circumplex_modelolson25+ years ago I began meeting with couples who desired to be married.  Part of that process was having them take an inventory which scored them on quite a number of different issues.

But, the best part was what was referred to as the “family model.”  Over the years I have re-named it “worth the price of admission.”  I call it that because, even though the survey cost you $30—and it is very good—the last page on the family model—I think—makes it all worthwhile.  Why is that so?

Simply put, the final chart shows your family of origin (flexibility and closeness), along with your perceived couple relationship based on the same qualities.  The kicker in this is the knowledge that, while there is no such thing as a perfect family, you will revert back to your family of origin when stress enters your relationship.

For example, my wife and I come from different family backgrounds (partly due to my being raised by my grandparents).

Usually I make a joke about how in her family, “everybody’s business is everybody’s business” while in mine it was “your business is your business.”  If you had a problem in my family, it was your problem and you had to deal with, the sooner the better—and don’t bother us with your problem.  Decisions were made quickly.  In her family it meant that everybody had to know about it and talk about it and agonize over making a decision and then second-guess that decision!

Perhaps you can already see how that can potentially rear its ugly head in the early years.

Sadly, a lot of couples do not know this, and never come to grips with it.  They do not know why he or she acts the way they do in certain situations.  And worse yet, they have not settled how they desire to relate as a couple.  Compromise/change often does not come to mind.

Now, I have said all this, to say this!

The longer I have served as a pastor, the more I see this same thing manifesting itself in church families.  When stress enters a situation they often head right back to how they handled things in the past.

For some, this means back to “parking lot meetings” or “politicking” or grumbling, and a whole host of others things.  This is spite of what they have been taught or shown!

I know of some pastors who have taught Matthew 18 until they were “blue in the face”, their people nodding in agreement, only to see them turn against one another when the “going got tough”.

A few weeks back when I spoke about the temptation of Jesus, I wrote (and shared in the message): Jesus responded to temptation by quoting scripture.  I always wondered how repeating a Bible verse can help during a time of weakness.  Actually it can’t, if you’re just repeating words.  But Jesus wasn’t.  He was affirming principles on which he had based His life & ministry.  Each time Satan tempted Him, He responded with a scriptural principle, saying in effect, “This is what I believe, this is what I live.”

It is settled!  Scriptural principles were not only known—they were affirmed!  This is what we believe—this is what we live!  We have made a choice to behave according to a biblical worldview—and not how the world responds!

Do you see how this makes a difference?  When stress enters our lives—and it will—how will you respond?

There is much more I could say about all this, but for now, it is just a few moments of rambling as I have thought and prayed over how people handle life, how they handle their relationships, and even how they live out their lives within the context of the church.

There is so much I still have to learn about doing this myself—and it is something that I will continue to work on—and share with as many as possible!