woman with umbrella lights at night

“I just felt numb. Totally unappreciated. I wanted out.”

Have you been there? Just this feeling of, “Blahh.” We’ve got no inspiration. We’re exhausted. Overwhelmed. Not to mention feeling tremendously guilty over our perceived failures as both a parent and a spouse.

We want out. The desire to escape is everpresent. Maybe it’s walking every morning, hitting the gym every night, and counting calories as our abs pop. Or, we obsess over and micromanage the kids. Maybe it’s sports. But, that’s on the lighter side of life.

When temptation gets a bit darker, we’re talking escape into things like pornography, online dating, alcohol… maybe even taking the plunge and having an affair.

do you pinterest? @dannyzoucha

Neither husbands nor wives are immune to this feeling of… just stuck. We feel gagged and muzzled and are totally confused as to why, because isn’t this the person we married? Isn’t this the life we wanted? What do we do when that which is supposed to bring us a large measure of fulfilment doesn’t?

We make a radical shift. We animate ourselves in a way that demands the soul return to our bodies and resume its normal position of leading us toward the royal court for which we are destined. Kings and queens. The royal priesthood. Alive and awake within ourselves with a passion and a zest surrounding all things that have to do with our home.

We find our home.

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Finding Home

I’ve seen many couples go through this. I’ve gone through it myself. Sometimes it’s one person, sometimes it’s both. At any rate, this is a challenging time. Most people, sadly, give up. That’s what the rate of divorce tells you. They’ve met this challenge and they’ve given up, instead of leaning in. Divorce rates over 50% mean that most people do this.

I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that these are the struggles that make us who we are and they are meant to be overcome. You know that saying that, “God won’t put you through anything that you can’t handle”? Most often these are words spoken to someone going through a world of pain by someone who is not. If you’re reading this, we may have just encountered this situation! But, please be aware that I say this from a similar position as you might be going through, now.

For a moment, I want you to pause and step outside of your current reality. Forget the arguments. Forget what you think you should have or what you think marriage ought to be like. Forget whatever you see as your failures and forget theirs. Leave the kids and every worry behind and meditate on this:

Finding Home

Imagine that. What does it mean to you? Go on. Close your eyes now, and imagine…

Now that you’ve got an image in your head, we’re going to set about creating it. If you’re here, reading this article, then I will assume that what you imagined had something amazing to do with your family, your spouse, your kids, your faith, your connection and contribution to the world – probably a glorious combination of all of the above.

Maybe it seems impossible… but “with the faith of a mustard seed” we’re told we can move mountains, right? So, let’s get to it! At the end, your marriage will be stronger, your faith will be greater, your contribution to this world will be that much more powerful because you’ve overcome.

You’re a queen or a king… and it’s time to reign.

Reignite in 7 Steps

I want you to know that the steps outlined here are highly strategic, based upon a decade and more of experience, and many founded in basic neuroscience. (As if neuroscience can be basic!) As a self-professed “hacker of all things good and wonderful” I do my best to get myself and those around me the greatest, most amazingly spectacular result in the quickest turnaround possible. So, what I’m about to share with you should not be taken lightly. It should be studied, applied, and upon success, shared.

Step 1: Cleave to One Another

I speak more on this in this blog post, but this is so epically important that I’m going to detail it here. It is probably, no, definitely, without doubt, the single biggest factor in the long-term solidity and strength of my marriage.

When we were first starting out, Natasha and I were poor as church mice. We “didn’t have two pennies to rub together,” as my father-in-law used to say. So poor were we, in fact, that several times we needed to make the decision of whether to use our limited funds to purchase food, or to purchase fuel that would drive us to her parents’ house where they would both give us more money and feed us. (When we were smart, we chose the latter!)

We lived approximately an hour away during high traffic periods. Just far enough to cause a strain. There was internet back then, but it was fairly limited, and we didn’t have the money to pay for it anyway. We had phones, but the only people we wanted to call were in the same room as us. (Why did we have phones, again?)

Shortly after our marriage, when I was an emigrant and legally couldn’t work, Natasha and I made the decision that she should, of all things, quit her job at the video shop. Why? We needed more time together, apparently. Plus, the fuel it took to get there was barely covered by her meager pay.

Destitute, alone, and with no one to lean on but each other. Romantic, no?

You mightn’t think so, but this was absolutely the case. Maybe we didn’t have enough money to go to our favorite restaurant, which wasn’t even an expensive place. Maybe we didn’t have the internet, or pay TV. Maybe we didn’t have much… but what we did have was one another.

