As the Israelites where about to enter the promise land, Moses (their leader) sent twelve spies to look at the land, so they can strategize on how to take the land. Ten of the spies came and gave a gloomy report that the land can never be taken because the current inhabitant are giants. Two of the twelve (Caleb and Joshua) saw the same thing as the other ten but came back with a good result because they choose to see things differently.
Two friends both bought Toyota Camry as their first cars. Unfortunately on a snowy day they both had accidents. While the first guy started to cuss and fret about insurance and how he’ll have to replace his new car, the second guy took the accident calmly, thanked God for saving his life and placed his trust in God for a new and better car.
Today many homes are in ruins, many people are suffering health issues like high blood pressure, arthritis, broken heart syndrome etc because of how they perceive situations in their life.
What shapes our perception?
Almost all of world’s population confesses one religion or another, and in many ways their faith or religion affect how they view life and the circumstances they go through in life. For instance, a Moslem would say God could be a source of evil, while a Christian would say God is not a source but He allows evil to occur. While Islam and some Christian sects allows polygamy (more than one wife), mainstream Christianity prohibits it. The daily conduct of individuals in their marriage is also affected by their faith, a committed Christian who seeks to honor the words of God in the Bible even when he/she does not understand it.
Our worldview many times is a product of our religious belief (Christianity, Islam, Buddhist etc) and denomination (Unitarian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholics etc and for Moslems Sunni or Shiite). An individual’s worldview is also a product of his/her culture or environment and culture has its roots in religion as well.
A devout Moslem and an Evangelical Christian would agree on the ills of homosexuality and some other moral issues however they differ on how to get to heaven. If you are a Christian who believe in the theory of evolution more than likely you’ll be a liberal thinker who does not believe in the infallibility of the Bible, and these would affect your worldview. A Charismatic Christian on the hand who believes in the totality and infallibility of the Bible is often labeled a “fundamentalist” or “evangelical” and in liberal circles referred to as a dogmatic follower who cannot use common sense.
Your faith and worldview play a critical role in how you see the world and perceive events that is occurring and eventually how to deal with the problems. Let’s take the Moslem state of Saudi Arabia, were women cannot drive nor vote, when going to the market or other public function she has to cover herself from head to toe, and the husband can have four wives at the same time. In most African countries women are seen as inferior creations to be bought (with dowry or bride price), the woman in essence becomes one of the husband and his family’s acquired properties that is seen and not heard and her opinions don’t count. In America or Britain where women have the most freedom, that freedom is now taking for granted, for instance the cool fashion today is a cloth that leaves half of the woman’s breast open to the public and they get offended when you tell them to cover up or that it is offensive to you.
The faith and worldview of men in Middle-Eastern countries, in Africa and in Western countries is playing very critical roles in what is happening to marriages and families in each region.
Perception and Marriage
In 1 Corinthians 7: 28 Apostle Paul reminds early believers that marriage comes with its own share of baggage when he said “those who marry will have problems”. How the husband or wife view each problem or challenge they face is what we are discussing.
Case Study One
Kunle and Kemi had been married for about two years (they met at a bible study at the university in a north-east state in America). Kemi’s family had been in America for many years and she was born here. Kemi is a hybrid person, she understands the Nigerian culture and language but her thinking is that of a western person. Kunle on the other hand was born and raised in Ibadan, Nigeria and he is as schooled in the African culture as they come.
Kunle and Kemi have undercurrent marital issues, chief of which was the issue of respect, household chores, joint account and the role of the man and woman in marriage. Kunle believe that his role is to bring home the money and however the house runs (clean, food etc) is totally up to his wife, the fact that his wife is a professional does not change anything, after-all his own mother was a grade two teacher who kept their home well. Joint account was also a no go area for him because his allegiance was to his extended family and taking care of the extended family supersede the need of his immediate family period.
Kemi on the other hand see things differently from her husband, she believe her husband need to step up and do some household chores like laundry and vacuuming, she believe they needed to have a joint account so they adequately save for a baby when they are ready, she also believe that she should be more important to him than his mom or the extended family.
Case Study Two
Henry and Claudette have been married for fifteen years and they have four children. Angela, their older daughter is a great child who set great example for her brothers and sister. She was particularly close to her mom, as they often shop together being a new teenager. Angela joined the cheerleading team of her school and in a freak accident fell on the hard wood after she was thrown up by her friends. She was in coma for months before her father decided to pull the life support following advice from many doctors.
