Chapter OneSession 1
THE BIG PICTURE
It was the summer of 1974, and Lynne and I had been married
two months. She informed me that the garbage disposal had
quit working. I told her to call a repairman.
The war was on!
"What do you mean, call a repairman? Why pay fifty dollars
for a job any able-bodied man can do?"
"Well, you don't expect me to do it, do you? I don't know anything
about garbage disposals. I'd probably electrocute myself
if I touched it. Besides, we're short on butter knives."
"You could do it if you tried. You just don't care enough."
The problem was that Lynne's dad fixed things, her brother
fixed things, her uncles fixed things, her cousins fixed things,
and so she assumed that all men fixed things. Unless, of
course, they weren't interested in what was going on at
home. Unless they were too preoccupied with concerns outside
the home to devote thirty minutes to household needs.
From my side, I had never had a successful experience with
anything mechanical in my life. I knew I would waste hours
and probably money if I tried to fix the garbage disposal or
anything else. I also believed, as my father had, that the sensible
approach was to stick with what I was good at and pay
someone else to do what I wasn't good at.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Tell a story about a time you and your spouse discovered
how differently you approach things.
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Genesis 2:21-25 and Ephesians 5:31-33
2 Both of these passages present three critical steps in
the marriage process. What does it mean to:
Leave our father and mother
Be united to our spouse
Become one flesh
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "The Powers That Shape Us"
THE POWERS THAT SHAPE US
Lynne and I now realize that who our fathers and mothers were, how they related, and how our families
operated played a major role in shaping us as individuals. This is true for everyone. Two decades
spent in close proximity with a single group of people can't help but shape our personal identities.
We are who we are largely because of the experiences we have enjoyed-or endured-within the
context of our unique family units.
Family dynamics determine our self-esteem and self-confidence. Family values shape our character. Family
experiences influence our concepts of how marriage should be structured and how children should be raised, of how we
should view work, recreation, education, money, politics, and religion. We all look at our families and decide
either to repeat the pattern if our experience was basically positive, or try to create an opposite situation if our
experience was basically negative. Either way, we are profoundly affected by the attitudes and actions of our families.
3 How did your parents handle:
Expression of emotions
Celebration of special occasions such as birthdays,
Discipline of children
4 Cite at least one difference in your personalities that
can be traced directly back to your family backgrounds.
How has this become an issue in your marriage,
and how are you seeking to deal with it?
5 What aspects of your parents' relationship do you
respect and want to see imitated in your own
What are you doing to develop these in your relationship?
Read Snapshot "No One's Perfect"
NO ONE'S PERFECT
Sadly, there are more to family memories than highlights. In addition to being one of the greatest
determiners of personal identity, the family is also one of the greatest causes of personal pain. No one
grows up pain free. The apostle Paul tells us that no one can live a totally righteous life (Rom. 3:23),
and that includes parents. There is no perfect mom. No perfect dad. We are all products of parents
who were sinners. They too were products of parents who were sinners, just as our children will be.
We must realize that imperfect parents always cause some degree of pain to their children. The baton that is
passed from one generation to the next is always at least a little disfigured, a little scarred.
6 What is one characteristic that marked your parents'
relationship that you want to avoid in your marriage?
What would it require for you to confront and avoid these
7 How could you creatively thank or affirm your parents
for the positive ways they have impacted your life?
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
Looking Back Together
Take time in the coming week to talk with your spouse about an
incident in your past where one or both of your parents did
something that wounded you. Discuss the following questions:
Could it have been avoided?
How have you recovered?
Are there steps you need to take to continue the healing
How do you plan to keep from repeating the same mistake inyour family life?
Take time to pray for healing in the heart of your spouse and
commit to continue praying for them in the days and weeks
to come. Also, take specific steps toward continuing the healing
process in your lives.
Call or meet with one of your in-laws and ask them how they
feel their life has impacted your spouse. Give them freedom
to talk about their positive and negative influence. Follow this
up by telling your spouse what you learned. Take time to
affirm your in-laws, honoring them as people who matter to
you and to God.