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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Kerry Shook » Kerry Shook - Chutes and Ladders

Kerry Shook - Chutes and Ladders

Kerry Shook - Chutes and Ladders

Kerry Shook: Well, in this relationship series, we're having some fun with some classic board games, and we're using them to illustrate powerful relationship changing principles.

Chris Shook: And as you can see, up here we have the classic children's game "Chutes and Ladders," because today we're going to talk about dealing with the ups and downs that come into every single close relationship, and it's a great game to play with young children, because it really takes no skill.

Kerry Shook: That's why I like it, Chris.

Chris Shook: Good game for Kerry.

Kerry Shook: Yeah, you know, all you have to do is just take the spinner and spin, and then whatever number the arrow lands on is the number of squares that you can move in the game. Now, even though it's a game of chance, and it takes no skill, it can help preschoolers learn to count, as they try to move from square one to square 100 on the game board. Now, it also teaches them valuable first lessons about winning and losing. This is where they learn that it's much more fun to win, and it's no fun to lose, as they have to deal with the sudden ups and downs of "Chutes and Ladders".

Chris Shook: Every single turn carries the potential that they might land on a ladder square and suddenly get to get ahead in the game, or they might land on a square with a chute, and they'll suddenly slide backwards. And relationships remind us of "Chutes and Ladders," because all relationships, especially marriage, will experience these kinds of ups and down, the highs and gut-wrenching lows, and its how you deal with these inevitable things, as you step through life together, that will determine whether your relationship is strong and lasting, or it falls apart.

Kerry Shook: And there are three big chutes that are constantly trying to take your relationships down, always working against relationships, trying to separate you and make you more distant. And the first one is culture. Culture is a slippery slide that's always there trying to take us down. It's almost like we're trying to climb up a slide that has been greased down, because the culture's always going against us, trying to bring down marriages and families. Now, here's the big lie from our culture: "If you're really in love, then everything will always be perfect". You'll always feel so in love, everything will come easy, and it will always work out perfectly. Hey, did you know the phrase "back to square one" literally comes from the game "Chutes and Ladders"? 'Cause most couples go into marriage thinking that they're starting out at about square 100. I mean, they think everything is perfect. I know Chris, when we got married, we thought we were starting out at least at 96 or 97. We weren't perfect, but we were at least...

Chris Shook: We really had our act together, yeah.

Kerry Shook: Yeah, we were so in love, and I was marrying the perfect person. You were marrying the perfect person, and everything was perfect. And so we kind of felt like we're starting out at, at least a 96, 97, if not a 98 or a 99. We were so in love, but then what happens in marriage, if you think you're starting out at about a 99, is you start going backwards, and you feel like you're sliding downward, and you wonder what went wrong. Everything was so perfect. I mean, we got married. We were at square 95, and now it feels like we're all the way back to square one. But the reality is every marriage starts out at square one with two very imperfect, flawed people. It's just that our feelings and the lies from our culture kind of cover over the truth that we're starting at square one.

Chris Shook: Another chute that takes a lot of relationships down is change. We're always changing, and our relationships are always changing. Our circumstances are always changing. They never stand still. Even our cells in our body, you know, they have a shorter lifespan than we do as a whole. And so we are physically 99.5% different people. Our cells have even all changed. Then when we first got married, we're just different in every way, and we're constantly either drawing closer together or drifting further apart. And a lot of couples get married and say, "I am who I am, and I am not changing for my spouse. I'm not changing for anyone".

But that makes no sense, because you're always changing. Whether we want to or not, we're always changing. And when you love someone, you each have to make changes to grow closer. And the problem comes in when one partner's making all the changes to make it work, and the other one isn't changing at all. But change is inevitable; and if you don't learn to flex with those continual changes that life brings, then the changes will break you apart. And marriage is an audacious vow. We knew it was a big day when we got married. Only now, decades later, can we really appreciate how big, how audacious of a vow it is, because we were saying not only do I love you today and what I know about you, today, but I'm committing to love you for the future, 'til death do us part, regardless of how either one of us changes. And if you have been through the pain of divorce, our heart breaks with you, because you're new together as one, and that pain of divorce is like dismemberment. But God has a plan for you in every relationship, and there is hope.

