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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  EDUCATIONAL
 
Small word, big problem
 
  By William Grimm  
  PEOPLE who have studied English as a second language tell me that three of the biggest challenges they encount  
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  COUNSELING  
     
 
   
Couple in conflict
  By Dr John K. John  
  SANJAY came for counseling because a friend, who had come to me earlier for help for his own marital problems, persuaded him to seek help. Sanjay was in serious trouble; he was completely broken because he believed his marriage had come to an end.

Jyotsna, his wife, had left him the second time in a year and they have been living separately for about eight months now. She had made it very clear that she wanted a divorce. All his efforts to win her over had failed. When Sanjay started to narrate the story, he was in tears. It appeared Sanjay loved his wife dearly and he yearned for her to come back to their home. When I asked what he wanted he said:

"I want Jyotsna to come back. I cannot live without her."

"Why did she leave in the first place?"

"There have been fights."

"Over what?"

"My drinking habit."

"What about it?"

"I become unmanageable after I get drunk."

"Could you elaborate a bit?"

"Oh, in parties I go wild."

"What do you mean?"

"I get involved with other women and Jyotsna gets very upset!"

"Then why drink?"

"I don't know. Perhaps, I drink to escape the loneliness and the monotony of my job and the daily routine. I know I should not drink, but I can't help it."

Sanjay had met Jyotsna at a wedding party of a mutual friend. He was mesmerized by her beauty and instantly 'fell in love' with her whereas Jyotsna was attracted to him because of his carefree attitude and quick wit. They later got married and also got jobs in the same company but worked at different timings. His job was very demanding and had to work mostly into late nights. They hardly had any time together but when they met for a few hours they found themselves at each other's throats.

I asked Sanjay why not ask for forgiveness and request Jyotsna to come back?

"I have tried many times, but she says it is no use because I have repeatedly let her down and did not honor my promises in the past."

"You are sorry about this?" I asked.

"But now it is too late. She just does not want to meet me any more. I hear she is planning to move away from me, to another city." He looked quite despondent and again his eyes welled up.

"Okay, at this stage the only thing you can do is to confide and confess to the Lord and ask Him to intervene. Would you like to pray specifically for God's forgiveness for all your sins against God and in your relationship with Jyotsna in the past, right now? Also would you pray to Jesus to come and take charge of your life?" I asked.

Sanjay bowed his head and made a prayer of confession asking the Lord to come into his life and also intervene in his situation. As the next step, I advised Sanjay to write a letter to his wife asking forgiveness, very specifically for all the things he believes were done against her in the past. I also wanted him to respect her as a person and not to try and meet her or talk over phone. This was his first lesson on trusting God rather than scheming.

After a week, Jyotsna came to meet me. She had come to know from someone that Sanjay had been seeking help from me. She wanted to know whether the twenty-page letter he sent was real and that there has been any real change in him. She repeatedly asked me to tell her the truth and wanted assurance that this was not just another attempt by him to get her back.

According to Jyotsna, her husband does not love her any more, he just wants to use her for his own ends. He is lazy and selfish and does not have any time for her. She narrated instances of his getting drunk and then flirting with other women. Yes, he apologises for his behavior when he is sober but then repeats the same thing again and again.

Both of them came from secular backgrounds and were not serious about any particular moral or ethical values. After they separated this time, Jyotsna has become active in a Church she joined following an encounter with Christ. Sanjay tried to meet with her at this Church but she was not only unwilling to meet him but also clearly told him to leave her alone.

I told her that since she is a follower of Christ, she has to seek reconciliation and not think of divorce or even separation as both options are not in line with what Jesus taught. It is important for Christians to remember that Satan is an enemy of marriage and will smuggle the option of divorce into our minds when we least expect it to happen. Most people do not realise that marriage conflicts have a very deep spiritual dimension to it. Surprisingly, Jyotsna immediately responded by saying that an inexplicable panic attack grips her whenever she entertains the thought of coming together as a married couple!

I called some of my colleagues to pray together specifically for deliverance from the negative memories and demonic influences on her and her past.

After a few sessions for them together, we were able to see the Lordship of Christ coming upon their lives. Sanjay stopped drinking and smoking and became a very caring husband. Jyotsna learned to respect and love her husband. Her panic attack disappeared and their relationship to each other was renewed and reconciliation, love and intimacy in their marriage followed.
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Dr John K. John has been a theologian, administrator and counselor for over three decades. He served in various capacities in Emmanuel Hospital Association and is presently the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Trust of India, New Delhi. He took his Bachelor of Divinity from Serampore University in 1991 and has a doctorate in Christian counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary in the United States. He would be answering questions from our readers on their personal and family problems. Dr John can be contacted at jkoodath@gmail.com
 
   
   
Soul mate
  By Tim Alan Gardner  
  ARE you married to your "soul mate"? Katie didn't think she was. The day she walked into my counseling office she believed that little fact was her ticket out of a passionless marriage.

