The #1 Enemy of Relationships

The First Message in the RelationSLIPS series.

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When we used to live in the parsonage, during one of the winter unlike this mild one we are currently having, we had had some snow and ice but it had melted off.
I went out the door to the car or to go across the street to the church and didn’t think about there being any ice on the steps because it had all melted away, but because the steps were in the shade of the house, the ice had melted and then refroze. As I bounded down the steps I slipped and fell. I fell hard and fast.
It was one of those moments where you fall so suddenly that you’re on the ground before you know what happened to you.
I was looking around for whoever tackled me…
That was a sudden slip and fall. I didn’t see it coming.
It caught me off guard.
Years ago I drove to the mountains of WV to the only place worth stopping in WV, Snowshoe.
On the way it had started snowing, but there were plow trucks and I was in my SUV, so I wasn’t too worried. I was taking it slow, not being reckless.
As I made the turn into the lodge from the main road, I started to slide. I wasn’t going fast, I wasn’t being wreckless, but when I turned, the car only made a slight movement to the right and kept heading forward.
There at the intersection was another car that had just pulled up to turn onto the main road.
I could see it coming, but there was nothing I could do, I was in a slide. I worked feverishly in those moments that felt like forever and I did get the car to point more to the right, but not enough and my front fender caught the door panel of the other vehicle and it tore back the fender like a can opener.
It was a slide that I could feel coming. It was one that I had plenty of warning signs for and I had taken what I thought were necessary precautions.
Probably everyone has experienced both of these, a relationship gives you warning signs and you can feel the slide coming, and you work feverishly to keep it all together, but there’s nothing you can do, it just keeps sliding.
And then we’ve probably all been in that position where there is the shocking, sudden, completely unexpected slip- where you’re on the ground looking around like “what just happened!?”
Today and over the next 3 weeks we’re going to talk about RelationSLIPS. How our relationships slip away, and how to get a handle on them.
But before we do, I want to take a moment to recognize that some of you are hurting. You’re bruised. You’ve taken a fall and your pride’s taken a hit. Your relationship has unraveled. You’ve been divorced, you been abandoned, you’ve been betrayed, you’ve been forgotten.
And I wanted to take moment early in the service so that you could sit with that for a moment and you’ll be ready to jump in to the message in just a moment.
So I’m going to say a word of prayer for those who are hurting, the relationships that are struggling, and then we are going to sing.
The reason that we are going to sing is that music has quite a way with our hearts. It’s no accident there are so many great love songs and break up songs. Music can help us cope with the pain, it can help us heal too…
The music that we are going to sing isn’t about breakups and love, but it is about the God who can mend every heart and restore every relationship, so for the sake of your heart I’m going to invite you to sing along when Derek leads us, but first let’s pray.
Do me a favor and imagine paradise.
Imagine where you’d go if you were given the time and money to go anywhere in the world with your friends or your spouse…
Now I want you to imagine getting into an argument in paradise, now this is probably pretty easy because show of hands, how many of you have ever gotten into an argument on vacation?
Of course you’ve gotten into an argument on vacation,
because even when conditions are ideal, we struggle to get a long. Even when the situation is perfect, the people in it are not.
Best example I’ve seen of this was at Disney Land which is supposed to be the happiest place on earth, which if it is, the rest of the world is grim. Don’t get me wrong, Disney is a fun place, but it’s full of families arguing.
The reason I wanted you to picture paradise in your mind, is that our passage for today takes place in paradise. It takes place in the ideal, perfect setting. Yet, It’s in this perfect setting that we find the #1 enemy of relationships first appears.
Adam and Eve were living in paradise AND they’re relationship was wonderful. So it wasn’t that Adam and Eve lived in paradise but their relationship was torture…
To get a sense of just how great it was, look at the end of chapter 2, in verse 22 God introduces Adam to Eve and Adam’s response, once he picked his jaw off the floor was, this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Adam wasn’t just referencing that God had used his rib to start the work on Eve, but Adam was also saying, she is me. She is a part of me, I’ll care for her like I would care for myself.
Then, Adam says a man will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. Adam didn’t even have a mother but he was willing to cut the apron strings and give himself totally to his wife.
Then he says a man will cleave to his wife and that literally means pursue or win her. ESV translates it “hold fast” to his wife.
Now guys, Adam just gave you some pointers on how to win a woman’s heart and he had just met one for the first time.
Love her like you love yourself.
Stop being momma’s boy. Start being your wife’s man.
Pursue your bride meaning, hold her fast.
They had absolute transparency with one another.
Life was good in the Garden of Eden.
But then, stuff started falling apart.
The first and biggest enemy of relationships shows up and it’s introduced by Satan, who till this day is still introducing new and tougher enemies that relationships will have to face…
Now I wanted you to recognize that Adam and Eve lived in paradise and their relationship was great because the number one enemy of relationships that they fall prey to has nothing to do with circumstances the people find themselves in or the chemistry between the two people, it starts within. Deep within.
Many people spend their lives thinking that the problems their relationships face are due to outside circumstances and influences or that they haven’t found the right person, they haven’t found their best friend yet or their soul mate…
Some are fortunate enough to recognize they are the problem so they get help, the get into counseling and therapy, and they spend a lot of time and money peeling back the layers of the onion to get to the root of the problem.
