Uncertainty: A Short Story

dirtroad

What if it’s not true?

Peter combed his fingers through the tangles of his beard. He glanced to his left, where his best friend – well, he liked to think of him as his best friend – was walking beside him, sharing some story with the others in that animated way of his. His friend was quite the storyteller. He could captivate an audience for hours on end, with his simple words and unorthodox ways. Peter was proud to know him, to call him his friend. And yet…

He’d be lying if he said that his friend never embarrassed him or made him uncomfortable. Sometimes Peter wished that his friend would just keep his opinions to himself and not make so many waves. Who’d have thought someone else would ever make me uncomfortable, Peter thought, laughing unconsciously. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Peter was somewhat of a loudmouth and hothead himself. In fact, sometimes his other friends had given him grief for not being able to keep his mouth shut. Peter cut his eyes at his friend, who was now humming some unknown tune to himself, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

This friend in particular had called Peter out for his hot temper from time to time. Maybe that’s what bothered Peter. Because his friend was just as opinionated as Peter, if not more so. But there was something different about his friend. A meekness. A controlled rage at the injustices surrounding them; and a quiet patience with those who were stubbornly set in their own ways.

What if he’s not who he says he is?

Peter swallowed and tasted the dust of the dirt road on his tongue. His hand went to his tangled beard again – a nervous habit he had developed over the last three years.

Peter was the most vocal of his group of friends – the most loyal. Peter prided himself on being headstrong and fearless. He knew he used his large frame and booming voice to intimidate others and assert his strength. These qualities had always worked well for him to make himself heard, known, and noticed.

But his friend had changed all that. His friend had done what no one else had ever been able to do – he had made Peter doubt himself. Made him question his own motives, his own desire for attention and recognition. Made him question a lot of things, actually.

His friend was everything that Peter was not – maybe in more ways than even Peter could realize. His friend impacted people in ways Peter had never seen before. Peter would never admit it to anyone, but at times he’d felt envious of his friend. Of the obvious power and influence that his friend had over others. What he wouldn’t give for that kind of power…

These feelings – the envy, the uncertainty – confused Peter. He knew he loved his friend and would do anything for him. But he felt unsettled in his heart.

Who is he, really? Peter asked himself. At that moment his friend turned toward him and smiled.

“You with me, Peter?”

Peter blinked, unsure as to what his friend was referring. He must have zoned out and missed what his friend was saying. Not wanting to reveal that he hadn’t been listening, Peter swallowed and plastered a huge grin onto his face.

“I’m with you, Jesus. Til the end.”

—-

See any (or all) of the four Gospels for accounts of the relationships between Jesus, Peter, and the rest of the disciples. 

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Marriage is the Best Teacher: 16 Things I Learned in Year 2

Last year I wrote a blog about what marriage is not, which addressed the things I learned during the first year of marriage. On St. Patty’s Day, Matt and I hit year number 2, so I began thinking about what (if anything) I learned during that second year.  I came up with a list of 16 things. As it turns out, most of these are not exclusively about marriage. They could apply to most any part of life – which makes sense, because a big part of marriage is learning how to live life together.  So without further ado, I present to you 16 things I learned about life in year 2:unnamed

1. Life isn’t only about the big moments. 

Life is a million little moments. In fact, the number of little moments will significantly outweigh the “big ones.” The new job, the new house, the proposal, the wedding, the births, the deaths – those things are important but they are not everything. The little, everyday, mundane, normal moments are the moments that add up to equal a life. A preoccupation (or even obsession) with those “big” moments can and will lead to discontentment and dissatisfaction with the beauty of small, quiet, every day moments.

2. “Attract” will eventually become “attack.”

There are many things about my husband that attracted me to him when we first began dating. After marriage, I’ve seen how those very things I once found so “adorable” or “endearing” are the same things that sometimes really irritate me or make me want to pull out my hair. This is a natural part of marriage and is important to identify. God gave me Matt because He knew that Matt would bring things to our relationship that I could not. And I need that in my life. (Imagine my surprise when I realized that Matt has had the same experiences with me!)