All she really wanted from me was confirmation that Scott was not her soul mate. Since God wanted her to "be happy" in marriage, she wanted me to bless the idea that her happiness would be found when she was freed from her current spouse to find her one, true soul mate.

A soul mate isn't something you find; a soul mate is someone you intentionally and prayerfully become.

"I don't love Scott," she told me.

"Well, what about your three children?" I asked.

"The kids will be fine," she said confidently.

I had my work cut out for me. How could I help her see that she already had a soul mate? She just needed to redefine her understanding of what a "soul mate" is.

There's a lot of discussion about soul mates these days. It's splashed across romance novels, the main story line in movies, and all the rage among celebrities -- even some Christian ones.

For many, the idea of having and being a soul mate conjures notions of God bringing together two lost hearts who experience the end to their loneliness and realize complete compatibility in all the deepest longings of their being. They experience conflict-free conversations, sometimes even without talking, discover reams and reams of shared interests, hobbies, and passions, and finally (of course), spend days upon days of heart-stopping, hand-clinching romantic walks on the beach. No hardships, no struggles, just starry-eyed wonder -- for the next 80 years together!

I must admit, that does sound pretty enticing, especially the beach part; my wife and I love walks on the beach. I also fully buy into the idea of God's miracle of marriage and its God-designed intention to bring an end to loneliness. But frankly, the rest of that description sounds like something else -- and that something else is just plain impossible -- with anybody.

The philosopher Plato is often credited with the "soul mate theory." He believed that prior to birth a perfect soul was split into "male and female," and that to be complete they must find each other and "reunite their souls." That explanation fosters the notion that there's only one person in the world who can truly be my "soul mate." Furthermore, it implies that there's only one person in the whole world I could be happily married to, and therefore only one person with whom I can be "truly happy."

Thus, in the movie Jerry Maguire, we watch Tom Cruise say to Renee Zellweger, "You complete me."

And that's what Katie believed. In the midst of her career, her husband's career, three kids, multiple church activities, and a fast-paced life that had no time for the marriage, they definitely suffered a loss of passion. They had grown apart. They weren't feeling in love. No wonder they were not experiencing a "soul mate" marriage.

But what Katie and Scott missed is that a soul mate isn't something you find; a soul mate is someone you intentionally and prayerfully become.

In Genesis 2 we find the familiar first "not good" of Creation: Adam was alone. It's there we discover that God created the problem of loneliness, and it's there we discover that God created the solution to loneliness: deep, authentic relationships and, even deeper, the intimacy of marriage.

Then throughout the Bible, God gives us the simple yet powerful details on how to have a great marriage, telling husbands to love their wives, and wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33), both intentional choices.

Even more amazing is that out of all the possible illustrations God could have chosen, he picked the relationship between the husband and the wife to exemplify the soul-deep intimacy he desires with his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:32).

In my counseling work and in my own marriage, I've discovered that only by accepting that charge to represent Christ in our marriage can we find the soul mate experience for which we long. Our loving God wants his married children to experience deep, loving, soul-touching relationships in marriage. That kind of connection is accomplished only through committed effort.

My wife, Amy, and I are very much in love. We have a great marriage. But nobody sees us 24/7/365. They see only the "public face," not the couple zillion times I've done my "the world revolves around me" dance. They haven't seen the myriad times (I think the number's higher than Amy does) that lightning bolts have blasted out of my wife's eyes causing my head to explode and my body to incinerate right on the spot. Really. What I'm saying is this. Amy and I have a very real marriage. We disagree, we argue, and we get frustrated with each other. But even in those times, we work even harder at treating each other with love and respect.

Yes, we love each other. But we fight. We are not compatible in every way. Sometimes we think our differences outweigh our similarities. There are many times when we have to make changes and personal sacrifices for each other (one of us more than the other -- and that's just because he needs to do it more). We're in love and are soul mates. Why? Because we work at it. That's why Amy and I are soul mates.

Most people don't like the idea of having to work for a soul mate. But here's the reality: to have the soul mate -- and the marriage -- we're looking for, we must work. I hate to break it to you, but Plato was wrong. God designed real and lasting love to be something you do, not something you mystically have. Working at it is built into the system.

"Falling in love" is a great thing. When I fell in love with Amy, that "spark" in my gut was wonderful. But as everyone can attest, soon into marriage, I discovered that without working to fan the flame, that spark would die.

After the spark and the commitment of "till death do us part," we had to set our future course as husband and wife, and commit to remain soul mates.

Certainly, we must talk and talk and talk -- and pray and pray and pray. But we also had to learn healthy ways to resolve conflict, deal with and discuss marital expectations, take marital education courses, and even get a marriage mentor. I know it doesn't sound a lot like "just falling in love for life," but that's how we learn to stay together -- and thus experience what it really means to have a soul mate.

