marriage, divorce, christian

Adversity

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This analogy has a great application for marriages.  It’s only in the storms that weak spots are exposed.  When they are exposed the builder doesn’t scrap the whole ship as a failure and start over.  Rather, now that a weakness is exposed it can be fixed and made stronger.

The storms in marriages reveal weaknesses in both people, not failures; areas that are still unhealed, unhealthy and incomplete.  Every marriage is a one-flesh ship, so to speak, and will face storms.

Weakness or Failure?

The design of marriage is for support during weakness – not condemnation in failure.  Storms will happen, you can’t live in this world untouched by them.  The Message describes the world as squalid and polluted and it makes sense, Satan owns it.  So we need a ship-mate who’s got our back if we are going to make it through.

God chose you to be your husband’s wife the day you met him.  You agreed to be his team-mate on your wedding day and sealed the deal on your wedding night.  In this, God invites you in on His plan: to witness Him renew your husband’s mind and change his life.

It’s in these storms that God does His best work.  It’s in these storms that we get to demonstrate our authenticity of faith; whether the storm is a simple rain shower or one that reaches extreme levels of intensity that beat and pound against the hull of a marriage for years.

Victors Are Selfless

Sarah gives us an example of how to handle ourselves in a storm.  When Abraham requested that she allow herself to be taken into Pharaoh’s harem, she saw the request not as a failure of a husband but as a flaw that was being exposed.  The sin of fear that needed healing before it got any worse.  In her example we see that she didn’t:

  • Take it personally – she didn’t see it as an attack on herself, or
  • Make it her business to set him straight or fix the circumstances– she didn’t believe she could do a better job of healing him than God.

Her spiritual maturity is confirmed by her ability to put him first.  His emotional damage was obviously worse than hers, she was stronger.  She didn’t say, No way, Abe.  You are not going to drag me down with you just because you are afraid.  She knew he needed her strength and power, not her criticism, and used this opportunity to intercede for him rather than go on a faultfinding mission.

It appeared as though Abraham was giving up on her and their marriage by choosing himself over her:

[…] they will kill me, but they will let you live.

Sarah was able to rise above our human propensity for selfishness by choosing the view of her life in eternity rather than the view of what was temporarily happening.  We cannot look at people from an earthly perspective.  We are to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances.  She gave us the amazing example of living for someone else and Paul put it into words this way, so that all those who live might live no longer to and for themselves.

We need to accept that we’ve married fallen sons of God, not angels and not saints; they are going to sin.  Sometimes that sin is going to spill into marriage … against a wife.  It’s not fair, but it’s going to happen.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it right, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

There will be adversity so Paul tells us consequently:  Your husband has received the same Saviour you have.  Your sin is not less than his, just different; but forgiven equally.  Consequently, view him from God’s point of view:  in progress.

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Loophole

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Loophole:

an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)

I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for.  It was too hard and I wanted out.  There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted.  Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.

It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:

Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps. 

And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps.  Right.  If God was for this marriage it would be easier.  There would be peace.  I began to see hope.  Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone.  It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing.  I could see my loophole getting larger.

… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.

Wait?  What? …. A what?

Have You Not Read?

When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number.  We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:

Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?

… have you not read …?  Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that.  Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.

I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there.  Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit.  Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.

To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures.  But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question.  Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.

Misfire From Both Sides

On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose.  And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation.  Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.

First:  The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner:  Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong.  Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized.  The paperwork is all in order.  But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose:  Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together.  But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:

“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities.  So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place.  But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities?  I have a technicality for you.  You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better?  It doesn’t work that way.  You want to leave your marriage?  Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.

WOAH-WAH

Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off.  Only trading out.  The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for.  They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game!  And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.

And then:  The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause.  Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation:  so that they would covenant in marriage.  No escape clause is the whole purpose.  Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design.  The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.

At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them.  The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else.  It applies to …everyone …else?  I didn’t like that very much.  “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You?  Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.”  OK, that was wrong, I knew it.  I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.

Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair.  What about him?  Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him?  I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit:  “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”

This was my game changer:  It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.

Accept it, if you can

If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me.  To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.

To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him.  I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.

And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him?  And then the next?  God is everything He says or nothing at all.  I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.

So.  I’m not a eunuch, clearly.  My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God.  Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.

With that thought, my loophole vanished.

 

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WHAT IS MARRIAGE AND WHY DO WE DO IT?

The Wedding

Do you ever think about your wedding day?  I think about mine.  Do you remember that morning when you woke up, I bet your heart wasn’t filled with doubts and second guessing, “Well, I guess it’s better than being alone.” Or, “I’ll give it my best shot … and see what happens.”  Like me, I bet your heart was full of hope for a great day and the expectation of a wonderful future with the man of your dreams!  I remember laying in bed that morning excitedly thinking, “Today, is the day!”
Generally, most of the weddings we attend, or hear about, unfold seamlessly.  The day is a blur of excitement starting with the ceremony itself leading to a great wrap-up party, the reception!  Lastly, the bride and groom are swept off to some exotic destination … just the two of them.  Life couldn’t get much sweeter!