A lack of money puts stress on anyone. (Been there, done that, several times.) But, add that stress to the stresses that you undergo during the first year of marriage while each of you is figuring out how to live with a new person, and all your old baggage is being hauled out of the closet, seemingly on the backs of your skeletons, and you’re in for a fairly wild ride. Plus! We were both at home all day! We had nothing to do but look at and get to know each other!

This is what I call our First Year Crucible. We were thrown together and God put the blowtorch on us until we’d fused into the one entity. We each left where we’d been before (I even left my home country) and then we cleaved to one another. We had no other support, and we had to! There weren’t any other options.

So, what’s the step? Take yourself on a Leave & Cleave Vacation.

Step 1A: Get Out

There are two meanings of the word ‘cleave’ and they actually are opposites. On the one hand, the more common version means to split, or sever. Then, you’ve got the one we see in the Bible, which is to stick fast to, like glue. For the GTFO portion of this Step, we’re focusing on the former, which is to split.

We need to separate ourselves from ‘the world’ that binds us. All the things we find familiar… yes, this includes family. There are couples in my life whose marriage is suffering because one of them has never individuated from their parents. They might have gotten married, but Mom & Dad pop in practically every weekend, and there are daily calls. How can you separate yourself and even give yourself the space to attach to someone new if you’ve got calls from home on the daily?

As children, we naturally sought to orient ourselves to some kind of authority figure. Ideally, that was our parents. As we were shipped off to school, it became our teachers, and ultimately our friends. The time spent away from the centers of our little universes forced us to gravitate and latch on to others. Often, this causes problems, but here we’re using it to our advantage. You need to break the gravitational pull of mom, dad, friends, relatives… everything and everyone that reminds you that you’ve got support elsewhere.

I recommend leaving the country. If you can’t do that, leave the state. If you can’t do that, leave your town. Just leave. Get out. Not forever, but for a time. Give yourself and your spouse time to reorient yourselves to one another.

Step 1B: Go For Broke

Taken from my Leave & Cleave article…

“The point here is to leave behind your ability to make sure “everything’s going to be okay.” Money? If you got it, you can “fix it,” nice and quick. So, what I recommend is whatever you have, take a percentage of it. Whatever you’re used to using, only use a fraction. Preload a Visa travel card and do not touch whatever you have in the bank.

Better yet, transfer your extra to a term deposit roughly equaling that of your Leave & Cleave excursion. If your excursion isn’t long enough for the shortest term deposit, fine. Put it into a high yield saver that has penalties if you withdraw. Open an account at a different bank and put it there. You just need to make it less available than it currently is. The point is to make yourself uncomfortable. Like you’re teenagers again. Teenagers need to be really resourceful when it comes to getting by when they don’t have money.”

Step 1C: Go Remote

I find that the more distant I get from the creature comforts I’ve come to know and love, the more I grow. When placed in a situation where the only supply of support is my family, I end up growing into them. Our family gets stronger. Love gets deeper. Laughs get louder and we add on a few extra layers of bulletproof armor. This is about building strength and emotional resilience through the interweaving of your own soul and spirit with that of your spouse and your kids, if you have them.

The internet? TV? Sports? Apps? Smartphones? Tablets? Really, anything that has a screen should be left behind. If you are going so remote that you really wouldn’t feel safe going without GPS, download the maps and turn your phone on flight mode. This is supposed to be uncomfortable. No one grows when they’re firmly planted in their comfort zone. That’s the point of the zone. It’s comfortable there. No growth necessary!

Step 2: Get Thankful

Not that long ago I did a Facebook Live all about changing the questions you ask yourself, and how it can dramatically impact your quality of life. I’ll recount the story here.

My wife was doing the dishes. She’d finished, and I was making a coffee. Once the water was off, she heaved a sigh, and turned to start on her next task. (Anyone in the audience have a laundry list of things to do everyday? My wife = total homemaker. Loves it, but it’s exhausting!)

When she sighs, it’s my natural instinct to ask, “What’s wrong?” However, this time, I ran through all the things that could be wrong, and thought to myself, “Okay, I know for a fact that she and I are okay, so there’s nothing wrong there. Jesse, our son, is happily doing his schoolwork, so I knew that wasn’t it. We’re back in Australia after having spent an amazing, but wearying six months in America…”

At the end of my list, I realized there was nothing wrong. She was probably just sighing because it’s kind of the natural thing to do after finishing a task. But, I thought to myself, “Why do I naturally want to ask, ‘What’s wrong?’” Why ever would I intentionally direct my attention there?

What’s wrong?

Since Adam and Eve, we’ve been looking for what’s wrong. When, all of a sudden, we handed our immortality away, we’ve been asking ourselves, “What can kill me about this situation? What can hurt me? What is likely to leave me disfigured? What will harm my child? What will leave me insecure? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?

And it is this question that I believe to be the greatest contributor to our not living in the Kingdom of God.

