Military Marriage Seminar – Part 5

By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005
Dr. Easley answers audience questions on topics related to marriage.

Military Marriage Seminar – Part 5

This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.

Question: Alright, can you explain how to listen and provide what your wife wants to hear through God’s,… I think it says God’s way?
Dr. Michael Easley: It’s actually a very good question, and I do want to recommend a couple of things. One is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, if you’ve not read it. It’s the primer for marriage. The second is a book that is a little dated, and it’s been a little controversial historically. I wouldn’t,… By the way, don’t buy these. Check them out of the library. You can find them on the PDF sometimes free on line. But His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard Harley. You won’t agree with all of it, but they both interact with how to listen and how to respond.
One of the things we would teach in the Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference, in one of the breakout session was how to look at your mate eye to eye, nose to nose, knee to knee and have a conversation. And what I have to do when I come home from work; now, it’s more intuitive now, but early in our marriage, I’d been working all day, she’s got small children at home. She’s been saying “no” in one syllable answers all day long and I had, you know, I’ve used all my language. I’m tired. I want to come home and do nothing. She follows me to the bedroom and as I would get out of my suit and into my jeans we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes where she would… and I don’t want to rehash my day. She wants to know about my day. I left my day. I’m glad to be home in my womb, remote controls, the newspaper, the TV. Leave me alone for a while. No, I’ve got to integrate with her.
And so what we found was that transition coming home was really important, that we set a few times. And then I would just be very specific and say, “Honey, I…,” she’ll tell you this. I would say, “Honey, do you want me just to listen or do you want me to offer some solutions?” Because if there’s a problem with a teacher at school, I’ll fix it. I am unafraid to go down to campus and talk to my kid’s teachers, whether my kid’s in the wrong. I am unafraid to do that. I learned years ago to be a man for my kids. So we’ll, we saw the principal just recently, didn’t we, and a couple bus drivers. I’m not afraid to go do that. But I need to know from her, do you want me to fix this? You want me to offer some options? And she’ll say, “No, I just need you to listen.”
Now it’s hard for some of us guys to listen. But if I’m looking at her when she’s talking to me, and I don’t do this perfectly, I’m more apt to listen. And the way I know I’m listening is say, “So what you’re telling me is, you know, Devin’s in trouble again with the bus driver.” And then she’ll expand on that. And the man in me says, “So Devin’s in trouble with the bus driver.” And then she’ll expand on that, you know. And that’s just part of the way we’re wired differently.
But I think learning to ask good questions. What do you need from me? And if you’re not a communicative person you’re never going to be a gadfly like me. That’s not the goal. It’s how do you communicate enough substance of what she wants from you? And more importantly, what are you learning from her? If you listen to your wife you will hear what’s on her heart and you will be a better husband if you do that.
Let’s take some questions from the floor. You’ve got some roving mics? We only have a very short time to do this so don’t hesitate.
Question: I was just wondering if can comment on biblically why it says the man leaves his mom and dad cleaves to the wife, and why it’s not the other way around?
Easley: I think that’s a great question. Why does it only say the husband will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife? I think it’s one of these universal principles. It’s implied both ways. You’re leaving the home of origin. But remember in antiquity for Israel the husband was part of a larger clan tribe and he’s marrying someone either let’s say, purely in his tribe let’s say large, the tribe of Judah and so she will come in and be part of that tribe. So I think in that sense he’s leaving enough distance and they’re becoming one even though they were of the, of Israel, of one, because He only wanted them to marry obviously within. But I think it’s just, it’s a universal principle, you’re leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. And we’ll see that in Ephesians 5 and later in Revelation as well about how you’re becoming one. Great question, good observation.
Question: Why is masturbation such a problem after marriage?
Easley: Before it was okay? When before it was okay; before we started church? What if God had not convicted you on this yet? One of the interesting things about conviction of sin is, unlike the law when the police officer pulls you over, that ignorance is no excuse. We are ignorant of sin in a sin condition. And so when we come into Christ, when we are convicted by the Spirit of God to change, we can’t make our flesh better; we need God’s Spirit to make us better to help us change to be transformed. So masturbation or self-gratification really is a usurpation of how God intended the marriage relationship.
And so this is one of the problems with not just boys anymore; it’s boys and girls, with the sexting and the texting and the hooking up, all that’s going on in junior high and up now, and even dipping down to middle school. These kids are very sexually active. You’re beginning to set up a sexual standard that you can never fulfill in a marriage relationship. And the scars and the emotions of that will carry into guilt.
Now, God’s a God of forgiveness. He’s a God who will help you. He’s a God who heals and helps. But this is where the only sexual expression I can have that is when God looks at it and says it’s good, is with that woman; heterosexual, monogamous, until one of us dies. It’s just her. Any expression outside the bonds of marriage alone within the marriage is sin. So it’s an issue that is prevalent. I appreciate the question and your candor. I applaud you for that. But it is something that God’s Spirit will help you make.