We don’t have time to do that this morning, so instead of peeling back all the layers of your onion, I’m going to save you some time and a lot of money and start with God’s Word which cuts right to the chase….
Everything changes when Adam and Eve experience guilt.
Suddenly there’s trouble in paradise.
Suddenly the openness and transparency feels off and wrong. Everything is suddenly turned upside down.
The number one enemy of relationships is guilt.
Can you remember when you first felt guilt as a child? Maybe it sticks out in your mind as a fear of being caught. You did something that was wrong and you were terrified others would find out…
You were scared you’d be punished or that you’d disappoint someone- You felt it heavy in your chest or in the pit of your stomach…
Donald Miller writes about the first time he really felt guilty.
It was Christmas Eve. He had opened several gifts from his extended family and he would exchange gifts with his immediate family the next day.
His father left when he was young, so he knew that his mother had worked really hard to be able to give he and his sister gifts and it struck him that while she had sacrificed to give them these gifts, he no one had done that for her.
Donald had bought her a book, but he only bought the book because it was cheap enough that he could buy it and still get a toy he wanted. He had only bought her something because he had leftovers after getting what he wanted.
He was suddenly ashamed of the book he had bought her. It wasn’t even about something she liked…
He didn’t want to give her the book, but he didn’t want to give her anything. He said it was the worst Christmas because he lay awake that night dreading Christmas morning when his mother would only get the lousy book he had bought…
You see, guilt is so powerful it overshadows even the best of circumstances. It can ruin Christmas and it can ruin paradise.
Adam and Eve still lived in Paradise the moment after they broke God’s command, but suddenly it wasn’t the same.
Adam and Eve looked the same that they had the moment before they ate the fruit, but suddenly they looked at themselves in a completely different way.
Think about this- Adam and Eve were created by God and they were perfect. They were living in the Garden of Eden, predominantly eating Fruits and Vegetables (we could argue about whether or not they were eating meat), but the point is that they were eating healthy, they were tending the garden…
After eating this fruit, they didn’t suddenly become grotesque and overweight, but they immediately feel exposed and vulnerable.
I mean, who becomes embarrassed about how they look after eating a piece of fruit?
Nothing about their physical appearance had changed, but guilt had recolored and reshaped everything they saw, including themselves.
Guilt has two powerful weapons and we see the first weapon immediately.
Guilt produces shame.
These words “and the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked” are pretty powerful.
Where there had been transparency and openness, there was embarrassment and vulnerability.
Where there had been freedom there was now an apron of fig leaves, because when we are ashamed, we hide.
Adam and Even tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves that they sewed together.
I’ve never tried to sew fig leaves together, but I imagine that was a lot of work and because it was so labor intensive they ended up with only aprons. There’s a reason that scripture uses the word apron, these weren’t very effective at covering Adam and Eve, but it was the best that they could do.
We work really hard to cover our shortcomings.
We overcompensate.
We buy lots of nice stuff to make it look like we have our act together.
We dress really nice, we put on lots of make up, we work hard to get in shape, or we hide behind our sense of humor or we emphasize some strong characteristic we have in order to cover for the weaknesses we are afraid everyone sees.
We work really hard and all we end up with is an apron…
An apron that doesn’t really cover much at all…
The apron was so inadequate that Adam and Even still felt a need to hide when God came through the garden, They had covered themselves, but they’ve still felt exposed and vulnerable.
Despite our best efforts to cover our shortcomings and our insecurities, we still feel a need to hide.
Even made themselves aprons and then they hid in the garden as God came through calling for them.
I can’t imagine that Adam thought that would really work long term, but yet he hides behind a tree to delay the inevitable.
Some of you are hiding in busyness, you’re hiding behind your health, you’re hiding behind excuses, you’re hiding behind an act that everything is okay, you’re hiding and you’re desperately hoping against hope that you are not found because you are ashamed.
You feel this immense guilt.
Even though you’ve worked hard to put together a cover for your insecurities and shortcomings, you’ve worked feverishly to make up for your mistakes, but you still feel like hiding…
This is a problem because, It’s impossible for your spouse or your friend to know you when you’re hiding. It’s hard for you to be a good friend, or a loving spouse, or a present parent when you’re living in hiding…
It’s really hard to love someone else when you hate yourself.
Adam said she is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones, but now Adam was embarrassed of his skin and bones. He wanted to hide it, cover it up…
Adam loved Eve. She was beautiful and smart and funny. She was perfect and whenever he looked around he saw that beauty, intelligence, and humor.
But all of that was now hazey, not because Eve was less beautiful or smart or funny but because Adam was struggling to look past his own insecurity. What was right in front of him was how bad he had messed up…
The focus had been taken off of the other and placed squarely upon self.
You see, when you’re in pain you can’t think about anything or anyone else.
Let me show you what I mean. Imagine I gave you a pretty easy math equation to solve. Nothing to dificult, but something slightly harder than 2+2….
