Sunday, June 14, 2015

Is The Unity Candle The Right Metaphor?

I like the symbolism of lighting the ceremonial unity candle at a wedding, but on one condition. That the bride and groom don't then extinguish their own individual candles.

It's true that when we wed we leave our parents, unite with our spouse, and become one (united). But that doesn't mean we cease being our own unique and individual selves. In other words, in marriage we become a bonded pair made up of two distinct persons who will forever enrich and challenge each other. We bring together a wonderful diversity of gifts and perspectives to the relationship, as well as our own set of problems. And if, God forbid, we were ever to separate we would take each of those personal issues with us. We alone own them.

As a marriage counselor, I've become more and more convinced that not all problems in a marriage are marriage problems, but are individual issues and deficits we bring to the marriage and that greatly impact the relationship. So when I do relationship counseling I think of myself as having three clients, spouse A, spouse B, and the spousal pair. But often couples come for help thinking that all of the problems are the equal responsibility of both, that they belong to the pair.

Some are, of course, just as two partners in any shared enterprise begin to have issues they have a shared 50-50 responsibility to fix. But whatever is in their individual problem areas are theirs alone to be responsible for, with God's help and whatever other help they may need.

Another tendency, human nature being what it is, is to becoming fixated on fixing the other person's problems. But that's where we have the least power to bring about change. But if on the other hand we give priority to our own growth and repair we can bring about an immediate and impressive amount of change in the relationship.

Here's a list of mature God-like traits we would each do well to work on:

___Love—I am gracious and generous toward others in spite of their actions.
___Joy—I demonstrate a contagiously positive spirit, even in trying circumstances.
___Peace—I experience a deep sense of inner well-being in spite of stresses in my life.
___Patience—I have the calm and strength to endure (hold on, not give up) even under stress.
___Kindness—I consistently show respect and care toward others, no matter how I’m treated.
___Goodness—I am able to act positively toward others, for their good, even when I am tired or     am tempted to hurt them or get even.
___Faithfulness—I have an unwavering commitment to others’ good and to stable relationships.
___Gentleness—I operate from the kind of strength that keeps me from resorting to aggressive or desperate actions, even when tested.
___Self-control—I am able to live a calm, controlled, and well-managed life.

- based on Galatians 5:22-23

How might each of these really light up our lives and transform our relationships?

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