3. Rest is a good thing. 

I have always struggled with the issue of rest – I want to make the most of my time and be productive. That desire in and of itself is not wrong. Even the Bible talks about doing everything to the best of your ability and doing it for God’s glory (Colossians 3:17,23). It also talks about the fact that we will one day be held accountable for what we did (and did not do) while on earth. But the Bible also talks about rest (that whole seventh day of Creation thing) and makes a point of showing us that even Jesus retreated and went off by Himself from time to time to be alone. I’ve learned this past year that go-go-going usually leads to burn-burn-burning out. Take an evening off. Watch a movie you enjoy. Read a book. Let your mind rest. We’re wired for it. Rest is good.

4. You can’t change the past.

I’ve spent a lot of the last year trying to change or re-write the past. And I haven’t been too successful yet. Shocker. Things happen – both good and bad – and you can’t do anything to change them. There comes a point where we all have to man/woman up and move forward, while always learning from the past. Clinging to and reliving past victories OR refusing to let go of past defeats leads nowhere fast. I’ve learned that living in the past usually keeps me from living in and enjoying my present. In the words of Paul – “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14,15).

5. Not all respect has to be earned. door

Very few things in this life are free – most everything must be earned in some way or another. Respect is, for most women, pretty important. If you don’t earn my respect, well then gosh darn it, I won’t give it to you. This year I’ve learned that God’s Word doesn’t say “respect your husband only when he is deserving of it.” It says – “Wives, respect your husbands” (Eph 5:33). Period. My husband represents Christ in our marriage. His role is to love me like Christ loves the Church. My role is to submit to him and respect him, in order to be a picture to the world of how the Church should submit to and respect Christ. When I get to heaven someday, I won’t be held accountable for my husband’s actions. My but-he-didn’t-deserve-respect excuses won’t hold up. I am responsible for me and my actions/reactions.  I mean, what if Christ didn’t show his love for us on the cross because we didn’t deserve it? Newsflash – none of us deserve any of God’s gifts. That is what grace is. What a privilege to practice respect and submission to my husband as a means for sharing Christ with the world. So wives, if you are a Christ-follower, you are commanded to respect your husbands.

6. I can’t pour out if I’m not filling up.

This relates to lesson #3 somewhat. So often I’m trying to do 50 things at once, to be all things to all people all the time. I remember at one point in college I actually felt guilty for spending time in the Word because I felt like I should be spending that time building relationships with other people. Whaaa?? Crazy, right? What I’ve learned is that, in order to pour into the lives of others, I first need to be taking care of myself. By that I mean spending time in the Word daily, being in continuous conversation with God, and getting rest. If I want to share water with a friend, but have no water in my cup to give him/her, then we’re both left thirsty. Be filled up so you can pour into others.

7. God shouts in our pain.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis said, “…Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Pain has been prevalent in this past year; and so has God’s voice. Granted, I’d be lying if I said that God always felt near or that everything felt good/fine because I knew God was near and real. There were many times I asked God where He was, what He was doing, and why He was not acting. I lashed out at God in anger and blamed Him for many things. But after I was done with my temper tantrums, He really  began to reveal to me the weaknesses in my own character and in my heart. My problems were not merely external – there were internal issues that God was bringing to light. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-2). Considering difficulties as “joy” is a whole other blogpost in itself. But I can’t deny that God has really worked in my pain and developed my character. Which, in the long run, is what I want.

8. Christianity doesn’t make things easier. 

A lot of people refer to Christianity as a crutch or some pie-in-the-sky belief that people rely on to make their problems go away or seem less. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but if you want to check out and pretend your problems don’t exist and have an easy and problem-free life – then you should probably stay away from Christianity. Jesus said in Luke 9 that “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The cross was used for crucifixion, one of the most horrible and shameful methods of execution at that time. Christianity means accepting that life will be difficult and that the world will hate you for your “intolerant” beliefs. It means practicing self-discipline and denying desires that are self-destructive. The beauty is that this less-than-easy  life is grounded in the hope of eternity that we have through Christ alone. It’s hard. But it’s worth it.

