A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sermon (July 6) by Rev. Cheryl Foulk - "Love at First Sight"

If you are  looking for a companion, where do you find a true love?  Would you meet someone at work, at church, thru mutual friends, on line, or perhaps your favorite  watering hole?
In the Old Testament we have  stories of couples who actually found each other at the watering hole, the village well!

Moses first saw his future wife at a well; Jacob saw the love of his life, Rachel at a well.   In our story for today, Isaac connected with Rebecca  at a well.

There was a helpful matchmaker involved.  Isaac's family servant prayed to God that he would find a suitable companion for Isaac. Isaac's mother  Sarah has died and Isaac is ready to begin his own family.  The servant goes back to the home country of Abraham and there he  meets Rebecca  at a well.  She appears to be an answer to his prayer.  She is from the right family, and she has the gift of gracious hospitality: she offers him water. 

Gifts of jewelry are given to her, arrangements are made, her consent for marriage is obtained, and before you could say  Bed, Bath and Beyond," Rebeka was on her way to meet her future husband Isaac!  In a movie it would be a romantic scene:  they see each other for the first time across a field.

How did Isaac feel about  this woman chosen for him?   The passage says that  he took her to his home and that he loved Rebeka.   It was love at first sight-  a fairy tale romance.

Unfortunately, Isaac and Rebeka become a very troubled family in years to come. They have twin sons, Essau and Jacob, brothers who hate and distrust one another.  The contentious family dynamics affect generations to come.  Sorrows are in store for Isaac and Rebecca even with such an enchanted beginning.

We know about that heartache: marriages that end, promises broken, commitments that don't last, fighting and discontent within families. We yearn not just for love at first sight, but love that lasts.

When we think of the relationships in our lives , are there things that could be better?
 Dr, John Gottman is on the faculty of the University of Washington, and he has  studied and worked with thousands of couples at his “Love Lab.” In his writings,
he has suggested some simple things that are helpful in any relationship.

We are created  by God for emotional connections with one another ( see that even with a baby who cries out to be held).

We reach out to make contact with other people every day through words, a smile, a touch.  Dr. Gottman writes that when we make a contact, the other person can respond in one of three ways:

     turn towards us-React in a positive, interested fashion
     turn against us –React in a negative, degrading manner 
     turn away from us- Ignore our contact.

 For example, my husband  can come in and ask “When is supper ready?”    
(A) I can say: “Casserole will take about 20 minutes; why don't you set  table, and I'll get you something to drink.”
 ( B)  Or  “Get off my back,  you are always so impatient”
  (C)  Or I can offer no reply, no eye contact, as if I had heard nothing.

Dr. Gottman has observed that the more we choose (A)  the better it is for the relationship. To turn towards a person with our response is one way that we support one another in love.   The more positive contacts in a day is a plus for the relationship.

If our attempts to connect are constantly met with responses of turning against or turning away, we become disheartened.

Dr. Gottman   believes that he can identify  in 10 minutes of time whether a  couple's  relationship will last or  whether they  will have great difficulties. He determines this by how  they reach out and how they respond and pay attention to one another in common interactions.

People that we care about the most- spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings.
How do we respond to their efforts to connect?

Many of us  are busy , stressed, and distracted.   We don't realize the importance of these simple daily connections. Our connections may be minimal at most and not very uplifting.

 These are two heart exercises which may help:

This is the 10/10 exercise. Take 10  ten minutes to share about your day and how you are with the other person.  You talk for 10 minutes ( no interruptions) and your partner listens. Then they share and you listen. For some of us we say “I only get ten minutes ? ”  and others of us may think “ What will I say for ten minutes…”.
This practice can help each of us to keep the connections intact.

Leonard Felder  who is a counselor wrote about these conversations:  “Person I am about to talk to is more important than any client, customer, boss, colleague I've spoken to today. I better show up fully available for the next conversation because nothing else is as important as these precious moments together.” p.94  Make Up or Break Up

The second exercise is to offer affirming statements daily to our loved one. The vast majority of us find it easier to offer criticism!

Accountant was given the assignment to write down what he liked about his wife and what he didn't. He compiled  72 negatives and 4 positives in a week's report!    Counselor suggested that the report was lopsided.  Husband replied “Yes, but I love her any way."

Counselor replied that it was not his wife  but his attention to the negative  that was off base. The husband, like many of us, had to really work at seeing more of what was good in the other person.
 These are some affirming  examples: “I like the way you make me laugh”  “I like the way you cleaned out the garage”  “I  appreciate your concern for my family.”

There was a cartoon that portrayed an older husband and wife at the table first thing in the morning. She has curlers in her hair and he has not yet shaved. The caption reads: “Breakfast is more enjoyable since we agreed not to wear glasses at the table.”
I look at this couple, and  I can see years where they have turned towards each other
so that now they see each other  through the eyes of  a deep love,  with or without glasses.

We are created to be in relationships  that are life giving. As followers of Jesus, we are to care for, to encourage and serve one another. Jesus directive to love one another is not a vague concept but one that comes to life with the people that we live with, that sit around the breakfast table. Let us pray for the people in our homes, for our families, for healing and growth. Let us  pray for all the relationships here-  that the love of Christ is evident and grows in our homes and in our hearts.

“May Christ fill our hearts so that we will be rooted and grounded in love.”

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