This is something that is connected to a message Carla and I did last Friday, and another one that I preached yesterday. But it’s hardly original to us and you’ll see in this blog that we just learned it from others. I’m grateful for the men and women like my parents, Pastor Steve and Deborah Murrell, and Pastor Paolo and Jenn Punzalan who not only preach this but live it.
Of the many things we’ve learned, one of the things I’m glad we agreed on right away is the idea of boundaries in marriage. Carla and I have very frank and open conversations with one another about what I’ll allow myself to do and her as well.
Here are some examples: Note, these are not biblically-based or universal. But they’re our application of biblical truths.
- No women friends of my own. Pastor Steve once said, “I don’t have any women friends who aren’t Deborah’s friends.” That statement stuck with me ever since. I have no business keeping female contacts who don’t have anything to do with my wife. We’re one now. There is no Joseph without Carla.
- No entertaining long Facebook, Twitter, email, or text conversations with women. I will contact someone for work, but it won’t become a conversation that goes beyond more than a couple replies.
- Avoid giving car rides to just one woman. This is something that changed a lot from when I was single. I used to give people rides home all the time, especially in my Tamaraw FX. But now, not anymore. Occasionally multiple officemates may ride and I don’t mind that. In those rare occasions that one woman is left in the car with me, I appreciate her sensitivity to stay in the back seat. Looking like a driver isn’t that big a deal.
- No one on one counseling with a woman. Sometimes I’ll have to talk to someone, I always make sure it’s in a public and open place. I appreciate that most of our rooms in the church are open and see through. This also has a practical purpose: I’m not gonna fool myself into thinking I can help better than another woman can.
- Don’t travel alone. It’s more expensive to travel with others, but it’s worth it. Carla is obviously the best companion. When I bring her with me, we have to pay for her side of the expenses, but that’s worth every peso.
- She gets veto power. I don’t know how else to term this. I’m not married to a jealous or exacting woman, but if she ever takes an issue with anything I’m doing or anyone I’m meeting, she gets veto power. I don’t need “my own space.” I’m not “still trying to grow as an individual.” I didn’t get married in order to “find myself.” I’m growing old with her and that’s it.
Ring Vows: "As I place this on your finger and you receive it, you acknowledge that you are no longer your own but mine." Light moment with serious consequences.
To a few people who hear about this it seems like too much. And there are some questions that are the usual responses:
Don’t you trust each other? – We do. Carla trusts me but I don’t know if I trust myself in every situation. I know my own limits and since I don’t EVER want to gamble on our marriage, we stay far away from them.
Isn’t that restrictive? – And this seems to be the main issue people have with boundaries. They’re restrictive and stifling. They keep us from enjoying ourselves. But that shows we fail to understand the very nature of boundaries.
Boundaries are put in place not to restrict, but to preserve and protect. When a person buys a patch of undeveloped land, one of the first things they do is put up fences and boundaries. It’s not to imprison the land (as if the land cares), but to protect it. If not it might be used as a garbage dump or toilet by people walking past.
Putting boundaries on something shows how much we value it. The more we value something, the more the boundaries we put on it. When I was single and living with my parents, there were some nights that I’d leave the front door unlocked when I got in. But now that I’m married living in our own house, I miraculously learned to lock up every night. My values adjusted. This is my home we’re talking about and I needed to guard it.
Boundaries allow you to develop, improve, and build on something. Our church is going through a building project right now. And one thing that all construction sites have are boundaries. Because clearly defined boundaries will get the right people in to build it up and the wrong people out. There’s a very definite goal in a building project and not everyone is necessary.
BOUNDARIES: Someone valued the property on top. No one cares about the one on the bottom.
So it really isn’t a question of restrictions but of how much we value something. If we aren’t willing to give up something that poses a threat to our relationship to our spouse, then we’re really saying, “This is more valuable to me than you are.”
Maybe that seems like an exaggeration. It’s not like every husband who offers a woman a ride home is cheating. Or not every wife who confides in a male officemate isn’t trying to have an affair. And if you’re ready to take that risk, then that’s your call to make.
But that’s the whole point of boundaries. We’re not willing to risk it. I’ve got something really great, really special with my wife. This is what we want to preserve and protect. This is what we want to build for. This is what we value. And I’m happy with this choice.
Reading a fascinating biography now on Peter the Great, recommended to me by my brother. Peter the Great was the ruler of Russia from 1682-1725. He was a giant of a man, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall, insatiably curious and with seemingly limitless energy.
He led Russia through a series of reforms and changes which brought it into the modern world. His naval and engineering breakthroughs were instrumental into making his country competitive on an international level. And by reshaping the Russian military, he turned it into a major European empire and expanded Russia’s boundaries through his military successes.
But even as I marvel at the man’s achievements, a recurring theme bothered me from the beginning of his reign – his neglect of his family. He never loved his wife and instead saw her sparingly, spending more time with his mistress. He openly mocked her to his friends so that she constantly despaired for attention.