Something like 148 + 125, I’m sure if you had just a second you could figure out in your head or on a scratch piece of paper that equals 273.
But what if before I gave you the math equation you hit your thumb with a hammer. You couldn’t solve that math problem because all that would be in your head is “OUCH!”
When you’re in pain you can hardly think anything else.
When you’re in pain you can hardly think of anyone else.
Some of you don’t know why you sabotage friendships, why you can be so selfish, why you do foolish things that run off the people you love, why you struggle to be kind, why you run when things get serious, it’s because deep down, under all the layers of the onion, you’re guilty and it’s causing so much pain…
and When you’re in pain you can hardly think of anyone else.
We see this play out with Adam and Even because when Adam faces God, to shift the focus of himself, Adam blames Eve.
Adam was so uncomfortable under the light of God’s questions that he was willing to do anything to get out of the light, including throwing Eve under the bus.
In that moment, Adam didn’t “take the heat” but tried to put it on Eve- the woman that he said “Is my own flesh.” The woman who he said he would “hold fast.”
When Adams attempts to cover and hide his shame were unsuccessful, he moved on to blame.
Hiding is an attempt to cover up our shortcomings, blame is an attempt to direct attention away from our shortcomings.
If you’ve ever been shown how a magic trick works, you know that often the trick’s secret is done right before your eyes but you didn’t see it because magicians are masters at misdirection. They are going to give the trick away right before your eyes, but no one sees it because they’re looking elsewhere…
When our faults are out in plain sight, we switch to misdirection.
Adam said, well it was the woman you gave to me God. She’s a really bad influence….
Guilt produces shame. (That’s the first weapon)
Guilt produces blame.
I hope when I get to heaven God has all of these moments on some type of DVR, because I would love to go back to this moment and see the look on Eve’s face when Adam pointed at her and blamed the whole thing on her…
Did you notice how both Adam and Eve responded to God when He came to the garden? They both pointed at someone else, they both blamed someone.
Lincoln is only 3, but he’s known how to use blame for a long time. He’s not very good at it. Last year after we had seen his cousins we were back home and there was a mess and I said you need to clean up this mess. You made the mess you need to clean it up, and Lincoln said, No! Lillyana did it.
Lillyana was 750 miles away in VA, but he still tried to pin it on her…
Some of you, you’re unhappy, you’re not fulfilled, you feel empty and unsatisfied and instead of owning it, you’re blaming that on your spouse, you’re blaming it on your friends…
I worked at a funeral home during college. It was excellent experience for someone going into ministry…
Something that I hadn’t expected was that people would get upset at you for really no reason at all.
I went to my boss because someone had been upset with me and I wanted to apologize… He told me, don’t worry about it. I know you didn’t do anything wrong. We work with people when they’re really hurting and often it’s much easier for them to find someone to be mad at than to grieve…
Adam blamed Eve.
Eve blamed the serpent.
No one took responsibility, they immediately deflected to someone else who had made them mess up…
There have been a lot of protests over the past months…
Lots of marches and boycotts and lots of finger pointing…
I’m not a big fan of protests because the few times that I’ve participated in a protest I’ve felt like I haven’t accomplished anything.
One of the hallmark’s of protests are big signs that people make out of poster board stating their case… I read a few weeks ago that in several cities there were many students who couldn’t complete class assignments because all the poster board in several cities had been bought up by protestors…
I am a fan of funny protest signs, not the ones that state the person’s political views in a witty way, but rather the one that kind of poke fun at the idea of the protest itself. Let me show you some of my favorites:
This sign will accomplish nothing!
I’m so angry I made a sign!
I was told there wold be cake!
The problem is that protest sign is that they almost alway blame someone, they are saying this is messed up and it’s YOUR fault. You’re the reason we have this problem…
What if there was a demonstration of people taking responsibility!? What if there was a gathering of people who came together to fix something, instead of all these gatherings to tell someone else to fix something…
What we all need is a sign that says,
“I am the problem!”
Because we are…
We don’t need to blame anyone else, we need to take responsibility…
The best thing you can do for your relationship is take responsibility for it.
Step out from whatever you’re hiding behind, stop pointing at other people and blaming them for your problems.
Come out of hiding and own your mess and experience the love and grace that God wants to pour down upon your head.
Let him lift off the shame and the guilt, let him take the blame for you… feel that old mask fall off, feel that vulnerability disintegrate. Experience the undoing of your shame.
The antidote for guilt and shame is grace and love.
That’s what Adam and Eve experienced.
God immediately put a plan of grace and love into action.
He moved them out of the garden, but even that was an act of love, then he made them clothes to cover them up- the clothes that he made, they were called coats. Big difference between a coat and an apron.
and then He made them a promise. He would take care of guilt totally and completely.
He would not merely cover up guilt, He would destroy guilt.
He would not merely cover their shortcomings, He would remove them.
He made them a promise that not only would He take the blame, He would make them new, with nothing to be ashamed of…
That’s what God promised to Adam and Eve and that’s what he’s promised you as well…
You know how I could so confidently say that guilt is the number one enemy of relationships? God says in His word that we are ALL guilty. But we already knew that. Under all the layers of the onion, we know that we are guilty…