There’s a book by Stephen Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle. Again, I recommend some of these books cautiously. Read a book, knowing you’re going to probably agree with 50% or somewhere in that margin. Don’t get all tangled up with what you don’t like about the book. You can still learn. But that’s a book I would drive you to, Stephen Arterburn, Every Man’s Battle. It was a great question.
Question: Since this is a great topic especially for military people who deploy a lot, can you give us some spiritual encouragement or advice on how to handle that sexual need and sexual urge while our husbands are maybe 12, 14 months away or two days away or two weeks away?
Easley: Yeah, excellent question. A friend of ours is a Top Gun pilot and he was over, I think it was at Kitty Hawk. He was on, I forget the ship, and all the Navy pilots, I mean, they just think they’re God, just admit it. They just think they’re God. And so, I mean, free to land on a postage stamp going, you know, Mach-2, you better be good. But he said when he got his pilots together he said, “Gentlemen, we’re going to be maritally and sexually pure on this tour.” He took a stand against that. And he said, “We’re going to play basketball together. We’re going to work out together. We’re going to be a unique unit on this boat as part of the Navy, but we’re the fly boys, but we’re the Navy and we are going to,” and it was his job to help them as best he could.
Now some of the guys who weren’t believers fought him tenaciously. And he just said, “You know what? I’m your boss. You either get in line,…” And when they went into port he would not let them go to bars and go clubbing. He wouldn’t let them do it. Let’s go out and eat together. Well, 14 months later when they pulled back into San Diego and the wives heard this story they showed up at his doorstep and said, “Thank you, thank you for helping my husband.”
And so I think that’s where you do have the strength of camaraderie. You’ve got to find a brother in Christ, for those of you men who are deployed. You women who are deployed, you know, you’ve got 18 guys after you, so you’ve got to find a network that you’re safe in, and that’s where OCF and some of these different groups are so powerful to find. You know, this is what I love about the military. You can say, “I’m a believer in Jesus Christ” and smile and be firm and you’re pretty safe to say that. You’re pretty safe to say that. Conviction without compromise, right? That’s the chaplain’s motto. Now that’s being tested right now, but you still can say it. I’m under conviction, not compromise.
But you’ve got to have a brotherhood around you and it’s hard. But I think for men God invented sports for this reason. Hard work, lots of sweat, go to bed tired. You know, get up and back on the mill, and it’s, I appreciate your candor again, it’s a hard problem. But, you know, with God’s Spirit and some guys walking beside you, you will do okay. You might fall here and there and fail, but you know what? He’s a God of forgiveness and a God of compassion. The Holy Spirit is better than a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience just makes you feel guilty when you’re away from your wife or your husband. The Holy Spirit’s trying to help you. Do you believe His power in you is powerful enough to help you control your sexuality, to be self-controlled with your diet, with your sleep patterns? You can use self-control in the sexual arena too, not that it’s easy, but it can be done in God’s Spirit. Great question.
Question: So you’ve mentioned a few books that you like about marriage. I wonder if you could just hit a few more, if we’re talking two a year, I figure you know a nice list to begin.
Easley: What’s the one by Glahn and Cutrer? Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. Sheet Music is a good one. Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, what I like about it, is an MD, Bill Cutrer, writes one chapter, and then Sandy Glahn who, both of these are friends of ours, writes the women’s perspective, so it goes back and forth. It’s a great one. Love Life for Every Married Couple by Ed Wheat, small book, and it’s the book that most wives wish their husband understood. And that book is sort of the emotional, he has a formula called “Best” “B-E-S-T.” Every day you should bless your wife, encourage your wife, say you love her, and touch her non-sexually, “B-E-S-T.” I remember one time years ago Cindy made the comment, she says, “You know, the only you hug me or caress me is when you want sex.” It’s very convicting. Non-sexual intimacy.
And that’s why The Five Languages of Love is sort of a primer, because what are they? Gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service. Pardon? Physical touch, quality time. And I read it and said, “Hey, mine’s are acts of service. When you pick up my dry cleaning, when you bring me ice tea when I’m cutting the grass.” And Cindy read it and said, “I like acts of service. I like, well, I like all five.” Okay, so I’m toast. But anyway, I’ve thanked Gary Chapman personally on a platform with thousands of people for that lesson in history.
What other books, marriage? For Men Only and For Women Only, a Shaunti Feldman. Cindy loves Shaunti’s writings. For Men Only, For Women Only, easy to read, manageable. Any of Dennis Rainey’s stuff. Dennis is a great friend, and Staying Close is one they have written. He’s got a newer one out that he and Barbara wrote; the name escapes me right now. What’s the one on, not Love and Logic, the other marriage one? You guys remember this? I’ll tell you what I’ll do; before the weekend’s out I’ll go back and I’ll jot down some and I’ll bring them up. But that’s a great question.
