ve taken a look and it is safe to proceed as normal. I’m not doubting that Mulholland believed it was safe; he probably really did think that something like this structure, designed and built under his own guidance, would be safe and would not fail.  But it did.  Our pride can easily cause us to miss the warning signs of fissures and cracks and leaks. After all, it is our lives, our bodies, our minds. We should know better than anyone.  However, if–especially if–someone, or someones, has confronted you about cracks they have detected, or leaks that they have seen, it is important to be honest and humble. As painful as it is to admit failure in this area, it will be so much more painful if the dam breaks.

I’m not saying that one should pent up all the anger and strife inside. That’s not healthy. Like a dam, there are built-in ways of dealing with the pressures and releases. The Bible is no different. If someone has sinned against you, go immediately and get it dealt with. That’s a release of pressure right there. The problem is that we tend not to go and get it dealt with immediately (that’s the point I was making earlier when I wrote, “The problem is that rather than listen and heed God’s Word, we put in our own foundations, or mix in philosophies and elemental principles and family traditions, etc., leaving a weakened base that cannot hold all that comes our way.”). We tend to think we know better, and so we build a different base, an inadequate base. God tells us to call on him in the day of trouble and he will save us, but instead we go it alone.  There are a number of release valves and points throughout, but either we never construct them or we ignore them.  Perhaps it is time we take an honest look at the structure we have built in our lives and shore up its foundation.

“The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
So quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
(Proverbs 17:14, ESV)

*St. Francis Dam Story on LiveScience.com

Great (Unmet) Expectations: How to Fight Fair in Marriage

Arguments happen even among the most loving and closest of couples.  Often those arguments will have two causes: 1. unmet expectations, or 2. unrepented pride.  Today, let’s talk about unmet expectations.  In one way, this first cause can have its roots in the second.  There are expectations that a wife or husband has but never expresses to their partner because “they should just know,” or “because I’ve lived with them for so long,” or “they owe me.”  Do you see the pride in those statements?  I should not have to condescend to explain what I desire.  They ought to be as intelligent as I.  They ought to be on the same emotional level as myself.  They should elevate themselves; I ought not have to condescend to their level.  Let’s leave that one for next time.

What happens if that isn’t the case?  What happens if one has expectations, and has expressed them, but still has them unmet?  The heart is racing (or slowing, depending on anger or hurt), the emotions are on edge, and everyone is gearing up for a fight.  What do you do?  Matt Chandler has some advice:

One of the rules right out of the gate is that we have to be careful not to react to things that upset us.  Reaction shows a serious lack of self-control and maturity.  Notice that Solomon didn’t just blow up at his wife and go on about how she didn’t love him or respect him or care about him.  None of that happened.  Instead, he basically said, “Okay, I get it.  I love you.” [cf. SoS 5:4-6] His heart may have been full of frustration, but he controlled himself and responded to his wife, rather than reacting to her.   Then he took his frustration elsewhere. (The Mingling of Souls, p. 149)

. . .The Scriptures show husbands that they’ve been called by God to love their wives like Christ loved the church.   That means we love them regardless of their response to our efforts to change them.  And the same grace-centeredness is needed for wives who want their husbands to change.

Getting our hearts into this way of thinking is the hardest thing in marriage by far because all of us tend to love in order to get something in return. (You can tell it’s not really love you’re giving if you begin to withhold it because you don’t think the response is good enough.)  Jesus calls us to a more selfless way, the way of the cross.  His way calls us to love purely because it’s the right thing to do, because it honors him and glorifies his Father.  Jesus emptied himself in order to love imperfect responders.  That’s real love.

Men, have you figured out that you cannot be romantic enough?  You cannot be sweet enough?  You cannot be sweet enough.  You cannot help out around the house enough. You cannot make enough money and buy enough stuff to make your wife a sexual dynamo in the bedroom.  Heart change isn’t brought about through leverage like that.  In the end, only the Holy Spirit can change your wife’s heart.  So we love, we encourage, and repeatedly we turn our wife over to Christ because he can change her heart.  He can move in her.  He can do things that we can’t.

The same is true for women.  You can give all the sex that your man wants.  You can cook him all his favorite meals.  You can keep the house extra clean.  You can give him time alone in his man cave or whatever.  And God can use all those things, but none of them performed to be about change will work to change your man’s heart.  Only God can do that. (Mingling, pp. 154-155)

So what is Matt Chandler saying?  Never react to unmet expectations; respond instead.  Respond with self-control and maturity.  If there is an opportunity, first go to God with the issue before going to your spouse.  While you may be able to affect the behavior of your spouse, you cannot affect the heart.  The heart is where real change is.  Only God can affect the heart.  Go to Him, then when emotions are not on edge, talk with your spouse.  By the way, don’t be surprised if God actually works on your heart before your spouses.

The Mingling of Souls is a great book based on the Song of Solomon, and I would highly recommend it.  It is by Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson, published by David C. Cook, copyrighted 2015.  You can order a copy here in various forms.