The crack in this usually close home began almost after her (Angela’s) funeral, Claudette wondered why such a loving God would take her daughter with such a beautiful prospect in life, many told her God needed an angel in heaven, to which she replied – well God could make Himself a brand new angel or take one of the old maids. A pastor came to her and reminded her that ten people gave their lives to Christ at Angela’s funeral, to which she replied, which of your own kids will you give to God for ten souls. Henry took the death of her daughter very bad as well, but took solace in the fact that God is sovereign and for God to allow his daughter to die at such a tender age there must be a reason that maybe he’ll find out later or perhaps even in heaven.
A year after the death of Angela, Claudette is very depressed and ignores the other kids, in-fact they are starting to feel like they are not as important in her life as their big sister, her constant mood and wanting to be alone is creating great conflict in the home. Henry and the other siblings have moved on but continue to remember their daughter and sister, but their home remains a delicate place because of Claudette view of Angela’s death.
Case Study Three
Nene was born into a polygamous family in Accra, Ghana and she abhors that lifestyle. She told Kweku before they got married that she can forgive every sin he commits except the sin of adultery because she can’t imagine her husband with another woman like her dad did with those many women.
Twenty years into their marriage Kweku had an office fling with one of his assistant and the lady became pregnant. Kweku kept the woman and her baby from Nene recalling what she had told him at the beginning of their marriage and knowing how she still feels about it. Three years into keeping this child a secret and his conscience driving him crazy, he solicited the help of elders and the pastor of their church to tell his wife what happened three years back and for Nene to accept the child, so he would not have anything to do with the lady who had the child anymore.
The intervention of the family elders and the pastor is not really helping Nene has she is bent on divorcing Kweku, she knew what the bible says about forgiveness but the same bible said the only reason for divorce is adultery and she is ready to remain single for life, if what her pastor said about remarriage is true. Kweku pleaded with his wife to reconsider her stand and that he is a convicted man who waited this long because of his love for her and promised to do whatever she wants to make amends.
In all three case studies the couples share the same faith and similar cultural heritage but each one perceive or interpret their faith and culture differently, sometimes born out of ignorance and at times it is share disobedience. In Mark 7: 7 Jesus said to the Pharisees that they have abandoned the teachings of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.
Kunle had read the Bible and had heard many times about the leadership style of Jesus and that Christ expects him to nourish and cherish his wife, he has even read and often quote Jesus in Matthew 19 “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be cleaved to his wife”. Having grown up in Africa and in a Christian home he had assumed that the cultures back home is godlier than what was in effect in America, he believe that raising a finger to do any household chore as a man would be sending a negative signal that he is a weakling.
The death of a child or a loved one could be devastating; it’s especially tough if one is much close to the deceased. We will miss that person and the void created by that is always difficult to fill (cannot be filled). Claudette been a Christian has read in the bible that to be absent from the body is to be present before the Lord and to live is [for] Christ and to die is [actually a] gain. This assurances meant little to her, because she’s created a shrine for a dead daughter, ostracize the other children and making the home unbearable for her husband.
Nene came into her marriage with a premonition and like Job (in the bible) what she feared the most caught up with her, however unlike Job she is throwing in the towel and choosing to divorce rather than forgive. I know many of you reading would be wondering that she can forgive and still divorce him, technically yes, but In Matthew 19 when Jesus was asked about divorce, rather than answer directly he replied “in the beginning divorce was not the intent of His Father and Himself, Moses allowed divorce because of humans hardened heart – and that what God has joined together, no man separate”. So rather than choose the route of forgiveness she choose the other option of bailing out and then waiting to see what life brings (today 33% of the church is in their second or more marriage and divorce in the church now parallels that outside the church).
The godly perception
There are many things I don’t know nor understand and many times I don’t even pretend to know or try and give an answer just to make me or someone else feel good. I take solace in the sovereignty of God and in His word “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law”
As we journey through the valley and mountain experiences of our marriage we need to examine our faith, do we really believe God and His words? Or are we making decisions based on the circumstances surrounding us or what some call human logic, do we trust in His words even when things does not seem to be going the way we think they should go? Remember, your perception of a situation depend on your belief system.
Please allow me to share some words that ought to affect our perception of situations (problems) in our marriages (and indeed our life)
Psalms 23: 4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”
Jeremiah 1: 5 and 29: 11 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you a hope and a future”
Matthew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”
John 16: 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”
Romans 8: 28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”
Hebrew 12: 2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”
James 2: 2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”
Whatever it is that you are going through in your relationship as you read this article let the above words from the Lord be the balm that soothes your pain, remember faith is being sure of what we hope and certain of what we do not see. God’s word was enough for Abraham to keep going, it was enough for David to survive many years of sleeping in caves, it saw me through my marriage when I almost gave up in December 1997; it is my prayer that these same words will give you the godly perspective to whatever you are going through in your relationship. As you pray and stand on God’s word remember to be obedient and do what you have to do – faith without works is death.