Dealing With ImmaturityJuly 23, 2008
Have you ever wished someone would “just grow up"? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with author and pastor Rich Rollins about handling conflicts caused by immaturity.
Have you ever wished someone would “just grow up"? Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with author and pastor Rich Rollins about handling conflicts caused by immaturity.
Dealing With Immaturity
Bob: Have you ever made it your goal to try to fix your spouse? Rich Rollins did.
Rich: And then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that Rich Rollins was a full-time project.
I am the biggest project in my life. I'm the only one I can control; I am the only one that I can grow up. I can't force anyone else to grow up, and if I don't work on me, I'll not rub off on anyone else. And I think a lot of us are that way. We get so sidetracked on producing growth in everyone else that we forget it really starts with us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. I feel like I ought to start today by saying, "Let him who has ears to hear" pay attention to what we're going to talk about today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I wonder how many of our listeners have attended one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, and they've brought their spouse with them thinking it's about time – maybe these guys can fix my spouse because I haven't been able to. I know that there's a percentage of folks out there who come with that kind of an idea in mind, and whenever I'm speaking at the Weekend to Remember, I start off on Friday night by reminding folks that we can't do anything to fix your spouse. The only person we can help you work on is you, because that's really the only person you can make any improvements with is yourself.
I want to remind our regular listeners that this week and next week they can attend one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences and can save up to $100 per couple off the complete Weekend to Remember package, but we have to hear from them either this week or next week in order for them to take advantage of those savings. And this weekend really is a great weekend getaway for couples. It's fun, it's relaxing, it's romantic, and it's a great opportunity to grow closer to one another and to refresh and renew your relationship with each other.
Now, if you'd like to take advantage of the special offer that's available for FamilyLife Today listeners, this week and next week only, we need to hear from you. You can either call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener – just use my name, "Bob," and say, "I'd like the special offer for the friends of Bob," and we'll pass that along to you.
Or go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click on the right side of the home page where you see the button that says "Learn More" about "Today's Broadcast." That will take you to an area of the site where there is a link that will give you all the information you need about this special offer. And if you register for the conference online, just put my name in the keycode box. Just type in "Bob" where you see the keycode box, and that will trigger, again, this special opportunity that is available this week and next week for FamilyLife Today listeners and then come join us for what will be a great weekend getaway for you, as a couple, this fall at one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.
But don't come with the idea that it's your spouse who needs all the work and that you're doing just fine because the reality is you both can probably stand a little relational work. Although, have you noticed, Dennis, that we tend to think to ourselves, if somehow these other people in our lives would just act mature, everything would work out fine.
Dennis: Grow up, you mean?
Bob: Well, grow up, I mean, there are some people who are grown up that haven't grown up, you know what I'm saying there, right?
Dennis: Yeah, I thought so.
Bob: I'm talking about people who if they'd just be more like me, there would be less conflict, don't you think? I guess arrogance is a source of conflict, isn't it? I hadn't thought about that one for a second.
Dennis: Well, you know, it reminds me of that quote by …
Bob: By Woody Allen?
Dennis: By Woody Allen.
Bob: That's the one you were thinking about?
Dennis: That's the one I was thinking of – that quote by Woody Allen, "Basically, my wife was immature."
Dennis: I'd be at home in the bath, and she'd come in and sink my boats.
Bob: That's with a rubber ducky.
Dennis: I think that may be closer to the truth than we hate to admit here. Well, we're joined again by Dr. Rich Rollins, who is the author of a book, "Redeeming Relationships." Rich is the Executive Pastor of Valley Bible Church in Hercules, California, and has been married for more than 37 years, knows a little bit about conflict with his own wife and his two adult children. Welcome back, Rich.
Rich: Thanks for having me.
Dennis: You know, Rich, what Bob's talking about here – the issue of maturity really is a core issue in a marriage relationship and, for that matter, all relationships, whether or not we're mature enough to be able to have conflict or disagreement or …
Bob: In fact, let me just be a little self-disclosing here, if I can, and talk about conflict that happened early in my marriage relationship.
Dennis: But not recently?
Bob: No, recently it's just been smooth sailing, but back in the old days …
Back when we were first married, one of the things that was characteristic about our marriage is when we would experience some kind of a disagreement, I would try to move to a healthy discussion of that – well, okay, it really wasn't a healthy discussion.
Dennis: It was more of an attorney – attorney/client relationship, wasn't it?
Bob: It was me trying to demonstrate for my wife exactly why she was wrong by putting her on the witness stand and cross-examining her, right? And one Saturday morning, I'll never forget this, we were having this discussion, and I said, "Well, let me ask you a few questions," and I'm starting to dice her down with my questions, and she just got up and left and went to the bedroom and locked the door.