“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

If it’s “at hand” then why aren’t we living in it? Do you know that in Matthew 3:2, what is commonly translated as, “the Kingdom of God,” is more accurately translated as Heaven’s Realm. What’s important to note here is that the exact words used in the original languages (across all Gospels where this phraseology is present) mean “a time in which God’s way of doing things happens”. It is not a future place. The words are in the present tense.

What’s God’s “way of doing things”? Some might say, protecting. But, that implies you have something to protect. Others might say it’s providing, but that suggests you have someone or something to provide for. Still, others may propose saving. All of these are relevant, but again, this last one implies that you have someone or something to save. What comes before all of these?

Creating.

In the beginning, God created

There’s one more piece of the puzzle. That which comes prior to the Kingdom: Repent. Or at least, that’s the common translation. More accurately, the words used mean “change your minds.”

Let’s back up:

  1. Heaven’s Realm is here. It’s now.
  2. It’s a place where God’s way of doing things happens.
  3. God’s initial way of doing things was to create.
  4. All that needs to happen for us to enter the Realm is to change our minds.
  5. But, on what?

What have we been asking ourselves ever since Adam & Eve?

“What’s wrong?”

If we change our minds, all of a sudden, we’re asking, “What’s right?”

What’s right?

What’s right about this situation? What’s right about my marriage? What’s right about my children? What’s right about my home?

I would then suggest that the next thing to do upon seeing all the right in your world is to get thankful for it.

As far as I’m concerned, this is amazing general advice. But, when applied specifically to your marriage and your husband or wife, it focuses that energy like a laser beam. Want to cut through the clouds of negativity you generally feel about your spouse, your marriage, or your situation? Find what’s right about them, and get thankful. I would propose that you write down five different things every single day that are right about your spouse, your marriage, your home, and your children, and then thank God for them. Each one.

They can be small or big things. They can be that hubby always locks the doors at night. It can be that she always keeps the clothes clean. It can be that they got a B+ on their math assignment. It can be that you have a floormat upon which your guests can wipe their feet before entering. (It can be that you have guests in the first place!)

Why would we do this? Why change the question? To change the answers that your brain comes up with for why the world is the way it is. Is it good, or bad? Is it right, or wrong? Your brain is constantly trying to make sense of the world around it, and it does this via the questions you ask it.

It’s your choice. “Change your mind.”

Step 3: 80/20 Your “I love you’s.”

I am consistently shocked by how many people I will ask if they are familiar with The 80/20 Rule (a.k.a. The Pareto Principle) and how many of them will shake their heads. I’m certain you’re not one of these folks, but for those that may have stumbled onto this article that might not be as cluey as you and me, I’m going to give the broad strokes…

I used to live with my wife and son at a magical little beach-side cottage. It was set back a bit, and while it was narrow, the property was very long. In the back, there was grass growing over very rocky soil. The mango trees grow tall in Queensland, but on this property, they only shaded part of the time. This was good news for me, because I wanted a garden.

One day, I photographed the backyard every hour, on the hour, at the same spot. I then put these images together to determine where the most sunlight fell and for how long. Most edible plants that I like need 6+ hours of sunlight to grow. This was especially true of the vegetables I wished to produce. Cucumbers, tomatoes, chilies, pumpkins, etc. In a few very particular spots, the sunlight fell for an absolute maximum of six hours.

Challenge accepted.

The Tomatoes

The soil was so rocky, it was like trying to plant on a concrete slab. So, I needed to get into beds. (Garden beds.) Out of old tin roof sheets, I created four garden beds exactly three feet wide, and some as long as 12 feet. With the perfect width for me to work from both sides to the middle, and space between the beds enough to mow, I was a happy camper.

I knew that, even with the lengthiness of the garden beds, I wasn’t going to have enough room to really go for it like I wanted to. Therefore, I determined to go indeterminate on my tomatoes. (“Indeterminate” tomatoes are spreading vines, whereas “determine” tomatoes are bushes.)

[insert]gardening organic single-stem method vertical gardening [/insert]

Jesse loves ‘maters, as my dad calls them. I’m not so hot on them myself, but I could grow them like the blazes. Using single-stemming techniques, indeterminate heirloom tomato plants, and concreters string, I trained my vines 18 feet into the air toward the bushy tops of the surrounding palm trees, which I shinnied up, and applied eyebolts to. I had them planted every foot and a half as the plant required, along the edges of my beds. At the most, I probably had 20 plants.

The funny (see: frustrating) thing about them was that of those 20, four of the plants would produce more tomatoes, that tasted better, than the other 16 combined.

This is, in essence, The Pareto Principle. Or, the 80/20 rule.

