Archive for August 2, 2017


2 Corinthians 9:6 – “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

Amy and Randall had been married for eight years, and they loved each other. However, when he was angry or upset, Randall became moody and would withdraw from Amy and the kids, except for occasional outbursts of anger. When his manufacturing business was struggling, he would sit silently through dinner. Once, during this period, the children were arguing at the dinner table. Out of the blue, Randall said, “Amy, can’t you keep these children in line? I can’t even have a moment’s peace in my own home!” And with that, he stormed out of the kitchen into his home office, turned on the computer, and stayed there until the kids went to bed.

Amy was hurt and confused. But she had a pattern of “handling” Randall’s moods. She would try to cheer him up by being positive, encouraging, and compliant. “He has a hard job,” Amy would think. “Nurturance is what he needs.” And for the next few hours, and sometimes days, she would center the family’s existence around Dad’s mood. Everyone would walk on eggshells around him. No one was to complain or be negative about any subject, for fear of setting him off again. And Amy would constantly try to draw him out, affirm him, and make him happy. All her emotional energy went into helping Randall feel better.

Amy and Randall’s struggle illustrates the importance of the first law of boundaries: “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.” Simply put, this principle means that our actions have consequences. When we do loving, responsible things, people draw close to us. When we are unloving or irresponsible, people withdraw from us by emotionally shutting down, or avoiding us, or eventually leaving the relationship.

In their marriage, Randall was sowing anger, selfishness, and withdrawal of love. These hurt Amy’s feelings and disrupted the family. Yet Randall was not paying any consequences for what he was sowing. He could have his tantrum, get over it, and go about his business as if nothing had happened. Amy, however, had a problem. She was bearing the entire burden of his moodiness. She stopped what she was doing to take on the project of changing her moody husband into a happy man. Randall was “playing,” and Amy was “paying.” And because of this, he was not changing his ways. Randall had no incentive to change, as Amy, not he, was dealing with his problem.

What consequence should Randall have been experiencing? Amy could have said to him, “Honey, I know you’re under stress, and I want to support any way I can. But your withdrawal and rage hurt me and the children. They are unacceptable. I want you to talk more respectfully to us when you’re in a bad mood. The next time you yell at us like that, we’ll need some emotional distance from you for a while. We may leave the house and go to a movie or see some friends.”

Sowing and reaping has to do with how spouses affect and impact each other’s heart. Amy and Randall had a problem in relational sowing and reaping. He was being hurtful and difficult, yet Amy took the consequences of his behavior for him. In their relationship, the one who has the problem isn’t facing the effects of the problem. And things don’t change in a marriage until the spouse who is taking responsibility for a problem that is not hers decides to say or do something about it. This can range from mentioning how her spouse’s behavior hurts her feelings, all the way to setting a limit on the behavior. This helps place both the sowing and the reaping with the same person and begins to solve the boundary violation.

This devotional is drawn from Boundaries in Marriage, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.


“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see…”Amazing Grace, John Newton

How many times have you sung that refrain? As a Southern Baptist from a very rural, small town in Mississippi, I would put the number in the thousands. I thought I understood what John Newton meant. I read about his story, as a reformed slave trader and Anglican clergyman. He had what can only be described as a “spiritual awakening.” He couldn’t unsee once he could finally see. And I now understand why.

When I first read about John Newton, I thought that he finally was able to see his own sin. That he could see his evilness as a slave trader, how he transported human lives as cargo. I thought that is what he could finally see. Only now, I think it was more than that. I think he saw his own brokenness. I think he probably already knew he was broken the entire time. What I think he finally saw was what I finally saw…so was everyone else.

I have said that before. I actually even know Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And I can even Google and find Romans 5:8 where Paul says “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Of course I know we are all sinners. Only, I thought I was the only one who was really a sinner. You know, the bad ones.

I had lunch with a friend from church last week. A friend that I respect and have been in Bible study with. I had the opportunity to share my story with him. I didn’t expect to or really honestly even want to. But he hit one of my criteria for telling my story…I heard in his conversation that he could benefit from it so I told him. As I told it, he kept asking questions, ones that only someone who knows they are broken too would ask.

I have another friend from where I used to live who has been talking with me about job advice and how to transition to a new role. He is struggling. Not just with the job itself or finding a new one. He is hurting, broken, dealing with the damage from isolating. I know the pressures he faces, the overwhelming feeling of grasping for control and not being able to find it.

The difference in what I sang about being blind and now seeing is that they are no longer words. Now I do see. I see my friend hurting from a pain he doesn’t think he can share. I watch the lack of trust my wife now has in even the small things I tell her because of my lifetime of deception. I see my mother and the hopelessness she finds on some days when my father can’t remember where he is, who his friends and family are or why she left to go to the bathroom.

And what I have found in my new sight is that like my brother John Newton, I can’t unsee anyone around me. I feel the trauma, loneliness, fear, anxiety and isolation that comes from being separated from our Savior. I see something else as well…I see hope in community with my brothers and sisters. I see the promise of eternity with my family and friends in the presence of God.