We at MinistryPlace.net are blessed to share a few special guest posts from David Nehring, PhD!
David Nehring, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist at Bethesda Christian Counseling in Sioux Falls. He has been working in the mental health field both in Christian and in secular organizations for over 25 years, currently working in rural private practice. He has been married for 28 years and is the homeschooling father of five children. You can find out more at www.bethesdachristiancounseling.org.
These days when it comes to discussions on marriage, Confusion is the invisible King.
First of all the entertainment industry that absorbs our time and money distorts the reality of lifelong gender differences. This leaves people unprepared for the differences in thinking and behavior that loving and living with the other gender involves. They are therefore unprepared for what realistically happens in marriage. As a result, when they do experience marital realities, young Christians are unprepared to do the growing required to manifest true, long lasting love.
But another reason they do not persevere is their experience in this entertainment system, as well as its content. The way in which the entertainment industry and social media are structured misleads people regarding their need to personally grow and mature. Social networking is simply that part of the entertainment industry where those doing the acting are unpaid volunteers. Based on our experience of entertainment and social media, when asked to be accountable for conflicts between word, deed and values, we defensively react with we are “fine just the way we are” (as people Photoshop their selfies). It is not that we are defective. But we do behave deficiently. But many people have lost the expectation that, as effective adults, They. Themselves. Will have. To grow. So in the church, as elsewhere, people are not mentally prepared for the deep challenges of personal growth marital relationships – and many other real relationships – afford.
This all occurs in a society where many people do not know what authentic marriage is. So, let’s be clear:
From a biblically Christian perspective authentic marriage is the life-long covenant of a man and a woman with God and each other to love – agape – one another for life.
Note the central features: Cross-gender communication and commitment; lifelong covenant; voluntary, behavioral, self sacrificing love – agape, not just eros (romantic love); transaction with God. We are talking serious, long term pressure to transform here. Transformation created through passion, conflict, personal sacrifice and profound personal growth leading into deep intimacy with God and one another. Oh, and it brings forth life, commonly in the form of babies. One just cannot compare it to any other relationship. In fact, any other relationship that begins to look too much like it is probably pathological. This unique and profound relationship models the relationships between ourselves corporately and God. Indeed, it requires the presence of God for it to realize its true potential.
Note this carefully as well: Authentic marriage is first, foremost and fundamentally a faith based reality. Its definition arises from the facts of biology, neuropsychology and faith and is directly connected to our understanding of both God and humans. It has been defined in scripture and so it stands. It arises from the facts of brains and behavior as they relate to committed, intimate, relationships. As a consequence its definition is not up to you, me, the media, or any government. As far as authentic marriage is concerned a government can redefine authentic marriage about as well as it can repeal the law of gravity.
Authentic Christian marriage is not threatened by hype, legislation or court order. It is threatened by one’s personal overexposure to media and the avoidance of face to face, voice to voice, talking and working through tough, persistent conflict. Authentic marriage is God’s sign to us that we are put here to work out difficult relationships with those who are not like us using values we do not get to select in order to see healing and the flourishing of human life on this planet.