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 search for love. We yearn for love. Sometimes, we fear love. In Greek, there are four types of love:
- Agapeo: Unconditional love; the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation
- Storge: Love of family; Parent/child, siblings, cousins, etc. In a very close family, agape is felt as well
- Phileo: Love between friends
- Eros: The sense of being in love; romantic love
For me, love is everything. I believe that the God I serve is Love. I love my children and my family. I have several wonderful friends for whom I care deeply. I have been blessed with the love of two wonderful men. So, when someone asks how I knew that I loved my husband, why is it so difficult to describe?
There are lots of sayings about love:
- Love is a many splendor thing
- Love means never having to say you’re sorry
- Love is something you do
- Love is natures way of tricking people to reproduce
- Love means to give everything you have…and not expect anything in return
- Immature Love is: I love you because I need you.
Mature Love is: I need you because I love you.
- Love is making yourself vulnerable to someone, while fully knowing that they may betray you.
- Love is blind
- Love is never-ending
There is truth is all of the above statements. But still, what do we want from love? Safety, security, companionship? What?
These are the things about deep and abiding love that I think you just don’t want to miss!
- Love is a choice. We don’t “fall in love”, rather we it’s probably more accurate to say we “fall in like” or even “in lust”. We’ve all experienced crushes. Those moments of elation when you just get to be near the object of your desire. Your heart beats a little faster. You just can’t imagine anything better. Sometimes, crushes lead to relationships. But, crushes fade away. As the vision clears, you begin to see the real person. You can choose to really love them or you move on to the next phase. Choosing to love someone completely is wonderful.
- Love is hard work. Anything that involves more than one person requires work. A commitment to love and honor another person is a daily thing. It means you don’t always get want you want, so you both sacrifice. When you truly love someone, you look for ways to make their life more complete.
- Love doesn’t make you happy. You may be married to most wonderful person in the world and still be unhappy. If you are depending on someone else to fulfill you and make you happy, you will NEVER find happiness. While many of us find happiness in relationships, we have to choose to be happy. Many solid marriages end in divorce because one or both of the people involved were no longer happy. Love is working through the unhappiness while still honoring the other person.
- Love doesn’t “complete” you. You are the person God made you to be. You are not 1/2 a person. You are full and complete. You may find someone and become half of a couple, but that person will never complete you.
- Love is never-ending, and it is also ever-changing. The love I have for my husband has deepened since we married two years ago. My heart still races when I think about him. But, our relationship is evolving as we have learned to live together. We learn things about each other every day. There are new insights, new irritants, new joys and new challenges with every day.
I guess if I had to tell another woman what to look for in love I would say:
- Look for the man who will take care of you. I am pretty self-sufficient. But, I really like it when my husband opens doors and pulls out my chair for me. (Admittedly, I’ve had to learn to wait and allow him to do so!) I enjoy the flowers that he buys at the grocery store for me. It’s comforting when he intervenes to protect me from activities that will cause me pain (both emotionally and physically.) He has shown me how very much he cherishes me. I do not have to “make” him do things.
- Find the man who is interested in a partnership. I can be very bossy. So can my husband. But, in our marriage, neither of us is “the boss”. To do lists are general things that need to be done by either of us, they are not specific to either. There are things that I do well and there are things that are his strong suit. We try to bring out the best in each other.
- Focus on the man who you cannot live without, not just someone you can live with (tolerate). Deep and passionate love with get you through many intolerable situations. There have been many people I could “live with” that have come and gone in my life. But, the ones that I could not imagine doing life without have been very few.
- Consider the man who will honor you and wait for you until after the wedding vows. In today’s world, we’ve come to accept sex as a part of dating. Very few people get married without having already taken a “test drive” of sorts. There is something extremely special about being worth the wait and sealing your wedding commitment on your wedding night.
- Pay attention to the man who helps you feel secure and safe. Being able to speak your mind and hear his opinions without fear is important. Knowing that you are loved unconditionally is priceless.
I cannot imagine life without my husband, Tim. I have experienced the death of a spouse and the pain of that loss was excruciating. I promised myself that I would never allow anyone close enough to cause that much pain ever again. But, God had a different plan and I am so very thankful for that!