Seeing It Everywhere

You see it everywhere when you’re looking for it. Only two out of my 10 coffees actually satisfy me and make me come back for the other eight. Twenty percent of the work I do during the day is the stuff that hammers home my result.

It’s the idea that one action out of five is going to have the greatest impact. I’m always trying to find the 20%. When my wife is having a rough day, I ask, “What’s your twenty percent?” Because, it works in/on people, too.

For her, to bring her out of a funk, or a feeling of isolation or loneliness (how many mothers feel lonely in the way they raise their kids or care for their husbands?) we might come up with a list of 20 things she could do, including going for a walk, journaling, reading a good book, having a cup of tea, praying, etc. But, when I ask, “What’s your 20%?” What I’m really saying is, “Knock this list down to the single-most resonating tasks that are going to make your soul sing louder than the others would.”

Cleaning the house and short on time? Okay, if there are 10 things you wish you could do, but you only have time for two, which two are going to make the biggest difference to the way you and your family feel? Great. Do those.

As I said… it works on people in a big way, and we’re going to be applying this principle to the way you tell your spouse that you love them. And, ideally, they’ll do it with you, too.

The 5 Love Languages

So, to begin, we’re going to draw from Dr Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages. You don’t necessarily need to read the book, but you’ll want to go over and do the test, and have your partner do the same. (FYI: There is also a test for children. Highly recommended.)

See, Chapman discovered that there are five languages of love:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Quality Time
  5. Gift Giving

Each of us will receive love in a primary way. Now, just because I’m right-handed, does that mean I never use my left? Of course not! It’s just my preferred hand. So, just like these, you might have a preferred way of receiving love, but ultimately you’ll accept the love from any of these methods, just in different measures. All of it is in an effort to fill up your love tank. Liken this to the gas tank on your car.

For me, I am a Physical Touch guy. My wife? Acts of Service. I feel love to a large degree by how much she touches me. Not sexually, just touching affectionately. For her, she feels the same, except when I do things for her. Not massive things. Just tasks like making sure the car is full of fuel, or making her a cup of tea.

How many Love Languages are there? Five. How many do you have as a primary? One. How much is one of five? Twenty percent. And here we have the basis for this Step.

Determine your and your spouse’s Love Languages by taking the test. Then, have each person make a list of 10-20 ways of expressing love in that Language. For instance, if you’re Physical Touch it might be:

  1. Hand-holding
  2. A peck on the cheek
  3. A hug from behind
  4. A hug from the front
  5. Kissing my hand
  6. Rubbing my feet
  7. Rubbing my back
  8. Washing my back
  9. Head massage
  10. Hand massage

However many you come up with, grab a calculator and multiply it by 0.2. Now, tournament your list down so that you have 20% of the total list. These are the things you and your spouse need to be doing for one another as frequently as possible. For me? I make her tea all through the day. I’m always asking, “Baby, want tea?” Even if she says ‘no’ I get points for asking. I take out the garbage. I fill up her car. I just make it part of my routine.

Why is this important? Because it fills her up. If she’s filled up, then she’s happy. Happy wife, happy life. You should be doing this for your spouse. They should be doing it for you. It is a major contributor to long-term feelings of love. Why? Because you’re making these feelings of love habitual.

Step 4: Stop the Rot

For those of you just joining us, I’m an American that has been living in Australia for the past 13-odd years. For a time, I was a big rugby fan. When a team that had been going well, winning most games, etc., started losing two, three, four in a row, the commentators and newspapers would often say they needed to “stop the rot.” Which is to say, stop this nonsense with a big win that changes the trajectory of the team, or cut players and try someone else in hopes of achieving that same goal.

You could also refer to this little procedure as “cutting out the cancer.” Get rid of whatever vibe or player/s that’s doing the damage; tainting the team; bringing the atmosphere down to one that promotes losing instead of winning.

Teams are made up of people. Each one of those people has a say in the end result of the team. The energy they bring to the field, training, or meetings is going to contribute to that. What do you think would happen if over half the players and staff turned up firmly believing that the team was bound to lose their next game? What if they believed it so vehemently that by the time game day rolled around, they’d convinced the rest of the players and staff of the same?

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.

Your Team

Everyone in your life is on your team. That doesn’t mean they’re good for the outcome. It just means they’re on it. You let them on your team and you keep them there. Family members, friends, coworkers and colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors… they’re all on your team. They are not there by accident. You attracted them into your life, whether you believe that or not, and you keep them there.

If they’re great for the team, that’s awesome. If they’re not great for the team, that’s not so awesome.

I was speaking with a lady recently who was complaining of a really negative friend. Apparently, she was just a bad influence. She really took advantage of her, and didn’t support her marriage to her husband.