And I thought, "Well, how immature of her," you know, that she won't just talk this through. Later, when we got together, she explained to me exactly what I was doing – that I was not trying to talk it through, I was not trying to listen, I was not trying to resolve anything, I was trying to win. I didn't see that. I was thinking she was the immature one because she got up and went to the bedroom and locked the door. She knew that I was the immature one because I was just trying to win the conflict. Growing up is important if we're going to handle conflict correctly, isn't it?
Rich: It's so true. I'm reminded of what Dennis remind us of several years ago when he pointed out that the majority of men, at least in the evangelical church, do not make it from adolescence to adulthood. That thought permeated my conscience for a long time as I began to think about that, and as I look around the average church and many of the churches that I've been in, I think it's true.
And when you look at Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, that he says, "When I was a child, I reasoned like a child; I thought like a child; I spoke like a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." I know he's talking in the context of giftedness and the necessary factor of love as we use our gift and minister to one another, but the profound concept that he gives us is that immature people can't get past themselves. They think a certain way, they're irrational, it's all about me, and as I look at this topic and as Marty and I considered it in the writing of this book, it is probably one of the most profound causes of our conflict that we ever face, because when we're immature, we don't want to solve it. When we're immature, we're not open to people's conversations, when we're immature, we are the creator of all conflict.
Bob: And in Ephesians 4, in verse 15, it says that we are to "speak the truth in love and, in doing so, we are to grow up" – to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head and to Christ."
Dennis: I was reading this morning in Romans, chapter 12, that how we are to prefer one another in honor. You know, we're not to pick at each other. We're supposed to be kind to one another, and I think what can happen in marriage and in families is the family and the marriage relationship can grow inward, where the only thing we can obsess about is the other person's idiosyncrasies that they do wrong; the things that they do that irritate us; their weaknesses; their habits; all those things, and we justify being right because it's the other person who is doing the "immature" things.
Rich: That's right. I remember Chuck Swindoll telling us that he spent 10 years trying to make Cynthia a better person until he realized that actually what he was trying to do was make Cynthia Chuck Swindoll. And that put words to the thing I had been trying to do in my marriage. I had been trying to make Luana what I wanted her to be and then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that Rich Rollins was a full-time project; that I had to move all of my attention from my wife, let God worry about her, and begin to make myself my project because I was losing time. I'd lost 10 years on myself.
And I think what we do is we minimize how God grows us up. The passage you read in Ephesians is in the context of God giving gifted people to equip the saints for the work of the ministry so that the body and the members of that body might grow up. And so, as a pastor, I'm always concerned about people who want to mature in the Christian life, but they're not involved in a local church.
God also uses the people in our life. Paul said in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 28, that "his burden in life was to produce maturity in the life of those around him," and that maturity he identified as being like Christ. And so there are people in our life that if we cut off we're never going to grow up.
And then James tells us that circumstances in our life produce patience and maturity, and sometimes what we do is we look at the circumstances as the enemy without realizing that it may be the very tool that God is going to use to grow us up.
Dennis: You know, as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking of maybe more than one person who is asking a question – what does it look like to truly grow up and become mature? In other words, what are the fertilizers, the growth stimulants, that create that bedrock maturity that isn't tossed to and fro by doubt or unbelief or by our own disobedience. You mentioned a couple – one is fellowshipping with other Christians who sharpen us. Another one you mentioned were circumstances that were used by God to test our faith and to cause us to take a look at our faith and see if we're passing the test.
Are there some other components that create maturity in us as followers of Christ?
Rich: Well, I think one of the most important things that we have to remember is that we need to take the medicine. I used that in another chapter to talk about resolving conflict, but it really is applicable to maturity, and I describe it this way – I have high blood pressure, and I take medicine every day for it, and I really don't believe I need the medicine. I take my blood pressure and my blood pressure is normal, and I think, "Well, I'll lose another 10 pounds and when I lose the 10 pounds, I’m walking, I'm running, I'm doing all those things, I stop taking the medicine because I don't need it. I take my blood pressure, it's still normal. A week later, it's still normal. A week and a half, it's starting to go up, but I ignore it. Three weeks later I'm out of control again, and I take a pill, and nothing happens. It takes three more weeks of taking the pill for my blood pressure to come back down, and I finally admit, you know what? I need the medicine.