Kerry Shook: Even the most devastating slide, though, that every relationship will face is crisis. Those crises that hit suddenly, and everything in your life is going great, and then you land on the huge chute of crisis, and it knocks the breath out of you, and you go into freefall, and you feel like you'll never stop falling. And crisis will come into every relationship. No marriage can avoid it. No friendship can bypass it. No family can escape it. And really, no close relationship can avoid the chute of change, the chute of the culture, and the chute of crisis. You're gonna land on those slides that are gonna take you downward. But what will determine whether the relationship will grow strong or crumble apart will be how you deal with the downs of life. And so, I want us to open our Bibles to Isaiah chapter 57. In Isaiah 57, beginning with verse 14, I believe with all my heart, God's gonna share with you today in your heart something powerful and personal from this passage that's gonna be relationship changing.

So, let's follow together. "Build up," build up, "prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. For this is what the High and Exalted One says, He who lives forever, whose name is holy, 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" You can be seated. This passage of Scripture that I just read is great news for every relationship that finds itself at that low point at the bottom of a chute. Because God says, "Even though I live in a high and holy place, I'm also with those who've hit the lowest of lows. And I want to help you deal with the downs of life. I want to help you deal with the downs that are gonna come into every close relationship, so you can build deep and lasting relationships that are strong". And this passage also tells us what we need to do to build a relationship stronger and make it last.

Chris Shook: And the first thing to do that is to recognize that God can turn your chutes into ladders. Isaiah 57:14 says, "Remove the obstacles out of the way". And one of the biggest obstacles that keeps us from building lasting relationships is our wrong perspective of chutes, of those slides, the down times, in life. We think that they're all bad. If you hit a big change that seems tough, it's bad. But the problems that come into our lives and threaten to sink our marriages and close relationships are actually our very best opportunity to grow up and grow closer to God and closer to each other. That chute that you're facing today is what God wants to use to turn into a ladder and move you to a new place.

Kerry Shook: Chris, what are some of the ways that God has turned our chutes into ladders.

Chris Shook: Well, one of the things that have really worked a lot in our own lives is when we've gone through painful times, we've learned to express our feelings so much better, both of us. We have struggled with this through the years, trying to figure out how to share our feelings that are often really strong and passionate, but yet still respect each other and hear each other. So, we're still learning.

Kerry Shook: And really, for me, I just didn't express my feelings very well. You know, you could express your feelings. Maybe it didn't always come out right, but I just didn't really know how to express my feelings, and a lot of times I didn't know how to express how much I loved you, and I have to say, men, in our defense, a study came out that showed that the average woman speaks 30,000 words a day, but the average man only speaks 15,000 words a day. It's not always the case, but in ours...

Chris Shook: That's because we have to say everything twice.

Kerry Shook: Just ignore that, men, because what I'm trying to say to you, and I do have to admit that I don't always listen like I should, too, but I also know that it's the pain, it's the tough things we've gone through that have helped me learn to express my feelings, to get across to you how much I love you, and that those things that are really deep inside, to really get them through. And I am grateful for the pain, because with those chutes that have brought us down, they've also turned into ladders that have brought us so much closer than we could've ever been.

Chris Shook: One thing that has been really important for Kerry and I is to pray about it. Just pray together. If possible, pray together with your spouse. If it's a marriage issue, pray together and just say, and Kerry and I sometimes will just grab each other's hand and say, "Lord, I am so mad at him right now, and we are so mad at each other. Help us, Lord. We want, we really want what you want for us. Help us to understand each other". And we're on the same team, so that even when we are so angry, we can still direct that to wanting to connect with each other. And then we see what the Bible has to say about it, if there's anything the Bible has to say about the situation we're going through. And guys, it's amazing how much the Bible speaks to us and to you when you read. If you ever listen to Kerry preach and you've thought wait, he's reading my mail. That was like directly exactly what I needed to hear. It's amazing how God's Word speaks to us that way, because that's just the Lord speaking to you through Kerry's words. It's the Lord speaking. So, see what the Bible has to say about the problem you're going through.

Kerry Shook: And the Bible speaks to that in so many of these things that we're talking about when it comes to chutes and ladders, because in Isaiah 61:13, it says, "He, God, will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory". I love that, that, Chris, that God can take the ashes, the failures of our lives and relationships and bring something beautiful out of it, if we'll allow him to. If we really recognize that that chute that took us down, that we didn't want, that we didn't expect, that we don't like, that we wonder why God allowed it, but if we can get our eyes onto the fact that God can use it, because it's those chutes that God will use more than anything else to take you deeper and make your marriage especially stronger, but there's a second thing. You've gotta climb together one intentional step at a time. Once you go down a chute, there's no shortcut. You've gotta climb one step at a time. In Isaiah 57:14, it says, "Build up. Build up, prepare the road"!