Well, the lady with whom I was speaking was lamenting that though she’d tried to hint her way out of being friends with this woman, the woman was now moving right next door to her. She didn’t know what she was going to do. The husband, I could tell, was a little irritated at his wife’s lack of spine when it came to dealing with her. Like a malignant tumor that was getting ever closer to the vitals, in response his wife was laying the back of her hand on her forehead in true “Woe is me!” fashion, when she should have been laying down the law.

That friend needed cutting.

I know a gentleman whose father attempted to “divide and conquer” his son and daughter-in-law. He wanted something from his son that his son wasn’t giving him because his wife very much didn’t want to give it to him. With his wife, he was strong. Without his wife, he was weaker. So, the father asked for a meeting alone with his son.

Divide. Conquer.

That father, sad as it may seem, needed cutting.

I know a happily married couple who had friends that were anything but. The husband was verbally abusive and the wife was the kind who took it. Based upon the summation that ‘you are the average of the five people you hang around most,’ that couple needed to be cut.

Variations of Rot

The rot comes in all different shapes and sizes. Family members are probably the most damaging because they come with them the emotional leverage that’s been habitually applied for possibly decades on at least half of the couple. Older siblings, parents and grandparents especially hold the power.

Best friends and friends that were around before the marriage came to be also are influential figures in the feelings and decision-making of half the couple. Worse still are the friends that played matchmaker to the couple. They’re seen as some sort of authority figure. They helped to set it up, and presumably, can help to tear it down.

People outside the couple can be very bad for the couple, if allowed. Many times, they don’t even intend to be. It’s rare that a friend or relative will set their mind against your spouse due to some vendetta against your happiness together. No! More often than not, they believe their intentions are as pure as the driven snow, which makes confronting them about it so difficult!

But, cancer is just being cancer. Rot is just being rot. Tryin’ to make a livin’. Minding its own business doing its thing. It doesn’t actually want you to die. That’s not the point. The point is so that it may live. Its concern is for itself and such is generally the case for people-rot in your life. If they are having an opinion that is anything but in full support of your successful marriage, their intentions are selfish. They can “just be thinking about your happiness” but they’re really thinking about theirs.

This is tough to swallow for a lot of people, but it’s the truth.

Parents die. Friends move away. Ideally, your spouse is going to be around for as long as you are. They are the other half of your foundation for the happiness of future years and the only truly consistent thing your kids have known. If you need to make a choice between one or the other, choose your spouse, and cut the cancer. Stop the rot. That may mean ceasing contact altogether, moving away, changing your name, whatever.

I’ve done it. I’ve done all of this. I’ve cut people out of my life so that my marriage could continue successfully and untainted. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I haven’t done.

To Do:

So, make a list of all the people in your life that you don’t believe to be in support of your marriage and have your partner do the same. Then, compare notes. If anyone turns up more than once, they should be the first to go, because you both agree. At least you won’t have to waste energy convincing your spouse.

Then, be brave and move on to the harder ones.

I’m in no way saying that these relationships can’t be rebuilt. In most cases, that is the goal. I don’t wish anyone to turn their mother or father out of their lives, never to see them again. But, the reason these folks are negatively influential in your life is because you have not established appropriate boundaries with them. I know a woman who really had to restrict the amount she saw and spoke to her mother because of this very thing. It wasn’t the mother’s fault! She was a sweet woman who actually wanted the best for her daughter and son-in-law. However, the influence was negative on the wife and therefore negative on the relationship.

The daughter and her family moved away for a bit. In that time, with the help of her husband, she worked through the issues she had with her mother. Upon returning, she was able to have an incredibly healthy relationship with her mother, with no negative influence whatsoever.

At every challenge is an opportunity God gives us to grow. Either you take the opportunity or you don’t, but it’s there. If you decide not to take it, God will present that opportunity again, and again, and again, until you get it, or die.

Take the challenge. Stop the rot. Grow.

Step 5: Eat Together

I don’t know about you, but sometimes life feels like a bit of a battle. Have you ever been there? Almost like this world is a barren wasteland whereupon our souls can find no peace. Not all the time, mind you. Just some of the time. But, as they say, “When you’re going through hell… keep going.”

In order to keep going, we need sustenance. We need the fuel. We need that loving connection and support that makes the unbearable easier to bear. This might seem very holy and spiritual, but I want to take this literal. Sustenance = food. We need food to keep our physical bodies going. But, is that the only aspect? Do only our bodies benefit? When you’ve been away from your childhood home for a while, is it really the nutritional value of your mother’s home cooked meal for which you long?