The Honeymoon

During this beginning season the marriage holds such high hopes of promise.  Beginnings are like that.  In fact, we see the same delight at the inception of creation, everything is:  GOODx6 and a VERY GOOD marks the finale.  But then, within one and a half chapters into the story of humanity, something goes tragically wrong.  Adam and Eve free in the garden, lost in wonder and delight of all that was very good, had their eyes maliciously and irrevocably opened … and the first brick in the wall of separation was coolly placed between them.

The Marriage

It is the same pattern in our marriages, something … changes.  It happens ever so subtly.  Something has slowly crept in between the bride and groom that we didn’t expect and certainly didn’t plan for.  Somewhere between The Wedding and The Marriage, there has been a shift.
Isn’t it true that we wake up on our wedding day assured that we could conquer anything and that we’d grow old together?  But within a few short years we sense an UNsureness, we start to feel a little suspicious that our fairy tale wedding day isn’t delivering everything to our marriage that it promised.  Slowly our expectations are dashed one-by-one as reality is revealed, this slow creep causes the shift to become more prevalent and our marriage begins to get hard … along with our hearts, and it starts to show in our thoughts:  Why did I ever marry this personWhat was I thinkingMaybe they are the wrong person.

MISperception

I know it might sound silly but it never occurred to me that my marriage would be nothing like my wedding day.  In hindsight it became completely clear though, either no one told me or I failed to listen.  Either way reality proves the truth that the marriage and a wedding day are actually polar opposites!  A wedding day is so well planned that you might as well call it a script; everything falls into place perfectly and we work on that script for almost a year, sometimes longer!  Lots of hard work, planning and compromising with each other went into that script for that ONE day.
How did I miss that?  A marriage is not just going to magically happen when even a magical wedding day didn’t magically happen.  I think the knowledge is there for the learning, we just don’t believe the information applies to us when it says, “It could get ugly at some point, what’s your plan?”  Even though we read statistic after statistic that divorce rates have been climbing.  We can’t see past the euphoric pleasure of the present to comprehend any such conflict driving us apart.  And still, somewhere deep inside us we know it makes sense because marriage is the single most challenging adventure of all the earthly experiences.
Marriage is the most significant institution we will ever join and it is the relationship with the most consequential and far reaching effect in our lives.  Yet there are no courses on spousal selection and anyone can get a marriage license with zero training or preparation.  Sydney J. Harris captures the mindset perfectly, “Almost no one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves a great success in any field of activity, yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage.

Why Choose to Marry?

So … why do we get married?  It’s a question that begs self-examination.  Is it because of some innate fear of being alone?  Or is it because, it’s just what we do?  You know, you’re born, grow-up, go to school – fall in love and get married.
Fall in love.  There’s a phrase I find … curious.

Falling in Love?

It’s interesting, for a book that is full of love talk, I can’t seem to find anywhere that God speaks of falling in love.  Why do we say it that way?  It does have a romantic echo to the phrase, but it also has a sense of lack of responsibility, perhaps even commitment.  If the marriage gets too hard there is a pathway already prepared:  we can say that when we were falling in love, we fell for the wrong person.
We humans do that.  You can see it in Adam’s response to God when He was looking for accountability of Adam’s actions after eating the fruit.  Adam didn’t only try and shift the blame to Eve but also onto God Himself!  The woman YOU gave me did it.  And then with Eve, she tried to pass the buck too by saying that it was the snake’s fault.  It seems none of us want to take responsibility for our part, do we?
The most romantic description I’ve ever heard as to why people get married is from the movie, Shall We Dance, here’s the clip of the scene:

 

*SIGH*

Now, although that’s a beautiful sentiment and maybe even a worthy declaration, I don’t believe it’s entirely what God had in mind when He established marriage.

The First Marriage

The first marriage was an act of purpose.  The voice that spoke all life into existence then united a team.  It’s interesting that God didn’t create Adam and Eve at the same time.  He could’ve but instead He chose to create Adam in a vacuum.  This wasn’t a mistake.  He didn’t create Adam alone then realize, “Uh-oh, Adam is alone – I guess I didn’t think that one through, maybe one of the animals can keep him company.”
I think Adam was meant to experience his aloneness in the real time of watching the animals come and go in pairs as he named them.  God brought all the creatures to him, but … there was not be a suitable companion for him.” (Gen 2:19-20)  God could have just as easily told Adam that when he was done naming the animals that He would bring him someone special.  Someone just like him!  But God didn’t say anything.  Instead, He let a yearning grow inside of Adam; a yearning for his pairing.
Adam was meant to notice something special in Eve; something he needed.  And he did!  You can tell by his response to seeing her for the first time, “Finally!  Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”  Or, in our present vernacular, “Finally!  Now SHE belongs with me!”
The both of them, were meant to see that they needed each other for the journey, that they had to depend on each other, lean on each other … not blame one another.

The Step From Bride to Wife

I think it’s significant that Eve was never a bride.  She was created as a wife.  We are brides for a single day, but we are wives for the life of the Marriage.  We can make make generalizations for the answer to the question, what is marriage?  And there are lots of different ideas, to be sure.  But in order to find out what your marriage means to you and why you got married?  Only you can answer that, because only you know the woman inside of you.  Only you know if she’s a bride or Wife.