9. Integrity doesn’t just happen. 

Most people admire athletes who have stood out in history as being great and incredibly skilled in their particular sport. We crave the glory that accompanies their stories, but what we often don’t recognize  are the untold stories behind the greatness – the integrity in which their success is grounded. The hours of practice and hard work and sacrifice that nobody saw.   “Integrity” means to be consistently on the outside what I claim to be on the inside. In other words, my actions should back up my words – whether I am being watched by others or not. Integrity means doing the hard things in the quiet moments of each day. Spending time in God’s word even when you don’t feel like it. Working diligently at your job even when your boss isn’t present or watching. Not going to that website or watching that movie even when you’re alone and you know that nobody would know or find out. This kind of integrity – the kind built in the small, quiet moments of life – is what makes a person strong and effective in the big moments of life.

10. Love is not a choice made once. 

Love is a choice that must be made every day. Period. Kind of like the whole take-up-your-cross-daily thing. I’d like to say that when I first told Matt “I love you” however many years ago, I perfectly demonstrated Christ-like love from then on out. But that would make me a liar. Loving others more than myself must happen every day, every moment, every second.

11. Real faith is not dependent on circumstances. 

It’s in the dark moments that we really find out what we believe. Do I have faith only when God is good to me and showers blessings on me? Does my trust in His promises and faithfulness only apply when things are easy? What a weak faith that would be. Real faith can look at who God is, know that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and trust that He will keep his promises.  Job from the Bible is a great example of this. God allowed everything that Job held dear to be taken away from him, and still Job’s faith remained intact. When Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die,” he responded by saying, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” This is a hard thing to accept, but the truth is real – God is God. We are not. He is faithful, even when we are not. He keeps His promises and He’ll do what He says He’ll do.

12. Your spouse is the most important earthly relationship you have.

This probably rubs some people the wrong way, but I believe it’s biblical, and therefore true. Importance of relationships are as follows: God, spouse, family, everything else. This might not sit well with everyone (which I’m ok with), but if my marriage represents Christ and the Church – God’s perfect, sacrificial love – then my marriage MUST take top priority.  My goal in life is to mirror Christ to the world – what better way to do that than through marriage.

13. God answers prayer. running

He really does. There are numerous places in the Bible that talk about the effectiveness and importance of prayer. I mean, if even Jesus Himself spent a significant amount of time in prayer while on earth, how much more should His followers do so? If you are a Christ-follower, please don’t discount the importance and effectiveness of prayer. It is crucial. Philippians 4:6,7.

14. I am flawed. For real. 

Whether you’re a Christian or not, I think all humans can identify with this common issue we all have – imperfection. We spend lifetimes trying to reach perfection, only to be disappointed again and again. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my husband wasn’t actually perfect. Gasp! Seriously though – marriage has brought out the mess in me. My actions and reactions really just point to what was already in me to begin with. Accepting that I am imperfect has really helped me to address those imperfections and allow God to begin changing me.

15. God’s will for your life isn’t unknowable.

I have wasted countless hours agonizing over what God’s will is for my life. Over the past year I had to choose between two different jobs, and I did some major stressing over the decision, wondering what God’s will was for me to do. Many people ask the same thing. God, what do I do with my life?? How will I know?? Send me a sign!! A message in my cereal! Anything! Thankfully, we have something more than messages in our breakfasts. God’s revealed will is given to us in His Word. I know that may not be satisfactory for some people. But really – God has given us His instructions for the moments of each day. It can all pretty much be summed up like this: Love God. Love people. (Mark 12:30,21). Whether you’re a teacher, stay-at-home mom, CEO, salesperson, cashier, college student, or whatever – love God, and love people. That’s God’s will for you and me today. (And just as a side note, the rest of the Bible goes into more detail as to how to do this – so check it out!)

16. God gives us everything we need to live a godly life.

God promises wisdom if we ask for it in faith (James 1:5-8). He also promises to give us, through His divine power, the things we need to live well (2 Peter 1:3). God not only provided a way for us to get to Him through Christ, but He has also given us the tools to be effective and fruitful here on earth. You know what that tells me? We have no legitimate excuses. And all the excuses in the world won’t add up to a hill of beans one day when we have to give an account for everything we did or didn’t do here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10).

