Our pastor and his wife, Kenny and Valerie Dean, talked yesterday about marriage. Central in there discussion was how hard marriage can be. I don’t think it matters how “in love” you are with your spouse, there are times you just want to quit and walk away. All through the Bible, marriage is used to show how much God loves us.
“God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.” God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God’s nature. He created them male and female. God blessed them: “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”
Genesis 1:26-28 MSG
“No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.”
Ephesians 5:29-33 MSG
As I considered yesterday’s message, i understood that people often treat their marriage the same way they treat God. We expect our marriages (and God) to be exactly what we want: all fun and happiness with no rough spots. Life is a beautiful rose garden with a fairy-God granting our every wish. However, it doesn’t take long to learn that the roses have thorns. God loves us, but He loves us through the trials. It’s only through the struggles that we learn trust and commitment. When marriage is all about what makes ME happy, the rough spots are inevitable. By loving my spouse IN SPITE of my feelings, I learn what true love is.
In our fast food, microwave culture, we have forgotten how to wait. If things don’t turn out the way we want, we find another option. We don’t have the patience to wait on God, so we stick around just long enough to glimpse the truth and then jump to something else. When I’m not happy in my marriage, I find other ways to get pleasure. The divorce rate in our country is indicative of this. If I hear one more person say “I deserve to be happy” I will scream! That’s a lie. Happiness is a decision not a right.
Time and time again we see evidence of the messes we make trying to “help God”. The unrest in the Middle East has its origins in such a debacle. Sarah helped God by giving her servant to Abraham. Ishmael was born the result. Sarah was mad when Hagar became pregnant and abused her. Hagar ran away to die.
“The angel of GOD said, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.” He continued, “I’m going to give you a big family, children past counting. From this pregnancy, you’ll get a son: Name him Ishmael; for GOD heard you, GOD answered you. He’ll be a bucking bronco of a man, a real fighter, fighting and being fought, Always stirring up trouble, always at odds with his family.””
Genesis 16:9-12 MSG
How many times do we cause issues because we aren’t willing to wait? We jump from one partner to another trying to find love and happiness. We cheat and take what we want and then wonder why there is suspicion and heartache in our relationships. Sexual promiscuity is acceptable and dangerous. You have no idea what you will be exposed to in a single moment of pleasure. When you have convinced yourself that variety in partners helps you to grow into a better lover, you rob yourself of a truly intimate relationship.
“There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:16-20 MSG
I serve a jealous God.
“You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.”
Exodus 34:14 NLT
If my marriage is to be a picture of a my relationship with God, then I cannot venture outside of my marriage to find happiness. My joy and my happiness will be realized through serving God and loving my husband regardless of what’s going on in our lives. Through the good times and the bad, through the fun and the sadness, I will honor my marriage vows. I will honor my God.
. . . “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17 NIV
We tell our children, “You can be anything you want to be!” And as children, we dream of being an astronaut, a doctor, a teacher, the president, a star, Cinderella, all sorts of things. We play in our make-believe worlds where mommy’s and daddy’s are always happy and the children smart and well-behaved. We stand in front of mirrors singing in to the hairbrush/microphone while we imagine wild applause from the huge audience. We dream about traveling thru jungles or space or living in the old West. We invent the best thing, cure the worst disease, save the most lives in our dreams. And, we imagine meeting Mr. or Ms. Right and falling in love and living happily ever after in our wonderful & beautiful mansion.
And then we get older. The dreams are squelched a bit by reality. It takes HOW long to become a doctor? Close quarters cause my claustrophobia to rage, so an astronaut it out. We see families disintegrate before us over lack of money and disinterest. We’re told we’re ‘average’ at best, so get the stars out of your head. And, we still imagine meeting Mr. or Ms. Right and falling in love and living happily ever after in our large family home.
And then we are adults and reality is harsh. We no longer dream about what we will do with our lives. We just get up each day and get thru it. We have moments of greatness in our everyday lives, but wonder where the loudly applauding audience went. We compete with our co-workers, our peers, our friends to be better: a better employee, a better parent and spouse, a success. And, sometimes, we meet Mr. or Ms. Right or think we have to settle for Mr/Ms ThisWillDo and fall into debt trying to live up to what the world says we have to have. Some of us struggle to have children. Some of us struggle to stop having children. Most of us struggle with our lovely, not always happy, sometimes well-behaved little darlings and all their wants and dreams. And we wonder where are our dreams? Is this all there is?
Often we get caught up in the race to get there (wherever “there” is) and we forget where we are. There are dreams still to be had. We just have to look a little harder. It may mean letting go of some expectations we have put out there. You will never live the life of Cinderella with her Prince. But who wants to live a life in glass slippers? They aren’t comfortable at all. Maybe simple and everyday is much more interesting and livable. So what if you never get your name in lights or invent some great cure? Can you say you lived your life well? Did you do the best that you could do?
Don’t give up on dreams. Find those places that made your dream and go there. There are God-sized dreams waiting. We just have to be ready to find them. And, dare to dream again.
So, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::
Imagine. . .
Do remember what it is like to dream as a child? To imagine anything is possible? I so often wish I could remember how to dream and imagine. Life sometimes robs us of the gift of dreaming. Reality clouds out the possibilities. Fear keeps us from looking forward to what might be, what could be. As I’ve tried to find my God-sized dreams this year, I realize that I’ve forgotten how to dream. Too many days of trying NOT to dream have seemingly extinguished my ability to dream. I imagine excitement for the future. I imagine believing there’s more than just today. But, I have a hard time looking past the next set of bills, or the grass that must be cut, or the shelves that need to be dusted. And, sometimes, I’m afraid to look at the future and dream about what might be. Imagine the pain that comes with unfulfilled dreams. But, life isn’t about living in the darkness and hiding from the maybes and the what-ifs. God has given us the ability to dream in Him. We just have to remember how to do it sometimes.
