Tag Archives: Manipulation

Counting the Cost of Family

(source: leshaines123 via Flickr)
(source: leshaines123 via Flickr)

[King Asa] even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 1 Kings 15:13 (NIV)

I thought about Asa this morning as he attempted to bring spiritual reform to the tribe of Judah. I try to imagine the family drama playing out when he deposes Grandma from her position of political power. We are told very little about the situation in the text. Knowing a few things about the ways family systems operate I can only believe that it was a tremendously messy affair, especially when you consider that it was far more than just a family issue. Asa and his grandmother were vying for positions of power within the political and spiritual systems of the nation. It had to have gotten ugly inside the palace.

As I pondered Asa’s situation, I thought about a string of incidents in which Jesus emphasizes that following Him often happens at the cost of family relationships. Jesus told the crowds that those who follow Him must be willing to walk away from fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. When a man said that he would follow Jesus just as soon as he fulfilled his obligation to bury his father, Jesus told the man to “let the dead bury their own dead” and to follow immediately. When another man said he would follow, but first had to go back and say good-bye to his family, Jesus’ response was sharp. He told the man that he shouldn’t put his hand on the plow and then turn back.

These certainly aren’t among the easy, Pinterest worthy sayings of Jesus’ teaching. Family is messy, and Jesus knew that broken family systems often hold people in spiritual bondage. The control that some families exert over individual members, while often appearing to be quite loving and healthy, can keep those individuals from following Jesus and achieving God’s purposes and callings for their lives.

Today, I’m thankful for family who encouraged me to follow Jesus and who gave me the freedom to embark on the course that God set for my life (even when I know they may not have agreed nor been comfortable with where it led). I’m saying a prayer for all of those for whom following Jesus comes at the cost of family relationships. And, I’m continuing to seek out how I can encourage our girls to follow Jesus and His path and purposes for their lives (even when it runs perpendicular to the paths and purposes I might desire for them).

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Enjoy the Dance

source: 10148140@N07 via Flickr
source: 10148140@N07 via Flickr

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.
1 Kings 11:1-2 (NIV)

Wendy and I have had held a running conversation throughout our relationship. It ebbs and flows. It weaves its way into our conscious thought, then goes away for a time. Its the never ending subject of Mars and Venus, male and female, man and woman. Wendy has publicly made the comment many times that she knows she can easily manipulate me any time she wants to do so. I, on the other hand, know that I can put my foot down and forcefully demand my way when I desire. So it goes, the give and take of power, control and negotiation within marriage. It has been mysterious ebb and flow of relationship between men and women since the Garden of Eden.

Solomon was a wise man in many ways, but he had a fatal flaw. Solomon loved women. He loved a lot of women. According to today’s chapter the dude had 700 wives “of royal birth.” Most of these were likely to have been arranged marriages with the daughters of kings and rulers throughout the region. A king threatened by Solomon’s power would give his daughter to Solomon in marriage figuring that his son-in-law would want to maintain an amicable relationship with family. Solomon also had 300 concubines. These were likely girls of a lower social class that Solomon saw, desired, and attained by leveraging his royal authority. How interesting that Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, was attained by his father David in a similar manner.

While I am married to one women, God has seen fit to surround me with females. Along with Wendy I have daughters Taylor, Madison who still stand under my umbrella, and sister-in-law Suzanna who has joined us under our roof. I will admit that I, at times, find it wearying to navigate my relationships with all the women in my life. They are each unique with their own unique personality, communication style, needs, and wants. I can’t even fathom trying to navigate relationship 997 other women at the same time. It would be impossible.

As a man, however, I can imagine that Solomon had his favorites among his 1,000 wives and concubines. I also imagine that Solomon’s wives were constantly, actively vying for power and position. They would have had to manipulate people, situations, and Solomon himself in order to gain attention and favor. The political intrigue within the royal harem had to have been intense.

There is also no way that Solomon could have meaningful relationship and influence over so many women from so many different tribes and backgrounds. His foreign wives would naturally want to worship their foreign gods. Solomon needed to keep the peace among all his wives. It’s not hard for me to imagine how it all went wrong. Solomon allowed his wives to worship the gods of their people. He had some favorite wives he wanted to make happy and compliant, and so when they wanted Solomon to build a shrine to their god  he found it easier to say “Yes, dear. Whatever you want.”