So…

So there it is: the lessons learned during year 2 of marriage. I use the word “learned” loosely, knowing that these are not things I have mastered by any means. They are lessons to learn every day, again and again. I realize I am young and have not been married very long, so I hope this post isn’t misunderstood as me claiming to have all kinds of life experience. I know there are countless people who are smarter, wiser, and have experienced so much more. But I do believe that my experiences have been valid, and I just hope to share some things I’m learning along the way.

Marriage has turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be, but I can honestly say it’s been one of the greatest earthly blessings I’ve ever been allowed to experience.

Here’s to 50 more years of learning.

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Everyone has a stage

I couldn’t help but notice all last night and today that a certain Miley Cyrus was trending.  I’ve read multiple statuses (statusi? statusees?), tweets, and blogposts about the apparently mind-blowing/horrifying/raunchy performance by Miley Cyrus on the VMAs.  I didn’t see it, still haven’t, and probably won’t (even though I feel like I already have what with the vivid descriptions of many a blogger).Hannah+Montana+Movie+Berlin+Premiere+3_E8ZlmI_GZl

I’ve heard a lot about the disgrace of a role-model gone wrong and what a disappointment she is to all the girls who may or may not look to her as an example. I don’t really have much commentary to add about her – I’ve never met her and don’t really follow her career so I wouldn’t have much to say.

The only thing I want to say is this: Miley Cyrus is not the only one who has a stage and audience.  Everyone has a stage. Everyone has an audience. Leadership can most simply be defined as influence – and every person who has ever walked this earth influences others.

I think about the millions of people who watched that performance. I will never have millions of people watching me – I can’t sing, dance, act, juggle knives, eat fire, or do anything that the world would deem noteworthy.  By the time I finish my life, most people on the earth won’t even know that I existed.

But then I think about the people that DO watch me. The people I encounter at the office every day.  At the store.  At the gas station.  At church.  At a restaurant.  I think about the relationships I’ve formed and the relationships I hope to have with my children someday.

I can’t control what a pop star thousands of miles away does.  But I can control my own actions and the way I choose to love other people.

1 Peter 3:3,4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

This scripture, in context, is speaking specifically to wives with unbelieving husbands. But I believe the same principal applies to all women – single, married, old or young.  This is not a passage that condemns braids and jewelry (if that’s the case, I have a lot of repenting to do…); but rather, it’s speaking to the immeasurable worth of a woman who carries herself with confidence that has nothing to do with the external and everything to do with the internal.

Everyone has a stage. And everyone has an audience. A woman who rests in Christ and finds her sufficiency in Christ will always point her audience’s eyes heavenward, to the only One worth looking to, the only One worth worshiping.

In my own life, I have a stage. An audience.  And I couldn’t help but ask myself today – In what ways do I promote myself?  How am I trying to put the spotlight on me? How am I seeking fulfillment in things other than Christ? God forgive me for ever drawing attention to myself rather than drawing attention to Him.

So while I can and should mourn and pray over the lost innocence and endless wandering of Miley Cyrus and others like her, I never want to use my pointing finger as a mask for my own self-glorification and self-promoting actions.

My prayer is that all women who claim to follow Christ would seek to live with integrity and to possess the “unfading beauty” that cannot be shaken by fame, trends, or public opinion.

Everyone has a stage.  And everyone has an audience.

He must become greater. I must become less.

“If anyone is watching me, I want to make it count for something.” chl 

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What marriage is not

After 12 months of marriage, there are only two things that I really know without a doubt:shells

1. I love my husband more today that I did when I first said “I do.”

2. I have had absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing this past year.

Walking into marriage, I received a lot of advice about what to do, what to expect, what not to expect.  I was told how hard the first year is.  How much marriage is not anything like what most people expect it to be.  How it’s about more than simply “living with your best friend” or “happily every after.”  How there are days that are really hard, and there will be times when you wonder “what the HECK have I done??”

