spiritual maturity

Thoughts are the compass of your life

 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost]. ~Proverbs 23:7

Just like the selfish person progressed in the direction of their thought pattern, we also will move in the direction of our own thoughts.  Happy thoughts progress towards better and miserable towards worse.

More Than a Conqueror

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 Life’s too short to not give your marriage everything you’ve got. 

What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapour (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. ~James 4:14

And then, when you’ve got no more left to give – GIVE MORE by pressing into God.  In this way, you’re strong through your weakness.

But He said to me, My grace (My favour and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. ~2 Cor 12:9

And now you’ve just become more than a conqueror through Christ.

Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. ~Rom 8:37

YAY!

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Tack and Tune

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If I can just stick to tacking and tuning myself, often God brings His peace and harmony, in His time.

Part of my tack and tune kit is to keep a copy of our Marriage Certificate on the bulletin board at my desk.  I also have a copy of the promises I’ve made in my vows to Darrell on my computer.  When we’re in the middle of a heated fight (and in some of our less shining moments, those fights were downright vicious), I know, at some point I’m going to see that Marriage Certificate – I’ve learned to use that document as a reset for my heart and head. Instead of emotionally running away, I tack into those vows.

It’s not natural or easy, but it is simple – a simple choice of spirit instead of flesh.  God will give a simple clear way for you too — just ask Him.

Tacking and Tuning always take me to the next level in my role as a wife.  We can go from bad to good and then from good to great.

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Desire to please

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A guaranteed way to get into my heart is to treat my kids well … or even my dogs.  People are especially drawn to you when you value what they love.

Special treatment of who I love endears you to me.

When I value people who God’s chosen, I show that I love Him.  Treating any of His kids, a brother or a husband, poorly doesn’t endear me to God. Instead, it draws His corrective eye.

Parents in the natural, siblings in the supernatural

As a parent when one of my kids mistreats their sibling in retaliation, especially when the offending sibling is not mature or is not emotionally strong, it shows me that child is lacking in something.  I don’t think any parent – including God – wants to see their kids exacting revenge on each other.

And, being made in God’s image, it makes sense that our parenting outcomes would be similar to His – we want our kids to grow up and do well.  We want them to do right, to others and to do right, for themselves.  In our marriage, God is the Father of us both, a son and a daughter, and He wants both His kids to grow up and do well – for ourselves and to each other.  But if my brother sins against me and I choose to not reflect Christ in my response (Rom 8:29) I will draw God’s parenting corrective eye rather than endearing myself to Him and making Him proud of me.

Choose – think – act

As soon as my marriage became truly about God, a spark was ignited which fueled my desire to be a better wife. It seemed to be a very natural progression, a win/win.  I’m not saying it was an effortless progression, we’re still required to flesh out things in our lives, but at least now, I could see the plan.  It’s similar to getting healthy. Just reading about working out and proper nutrition won’t make you healthy.  You need to first have the desire, then get the knowledge, and finally, fulfill the activity of the knowledge – it’s still going to be work even though you can see the direction you’re going.

In this example, I’m after the corollary of good health and activity:  A lean(er) fit body.

I’m betting since you read Upwithmarriage, you already have God at the center of your life and He was probably a part of your wedding day. But has He been moved to the hub that your role as a wife rides on in the marriage?

Once God occupies that position, you will naturally choose better thoughts.  With better thoughts, you automatically speak better words.  My desire to please God – better thoughts – better words – better treatment of my husband – God’s pleased.  It starts and ends with God but our proof is in the middle.

Flesh or Spirit

It always comes down to that fight inside of us, doesn’t it?  Am I going to position myself in that hub or am I going to willingly let God have it?  I found out, He won’t fight you for it – He doesn’t work that way.  Just like your choice to accept Jesus Christ for your life, you have to willingly hand over the position, over and over again.

The question we have to continually ask is:  Which desire is stronger?  The desire to get our own way by doing it our own way – to please the flesh.  Or the desire to do it God’s way by following Christ’s way – to please the Spirit.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.  –Paul to the Galatians

I recently attended a webinar from Jeff Goins.  He had lots of great information, but it was a question he asked at the beginning that resonated with me for marriage:  “Are you looking for an excuse, or are you looking for success?  Because you’ll find whichever one you are looking for.”

As long as I was determined to have Darrell’s problems always be the excuse, our marriage was moving in the direction of failure.  But when I set my sights on God for my success as a wife, the direction of our marriage changed to success.