 

 

 

What Purpose Does a Godless Marriage Serve?

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In a recent post over at Return of Queens I responded with the following comment on Pills are for Sissies:  “Yes, generally speaking PUA’s. They take the natural design of the attraction in masc/fem and twist it into something it was never meant to be – a tradition of men. Female submission to male authority was never meant to be merely a tradition for men to use for their own ends (temporally while on earth). But had (and still does have) a much, much higher purpose in mind.”

QueenA invited me to expand my thoughts on that idea.  The post I submitted as a guest contributor is the elaboration of that comment.

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There’s many ways to label the role of husband and wife in marriage but basically what it boils down to is someone has to lead and someone has to follow.  Marriage is made to emulate Christ and the ethereal church.  It’s pretty straight forward that God is in this picture.

[ … ] To continue reading click over to Return of Queens.

 

 

Witness a Miracle

Source: life-love-laughter.tumblr.com via Molly on Pinterest

Source: life-love-laughter.tumblr.com via Molly on Pinterest

 

Caterpillars become butterflies and tadpoles become frogs.  With the convenience of Youtube, we can see the entire process happen in under 5 minutes, but in real life time the conversion is much slower.

Even slower than butterflies and bullfrogs is the transformation of people. It takes a whole lifetime to remake the heart of a person who has been born sinful and selfish, and to bring them to the heights of righteousness in the likeness of Jesus. (Romans 8:29)

So often, we are inconvenienced by the length of time it takes for God to heal and grow His sons, and by the pain it causes us.  Instead of being patient as God works through the layers of mess and damage done to our husbands’ hearts by the enemy, we are selfish and want God to speed through the process so that it won’t affect us too deeply.

It is easier to view the trials in marriage through the lenses of an invitation.  Long before you were ready, God in His grace invited you to witness the various cycles that are involved in reshaping a special person, one of His own sons.  When you said, “I do,” you accepted the opportunity to witness the greatest miracle you’ll ever be a part of:

The transformation of your husband.

The best part is that within each trial are opportunities for you to give to your husband the very grace God showed to you.  How can we not want to do what Jesus asked and follow in the footprints that He left with us?  I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. John 13:34

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Guys and Dolls

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Good morning readers of Up with marriage!  Often times Darrell is behind the scenes of this blog, however, today I’m pleased and proud to have him share his own words!

Guys and Dolls. It’s an older term, but men are men and women are women, no matter what era you are in.  Modern culture would like to group us all together as “people.” How unfair! Male and Female are distinct and unique – as we were created. It took me many years of marriage and not a just a little bit of growing up to realize just how different women and men are.

I read somewhere long ago that wherever you are in your life, you think the majority of other people are in the same place.  If you own a car, you don’t give much thought to those using public transit.  Renting an apartment, not much thought to those who own homes.  Everyone seems to be walking in the shoes we are wearing; funny, the human condition.

  • On Gifts.  Guys, don’t buy her kitchen tools – even if she says yes to this.  Get her girly things, watch what she looks at and what she touches – read her magazines. Dolls, you can buy him tools (keep the receipt), don’t be offended if he trades it in on a different one.
  • On Clothing.  Guys, if you’re brave enough to buy her something, check the sizes in her favorite outfit(s) that she often wears. And for you, she has better taste in clothes…..trust her with this (I don’t mean let her pick your outfits daily, but she will recognize bad choices better). Plus, this is part of her feminine side:  it’s nurturing and she wants to help you.
  • On Personal Care.  I knew a guy that had a female dog, whenever he took her to get groomed they would put a nice bow on her. He would tear it off, unfortunate really – it suited her!  Women love to be pampered, they only really enjoy the hair on their head (which costs more than $10 per cut).  Waxing away all the rest costs more still; but it feels better for both of you. Men hate shaving – period.  Do it for her, not just for work or special occasions.
  • On Food.  She will have a better grasp of proper healthy food choices. You like Bacon and Beef (major negotiations required in the food arena).

A story is told of the sun and the wind competing to get a man to remove his coat.  The wind blew hard and the man held that coat tighter around himself.  When the sun’s turn came, it shone brightly and the man dropped his coat.
Guys……Women are like the sun when they are allowed to be as they were created:  powerful, respectful, nurturing, caring, loving…….you get the picture. Why would you want to destroy this flower, by expecting her to lead the family?  There is already enough responsibility on her petals.  If you add more, she’ll wilt instead of shine.
Dolls……Men are like the wind, strong, forceful and aggressive – why would you want to provoke this force? It would be much better to calm that gale into a warm breeze. A true leader is calm, wise, loving……with the ability to rise up in strength to defend or rescue.
Just some thoughts from a guy, trying to navigate the relational freeway of the day. I do know that I love to provide for and keep them safe. A good leader is my aim, and in trying to battle a harsh world, a hug from my girl regenerates me more than a girl that can eat more wings then me.

In conclusion…….open the car door for Her, she’s worth it!

 

Darrell