Today, I am thinking about men and women. I am appreciative of the beautiful, strong women God has placed in my life and all that I learn about both God and life in the ebb and flow of our relationships. I am thinking about what it means to be a man and how I am called to bring balance to those relationships. I am thinking about fatal flaws and what happens if I don’t capably play my part. It is an eternal mystery, this dance of relationship between male and female. I have more questions than answers. I’m just trying to:

  • lead well
  • avoid stepping on any feet
  • enjoy the dance.

Playing Fast & Loose with the “God Told Me” Card

Playing Cards
(Photo credit: Eleaf)

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.” 1 John 4:1a (NLT)

When I was young, I confess to playing fast and loose with the “God told me…” card. It wasn’t a conscious deception but a sincere delusion in which I confused very strong thoughts, feelings, and selfish desires with God’s voice. I felt such strong infatuation for this girl that it must be God telling me we’re meant to be together. I really, really want to go on this trip so it must be God planting within me this intense desire. Thus, “God told me….”

I grew up and moved along in my journey. Some of those things I said “God told me” never came to pass, and I had to own up to the fact that if it really had been God telling me then it would have happened. So, maybe it was my will all along. I had other situations in which I had manipulated the “God told me” card to get my own desires only to find out that it wasn’t a good thing. Things didn’t work out so well. Was God leading me astray, or had I used God to put a spiritual rubber stamp on my own selfish desires? It didn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to know it was the latter. Ouch. Mea culpa.

I have learned over time to be careful, thoughtful and discerning with what God may be prompting within me. I test it against what I know God’s Message says on both macro and mirco levels. I test it with mature and wise companions who are walking the journey beside me and who know me well. I am quick to listen and slow to speak. I give things time.

I am also very wary of those who play fast and loose with the “God told me…” and the “I’m discerning…” cards the same way I used to do. Believe me, I can recognize it pretty quickly: “Wait a minute. I know this one….” When I encounter it in others I typically find it to be a sign of spiritual immaturity and self-delusion the same as I experienced in my youth. I do my best not to judge the individual but also to my best to proceed with caution in my relationship with such individuals. They can be crazymakers. If I don’t know them well I simply give them and their spiritual manipulation a wide berth. If I know them well, I may try to have a loving conversation to confront what I’ve observed.

Jesus’ encouragement to we who follow is an apt reminder when confronting those who actively gamble with a “God told me” deck of cards: “Be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves.”

The Erosion of Relationship

Jacob Talks with Laban (illustration from the ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps?” Genesis 31:27 (NLT)

The pattern of deception and manipulation we’ve seen within the family system of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob continues to escalate between Jacob and his Uncle Laban. It finally breaks the relationship.  Jacob sneaks off in the middle of the night. When Laban asks the question above, the unspoken answer is obvious. Jacob doesn’t trust Laban because Laban has proven untrustworthy. Laban doesn’t trust Jacob because Jacob isn’t trustworthy. There can no longer be relationship between them because the foundation of relationship has been destroyed. There is no mutual trust on which to build life together.

Honesty and trust are critical to a healthy, growing relationship. Deception and passive aggressive manipulation will eventually make any kind of intimacy untenable.

Today, I’m reminded of my responsibility in the circles of relationship and influence around me. I cannot control others, but I must control my own actions and manage my end of relationships. That responsibility includes my being appropriately honest, transparent and worthy of another person’s trust. It also includes the responsibility to set boundaries between me and others when it is necessary to protect myself, my loved ones and others from relational harm.

 

Chapter-a-Day Judges 16

Love is revealed in deed and truth. She said, "How can you say 'I love you' when you won't even trust me? Three times now you've toyed with me, like a cat with a mouse, refusing to tell me the secret of your great strength." She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up—he couldn't take another minute of it. He spilled it. Judges 16:15-16 (MSG)

The use of 'love' as a means to selfish ends is as old as mankind. Looking back, I can recall being on both ends of this manipulative tactic. I can't point my finger without three fingers pointing back at me. Still, I like to think I've learned my lesson. 

I am always wary of phrases that begin: "If you love me, you will…?" or "How can you say you love me when you…?" For the true object of the question is usually the person asking, and the motivation is typically self-centered.

As I read the account of Samson and Delilah it struck me that, while they spoke of 'loving' each other, I found nothing in the text that illustrated love as God's message describes it:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Cor 13:4-7

Red flags always go up whenever I hear a person using love as a bargaining chip.