Don Meredith has a workbook. Remember the Experiencing God or the Crown Bible studies where there’s like 12? Don and Sally Meredith have a book called Becoming One, and it’s a paint by numbers book. It’s got a book you read and you fill in the blanks. And we use that with our small groups, our mentor group. It’s the first book we use with them. It’s a very basic primer on marriage and it’s very well done.
Question: Knowing that marriage is God’s idea and God’s plan and God instituted it, Pastor Easley, can you speak to how we, our marriage can survive and thrive in a culture that’s increasingly attacking and ferociously attacking the institution of marriage, and particularly even in the military under this administration?
Easley: You have a dual role as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and citizens of the earth. You have a tri-role in that you are a government issue. You are owned by the government. You swore an oath. You made a vow. So you have a unique challenge that the civilian doesn’t. Because I can say I disagree with this, and I’m going to go against what my governing officials said. I don’t know if you all saw Rick Warren’s tweet the other day that has sent the world on its head saying, “He will go to jail before he would break his religious conscience.” You know, it’s an interesting time. What I was sharing with someone earlier, I find it interesting that the average Christian wilts when the Gay, Lesbian, Trans-Gender clubs on the public school or when, you know, something goes on in the public arena or the books in the library. They wilt.
But the military, you guys know how to fight. Fight in the right way! And you appeal to authority, and you make good arguments and you stick to the facts. The culture is not going to get any better, no matter who’s in the White House. I believe things are going to get worse and worse and worse until Christ returns. Now maybe some things will get better, and I hope they do. I hope we see our country turn in economic prosperity. But you guys live in this world. Do you really think the military can be reformed? Do you really think government can be reformed? Really? I hope. I love our country. I hope it will, but I’m not putting all my dreams on that.
I have a King. I’m citizens of two worlds. So you live in a context. And I tell,… I teach young adults, 20 and 30 somethings, at our church. We have a Thursday night group that comes out, and these are sharp young adults. They are in med school, law school, Vanderbilt, Belmont, masters students, most of them, some of them are professionals. And I say, “You know what you guys need to learn? You need to speak the truth in love without equivocation, and smile.”
Vanderbilt has tossed all the para-church organizations off campus because they have a gay influenced issue on campus. So if the president of your club can’t be gay, trans-gendered, lesbian, homosexual, whatever, if they can’t be a president of your club, your club is not welcomed on our campus anymore. Now as a founding Methodist, conservative school they’ve come a long way in that it’s a private college; they can do that. So we’re working with a couple organizations saying, you know what? You state your case truthfully, factually, firmly and you smile and see what God will do with that. It might be the best thing in the world to be tossed off campus and buy a house two doors down and start evangelizing the crazy faculty.
You guys know how to fight. Don’t stop fighting. I would much rather see some of you high ranking in the military. If we’ve got to make a choice between someone who believes in something and smiles and has firm and gentle convictions, that’s who I’m going to promote, right. No easy answer.
It will not get better. It is going to be a battle and that’s why the Christian home is so critical. That’s why your marriage is critical. Don’t underestimate the imperceptible effect your marriage has around other marriages. We went to Andrews Air Force Base, a friend of ours, General Hawkins, took over. He has a commission there, over Air Force One, all Andrews, a huge group. We were on the dais up there and he got up and he said “There’s three things you need to know about General Hawkins. Number 1: I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, which means I believe He lived, died, was buried and came back from the dead and He has given me salvation and I love Him. I do not expect you to believe that or accept it. You need to know that’s what I believe. Number 2: We will be the most excellent base in the world. Number 3: We’ll be the safest base in the world.”
And he went on and my mouth was like this on number 1. I said, “General, how?” We went to lunch with him afterwards. “How can you get away with that?” He says, “Michael, I told Christ when I started this trek I would never ever, ever not pronounce Him.” And he finishes his two-stars, a great career. Everybody knows General Hawkins is fine Christian man. So you can do it.
Question: Can you speak to us in a few words the importance of corporate study of God’s Word and prayer, not only as a family, but specifically as husband and wife and then perhaps provide a couple practical ways for a couple who maybe isn’t able to practice that yet, or doesn’t, to get started on something like that?
Easley: Great question. In a few words. No, no preacher can say anything in a few words. Cindy and I know couples that can study together; we cannot. And for the 30 years of our marriage she has her devotion privately in the morning. I have my devotion privately in the morning. We have a pretty good rhythm. Of course, absent things like back surgery and, you know, this type of thing where we’re both up very early, we’re both in our little cave with our…; she’s up before me now. It used to be for years I was the one up at 4:00, 4:30, 5:00. Now I sleep a little later cause of my issues. But I’m downstairs with, in the basement with my Bible study, she with hers. We will cross-pollinate what we’re learning together.