I took all the advice seriously and was very appreciative of it.  But in the back of my mind I was secretly wondering, “How hard can it really be?  I mean really.  Maybe everyone else struggles and has a hard first year – but I doubt we will.  And if we ever actually disagree about anything, well – he’ll eventually see reason and then things will be fine.

I have had absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing this past year.

I am really beginning to understand the truth of the saying that “experience is the best teacher.”  I read all the books and took all the classes and talked to all the married women – and I was still essentially blown away by the reality of what all those books and classes and married women had been talking about.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not claiming to be the authority on marriage after 1 year.  I’m not suddenly all-wise and understanding on the mysterious world of marriage.  But I can confidently say that I am wiser than I was 365 days ago.  And that’s a start.

The greatest truths about marriage that I have learned over the past year can best be summed up in these statements:Image

1. Marriage is not about me. Or Matt. Or me AND Matt.

2. Marriage is not about staying in love.

If you’re reading those statements and thinking, “Wow, poor Mary and Matt, their marriage is sad,” don’t worry. You’re mistaken.  We are very much in love. But God has caused my focus to change. He’s shown me that these things cannot be my end goal. Let me explain.

1. Marriage is not about me.  This is a statement that is completely countercultural – in both the secular and, oftentimes, the Christian world views.  Girls are taught from a young age that a wedding is one of the most exciting events to look forward to in their lives.  Notice I said WEDDING and not MARRIAGE.  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard women say, “My entire wedding is planned – now I just need a man!”  We are taught to want the best dress, best food, best venue, best music, best flowers, best ring, and – oh yeah – the best groom.

We are told, “This is YOUR day.”

“It’s all about YOU.”

“Whatever the bride wants.”

“Whatever makes you happy.”

Women spend their entire lives fantasizing about the perfect wedding, to be followed by the perfect honeymoon, to be followed by a perfect life lived with a perfect husband who will always adore them, pursue them, and make them feel like they are the only female existing on this wonderful planet earth.

Women, I say this in the kindest way possible: We have been completely deluded.

But at the risk of harping on women only, how about the expectations of men going into marriage? I’m not talking about the typical “ball and chain” perspective.  But the seemingly “positive” ones.  I asked my husband what some of the expectations were that he had growing up and leading up to marrying me.  Surprisingly, he said many of the same things women say.  While he never really spent any time mentally planning a wedding, he did have this idea that marriage would mean always having someone there to affirm him and take care of him.  There would be a marriage, a house, kids, and the wife would take care of the kids.  And the wife would adore him.

The American Dream.

All of these expectations are not bad.  Who wouldn’t want to to be loved  by their significant other for always and forever?  Who doesn’t want to have a care free wedding day where everything just goes right?  I don’t think these desires are wrong by any means.  They are good things.  But, as with anything good, desiring that perfect wedding more than you desire to please God can lead to sin.

So back to the original statement: Marriage is not about me.  The whole purpose of marriage is not to live happily ever after, to be financially secure, or to produce precious little cherubs that look just like you.  Those are all parts of marriage, but it is not the reason that it exists.

Unsurprisingly, marriage exists for the same reason that WE exist – to give glory to God.

Easy Christian answer, right?  But really, think about it -

Marriage will not exist in heaven.  A lot of people don’t like that concept, but unfortunately, it’s biblical, and therefore not really debatable (Matthew 22:30).  So marriage is meant to be an earth-only thing.  Why? Why not continue the relationship into eternity?  That would only make us happier, right?

Maybe.  If the purpose of marriage is my happiness.

But it’s not.

The purpose of marriage is to glorify God. More specifically, the purpose of marriage is to display to the world the relationship between Christ and the Church.  John Piper says it very well in his book, This Momentary Marriage:

“The meaning of marriage is the display of the convent-keeping love between Christ and his people.”

If you are married, you have been given the highest privilege and honor of showing the world what the relationship between Christ and his Church looks like – whether you like it or not.   And in heaven, that relationship will be complete – the marriage experience on earth will pale in comparison to the marriage relationship between us and Christ.

That’s what it’s all about.