How powerful is food in our world? How meaningful is it in our relationships? Or, rather, how meaningful and powerful should it be? Do you know that in The Tanach (the Hebrew Bible; Christians have it, too – but it’s called The Old Testament) practically every animal that was a part of the sacrificial system became a meal. God basically said, “Yes. This is what must be done. But, once it’s been done, we share in a meal together. Give the priests some for their homes, and then gather up your family and have a party, because this is a time for celebration!”

Doesn’t that change the meaning a little bit? I know from my experience, growing up in the church, just the word sacrifice brought very negative feelings. I wonder if you’re the same? But, in actuality, the Hebrew word for “sacrifice” or “offering” is korban, which basically means “to draw close to someone/something.”

Now does that word feel different?

Drawing Near

We have to completely throw out our old definition for the word “sacrifice” and think of it in terms of “drawing near.” This is ultimately what we want with our families, right? We want to draw near to one another. If, more often than not, the korbanot resulted in a celebratory meal where the family was gathered in to share the joy, that’s what I believe should be the aim of every meal we share with our families.

We rejoin. We draw near. We reunite. Especially after a long day of being away at work, school, or daycare, the sharing of a substance that literally sustains your life is so powerful. Essentially, you’re saying, “Come. I want you to eat some of this stuff that’s going to keep you alive for longer, because I want that.” That’s when you break it down to its bare bones.

  1. I want you alive.
  2. I want me alive.
  3. I want us alive, together.

Kind of beautiful, in its rudimentary way, right? So, eat together. If you can, cook together, too. That might add a level of difficulty to the undertaking, and it might not be an option every single meal of every single day, but think about a project you’ve completed with the family in the past. Maybe, you were moving house. Or, you had an all-day garage sale. Or, you were in charge of a wedding or a funeral. Something that lasted a good long while, that you needed to depend on your family members for assistance, that definitely had a “success” or “failure” outcome. Didn’t it feel good to kick back with the contributors to that event when it was done and share in the joy of the job completed? Weren’t your connections stronger? Didn’t it feel good to challenge yourself and those around you? Didn’t it feel good to work together?

It’s like God gifts us this opportunity three times a day. Meals are mini-projects. Share in the creating, the eating, and the cleaning up, as often as possible, and you will experience a love for your home life reinvigorated within you. You’ll experience appreciation for your family members as a result of their contribution, and what’s more: they will appreciate you.

Step 6: Ditch Porn

So, here’s a not-so-funny, real-life story from my childhood.

I was introduced to porn around the age of 13 by a friend of mine. He had an all-consuming fascination with it, and therefore wanted to share it with me. This was when the internet was really only just coming into wide-use. So, we’re talking 56k dial-up connection. Thankfully, that meant that the only thing we could consume was pictures, because even a horrible quality one-minute video would take literally seven hours to download.

I don’t imagine my story is unique. I would say that most people are introduced to porn round about this age and in these circumstances. Apparently, 90% of children, ages 8-16 (and yes, 16-year-olds are still children, even though they’re driving) have viewed pornography. As a matter of fact, and not overly surprisingly, the largest consumers of porn are boys aged 12-17 years.

So, I definitely slotted into this category. I became quite a connoisseur, too. Eventually, I developed my own little collection that was ultimately found by my parents, whereupon I was immediately declared just short of a heretic.

I don’t recommend this course of action.

They started throwing around words like “addict” and “bound” and most certainly, “demons”. (Yes, growing up in a fundamental Christian home definitely has its advantages and disadvantages.) Children, as you probably know, are incredibly impressionable. You tell one of them that they’re “bound” to the “addiction” of pornography, and they’ll more than likely believe you, and continue to behave in a way that confirms this. I started thinking and acting like one addicted! It became quite the all-consuming passion of mine. I would often forego seeing friends or doing things outside the home which ordinary people would consider fun so that I could spend a little quality time with porn.

Being raised a Christian, and accused of near-possession by a porn demon (kind of an amusing visual) I was obviously affected by this. It’s not that I wanted to do it. (I mean, of course, I did. That’s why I did it.) But, I had a higher self that didn’t want to do it. I just kind of, gave in, ya know? This ultimately riddled me with guilt and a lot of shame and self-hatred.

Again, this is not the course of action I recommend parents take.

Guess what I didn’t want to take with me into my marriage? Yep. My “addiction” to porn. Guess what I prayed for God to take away from me? Guess what stuck around regardless of my prayers and petitions? Aaaaaand, guess how my wife took it when she found out?

Yep. Not a fun time.

I’ve Totally Been There

I tell you this story because I want you to know (as with all of this advice) that I’ve been there. I’m not doling out opinions or suggestions on things I know nothing about. I’ve lived this. I’ve broken it.

Me. Not God. 

Blasphemous? Hardly.