The truth is, whether you think positive or negative about your husband, either way you are right.  Don’t underestimate the effect you have on him – it’s profound in ways you can’t imagine.

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A Marriage Illusion: 50/50

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When I first started to study the life of Sarah I thought she was mindless and weak.  And even though Paul said I could be her daughter if I saw her as a mentor, it was many years before I believed what he was saying; I didn’t want to be her daughter.  I was already a daughter of the feminist movement and preferred the mantra, “I am woman hear me roar.”  But like many other women who’d been raised in that same culture, I found out, albeit the hard way, that I was already powerful and strong.  I was created that way and didn’t need to draw my strength from a movement but from the source:  God.

So began the illumination about the 50/50 split* in marriage and why it’s not God’s view of marriage, but the world’s view.

When I think back I can remember my insides squirming in conflict whenever I came across Sarah, especially this little gem from 1 Peter 3.

It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).

This just didn’t translate into fair and equal for me, which is what I believed marriage was about.  He can run his fifty percent and I’ll run my fifty percent.  Now that’s equality.

I believed the equality moniker licensed me to argue whenever “I” believed “I” was in the right.  In hindsight, God is funny … and patient.  It was like He slipped a little burr called marriage, just under my skin and whenever I pushed up against what I thought was IN-equality between us, I felt the sting of that burr.

I struggled with that burr, all the while blaming Darrell because the only time I felt the sting was when my conflict was with him.  My “prayers” for help seemed to fall on deaf ears.  I would point out (to God) all the things that my husband was doing wrong and how he wouldn’t listen to me.  I wanted to do things my way.  I had ideas and solutions on how to run our family, but there was always so much conflict between us whenever we tried to talk about options or solve problems.  And it just kept getting worse.

Weeks turned into months then into years.  I became more contentious about having the right answers.  More determined to fight for my rights; my way.

… and the burr just kept slicing away.

I had created a war zone in our home and a hardened heart within myself.

WHAT IS THE REAL BURR?

While mentally replaying a recent quarrel in frustration, I complained to God, “Fine, I just won’t have an opinion about anything, is that what YOU want?”

SILENCE.  A deafening silence.

(We all have eye-opening, pride-crushing moments in which God in His infinite grace allows us to wrestle with Him so we see the truth of ourselves.  This was one of mine.)

I had been in our kitchen doing dishes and slamming cupboards and the silence stopped me dead when I realized what I had said through gritted teeth and to Whom I had said it.  I fell onto my knees, not so much in repentance and adoration of God, but in a slump of emotional fatigue and confusion.  “Why did You give me a brain if You didn’t want me to use it?  There will be nothing left of me.”

This was the first time I ever heard God’s voice, I remember it like it was yesterday.  “Yes.  There will be nothing left of you; that is the point.  My Spirit cannot work in Darrell or you, with you in the way.”

With that first glimmer of understanding and the freedom that comes with the death of self, the burr started to loosen.

Focusing on getting our own way and own rights, 50/50, clouds our insight to the change God wants to do in us.  The issue had never been about obeying Darrell because he was right, or me “not using my brain.”  But rather God remaking us into whom He created each of us to be; using the tension now present in every marriage:  Desire.

 BEHOLD the real burr        ->       Desire … TO BE IN CHARGE; TO RULE

Yet your DESIRE and longing will be for your husband, and he will rule [with authority] over you and be responsible for you.

It’s my position that Genesis 3 is not a prescriptive text.  God was not delineating what He was going to do to each of us [Satan, Adam, Eve].  He didn’t put desire in wives, but rather He was describing and explaining what we had each done to our own selves.  He was letting us know how the relationships had changed and how they would play-out, on the outside of Eden.

Remember that He’s the Alpha Omega.  He doesn’t just know the future, He IS the future.  He wasn’t making plans for us, He already knew.  In His grace and love for us, He was giving us a “heads-up.”

Eve’s creation is from power and strength, but not with teshuwqah:  the desire to over power, conquer and rule.  Teshuwqah in wives is a consequence of sin and therefore not our natural or most beneficial state.

The challenge for me was (and still is from time to time) to resist the temptation of teshuwqah that lives in my flesh; that rears it’s head to contend when something seems not fair for me, or ‘right’ in my eyes.

Teshuwqah or submit

The nature of 50/50 calls for someone to be that dividing line between the two 50s making sure it’s all equal.  Whether you call it mutual submission or egalitarian style someone will end up being the scorekeeper to make sure that the submission actually IS mutual or to make sure that no one IS actually leading (or that both are leading … equally).  To ensure the dividing line is equal someone is either given the authority to say, or someone takes the authority and says so.