The time we study together is when we lead our mentor group. Because when we have the seven young couples in our home, I’ve got Cindy reading the materials going, “What do we need to do here? How do we handle this?” And a lot of times she’ll say, “Michael, last weekend, when you did that Sunday, you shouldn’t have done that. You should have done it this way.” And she’s generally right. So that’s where we do the corporate piece of it.
And then when we’re in that group of 16 people for the two years community, that’s really where we’re doing Bible study and doing a lot. When I blather at people for 30 minutes on Sunday, and teach the Bible, they’re getting that much. I know that. So corporate worship is more than just a teaching. It’s the experience of the body celebrating Christ and keeping things vertical.
But I would not be discouraged if you’re not on the same page. At different times I’m growing more than Cindy. At different times she’s growing more than me. And that’s not to be, you know, it doesn’t mean she’s better or I’m bad. It’s just that we’re at different places in life. Your kids grow differently. So have a lot of grace in that. The man’s role in my opinion is to take the initiative to ask the questions. What are we going to do? What would you like to read? What would you like to study? And when we started the mentor group, if she wasn’t all in, I wasn’t going to do it.
And she’s got to minister to those women where I can’t. So when we talk about sex we’re in two different rooms and Cindy’s talking to these young married couples about their husbands grabbing them when they walk through the house all the time. Every time I walk by he’s going to grab me! And Cindy says, “You know, all his life he couldn’t touch and now he’s married. Give the guy a little slack. Give him a little slack. All his life he said no, no, no, no, no. It’s tempted him like crazy. Now he’s got a wife. Yeah, you’ve got to talk to him sometimes about it maybe, but, you know, in general you’re one.” I can’t say that. She can. So the community comes together in a lot of different ways beyond just studying.
And don’t be too hard on yourselves. Always read. Always be in the Word. Always pray individually and trust God. Be the man God wants you to be, the woman God wants you to be, regardless of your wife’s response, regardless of your husband’s response. Pray together. We pray every night together unless one of us falls asleep first. We’d been married, I don’t know, 10 years and Dennis Rainey challenged me. He says, “Pray every night with Cindy.” If he’d have said, “Michael, join the special forces and go die overseas,” I would have said, “Yes, sir.” Pray with Cindy? You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m terrified to pray with my wife. I’m a pastor. So I lay in bed that night and I reach my arm over like this and say, “Honey, would you want to pray before we go to sleep?” You know what she said? “Yes.” Yeah, about time. She said yes. Some nights she prays and I fall asleep, vice versa. Some nights she says, “I’m too tired, you just pray.” But you will learn your spouse’s heart and what’s on their mind. Good call.
Question: A trick question, sir. Have you ever had—this is a marriage conference—have you ever had one of those days where you absolutely, no matter how hard you tried, don’t say the right thing to your spouse, and how do you get through that?
Easley: A good night’s rest! Yeah, yeah, sounds like an average day. You know what? Forgiveness, you know, I think we take the “don’t let the sun go down on your anger,” we turn that into a legalistic principle instead of a construct and a concept. If we didn’t let the sun go down on our anger Cindy and I wouldn’t sleep for years, because sometimes we’re mad each other. We have a saying, “I love you, but I don’t like you.” And that’s a pretty healthy marriage that can say, “I love you, but I do not like you right now. I’m committed. I’m not going anywhere, but we disagree on this thing.”
And I could tell you all the things Cindy and I will never agree on, pets being one of them. We’re not going to have a dog. I mean, everything else I gave up on. I gave up on the trampoline. I gave up on the Wii. Everything else—actually she did the Wii behind my back. None of my kids were going to have that technology and now we’ve got a Wii with $8,000 worth of games that sits there and there’s dust on it, and I go, “See! Point proven.” But I’m not bitter. And, you know, I would have a dog if there was just two of us. I don’t want five people trying to train a dog, ain’t going to work, been there and done that. And so there are things we don’t agree on. I love her more than the few things we disagree on, and I think she does me. So that’s,… you know, and then tomorrow you say, “I’m sorry.”
What do we learn from this? With anger one of the things I always diagnose in my life in a meeting or with Cindy or with the kids, what was the trigger that really ignited me? Be a student of yourself. When you get angry at him, or angry at her, be a student of yourself. There’s a really good book on conflict by Tim and Joy Downs. You remember the title? As you get older your RAM shrinks proportionally with your hairline, and mine is going very quickly. I blink and my RAM clears. But there is a book by Tim and Joy Downs on conflict, fighting fair, how to fight fair. That might be it, too. Look for Tim and Joy Downs and conflict. And every marriage has got conflicts. The challenge is not a conflict free marriage; it’s how to fight fair.



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