By: Mary Lambrecht, M.S. LMFT
Combining God’s Truth with sound relational principles can help us build healthy relationships. The following principles have been gleaned from various contexts that God has graciously allowed me to serve. These contexts include in my marriage, as a mother, a teacher, and as a marriage and family therapist. May they bring encouragement and hope to you as well.
- Loving touch, practical help, validating feelings, and simply being present with a suffering loved one are appreciated first before attempting to problem solve. When God’s prophet Elijah was very discouraged, God sent an angel to first touch him, and then to give him food (I Kings 19: 5-7). Lastly, He lovingly challenged Elijah (vs. 9).
- A child’s anger can be a signal that child/parent attachment needs strengthening. God “gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment” (Isaiah 40:11). Make time to touch, verbally affirm, and enjoy your child.
- Family devotions around the dinner table can be a symbolic way of sharing communion. Families who invite Jesus, the living bread of Bethlehem to their family table, make room for Him to touch hungry, weary places in their homes.
- Transition, by nature, is unsettling. When families fasten themselves to Jesus, the chief cornerstone (I Peter 2:4), they are better able to navigate through uncharted waters. Keeping an old, familiar tradition in the new routine of daily life can also ease the adjustment.
- Society emphasizes gender equality, but young women still need to feel beautiful. A father communicating this affirmation to his daughter is very important in her ability to think the truth about herself.
- A willful decision to practice healthier behaviors sometimes needs to occur before we feel like doing them. Examples could be cutting off an extra-marital affair, complying with medication, or being honest yet respectful about our needs and desires. God blesses obedience. In time, feelings will catch up with new behaviors.
- When sexuality is separate from God’s protective plan (marriage), we lose touch with the higher joy and purpose for sexuality. When we risk reaching for God’s higher purpose in sex, sacredness influences sexuality and husband wife become one flesh…a profound, holy mystery (Ephesians 5: 31, 32).
- Boundaries around time, activities and tasks help to bring joy and order back to overstressed families. After Jesus fed four thousand people, He then sent them away (Mark 8:9). Boundaries can mean ending a task.
- Addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse, overwork or overspending can be an attempt to fill empty emotional places. God can fill those empty places with life-giving purpose and release us from captivity (Isaiah 51: 13, 14).
During a recent therapy session my brand new cell phone nestled in my purse, sang loudly. I had no clue how to turn it off. As the client continued talking, I simply picked up my purse, opened my office door, set my purse with singing phone out in the hall, and closed the door. I didn’t think a thing of it…until later.
Really?? Did I really put my purse with my phone out in the hall? I felt mortified!
But God reminded me of another story. I once heard of a therapist that kept a bag of golf clubs in the corner of his office. Inevitably clients would ask: “So, you play golf?” “Nope” the therapist would admit. “I can’t hit a golf ball to save my life. But I keep trying. Someday I’ll get the hang of it.”
Lesson #10: God sometimes uses our inadequacies to give others hope. Hope to keep trying. Hope that tomorrow we’ll try something different, and it might work better. More importantly, God uses my weaknesses, vulnerabilities and even my sins to summon me first to Him. Any upsets and also any joyful moments in our relationships, are first marked by His loving footprints. Be encouraged, dear reader, for He promises: “I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight” (Isaiah 45:2).