If Satan can keep you fighting for your rights and contending for your 50% of the 50/50, if he can keep your focus on the mutuality of “taking turns submitting” to the earthy fleshly circumstances of life, you will lean more and more on your own steam and less on God’s.  Satan’s goal is to keep you in the mindset he led you into in the first place:  Teshuwqah

In reality, 50/50 is the gender issue, the “he/she” of it.  I had pitted myself against my husband by choosing my own side of the dividing line.  As much as I said I was for our marriage, the evidence of score keeping proves that my heart was not all in.  Make no mistake, a home divided against itself will not stand. (Mk 3:25)  Here are the two blinding illusions:  First:  You cannot give 50% without withholding 50%, one cancels the other.  You are either 100% for your husband or you are withholding 50% in the name of mutuality or fairness.  It is the nature of equality:  someone tracks the transactions.  Second:  No one knows but you and God.

Well, I was a scorekeeper.  And that’s what I hadn’t liked about Sarah; she wasn’t.

Sarah was 100% for Abraham.  Looking at her through my 50/50 lense she appeared wimpy and unacceptable to me.  Sarah was willing to submit herself.  I was teshuwqah; making sure everything was “equal and fair.” I was the one keeping score … calling the shots from on top of my dividing line.

Then, that day on my kitchen floor …. BOOM, I wasn’t.

Isn’t it always like that with God.  He does the revealing, the healing.  All He asks is that we be willing to honestly look.  Even if it is through squinted eyes at first.  And as I began to view Sarah through His lenses, the low value I placed on her changed to overwhelming pride in being able to say, I am a true daughter of Sarah’s!

Her life exemplified a complete and undivided heart of trust in her LORD.  She demonstrated with her own marriage how opposite mine was.  And finally, a new level of dependence on God emerged that I had never experienced.

I will probably never submit as perfectly as Sarah and that’s ok.  At our house we aim for progress, not perfection.

Robyn

The focus shouldn’t be on a quid-pro-quo relationship, but on the marriage vows.  When we keep score, we automatically see the other person as the problem and absolve ourselves from guilt. –Eileen Silva Kindig

 

* other 50/50 references meaning the same thing, include:  egalitarian, mutual submission

 

SARAH PART 2 – 21st CENTURY WIFE

If you missed Sarah Part 1 you can find it here.

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Peter encourages wives to take a look at Sarah.  While there are many women mentioned in the Bible, it’s only Sarah who’s called out by name and elevated to the position of mentor.  There can be a temptation to focus on her faux pas with Hagar, choose to resist it, in truth we all have areas of weaknesses that trip us up.  Besides, I don’t see that Peter’s intent was for us to focus on her weakness; he is calling attention to her strength as a wife.

God introduces her to us as Sarai the barren, (Gen 11:30) then she’s reintroduced as Sarah the queen. (Gen 17:15)  Peter continues her legacy in the NT by calling her our mother of faith and designates her as someone to emulate. (1 Peter 3:6)

SHE IS A REAL PERSON

In the past, I would read about Sarah and gloss over her because I just didn’t think she had any relevant information to give me.  I mean seriously, we live in two completely different worlds.  This was a mistake on my part; I couldn’t see that Sarah had skin on her (so to speak).  She wasn’t just a character in a book, but a real woman with hopes and fears … just like me.  It was too easy to sit and read her story, from our epicurean world, and conclude that it all worked out for the best; easy-peasy.

How unfair.  This woman was a powerhouse.

Sarah didn’t have the luxury of a Bible to study or verses to memorize in times of doubt nor a mp3 player to scroll down to her favourite worship song to encourage herself.  It wasn’t until I realized that it was just her and God, that I began to appreciate the true strength of her faith.

HER SECRET EXPLODES FOR US

The most awesome knowledge I learned from her, the most startling realization, was that her relationship with Abraham was dual:  Abraham was her husband and also her brother.  Their marriage serves as a powerful analogy for us who are married in the faith!

We know, in heaven there will be no male or female (Gal 3:28) but, in the here and now, we exist in the tension that is found between temporal and Kingdom living.  If we are non-believers our marriage is framed by the temporal.  BUT if we are believers, the marriage has an added dimension:  it is eternal as well.