You know why I use quotation marks when I say “addiction”? It’s because even though the properties of porn can be addicting, the fact is that any addiction is really just a habit. Sure, it has a high stimulant factor, but so does going to the gym. So does a long run. So does sex. Are most people “addicted” to them? No. We’re just in the habit, because we get a major pay-off. But, are we accused of being afflicted by a “gym demon”, or a “really long, intense run demon”? The idea is laughable at that point.

I wasn’t “delivered” from “bondage”. I broke habit.

Why do I tell you this? Because, I want you to know first of all that you’re not “bound” to anything. You’re not “imprisoned” to the “dark world of pornography” where Ron Jeremy stands buck naked at the gate holding a trident, barring your exit. If you can understand this, then Step 6 isn’t some monster you need to automatically lose hope over. Neither is it some great weight that you need to carry around because I’m not about to tell you it’s a matter of prayer.

You don’t need to wait for anyone to save you. God gave you everything you needed to save yourself in most cases and especially this one: a brain.

Breaking the Habit

Easy? No, breaking a habit isn’t overly easy, unless you’ve got huge amounts of leverage. (This can be done, and I recommend it.) Though not easy, it’s simple.

First, you find your trigger. Habits all start with a trigger. For me, I wake up because my alarm triggers me to. I go for a run because I know that after I’ve read the Bible with my family, it’s time to run. The closing of the Book is my trigger. So, think about your trigger for porn. Is it when your spouse leaves home? Is it when you see some of the images on the news sites you’re innocently perusing? It’s often nothing sinister, but it’s avoidable.

Let’s say that it’s when your spouse leaves the house. You might have a day off, and he or she doesn’t. How are you going to take that trigger and spin it on its head? Use that trigger to incite a different course of action. The environment in which you go to the porn is one of solitude and probably boredom. So, make sure you’re either never alone, or never bored. He/she leaves home, and…

  1. You go to the gym.
  2. You go for a walk.
  3. You go do some grocery shopping.
  4. You drive to the beach.

It will take a bit of imagination, but you’re just reverse-engineering a different outcome. “Yes! But that’s only a temporary fix!” I hear you cry out. True, but practice makes… permanent.

Did you know it only takes 21 days of consistent action to establish a habit? Did you know that if you reward yourself with something that stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain (like chocolate, for example) once you’ve done something, it will take even fewer repetitions? It’s totally doable. Totally hackable. You’re not at anyone’s mercy but your own, and you have nothing to overcome but your own laziness. The idea that God would rather you pray the problem away rather than activate your own faculties is laughable. Why do you think he gave you the power to change your behavior in the first place? Having said that, when you do grind yourself free of it, by all means, give thanks and glory to God for the gift of your ability.

Why?

I’ve given you a lot of practical in this Step, but not much theory, so I’ll tell you the reason why…

First, the look on my wife’s face was absolutely heart-breaking. Avoid this at all costs. Porn makes women feel like absolute sh*t and it’s not fair.

Second, I was introduced to porn by my friend because his dad was into it, and my friend found his magazines. No father, no son, no me, no heart-breaking face on my wife.

That’s why. (One of the reasons.) It’s worth it to stop.

Step 7: Become Royal

Much of what I am a proponent of is habit-rewiring. You caught a glimpse of that in the last Step, in terms of the practical application. But, when I say that you are to “Become Royal,” what does that mean? What are the steps one takes to do this? How do you move from commoner to queen?

You make yourself worthy of the crown.

Let’s do an exercise. Imagine yourself as a king or a queen. Think about the country over which you rule. Envision your court. Picture your castle. Where is it? On top of a hill? Overlooking a cliff? What do you wear? What kind of army do you have? Are you at peace? Are you blessed with plenty? What’s the story?

Now that you’ve got your story, let’s see… You’re the monarch. You’re in charge. You’re dressed lavishly. You wear a crown. People look at you in awe and wonder.

What is your standard for yourself?

If you’ve read to the end, I would wager that it would be fairly high. You wouldn’t be one of those rulers who is happy to abuse and exploit their subjects. I reckon they would adore you. They’d die for you. They’d defend your rulership because they know that you are the best for them.

To be adored, you must be worthy of adoration.

The way you become royal… the way you become master of your domain is to fashion yourself into the king or queen you want to be. If our lives are nothing but collections of habits, then that means that at any point, we can assess ourselves, pick one thing we don’t like, and change it to something we do like.

This is it in its simplest form. Analyze yourself. Alter what you need to. Become better. It’s a personal choice. It’s not a radical transformation from anyone or anything that’s been bestowed upon you. I grew up in the church and I know all about being born again; this process of newness. We’re given the impression that all we need to do is accept Christ into our hearts and that we’re magically turned into a new being, instantaneously. But, that’s not correct, in my opinion.

