by Rod Wilson
My job requires me to commute one hour each way to work. Many times, I do not get home until 7 or 8 in the evening. How do I help my church leaders understand why I don’t get involved in more activities at the church?
You have put into words a dilemma confronting most people who live in urban centers. There is simply not enough time to do everything we want to do, much less do everything that everyone else wants us to do!
Some of us work late at the office, not because we have to or are required to, but because we have trouble stopping. It is similar to other addictions where you tell yourself you can stop if you want to but then never do! Now some of us are experiencing what is referred to as “disconnect anxiety,” where we experience various feelings of disorientation and nervousness as we anticipate being away from the Internet. In cases where our work has replaced worship and play to such a degree that we have no quality time for family or church, our spouses, children and church leaders may not need more understanding of our work life but a greater freedom to confront us with our bad choices.
On the other hand, there are many churches where programs connected with the church are perceived to be the only way that real ministry can occur. As a result the message from the church is that “work” is not really ministry, has nothing to do with building the work of the Kingdom and is running a distant second when it comes to genuine spiritual engagement. All of us, including church leaders, need to acknowledge that there is huge potential to see that what goes on in the classroom, factory, office, at home or in any other work arena as kingdom work.
Rather than make people feel guilty that they are not at particular programs, we need to expand our view of ministry and mission and affirm the value of all work as having sacred potential.
I knew before we got married that my wife had been sexually abused when she was younger. I thought I would need to be sensitive about it. But it is really affecting our sex life. Other than never having sex again, what can I do to make things better?
The list of things we thought we knew about sex before we got married is long. Many of us came into marriage with all kinds of expectations, ideas and beliefs about our sexual relationship that have had to be changed and modified through many years of experience.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you are coping with historical sexual abuse is to remember that every individual is broken and frail. Challenges in the sexual area are inevitable for all marriages. No couple goes through an entire marriage without struggles in this area, whether or not there has been previous abuse. Be careful not to link all your sexual challenges with your wife’s abuse.
It is easy for men to take the response of their wife personally in this area rather than recognize that sexual abuse impacts women emotionally as well as physically. The abuse taught her to associate a sexual relationship with violence, negation and fear. Now the presence of any sexual contact brings up these issues again. The fear and anxiety she feels is not as much about you in the present as it is about the other person in the past.
There are three practical things that a husband can do in this situation. First, work on being patient and slow and do not turn every physical connection into something sexual and every sexual connection into intercourse. Second, go with your wife to a trained counsellor who will be able to coach you through your sexual relationship while understanding your wife’s sexual abuse. Third, support your wife in getting professional help for herself so she can move beyond the pain of her history.
I do not like to read, but I keep being told I need to read the Bible. How can I grow to know God’s Word?
You are off to a great start. While you recognize that you do not like to read you do know that you want to grow to know God’s Word. And like any growth, the first thing that is important is motivation. People who are not motivated to grow do not grow. Also be encouraged that you are like those who lived in biblical times. The vast majority of people who were exposed to the Scriptures were illiterate. So the issue was not about whether they were motivated to read. They could not read. When the church at Philippi got Paul’s letter they did not read it. It was read to them.
Contemporary technology also enables us to hear the Bible the way first-century people experienced it. Get some DVDs, MP3s or other form of media and listen to Scripture. Simply pause it when you need to meditate, pray or take notes. Because the Bible is a substantive volume containing 66 books, there is a danger of thinking that you need to be reading a lot each time you sit down with Scripture. Start with a verse or paragraph and then move to a chapter. Especially for those who struggle with reading, realistic goals are crucial.
Reading and memorizing require motivation and intellectual capacity. But the Psalmist (1:2) puts it in a new light— “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” As you work on your reading and memorization, don’t forget to delight and meditate. The Lord is more interested in a little Scripture making a significant impact on your life rather than how much or how well you read.
[Note: You can listen to the Bible online at http://m.promisekeepers.ca/resources/online-bible/. This tool is provided by Crossway Bibles.]
Rod Wilson is president of Regent College in Vancouver, where he also serves as professor of Counselling and Psychology. He is the author of How Do I Help a Hurting Friend: Practical Help for Leaders and Laypeople (BakerBooks, 2006).
The article above was featured in the September 2008 issue of SEVEN magazine.