So, you've got to build up your relationship one step at a time. And I know, for me, many times that was difficult early on, and sometimes it still is. Because whenever you're hurting, I have a tendency to want to fix it. I want to just go, "What's wrong"? And many times, since, you know, we've been married for so long, and we're so close, we're so in unity and oneness that if she just changes her facial expression just a little bit, I can tell, you know, that, ooh, something's wrong. Oh, what's wrong? You know. And I just want to fix it. How can I fix it? How can I make you happy? How can I take care of this? And so, but I've been learning so much about how it's all about staying together in each other's hurt. And I, many times, want to take the elevator and just take Chris, and take the elevator, and get us out of the hurt, but it never works that way. We have to walk together through the hurt one step at a time. Chris, how do we do that? How do we stay in each other's pain?

Chris Shook: Marriage and close relationships are a lot like, I think, a three-legged race, where we're tied together, and we have to stick together. It just doesn't work in a marriage if one person has something happen, maybe there's something that goes on at your job. Maybe there's something in a relationship with a coworker or your boss. One of you is really going through a tough time. If that person has hit that slide, is going down, then the other one goes with them. You're tied together. It's the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is saying, "I am so sorry that you feel that way," and empathy is saying, "Wow, that hurts me, too, because you're hurting". There's an ancient proverb that says that there should be so much oneness between you that when one weeps, the other one tastes salt. And so that's something that we have learned. And when we tell you these things, these are all things that we are still learning. We have to work at this all the time. But when one of us is going through a tough time, the other one doesn't just say, "Oh, gosh, sorry about that, so sorry". No, we actually feel it with each other and walk with each other through the valley until we come out on the other side.

Kerry Shook: And it helped me so much in learning that my job is not to make Chris happy. Her job is not to make me happy. It's to be together and feel, have that empathy for each other, as we walk through it. Now, what I used to do was when you'd bring up a tough feeling, I would say, "Oh, well, you don't need to feel that way. That's totally wrong". And that was not a good way to answer that.

Chris Shook: Didn't go over very well.

Kerry Shook: Because feelings aren't right and wrong. Feelings are just feelings. They're meant to be expressed. And so, you know, I've learned and am still learning a lot about just staying in that feeling and not trying to fix the situation, but just being together. The Bible says, "Be understanding of your wife, husband". Be understanding. It doesn't mean you have to understand her, but just be understanding. Well, Chris, what are some of the intentional, practical steps on the ladder that we're trying to do to take our marriage to the next level?

Chris Shook: Well, one thing that we have done is to seek wise counsel. It's something that we've learned through the years that's really helpful: seek wise counsel. This is something the Bible says to do over and over. You'll find, especially in Proverbs, "Seek wise counsel". You'll find stories in the Bible where the wise ones are always seeking wise counsel from others. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own problems, we really can't see the forest for the trees, and it helps to have that outside perspective. Another thing that's helped is books. You know, we read a lot. Find some books and read them. And if you don't agree with something in one, go to another, but keep seeking, keep looking. Make room for hope. And then something that's really helped Kerry and I personally is to set aside a designated time to talk about an issue.

If there's a real hot button issue going on in our marriage, and every marriage has them, they come and go. But those things that can't be resolved in one conversation, these are the things that come back over and over and over. And we found that if we don't set aside a time to talk about that issue, it seems to crop up in every single conversation every day, just nonstop, and you have conversation fatigue. You just feel like, "Oh, will we ever stop talking about this? This is all we ever talk about". But if you set aside a time, so, say, if Wednesday night is going to be your time, both of you know that, "You know what? I don't need to express everything all the time, every day, keep nagging him about it, because at that time we have set aside a time where we've said, 'You know what? We're gonna talk about this issue at this time.'"