The medicine for the Christian life is time in the Word, time in prayer, time in fellowship, and time in service. And what we think is we don't need that, so we stop taking it, God doesn't strike us dead, our life doesn't fall apart immediately, but over a period of time, our thoughts begin to change, our relationships begin to change and then we, all of a sudden, in a crisis, sit down and read the Word. It doesn't make sense. We pray, it doesn't seem to work, because we need to get back into the medicine long enough for God to begin to work in our lives.
And the reality is that if we take the medicine on a daily basis, God will use that medicine to grow us up because the Word of God always bears fruit in our life. And that is such a fundamental aspect. I used to study the Word every day to be obedient; to study the Word every day to learn more things, and I realize now that I need the medicine; that I need the living Word of God changing my life.
Because without changing my life through God's medicine, I am just not going to be the person that God wants me to be.
Bob: And, you know, the whole context of what we're talking about here really is this issue of conflict, which we've been focused on all this week, and our maturity, as we grow up, as we spend time in the Word and in prayer and with other Christians and in service, that causes us to grow up, and that's going to have an impact on how we relate to one another and whether our conflict is productive and healthy or whether it's destructive and unhealthy.
Rich: Exactly. There is a vast difference between the immature person trying to resolve their conflict and the mature person resolving their conflict.
Dennis: Yeah, no doubt about it.
Rich: And the mature person cannot only resolve the conflict, but they can move that relationship to the next level.
Dennis: Rich, as you were just talking there, I was thinking about Colossians, chapter 3, verse 15, which talks about the "peace of Christ," which is the absence of conflict, or it's the result of resolved conflict – "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." It goes on to say, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
Well, this passage, you know, what it does just to your very point about taking your medicine, this medicine right here realigns our thought process.
Dennis: Just a little conversation that Barbara and I had last night – we were just talking about – she said, "You know, I just wish you could get to the point" – you know, she's just being truthful here – "but you just wish you could get to the point where you could coast – coast to the finish line."
Bob: You've got the flesh under control, and you don't need to read your Bible anymore.
Dennis: Everything is together, you could just slide on into home base safely, and it's just this easy glide right into the finish line. That's not the picture the Bible gives. The Bible has the picture of contending for the faith, fighting the good fight, you know, enduring suffering for doing what is right.
Rich: That's right. When I do leadership training, I remind people that our leadership goal is not to lead our people to peace and a place without conflict, because we're always going to have conflict, and conflict will make us a better team if we resolve it in a godly way. But leadership is to acknowledge that as we move toward the future, we're going to deal with each storm as it comes in a godly way.
Bob: Let me ask you to help me with a little issue here, okay? Mary Ann and I are different in a number of areas, but here is one area where we're different. Mary Ann tends to think more along the lines of concrete thinking – things are black and white, you know, things are either right or wrong, they're black, they're white, that's how she is.
Now, I'm a little more live in the gray, ambiguous …
Dennis: You think?
Bob: A little more on the abstract side – some things are maybe not the best, but you can't really say they're absolutely wrong. Other things are probably right but not necessarily.
Dennis: I want to speak up for Bob at this point because there may be those listeners who are thinking that he's this big compromiser. That's not who he is as a person.
Bob: Well, you go to Romans 14, and you see that there is a lot of talk about these gray areas of the Christian life, and some people would just prefer life to be ordered more around the black and white and just give me the list, and I'll take care of it. Some of us kind of like the ambiguity because it lets us slide a little bit, and that's not always healthy.
When we've got these different perspectives that can lead to conflict, what do we do about that?
Rich: Well, that's a huge area, and it's too gray of an area that you could actually answer your question in a nutshell, but let me say it this way – it is the area that creates the most conflict in the church today because we do have two philosophies, and they are in opposition to each other. And one philosophy sees Christianity as a life of abstinence, and we measure our Christianity by what we don't do not what we do do. And it's confronted with the passage in Romans, chapter 13, verse 8 where Paul says, "Owe no man anything except to love one another for love is the fulfillment of the law."
He's not talking about not being in debt. He's talking about the fact that you may be paid up on all your bills, but one bill you'll never be paid up in is the bill to love one another. And how is my love for you fulfilling the law? It's not good enough for me to not steal from you, it's not good enough for me not to steal your wife. For the first time, rather than living my life by abstinence, I now have a motive to live my life by. I now no longer steal from you because I love you. I no longer take your wife because I love you.
And so, for the first time, there is direction in my life, but I have a problem with that because all the areas of abstinence are so easily measurable. They are very black and white, they are very clear, and I think maturity drives us to living our lives in what I call the "white," the abstracts. They are hard to measure – what is love? What is holiness?