To be completely honest, there have been days when I haven’t really liked Matt.  And I KNOW he would say the same about me.  I married a sinner.  And he did too.  Unfortunately we’re very human,  and our sin nature doesn’t completely evaporate into thin air once we get married.  If anything, it suddenly begins rearing its ugly head more often.

Will we end up hurting the one person we love more than anyone?  Inevitably. Would it be easier to walk away when we hurt each other? Probably.  And if marriage was about me – about my feelings – then that is probably what I would do.

But praise God, it is not about me.

It’s about a covenant that is made between two people.  A promise that says “no matter what, regardless of what happens, good or bad, I will never leave you.  There is nothing you could ever do to make me leave you or stop loving you.  You will hurt me and you will probably fail me at some point – but I am not going anywhere.”

That’s how Christ loves His people.  When His people fail Him and leave Him and deny Him over and over…He refuses to leave.  He doesn’t break his promises.  Ever.

That’s what marriage is about.

Which leads to the second truth that I have been learning: Marriage is not about staying in love.  I am very in love with my husband, no question about that.  But my marriage is not dependent on being in love.  Again, John Piper puts it in to perspective this way:

“So I argue that staying married is not mail about staying in love.  It’s about covenant-keeping.  If a spouse falls in love with another person, one profoundly legitimate response from the grieved spouse and from the church is, ‘So what! Your being “in love” with someone else is not decisive.  Keeping your covenant is decisive.‘”

What a profound concept!  The world tells us that if you fall out of love with your spouse and in love with someone else, then you should follow your heart and do what feels right.  “You deserve to be happy.”  Is it any wonder that the world thinks it is such a miracle for a marriage to last?

Marriage does not – should not – rely on the feeling of love to keep it alive.  C.S. Lewis also addressed this concept in his book The Four Loves (I bolded the highlights, so feel free to read those if you don’t like long paragraphs :) ) - 

Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also clovermany things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably was never was or ever could be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

A marriage is not dependent on “being in love” for its survival.  It is dependent on the promise – the covenant relationship – to keep it alive.

I was sharing some of these thoughts with Matt recently, and we both realized that, as i mentioned before, these were truths that had been told to us prior to marriage.  We had many godly men and women share with us what marriage really is.

But we still didn’t get it.

We are only just now starting to comprehend.  It is a concept that – not unlike the Gospel – we will have do continuously preach to ourselves daily.  Remind ourselves.  Because we as humans have a tendency to forget things.  And sometimes we must be reminded – in painful ways – about this truth.

I have had absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing this past year.

Marriage thus far has humbled me in more ways than I can count.  If you have any doubts about you being a sinful, self-centered person, just go get married – you will find out how much you love yourself more than others very quickly.  And you will realize that marriage cannot – must not – be about anyone other than Christ.

Marriage is not about me.  And it’s not about staying in love.

I have had absolutely no idea what I’ve been doing this past year.

But I am wiser than I was 365 days ago.

And that’s a start.

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when good men do nothing

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Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  I’ve found myself on the verge of tears several times today at the thought of all the lives that have been taken.  I’ve asked God why he has allowed such injustice to continue; and I’ve wondered at the hypocrisy of an administration that preaches the protection of young children at all costs while at the same time forfeiting the rights of unborn children for the sake of a woman’s choice, this supposed “war on women.”

While I seldom understand the many injustices in this world, I rest in the fact that God is God, and I am not.  Just because something is beyond understanding doesn’t mean that it is wrong or false or nonexistent.  Because of who God is I can hold on to the fact that one day He will make all things right.  “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

But while I do believe that God will one day make things right, I in no way believe that that gives us license to respond apathetically to injustice.  We are called to defend the defenseless and protect the weak – to put others before ourselves regardless of how uncomfortable we may feel or how much criticism we may draw.

I can’t help but think that Christians are often eerily silent on the issue of abortion.  I have heard many describe it as a “minor issue” compared to everything else going on in the world.  It’s not really worth getting upset about, because there’s no way something like abortion will ever become illegal again.  We can’t change it, so why not focus our energy and time on other things that are more pressing.