Abraham articulates this dual relationship as a defence for his shrewdness when he’s speaking to Abimelech,  But indeed she is truly my sister.  She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

I don’t like what Sarah had to walk through, but I do LOVE her courage and trust.  It makes sense that Peter shines a light on her.  She doesn’t panic and frantically look to jump off the crazy train.  Quite the opposite.  Like the stately queen she is, she sits down and buckles herself in.  Expectantly waiting to see what GOD does.

AND FOR US?

In a way, we also live in dual relationships.  Earthly, I am a wife.  Yet spiritually Darrell and I share the same Father, I am also a sister.

Pushing into this powerful analogy from Sarah  I am left with a choice as to which lens I will view my marriage through.

The temporal lens:  Is the short-sighted view that sees only in the present of approximately 100 years.  It sees  in terms of how good can I make it for me now.  How will this affect my life now?  It draws focus to painful circumstances in the marriage that human strength simply cannot bear.  The times of abasing.  It demands that I come to my own rescue, for my own self, with my own ideas and resources instead of waiting for God.

There is no hope for the future.

But with the spiritual lens:  The view sees long into the future.  It is broader.  Stronger.  Higher.  There is room to breathe in hope and trust in God’s complete power over everything instead of my own puny control.  The vision for abounding in marriage can only be made by stepping off the present, into the future, with that higher love.  Love of brother brings God into the picture and with Him comes power, strength and hope.

Love of brother is how Sarah handled Abraham with such gentleness in spite of his request. Instead of viewing him as an adversary because of his human weakness, she chose to be strong in spirit so that it would go well for him.  She knew God would make a way for her where there wasn’t one. (Matt 19:26 & Is 43:19)

CLARITY

  • My husband is my primary brother, all that God asks me to do applies to this brother.  Kingdom living doesn’t exclude a brother because is a husband, I don’t get to pick and choose whom I will or will not serve in the body.  You are a servant of all … or you are not, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all [in importance] and a servant of all.” (Mk 9:35)
  • Far from being a wimpy wife Sarah’s courage elevates the bar of marriage to its proper level, restoring it with honour.
  • Sarah’s action as a wife pushed her marriage far beyond the grasp of any demon.

 

SARAH PART 1 – WARRIOR WIFE

Live with the complete confidence toward God that He will take all things in your marriage and work them together for good.  (Rom 8:28)

Heroines inspire greatness in us, we love them.  Especially ones that are spotlighted in our visible world.  Think: Joan of Arcadia, and Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.  Even in fiction what woman doesn’t admire Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, in The Help.

But in Sarah, we find a different kind of heroine.

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She possessed all the heroic traits, she was:  Tenacious, Daring, Courageous, and Bold, yet they were funnelled in a different direction.  The problem we have with this heroine is that she’s very counter-cultural.

Sarah calls wives to a subversive fight that is played out on an unseen battlefield; her war is in the spiritual realm.  Her success had effects that not only reached beyond the circumstances she was experiencing in her own marriage but also into the generations of her lineage that would give us our Saviour.  Talk about the butterfly effect.  Where would Abraham have landed if she had responded, No, you do this yourself, I won’t help you.  What about the Nation of Israel; what about US!

I love that the complete conversation between Abraham and Sarah wasn’t recorded … some things between a husband and wife are just too intimate for sharing.  Did she argue or belittle Abraham because of his fear?  I doubt that she did.  I think Abraham knew his wife and he knew he could be vulnerable with her.  Notice he didn’t ORDER her to obey …. He requested it.  How much he must have trusted her to make this request.

Tenacious and Daring

Sarah lived her life towards what God would do.  She was a tenacious hunter of demons.  Abraham asked her to trade her safety and well-being for his own.  This takes a daring woman.  Satan came at her through the weakness in Abraham’s flesh:  his fear.

Courageous

Sarah had no guarantee of what was in her future, all she knew was that her husband was asking for her courage.  And in Sarah’s corner we have …

No church

No 10 commandments

No Bible

No spiritual books

No protection

Just her, God and a story handed down from 20 generations ago.  Talk about a determination of faith!

Boldness

Paul talks about times of abasing and abounding, surely this type of struggle in marriage would be one of abasing.  Satan threw his best shot at her and instead of cowering in a victim mentality or protesting about how sinful Abraham’s fear was, she boldly turned, squared herself against Satan and respond positively to Abraham’s request:  HOOYAH

Isn’t she amazing?  I can’t help but get the feeling that Sarah calls to us from the past saying:

“Look at me.  I am a warrior and am ready!”