As I spoke about earlier, the sacrificial system was used to “draw near” to God. During say, a sin offering, before the animal was killed, the person was to put their hands on it and apply pressure. There was to be a connection made between the person doing the offering and the animal. I know it’s easy to think that, “Oh! Well, they were just more savage back then, and Israel was simply a spattering of blood and guts. This was totally normal, totally meaningless, and totally a pain in the butt.” With this mindset, it’s awfully easy to write off this interaction between the offerer and the offered. But, that’s so wrong.

They weren’t the ones who went to the supermarket and picked out convenient little packages of non-descript red meat for supper. They weren’t the ones who bought hotdogs by the dozens to throw into white flour buns to eat hordes of at contests. They weren’t the ones who would go through an entire chicken and a half every other day. The diet of these people was mostly grains. Meat was eaten very occasionally, and generally only during a celebration, which included when offerings were made. They were largely pastoralists, who had deep connections with their herds and flocks.

To suggest that killing one of the animals they’d often hand-reared was as easy as skipping across the street is fairly insulting. It was meant to be harrowing. It was meant to shake them up, and wake them up to the wrong they’d done so that their behavior would change.

Isn’t that the same kind of experience we go through when we think of Yeshua’s death? Isn’t it shaking? Done right, it is a process that leaves you feeling very much like someone has taken your place. How do we respond to this?

We change our behavior.

For many, it is a radical change. Their course of life is dramatically altered. Does that mean they never sin again? Does that mean they never again make a mistake? You and I both know that’s not the case. It certainly wasn’t the case with me. I’ve been a follower of Yeshua for decades and there hasn’t been an hour of a day that’s gone by since I started that I haven’t sinned. I’m totally guilty.

But, I keep trying. I keep fixing. I keep working; hammering away on myself. Refining myself, with God’s help, to become purer and purer, everyday.

In most modern, English translations of Ephesians 4:22-24, we’re told:

“That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” [Emphasis mine.]

The emphasis seems pretty straightforward, right? Just “lay it aside” and “put on the new” as it were, and you’re done and dusted. Simple as that, right? But we know that’s not reality! Still, that doesn’t stop most of us from attempting a radical conversion, coming up short, getting frustrated, and then surrendering to a “lay it all at the foot of the cross” mentality because we’ve tried and failed and didn’t get the 100% sinless conversion we were promised.

This is the flaw. What we’re told and what is implied by many Christian teachers. Whereas, in my preferred translation, which comes direct from the Greek (as opposed to being translated from Greek, to Latin, to German, to English) verses 22-24 state:

“This is – that you strip off the clothes of your former way of life, the old person which is being destroyed by wants and wishes which deceive you. Let your spirit be made new, and this will make your minds new. Put on the clothes which are the new person, created in God’s way, the right way, with truth and holiness.” [Emphasis mine.]

Just at this moment, I’m wearing the following articles of clothing:

  1. One undershirt
  2. One overshirt
  3. Underwear
  4. Jeans
  5. Socks
  6. Shoes
  7. Two necklaces
  8. Three bracelets
  9. One hairband
  10. One ring

Now, if I were holding a watermelon and then I “laid it aside,” I’d be done pretty quick. It’s a one-move thing. However, if I were to “strip off my clothes” (Easy, ladies! I’m married!) as we’re told to, it would take some time. It’s a process, for that matter. I can’t take off my underwear before I take off my pants. I can’t take off my socks before I take off my shoes. I can’t take off my overshirt before my undershirt. You get the idea?

If I were to pick up that watermelon, again, I’d be done quick. It’s another one-move thing. But, if I’m getting dressed in the morning into all 10 things I have on now, it would take me time. It’s a process. I do one thing, then another, then another. There’s an order with some of it. If I jump the gun on pants, I’ll look ridiculous in public with my boxers on top of them.
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By making yourself worthy of the crown, you do this process over and over again. Our lives are a compilation of the things we do; our habits. We need to break them down, get rid of them, and replace them with right behavior. Remaining the same willfully sinful creature that is unwilling to change their behavior after experiencing God’s intervention in their life is just plain… well, it’s nothing. You haven’t experienced it. It’s not real. You’ve done nothing to uphold your end of the bargain. You are not in a relationship.

Why Royalty?

Why? How does this impact your home life and love of it? Think of it… you’re the queen. You’re the king. It’s your domain. It’s your home. You command it. You and your spouse are the ruling family. Each of you has an equal stake in this. There is no inequality in marriage or spiritual standing, except perhaps in the woman’s favor. I did a Facebook Live on this very topic.

Get into this. Take charge of your life. It will be whatever you decide it will be. Your decisions will affect your actions. Your actions will affect your results. Your results will ultimately be your life.

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