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’ve all heard that phrase: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’ve said it to my own children when they were busily calling each other names or tattling on each other. But, I have recently realized, that this phrase has taken on a whole different meaning in my life.
My internal voice tells me that nice people never get angry, so there must be something wrong with me when I get irritated, annoyed or mad. I avoid situations and interactions with others that have made me angry in the past. Rather than confront the pain/anger, I’ve become very adept at “not seeing” those persons. I’ve been told that I don’t “do guilt.” That’s not at all true. I’ve just learned to hide all my guilty feelings. If I don’t see them, I don’t have to feel guilty for the way I feel.
This internal voice also tells me that nice people always agree and swallow their own differences for the sake of being nice and preventing others from being irritated, annoyed or mad. This has been a hard lesson for me. When I’m asked for my opinion, I usually give it. Why would anyone ask me if they didn’t really want to know what I thought? However, the vast majority that ask don’t really want to hear what I have to say. They expect agreement and support from me. I’ve been told that I didn’t know enough to have that opinion. I’ve been told to work things out within myself and “wrap my head around” an issue (meaning come to see “the right” opinion.) I’ve been threatened in work situations when I didn’t automatically agree. So, I’m very careful when it comes to being open with my feelings or opinions. It’s better to be stoic than honest.
My therapist once asked me what kind of animal I felt represented me. My answer was a possum. A possum is useful in getting rid of unwanted pests. A mother possum is a fierce protector of her children and carries them around with her. But, a possum is ugly. It slinks around in the dark. When confronted, it plays dead. But, I want to be a flamingo. A flamingo is beautiful. It spends time in the open, eating and just being beautiful. Flamingos are members of a flock, and raise their babies together. Everyone loves the flamingo.
I recently read a devotional taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, “Battlefield of the Mind” that said: “We should choose our thoughts carefully. We can think about what is wrong with our lives or about what is right with them. We can think about what is wrong with all the people we are in relationship with or we can see the good and meditate on that. The Bible teaches us to always believe the best. When we do that, it makes our own lives happier and more peaceful.”
I am attempting to rewrite my internal messages. I don’t think anyone should purposely hurt or offend others. Name calling is a childish behavior and should be avoided. I do, however, need to be honest. And being honest about my hurts and my feelings may not feel nice to others. I may not do some things in order to keep the peace or because it’s the expected thing to do. I may still avoid situations and interactions with others to avoid unnecessary confrontations. And, I refuse to feel guilty for putting my husband and children as a priority in my life. I will live my life to the fullest and stop worrying about the approval of others.
“I call Heaven and Earth to witness against you today: I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Choose life so that you and your children will live. And love God, your God, listening obediently to him, firmly embracing him. Oh yes, he is life itself, a long life settled on the soil that God, your God, promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 MSG
Can I be honest? There are times when I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Ever. Before you start sending me Suicide Hotline numbers, let me be clear: I’m not thinking about hurting myself. It’s not that I want to die. I just don’t want to live. Not in this reality. I don’t feel this way every day. But on those days when I am over-whelmed with waves of frustration, sadness, desperation and/or (honestly) hopelessness, disappearing from this life sounds really good.
I have a great life from most viewpoints. I have a good job and a nice home. My kids are growing into successful, productive members of society. There are no needs and few wants in my life that are not met. I have friends and encouragers all around me. I was married to my best friend for 18 years. So what’s the deal, right? Right. I ask myself this all the time.
I try not to think too far ahead in my life. My son is working and on his own, building his own life. My daughter just graduated from College and is getting ready to move into her “adult” life. Gracie tells everyone that I am “kicking her out” in June of this year. And I did tell her that realistically, she should have a job and be on her by the summer. But, I’m not kicking her out. I think she needs to grow up. I think we need some space between us. Since her dad’s death, we’ve spent a LOT of time together. Out of necessity and out of habit. I’ve seen Gracie decline invitations because she didn’t want to leave me by myself. It’s time for her to have her own life and for me to have mine. This is when I start to hyperventilate. I hate coming home to an empty house. I’ve shared a home with someone for 28 years. I don’t want to live alone. But, its best for both of us.
With the new changes coming so soon, I’ve considered selling my house and downsizing. An apartment would eliminate some of the responsibilities that cause me so much grief. Someone else would be responsible for leaky pipes, and bad water heaters, and critters in the attic. But, this is the only home my kids have known. It’s the house that Terry and I sought out and bought together. I’m not sure that I ready to leave it. (sigh)
I’m not Rip Van Winkle and I’m definitely not Sleeping Beauty. I can’t sleep for 100 years and avoid the reality of my life. Friends will come and go. I can’t stop the changes that are coming. So, I’ll take a deep breath and face life as it comes. This too shall pass.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.