We live in a fast-food world. We have become accustomed to getting things quickly: over-night shipping, text messages, microwave food, one-cup coffee makers, etc. Waiting is not an option. We want it all and we want it now!
I don’t like to wait any more than the next person. I look for the shortest line in the grocery store. I try to stay in the fastest lane of traffic. I check shipping times and get irritated when I have to wait a few days for a package to arrive. I no longer write letters, because email and text messages are so much faster. I love the option to order my coffee and it’s ready when I arrive at the local Starbucks. No waiting. It’s great! At least, most of the time.
There are times that I want to wait. I wait to pay bills. I put off until the last possible moment blood tests and doctor’s appointments. I hit the snooze button numerous times in the mornings. I avoid confrontation. These are all times when I want to wait. But, what about the person on the other side. Do they like to wait for me to act? Do the people who I cut-off in traffic or in the check-out line understand? Does the time to write a letter mean more than a quick email? Do I care? REALLY?
When the most important persons in my life are Me, Myself and I, the needs of others are of no concern to me. I don’t care how my actions affect anyone else. As long as I am happy, who cares? In an egocentric world, it’s all about ME. I don’t wait to get what I want, regardless of what that might be. When it’s all about ME, I can cheat on my spouse or just replace them when I no longer “feel” for them. After all, MY pleasure and happiness is most important. When it’s all about ME, I do my best to make others look bad since that’s the fastest way to make MYSELF stand out. When it’s all about ME, I obsess on the next thing I want: a new car, a bigger house, the newest gadget, the next cruise or vacation so others can see how important/successful I am. When it’s all about ME, rumor and gossip are my favorite types of communication. Talking about others’ misfortunes and bad choices, diverts attention from my own poor choices and discontent. When it’s all about ME, there’s never enough to keep me happy. I long for peace and contentment, but I don’t seem to be able to keep Myself happy for long.
Don’t misunderstand: There’s nothing wrong with success or having a nice home or car or traveling. There’s nothing wrong with them unless those are the things you center your life around. Happiness is not found in things. It’s not found in relationships or success. Happiness is found when I decide to BE happy; when I decide to seek contentment where I am in this moment. And, usually, I find happiness in the places where Me, Myself and I are not. When I focus on others, when I realize that my family and friends are important, when I begin to reach outside of Myself, happiness finds me. Momentary pleasure is not happiness. It’s said that “happiness comes to those that wait.” Maybe, we need to learn to be patient, slow down, invest in the world around us. Maybe we need to learn to wait. Maybe our focus needs to change from Me, Myself and I to You, Them and They. Would that make a difference?
What do you think?
“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.” John 15:13-15 MSG
Since I live in the Houston area, I spend time in traffic. I’m always amazed (and at times irritated) by the liberties taken by some of my fellow drivers. When merging onto the freeway, there’s always that one driver that just has to cut in front of me; even though there are no cars behind me! Just this morning, traffic was particularly heavy because of rainy weather, I saw several cars wait until the last-minute to move into the right lane so they could make the next corner. In fact, one driver waited so long, he made his right turn from the middle lane having never made it into the right turn lane. Fortunately, the driver in that turn lane was watching and avoided their potential crash meeting. I’m sure the middle lane person had a REALLY important place to be and that superseded any appointments of those drivers that he cut-off with reckless abandon. He NEEDED that short-cut!
Our world is full of short-cuts. we have learned the short-cut keys to use on the computer to save key strokes. Call ahead to be put your name on the restaurant waiting list before you even arrive. Cut thru neighborhoods to avoid traffic. Check out the latest “miracle” diet that guarantees quick weight-loss. We buy microwaves, turbo ovens, pressure cookers, and any other device that is FAST. We rush into physical relationships based on emotions and personal desires. Faster is better. My time is important, I need to maximize it. I AM IMPORTANT!
And then I read Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Wait. Really? There are no short-cuts with God. God has a plan for my life. And, no matter how much I beg, whine, or complain, that plan will be revealed in God’s time. I am to wait for Him. I am to develop my relationship with Him. When I attempt to jump ahead of the line and get MY way, I miss important parts of the journey. And, I usually end up circling around to the back of the line, anyway. Wait. Just Wait. Such any easy concept and yet so hard to accomplish.
In 2013, I’m learning to wait. How about you?