“I am never going to let anyone get close enough to me to cause this kind of pain ever again.” That’s what I vowed soon after the death of my husband. And, I meant it. I would avoid the excruciating ordeal of losing another deeply loved person at all costs. I would guard my teenage children with a passion and they would be my life. That would be enough. I had fallen in love once and it was wonderful, but the fear of loss and that punch-in-the-gut feeling was too much to endure again. And with that, I worked diligently at shutting that part of me down.
At first, it wasn’t too difficult. I threw myself into activities that didn’t require much of “me.” I was a football mom, a band mom, a wrestling mom. I even volunteered to help with track meets and I wasn’t a track mom. AT church, I led a Bible Fellowship class within our youth group and I directed the Children’s choir. In those moments when activities didn’t fill my thoughts, Grief took over. There were many friends that were supporting me and trying to help me get on with life. Unfortunately, I tended to focus on those that offered support and then weren’t really available when I needed their help. This was further evidence, in my mind at least, that I shouldn’t let anyone into my life. They would only let me down or disappear from my life. I had to be strong and self-sufficient. I would take care of Zac and Gracie. I didn’t need anyone else. I continued to shut down.
I discovered that you can’t just shut down pieces of yourself. It’s an all or nothing venture. While I was doing a very good job of keeping myself “safe” from other people, I was also distancing myself from friends that I wanted and needed. 1 John 4:8 states “Whoever does not love, does not know God, because God is love.” In my attempt to never be hurt by love ever again, I had distanced myself from all love: including, the love of my God.
A friend reminded me that the pain I felt after Terry’s death was proportional to love that I’d had for him. I wouldn’t give up a minute of the time I had with him in order to hurt less. So, although I’m still determined to be strong and self-sufficient in order to take care of my family and myself, I’ve come to the realization that I have to leave myself open to the danger that is inherent in loving others. Love doesn’t have to include romance. I’ve come to value the love that is part of a dear friendship. But, love will always include the risk of being hurt. That’s the risk we have to take. It’s a risk well worth taking!
My God-sized dream for 2013: to grow in my love for God and people.
A friend posted this question recently and it has haunted me ever since: “If everything else collapses around you, and all you have left is Jesus, will he be enough?” My initial reaction is to answer with a resounding “YES!” That’s what’s expected, right? But, is it truth? Would I be like Stephen in the New Testament and take a stand for Christ even if it meant death? Or, am I more like Peter: big talk, but when the time comes deny I even knew Him?
In 2005, the life I knew and loved died. My plans for the future, my dreams were all destroyed by the simple words: “He’s gone.” Those words took all of the air out of the room. And, truthfully, it took years to learn to fully breath again. Outwardly, not much had changed. I still had my job. I still had a home. I still had two kids, my parents, my extended family. I was surrounded by friends. But HE was gone. I was now a single mom and I did not have a CLUE about how to move forward. I was paralyzed in a world that refused to slow down.
During those dark months, I struggled with what I believed. Music that had always been a balm to troubles was just too painful. I questioned everything I had said I believed over the years. I approached my stated doctrines much as I had approached proofs in geometry and dissected each one. I walked miles around the dining room table in the silence of the night and begged God to make the pain stop, to just bring my husband back. I questioned God over and over. I cried out in anger that I just didn’t understand why. I even provided God a list of people who He should have taken instead of my husband. I never lost my faith in God, but I questioned everything.
As I have moved through my grief, I can stand confidently and tell you what I believe. It’s no longer based on head knowledge that just spouts the right answers to the questions. It’s from my heart and soul, borne from many tearful and painful days.
So, if everything else collapses around me, and all I have left is Jesus, is He enough? I can say “yes”. It doesn’t mean that I will not be sad or upset. I reserve that right! It’s just that maybe, I will be a little more like Stephen.
I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to look silly. As a result, I very rarely attempt anything unless I have a pretty good idea that I will do well at it. I’ve been told I probably missed out on a lot of fun things, but I just saw no need to take a chance on failure. As an adult, I find that I have a similar response to setting goals. This year has been no different. At work and in private, I’m being urged (and in some cases required) to set goals. I. Hate. It. Everything I read, seems to ask: “What is your purpose?” “What is your dream?” or “What is your goal?” And every time, I draw a blank. I just don’t know. Is that bad? I put off any required goal setting to the very last-minute. I don’t want to fail, so I don’t want to document the possibility of failure. Why take a chance?
Several years ago, a friend asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I was recently widowed and could honestly say that every goal or dream I had for the future was buried with my husband. I had a hard time seeing into the next week, much less imagining the next five years. In fact, the very idea of the future was just too painful at that time. So, I stopped dreaming. I stopped planning. I just moved from one day to the next. I guess I didn’t totally stop all planning. I still had to manage a household. I had kids that needed support and guidance. But, my goals were often day-to-day survival. I’ve progressed to a little more long-term planning. But sometimes, I think I’ve forgotten how to dream.
A recent blog by Holley Gerth, has challenged me to find my God-sized dream. I honestly don’t know what that dream looks like in my life. I’m asking to God to show me my dream, to give me the courage to actually dream. Am I brave enough to dream again? Am I willing to look silly in order to dream? Am I truly ready to expose my heart again to dreams and goals that may result in pain along the way? I think I am. I hope I am.