And then you get to do that, and it allows you to have that tension and release. You know, you have a time to talk. And then during the week, you know that it's coming. Something that's helped in the in-between times, between that, is journaling. If you don't journal, if you haven't done that, just seem like, "Oh, I'm not a writer, I don't do that," I would really encourage you to just try. It's just writing down your own feelings, your own thoughts. It's only for you. Your paper's not graded. But it helps me, when I do that, is that it forces me to choose words to name what I'm actually feeling. So, instead of just feeling all frustrated, and mad, and ugh, you're just all worked up, writing makes me think, "Well, how exactly do I feel? What is going on"? And then I'm better prepared to have a productive conversation when we do get together and talk.

Psalm 42:5 says, "Why am I so sad? Why am I so troubled? I will put my hope in God. And once again, I will praise him, my Savior and my God". As a psalmist, who is going through a tough time saying, you know, "why am I troubled"? And a lot of times, in my journal, that's what I'll write at the top. I'll say, "Why am I sad? What am I troubled"? And then I answer myself. I force myself to think through it and think exactly why, and it's really helped. And then when we get together, and Kerry journals, too, then one of us might say, "Hey, would it be okay if I read you something that I wrote in my journal this week"? And it's helped us to approach tough issues in a calmer way. We have to learn to look first in and see what is in our heart. How do I feel? And then look up and say, "But I've put my trust in God".

Come on, together, let's look at God for the answer. And then lastly, I say, attunement, just getting in tune with each other, how we're feeling. And as Kerry mentioned, we try to check in with each other. The way that looks for us is a lot of times one or the other of us will say, "Hey, are we okay"? One of us will say that every few days because of some little blip or issue. "Hey, are we okay"? And it's just a time for us to make sure, "Hey, are we still, are we still good"? And it's an opportunity also for the one to say, "Actually, you know what? When you did that earlier, it really bothered me". Or "That hurt my feelings," or whatever. And we keep those short accounts and try not to let them build up into big stuff.

Kerry Shook: Well, the third thing that is so important is anchor your ladder with commitment. Commitment is really the foundation for us. Commitment is always the foundation for lasting marriages. We've interviewed so many people that have been married 50, 60, 70 years, and it always goes back to they made a commitment to each other, through thick and thin. You know, romantic feelings are up and down. We fail each other. We let each other down. But our commitment is the foundation for our ladder. And, Chris, you started a phrase that we use all the time now that helps us remember.

Chris Shook: I tell you, you're stuck with me.

Kerry Shook: Mm-hm, and I tell you, you're stuck with me.

Chris Shook: Yeah, it's been a great encouragement to us, a good thing for us, because I say, "You're stuck with me," and he'll say, "You're stuck with me". To us, that's kind of code for saying, "Hey, neither one of us are going anywhere, and we're making each other miserable, so it really is in our best interest for both of us to try to find a solution here". You know, when you say those vows, you're not really thinking about the hard times, morning breath, kids, you know, kids sick, all the stuff that life brings. You're just thinking, "Oh, this is just wonderful". That need to compromise, though, was constant, and we had different opinions on pretty much everything. And for a long time, we felt like when things got hard, it meant we weren't doing marriage right.

If we have problems, it must mean we are doing this marriage thing wrong, fundamentally, because we started to think that gifts should look like ladders, not slides. They should look like a ladder, a wonderful opportunity, but it looks just like a hard thing. But after all these decades, we finally learned to trust our eyes and our feelings a lot less. We may not always feel like our spouse is the gift that we want, but here's what we've learned. Even when they're not the gift that we want in the moment, they are the gift we need, because God gave them to us as a gift, and he only gives good gifts. Our Creator knows all of our rough spots and our stubborn spots, and he wants to get rid of those rough edges. God knows exactly what it will take to move me from complacency to Christlikeness. And so it only makes sense that he's going to use the person closest to me to help bring that out, to draw that hard stuff so that I can work through it, and get rid of it, and become more like Christ.

That's the goal for all of us, right, as believers, is to become more like Christ. And the process is usually messy and loud and uncomfortable, and it draws out hard feelings and strong emotions. But somehow, we've got to get to the place where we realize that gifts aren't always wrapped up in pretty paper with a bow. Think about it. The best gift ever given did not look like a beautiful ladder. God's gift to us, what it looked like was a violent, bloody death on a barbaric torture device. That was the best gift ever given. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave," he gave. Jesus Christ, his gift to us, he allowed his one and only Son to go to a horrible death on the cross, because he loves us so much. That's what a real gift looks like. It's that kind of sacrifice. He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
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