Conflicts, Communication and Divorce (with Dr. John & Dr. Hannah)
Here’s a conversation that Pastor Priji had with Dr. John and Dr. Hannah in Trivandrum. Dr. John and Dr. Hannah are the Lead Pastors of World Impact Community Church in Trivandrum. They also lead a ministry named TROTB.org. They have been a great apostolic voices over our nation. Do enjoy this conversation which will help you understand how they handle relationships, ministry and their marriage. Hope this conversation will be a blessing to you.
Pastor Priji: Do you have difference in personalities, opinions, challenges and conflicts? 17years of marriage would probably have these challenges, how do you as a couple navigate these differences in your relationship ?
Dr. John: John Maxwell said, ‘Conflict in itself isn’t a problem, they’re natural, normal and neutral’. The problem with conflict is when what is natural, normal and neutral becomes personal and when we do not know how to rightly manage the balance. How we handle the conflict is the problem. We through our relationship season had to learn. I personally am a bullish personality who’s a go-getter. When I hear the Lord in something, I just go after that without considering anything else. She also loves the Lord and has partnered through the years in various works for the Lord. But me personally being aggressively working and moving forward to do His works, she has come along but sometimes maybe feel like she’s being dragged along keeping with me. Sometimes I take too much on my plate. We have taken certain steps.
Dr. Hannah: Yes the conflicts were often and more vehement in the old days but have become more toned down. By God’s grace He has helped us work through those times. Our personalities are apart. He’s fast and go-getter, choleric, I’m laid back, just give me a book and I’ll be in a corner peacefully. So there’s a pull and a push to it. Understanding our personalities is what it is. So couples, understand your spouses personalities. We studied stuff that worked for other people, listened to a lot of people, read up about different personalities. I came from a more troubled home, his was more safe. We both brought our own baggage, to plough through everything we brought in from our own homes. We studied a lot, prayed a lot through those conflicts. We had to keep making a decision that we have to stop bringing what we have seen and heard from our homes, that this would stop with me.
We have prayed through a lot, taken certain decisions that we won’t do this and that, understanding what upsets each other, we stop doing that, and in times of peace we keep making those choices.
Dr. John: Pray through the anger. That’s one thing I’ve noticed works during conflict. So the period of my anger would reduce from 2 days to 1 day to couple of hours to 10 minutes.
Dr. Hannah: Also we must continue to value the relationship saying ‘if this is really important to me then I’ll go to any lengths to make this work ‘. Because most of the time it’s internal conflicts and our own insecurities is why conflict happen or continue or get blown up. So to know your spouse and valuing the other person enough to go back and work on the relationship is important. Also, listening, understanding, apologizing even if right or wrong, just humbling down and saying sorry is important. Like, the word of God says ‘ Train every nerve to keep peace and endeavour ‘.
Dr. John: The purpose is to come to a stand off and place of peace in conflict. Intention of God is to make us one. But we often settle for peace instead of working towards being one.
Dr. Hannah: Yes, most couples come to a place where they make peace saying ‘ we won’t bring this up, you don’t bring that up, and we’ll be fine ‘. But inside, there really isn’t unity and fully becoming one. God’s intention is to become one. It could be painful but it is important to do so.
Dr. John: When the emotions to an issue are deeper than the issue itself, then there’s a deeper underlined unresolved issue. So I begin to play that in my mind if I notice this in a conflict. Examine the emotions in the issue. To negotiate in that conversation, learning to influence eachother in the will of God and heart of God. Also, how to go beyond behavioural modification, and create peace in our hearts.
When we come to a place of peace in God, we understand and value eachother.
Pastor Priji: Pursuing oneness requires a lot of communication and pour out your heart, being real with eachother. What can you do to communicate in the most loving, Christ like way ?
Dr. Hannah: I think often the goal in communication is ‘I want to express my frustration, pain and how I feel‘, it doesn’t become about connecting. Like, what words will actually connect needs to be planned, rather than just venting. Both of us have worked through it over the years to help eachother. I’ve had to practise my lines a lot, the words I had been used to using were manipulative or accusing as I understand, which was unhealthy. So to rewire the brain to not got that way, it’s hardwork. To ask, ‘if Jesus would do this, how would He do it or say?‘. How we communicate around children also is very key. The goal is to connect to your spouse and to make sure the spouse also feels connected and how they can receive what one says while expressive themselves.
Dr. John: There are levels of communication and people settle for one level while there are other levels that are deeper.
In conflict resolution, trying to make the other person feel safe so they can receive the love is important and an ongoing process. We need to cower the emotions down and be more thinking, and reasonable.
Not emotional. Become one in agreement with eachother.
Dr. Hannah: The basic level is clichéd conversations like ‘how are you? I’m good‘. Another level is to be able to talk about general things like things going about in church or things pertaining to other people and not us. Next level is where we can talk about ideas on things. Deeper is getting into the emotional level, not being afraid to share what one feels. How safe one feels in the relationship will determine how much one can communicate.
So based on comfort level and safety level, one determines if they can share on these levels. For instance, if the spouse will get hurt or upset over sharing in one level, then we bump down to lower level where they talk about general ideas etc. Then if those opinions and ideas are also causing conflict then they bump down to general topics and talking about other people rather than themselves. And so on continues.
Beyond emotions is the place of complete safety in emotions and expression.
We’re all finding our safe levels.
Pastor Priji: I just got a call yesterday from a couple, their pastor prescribed their divorce because the husband and the wife have different callings in ministry. It kind of confused me, what is your stand and perspective on divorce? When is it necessary or how to deal with it?
Dr. John: We got a call yesterday about a couple with ongoing unfaithfulness and regularly so. The other spouse decided that in his heart God planted him to be a healing in the broken woman’s heart to represent Christ. Different people have different takes on it.
Concerning divorce we stand by the fact that it is not the will of God.
People first off say that if you’re unfaithful the Bible says you can divorce. But Jesus said it was not so from the beginning, but because of the hardness of your heart is why God permitted it. Divorce is not the desire of God. Nor it is the antidote to unfaithfulness. The antidote is forgiveness.
Sometimes divorce has a place in certain circumstances. Sometimes somebody is cheated into a marriage. The girl got married and found out the person was mentally struggling and on medication etc. But fundamentally it is not the heart of God even if enough reasons to justify divorce.
Many people commit to companionship and not to covenant. In contract is mutual benefit between 2 parties. In covenant is Abraham’s benefit all the way. In the covenant with the cross there was no mutual benefit, but God went for the church’s benefit. Covenants are based on love. Contracts are based on you scratch my back, I scratch yours. Agape is covenant.
So it is important to ask ‘what does it take to stay married?‘. Choosing well, preparing well. So many people go into marriages completely broken. It is important to go through healing of the soul. Getting an education is adding into your marriage, earning money too. If you can’t forgive one another, can’t stay married, will be hard.
Dr. Hannah: I agree, divorce is not God’s heart, it isn’t who He is. If God were to walk out of the relationship with us then I’m sure nobody would survive. He is a covenant God and expects us to have the same heart.
Marriage is not easy, but because God is a covenant God and give us grace for us to be the same way as Him, we can live in marriage how God wants us to be. Divorce in any form does break God’s heart. But there are circumstances where it is for the safety of one’s life etc, but God gives grace to get through.
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