Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are You Chicken?

Are you familiar with Chicken? There are two games from my childhood that went by this name. One game involves a minimum of 4 people. Here are the directions: 1) Form teams of two. 2) Stack one person on top of another. 3) Use whatever means necessary to knock your opponent from their teammate's shoulders. 4) The last team standing is the winner.

But, the game I have in mind for this post involves two people who wait to see which person will hold out the longest and not give in to the boldness of the other. The literal version of this game often involves speeding cars or bicycles. The person who refuses to back down is declared the winner.
There's also a figurative version of this game. I like to call it relational chicken. Have you played it? Relational chicken involves two parties. These parties decide their respective standard, and wait to see who will cave to the demands of the other. The standard may be communicated clearly, subtly, or not at all. From all initial appearances, the party that refuses to back down is declared the winner.

Relational chicken is a frequent pastime in many marriages. Tammy and I have played it several times. On those occasions, we forget the higher standard and better model given in scripture. Consider the advice of Ephesians 5:21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." The author then goes on to describe a few relationships in which this principle applies—husband-wife, parent-child, and slave-master (boss-employee is a good modern parallel to this relationship).

In the marriage relationship, wives are to submit to their husbands by respecting his leadership in the home. Husbands are to submit to their wives—now, get this fellas—by loving their wives, and giving themselves up for her, as Christ gave himself up for the Church; which basically means that until I've died for my wife, I have some work to do.

I think it's fairly easy to see that if one partner is willing to heed this advice, it becomes a little easier for the other partner to follow suit. It's easier for a wife to submit to her husband's leadership, when he resists the urge to be selfish, overbearing, or inconsiderate, and, instead, gives up anything and everything for her benefit. And, it's easier for the husband to do that for his wife, when she resists the urge to be nagging, pushy, or demanding, and, instead, respects and admires her husband for the man that he is.

So, here's the big question: Who's going to give in first? It might seem that we will get what we want if we hold out the longest. But Godly wisdom often runs contrary to human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:19). I have heard a number of individuals say that they never really got what the wanted out of their relationship until they decided to make the first move. This has been my experience in marriage, but it also holds true for other relationships--its the Ephesians 5:21 principle.

Think about it, when one party unwillingly caves in this game of relational chicken, the result is resentment and tension. The "winner" may get what they want, but they'll pay the price; and the "loser" will reinvent the game on their own terms. No, the only way to "win" at relational chicken is for one party to willingly choose humble themselves for the sake of the other. The genuine grace and humility required to make such a choice is only possible for those with the strength and courage to make it. Fear prevents us from making the first move. Are you chicken? I hope not.

P.S. There's much more to say about this topic. I await your comments.


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