When she had their son, she expected it would bring them closer, but it didn’t.In fact he neglected his son as well, until he finally separated with his wife. By then, his son viewed him with so much suspicion and feared more than respected him. He tried to shape his son to be more like him, but his son resisted. Finally, at his son’s adulthood, he fled from his father, hiding in a neighboring country, causing his father much international embarrassment and jeopardizing the legitimacy of his rule. This crisis would jeopardize everything he had already built, more than any of the wars he fought.
The son almost became a symbol of resistance against his father. Much like Absalom with David in the Bible. Peter had to stop everything immediately and quell the controversy. It was only with sudden arrests, exiles, and under torture that he calmed his empire down. He had his ex-wife exiled into a monastery, many of his sons friends executed, and his own son – the heir to his throne – tortured until he “confessed” to a conspiracy against his dad. His son died from the injuries soon after.
I don’t know how distant or unloving a person has to be to see their son to be tortured and eventually killed. But it is true that when we don’t build up our family and the next generation we stand to lose everything that’s been accomplished so far.
Some questions I’m thinking of as I finish the book:
1. Is it really necessary to sacrifice our family in order to achieve success in our field? While the world will applaud our career gains, we must also learn to be content with the gratitude of the ones who know us best.
2. Am I building up the next generation to ensure that everything we’ve gained so far will be maintained and even added to by those to come? My success is connected to theirs.
3. Am we forcing them to look and be like us instead of giving them the chance to be themselves? What are the things we must pass on to them that they must carry on no matter what? And what are the things that they are free to modify, alter, or discard altogether?
Posted by Joseph on Nov 28, 2012 in Thoughts | 7 comments
The title speaks for itself. From my experience, the times that Carla and I were separated have been very tough. I find myself getting irritated that we can’t be together and that makes us even fight and argue. Miscommunication and even mistrust seem to pop up easier.
All of the internet connectivity – Skype, Whatsapp, Voxer, Twitter, Facebook, Line, YM – can’t compare with hugging her, holding her hand, having her lean her head on my shoulder or falling asleep beside her.
I am amazed by couples who can make it work, and respect them for it. But not in a way that I want to emulate. It just seems too painful for us.
This Chart of Respectability may be helpful. As we can see, long distance relationships are in the middle of the second column.
There’s another relationship I’m in that’s similar to a long distance one. The problem with this one is, because it’s always been like this, I’ve gotten used to it. And I often forget that one day it won’t be this way. This is my relationship with God.
Yeah, there’s church where I can hear messages from the Bible and relate with other believers. Yes, there are worship songs that make me feel closer to Him. Sometimes in prayer, I have moments that can only be described as otherworldly. But that’s just like Skyping for now. It’s better than nothing, but it’s nothing compared to what is to come.
The Bible promises that one day, those who believe in Jesus will have a relationship with God that is beyond religion and spiritual practices. It will be more tangible. I don’t know if it will be physical. Can I hug Him? Can I jump on His back? Will it be too bright? Can we eat together? But it will definitely be more real than anything else we’ve ever experienced.
Revelation 21:3-4 says,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
God will live with us. We’ll finally be able to perceive Him as He really is, and not by representation. He’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, and all the injuries, suffering, trials, trouble, heartache, sickness, tragedy, and disasters will not compare with it.
We’ll look at those memories and feel no pain or sorrow in them, that’s how great the joy will be. That’s difficult for me to get my mind around, because there are a lot of problems that I see right now. But that’s only because I’m still not at that point with God.
That’s what faith is about. Knowing that it looks bleak today, but it won’t always be like this. So I’m thankful for my Bible for reminding me of what’s to come. I’m thankful for my church and the relationships with people waiting for that day. Let’s be excited to share this with people so they can believe it and see that day too.
Thank you for revealing yourself now. Thank you for the signs in nature, the truth in Scripture, and most importantly, in the person of Jesus.
I know that there is so much that already points to you and I appreciate the many ways You speak to me.
But thank you also that this is just the beginning. I look forward to what’s ahead.
Please give me the ability to live in the present with an eye toward eternity.
When times are good, please help me remember that as good as it is, this isn’t the biggest prize.
When times are tough, please help me draw strength from that fact that this is only temporary.
I can’t wait to be with you. So I’ll wait in faith till that day.
Posted by Joseph on Nov 26, 2012 in Thoughts | 3 comments
Wrote this blog last Wednesday to post today. It’s a series of questions I want to ask people and ask myself whenever there’s an issue that won’t seem to go away. Or a problem I can’t seem to get over.
- the little things we’ll choose to be offended by instead of letting the issue go and laughing it off?
- the little scraps of identity we cling to instead of simply being known as sons and daughters of God?
- the fleeting tokens we’ll die for instead of receiving the fullness of all God has to offer?