But God calls us as mature children to learn to grapple with these issues so that we can finally be the people He wants us to be, and when we get over there, we are able to accomplish all the abstinence that we're supposed to, as Christians, but our lives have positive direction and meaning and, all of a sudden, there is a gray area that shows up, and it's a live-and-let-live area. It's an area that's no longer modulated by right and wrong but by wisdom – principles guide us.
Bob: What I've had to learn over the years is that Mary Ann's tendency toward black and white is actually a good thing for me, because my ambiguity, my abstract thinking, can make me squishy on some stuff that I ought to be less squishy about.
Bob: And she's had to learn that my ambiguity and my abstract thinking is a good thing for her, because her black-and-whiteness can lead toward legalism or Pharisee-ism, and she needs to do some of this living-and-let-living from time to time, and so, again, the differences between us wind up being a strengthening thing to our relationship instead of being a cause of conflict, they're a cause of celebration for us.
Rich: Well, you've learned what I think every successful couple learns, and that is Lu and I are stronger as a couple than either of us are as individuals, and it's made all the difference in our relationship.
Dennis: Yes. And just to put it another way – I'm a black-and-white person, or at least started out more that way, and married an artist who sees a lot of colors on the palette, okay? And I wouldn't trade the Technicolor that I now enjoy because of Barbara for the black-and-white existence that I had early on in our marriage.
Dennis: And it really is a matter of, as you've just said, as a matter of – well, we talk about this, Bob, at the Weekend to Remember conference – it's a matter of receiving your spouse as God's gift to you.
Rich: That's right.
Dennis: And not trying to change them and turn them into a duplicate of yourself. Because God only made one of you; we don't need another.
Bob: I am so glad you brought up the Weekend to Remember conference, because it gives me an opportunity right here to tell our listeners …
Dennis: Well, before you do that, I just want to thank Rich for being with us. Rich, your wisdom of having been a pastor for – well, nearly three decades, really comes through. I appreciate you shepherding God's flock faithfully and your faithfulness to the Scripture. I hope you'll come back and join us again sometime and share again with us.
Rich: I'd be honored. Thank you so much.
Bob: And you've been a Weekend to Remember conference, haven't you?
Rich: I have. I love it. It's been a great impact on the couples of our church.
Bob: Do you take couples from your church with you?
Rich: I do. In fact, one of the requirements I have with couples who are really struggling is I won't take them on for any period of time unless they commit to me to go to a Weekend to Remember.
Dennis: You're talking about counseling now?
Rich: Counseling from my pastor office.
Dennis: You require them to go to the Weekend to Remember?
Rich: If they're serious about changing their marriage, then I think they ought to be involved in the Weekend to Remember. There is something that happens when you are there for the whole weekend that builds upon each lesson; that you walk away seeing each other differently than you've ever seen them before. It is so profound. I can't begin to recommend it for the churches out there.
Dennis: Have you seen it make a difference in a couple's life that you can maybe share with our listeners?
Rich: I will tell you that we have had several couples go this last time who were facing divorce, who had actually sat down with an attorney to plan their divorce, and as I began working with them, I encouraged them to come to this Weekend to Remember. My wife and I went, and I watched God transform their lives. They heard things that they've heard before, but they heard it in such a way and over such a period of time, going back to their hotel room, doing the homework, that it just was profound, and they are together today and still in our church.
I would say that Lu and I have been married now for 45 years, and when we go, we come out of that stronger as a couple. So I would say it's not even for couples who are struggling, it's for every couple who wants to go the next step in their relationship. It's a great program.
Bob: I don't think I need to add anything to that other than the fact that FamilyLife Today listeners can save up to $100 per couple off the complete package if they'll register this week or next week. All you have to do is go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast." That will take you to an area of the site where you'll see a link for more information about this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, and if you want to register and save up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend package, you have to type my name, "Bob," into the keycode box on the registration form, and that will get you all set up for the special offer.
Or simply call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329. Someone on our team can answer any questions you have about the conference and give you dates, locations, all that information, and they can get you registered over the phone. But, again, identify yourself as a listener or just use my name, "Bob," and you'll qualify for this special offer. You'll save up to $100 per couple off the complete weekend experience, but you've got to register this week or next week to take advantage of that special opportunity.
And don't forget, when you get in touch with us, get a copy of Rich's book, which is called "Redeeming Relationships." It's a great book to help couples work through conflict and to understand how we work things out, how we get to where we want to be in our relationship.
We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can request a copy from us online at FamilyLife.com or by calling 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team will make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent out to you.
Well, tomorrow we're going to talk with a couple who experienced a profound tragedy in their marriage and in their family, and it shook their relationship. You'll meet Rick and Judy Taylor on tomorrow's program, and I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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