In their book, 'Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts', Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott put it this way: "The sacred secret to becoming soul mates is pursuing a mutual communion with God." The key is the word pursuing. We pursue something by choice. We create a mutual communion by intentionally working at it.

Couples who are true soul mates get that way and stay that way by continually choosing to go deeper in their relationships with God and each other.

After listening to Katie and assuring her that I truly did care about her pain, I confirmed that God did want her to have and be married to her soul mate. I also shared that marriage is a phenomenal gift from God; there should be a connection between wives and husbands that's deeper, more intimate, more personal, and more "soul touching" than any other relationship we have.

Married couples should experience a sense of being "joined at the heart," connected for a future purpose, and be "more complete" with their mate than without them. I stressed to her that yes, married couples should be soul mates.

But then I shared with her the rest of the story. If she wants a soul mate, she can look within herself and to her husband. She can use work, prayer, commitment, and selfless love. She can reignite the flame with the man God wants to be her soul mate; the man she's married to right now.

As you can guess, Katie wasn't enthusiastic about my response; as a matter of fact, she didn't like it at all. However, countering her notion that the "kids would be 'fine,'" I convinced her to prayerfully give intentionally loving, respecting, and serving her husband a 40-day try. And I meant 40 days of "regardless how you feel" purposeful choices. The result? Let's just say she's now married to her soul mate, and her children live with Mom and Dad.

So the real question isn't, "Have you found your soul mate?" The real question is, "Are you working, everyday, to become even deeper, more connected, and more in love soul mates?" God desires for us to have a soul mate. And the one he wants us to have is the one to whom we already said, "I do." (Courtesy: Christianity Today)
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Tim Alan Gardner, author of 'The Naked Soul: God's Amazing Everyday Solution to Loneliness' (WaterBrook), is director of The Marriage Institute (www.marriageinstitute.org)
 
   
   
Midlife crisis
  By John K. John  
  Question: We have been married for 20 years and have two adolescent children. Suddenly my husband turned religious, spending most of his time reading and reciting scriptures. He has stopped having sexual relations with me. I am unable to discuss my problem with my friends and relatives for fear of getting ridiculed in the process. All my initiatives to revive our sexual life have been unsuccessful. I do not know whether his religious interest is a cover-up for his sexual inadequacy. Please advise me on how to go about to bring normalcy to our life.

Answer: It might be of some help to you to mention here that this is a common problem in marriages all over the world! In India societal pressures keep couples from breaking up over such issues. Even though this might be seen as a better option than the culture of easy divorce practiced by people in the West, the problems like the one you described need to be addressed in time to save marriages from becoming just a social contract and nothing more.

I presume your husband is in his late forties. It could be possible that he is going through what is usually termed as the 'midlife crisis'. He might feel that his youthful enthusiasm is slowly being replaced by the reality of imminent old age. During this period one starts to contemplate on the purpose of life or, rather, the vanity of life. He might also be seeing himself as a failure as his youthful dreams and ambitions seem to slip away beyond his reach even as life rapidly moves towards its final phase. It is common for men at this stage and women during menopause to go through such struggles. Many in our country turn to religion or tend to be attracted towards gurus and godmen for solace.

Evidently you are younger and do not share in your husband's new found interest in scriptures or rituals. Sex is a powerful force connected to your feelings and emotions of love and approval from your partner. It is a major component of marriage and can be an obsession if one feels deprived of it for long periods within marriage. The Bible says "love is strong as death and jealousy cruel as the grave" (Song of Songs 7:6).

Thanks to the media's obsession with sex, most people these days consider sex as a 'need' like food, water and air! Therefore, denying you your 'conjugal right', which you interpret as lack of love and respect from your partner can be quite difficult to live with. I suspect other areas of your marriage relationship also are affected.

Sexual problems cannot be seen in isolation in marriage. It usually is a symptom of much deeper issues of the relationship between couples. You will be surprised to see how your husband's view on the issue differs from your own. Therefore, your husband's lack of interest in the physical side of the relationship needs to be studied thoroughly because his upbringing, views of life in general and sex in particular would have a bearing on his approach to this issue.

Given the complex nature of the problem you need help from others. I would advise you to seek help from a competent Pastor or counselor. It is important that the person is acceptable to your husband as well and both of you need to work together with this pastor/counselor to make your married life better. In case you are a believer in Christ you need to start praying for your husband and children and avoid focusing on your own needs. Keep your faith alive and keep loving your family and trusting God to help you work on your marriage to make it what God intended it to be.
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Dr John K. John has been a theologian, administrator and counselor for over three decades. He served in various capacities in Emmanuel Hospital Association and is presently the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Trust of India, New Delhi. He took his Bachelor of Divinity from Serampore University in 1991 and has a doctorate in Christian counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary in the United States. He would be answering questions from our readers on their personal and family problems. Dr John can be contacted at jkoodath@gmail.com
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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