- the puny kingdoms we think we rule that we prefer to walking in unity?
- the pathetic ego boosts that we insist on inserting into the conversation instead of walking in the freedom of forgetting about ourselves?
Next time something seems so pressing that you have to do something about it,
Next time you’re tempted to be offended and ready to cut ties,
Next time you want to respond angrily and publicly,
Next time you make a resolution never to work with another person,
Let’s ask ourselves first:
- After everything Jesus forgave in me, what right do I have to be angry?
- With everything his riches provide, do I really need to hold on to THAT?
- Why is this particular thing (whatever it is) so important to me when Jesus has provided all I need?
- Is it really that important to prove myself right or debate that issue to make myself look good, when the Gospel clearly establishes my utter sinfulness apart from Christ and my future incomparable glory with Him?
Hope this helps.
Posted by Joseph on Sep 26, 2012 in Thoughts | 0 comments
My wife and I are visiting our church in Every Nation Memphis now. Yesterday we took a tour around some sights that this historic city is known for. First we visited Graceland, the home of the King, Elvis Presley, then we went to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Two historical artifacts, two untimely deaths, two great men, but one site left me with the sense of tragedy and the other with a sense of hope.
One death was analyzed meticulously. From Reverend King’s famous mountaintop speech the night before, to the moments in his hotel room, to the disorder that erupted when he was shot. Everything about it was pieced together to paint a picture of a man who felt his end was near, but faced it grimly in order to lead other people to a better life.
In contrast, there was no mention at all of Elvis’ last years. And his death was announced simply in one sentence. The entire tour glorified him and showcased the machinery and celebrity culture that sucked him in, chewed him up, and spit him out. But was quick to gloss over the remains of the man it left behind. The entire site today immortalizes the young and rising star and not the broken has-been. Is it any wonder that so many young people nowadays desire celebrity status without considering just how much it takes from a person?
The rest of the day got me thinking. We all have one life and one death. Even if we live our life to the fullest here on Earth, even if we attain all earthly accolades, even if we become the most successful, the most famous, the richest person in the eyes of everyone around us, what validates all that is how we die and what comes after. Are we living today with an eye for how we will die?
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
- Jesus (Matthew 16:25-27)
Posted by Joseph on Sep 5, 2012 in Thoughts | 1 comment
This blog is a continuation of yesterday’s blog. Since I initially wrote it as one long piece that netizens would TLDR, it makes better sense when it flows from the previous thought. We said…
For a relationship to work, both parties must serve each other’s needs. Not just take for themselves.
Both parties keep talking about what the other should be doing. But neither of them are LISTENING. No one is acknowledging what the other is saying. No one even admits to the other party’s hurts. It’s an escalation of accusation.
This doesn’t just apply to marriages or romantic relationships. It works for family, friendships, and even work relationships. If your perspective is about how people aren’t serving your needs and how you need to take what you can while you can, then that relationship is gonna stay weak, if not die altogether.
Here are some examples:
“Eh, sila muna magsorry, sila yung unang nagkamali.”
(Need: I need to be apologized to. Alternative: Why not just forgive the person first regardless of whether they apologize or not?)
“If I don’t do this for myself, then who will?”
(Need: I need to fulfill my own dreams because you won’t. Alternative: Why not believe that you can fulfill them together?)
“Why should I help them? They’ve never helped me.”
(Need: I need help, and you need help. But because you wouldn’t help me, I won’t help you. Alternative: Don’t you see how this is a lose-lose scenario?)
“Why should I give this person a chance when they’ve failed me so often?
(Need: I need to protect myself from your inadequacies and I don’t believe you’ll ever change. Alternative: If you really have no hope for the person, why are you in that relationship in the first place?*)
Someone will ask, “But what if the person never meets my needs? How will they ever get met?” And that’s the fundamental issue of the relationship. Is it there to meet your needs or is it there so you can meet other people’s needs? Am I married to my wife so she can meet my needs or so that I can be a channel to met hers?
And who will meet my needs if not my partner? I’ve given the clue already when I said “channel.” God will. That’s why the only way my relationships with other humans will work out is I go there full – affirmed because He believes in me, purposeful because He made me for a reason, joyful because He’s a God who know how to enjoy Himself, forgiving because I’m forgiving, and loving because I’m loved.
You put two people like that together in a relationship, and nothing will ever make them quit each other.
*One Huge Disclaimer: Not all relationships are meant to last for life. Work relationships, friendships, dating relationships, and even some marriages will end. Simply because it takes two to make it happen and there really are some jerky, evil, selfish people out there.
So that’s why I don’t just need God to help me. I need the person I’m with to know that too. Otherwise, the relationship can’t go much deeper. That’s alright for friendships and working relationships. But that’s going to be tragic for dating relationships and especially marriages.
Here’s a simple but great blog from Pastor Paolo Punzalan on how tell if a relationship isn’t working out.