Ephesians 5:8-11 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

God commands us not only to stay away from “deeds of darkness,” but also to expose them.  Shine light on them.  That’s what light does.  It exposes the darkness.  It makes people see truth.  And in truth there is freedom.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

We must light up the darkness.

 

 

 

For further insight into the biblically based and non-biblically based views on abortion, check out DesiringGod.org, as well as some great points made by J.D. Greear.

 

 

 

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3801 Lancaster

I just came across a short documentary today about the Gosnell abortion clinic in Philadelphia.  It was put together by a group called 3801 Lancaster who is following the case.

It’s only twenty minutes, so if you have the time I would encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.  It’s an incredible example of what can happen – of what is happening – when a culture remains silent and uninformed.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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wisdom in unlikely places

I got my wisdom teeth out last Friday.  All four of them.  Normally, I take pride in the fact that I have a high tolerance for pain and that I can handle things like minor surgeries with no problem.  I’m tough.  And I can handle it.

Well apparently last week I got shot with a Pansy-Dart or something, because this whole wisdom teeth thing has been, quite frankly, kicking my butt.  I’m sure Matt has really been enjoying me lamenting the absence of cheeseburgers in my life for a grand total of five days now.  Just this morning when I asked Matt (in a very whiny voice) why my wisdom teeth had to come out and why they had to hurt so much, he just looked at me and said, “Because of sin.”  Apparently we moved past the “Comforting Words” phase fairly quickly.

All joking aside, my missing teeth have served a significant purpose the past few days – allowing me more time to spend in God’s Word.  The few extra recovery hours at home have allowed me to focus much more on some scripture that normally, with the busy day’s schedule, I just don’t make time for.

A few days ago I came to Psalm 119.  I’ve read this incredibly long chapter multiple times, and, honestly, when I got to it, I considered skipping it for that very reason.  I mean, there wouldn’t be anything new there, right?  (Sometimes my horrible logic is kind of funny).  But no, no, I should read it, because if i didn’t it would mess up my Read-Through-The-Bible-In-A-Year Plan (…but really).

So I began reading through the chapter, and immediately took notice of the underlying theme – a theme which, in all honesty, I had never really given much attention before.

This writer had a strange preoccupation with God’s Word.

I began writing down each specific time that the writer spoke about God’s word in an affectionate way.  Resist the temptation to just scan over the words, because their meaning is mind-blowing:

Psalm 119:1-80

1. Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!

2. Blessed are those who keep his testimonies…

5. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

6. Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

8. I will keep your statutes…

9. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

10. …let me not wander from your commandments.

11. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

12…teach me your statutes!

14. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches

15. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

16. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

17…that I may live and keep your word.

18. Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

19. …Hide not your commandments from me!

20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

23…your servant will meditate on your statutes.

24. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

26 …teach me your statues!

27.  Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.

29. …graciously teach me your law!

30…I set your rules before me.

31. I cling to your testimonies, O Lord…

32. I will run in the way of your commandments…

33. teach me , O Lord, the way of your statues; and I will keep it to the end.

34. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

35. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

36. Incline my heart to your testimonies…

39. …for your rules are good.

40. Behold, I long for your precepts…

42. …for I trust in your word.

43. …for my hope is in your rules.

44. I will keep your law continuously, forever and ever.

46. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings…

47. For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.

48. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

50. …Your promises give me life.

51. …I do not turn away from your law.

54. Your statutes have been my songs…

56. …I have kept your precepts.

57. …I promise to keep your words.

60. I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.

61. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.

64. …teach me your statutes!

66. ..for I believe in your commandments.

67. …but now I keep your word.

68. …teach me your statutes.

69. …but with my whole heart I keep your precepts…

70. …but I delight in your law.

71. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

72. the law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

73. …give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.

74. …I have hoped in your word.

77. …for your law is my delight.

78. …as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.

80. May my heart be blameless in your statutes…

After only the first 80 verses, it was like the spiritual truths were literally leaping off the page, jumping up and down, and trying to get my attention.

The first thing about this Psalm that I couldn’t ignore was that the author was obsessed with God’s Word.  Webster’s defines “obsess” as “to dominate or preoccupy the thoughts, feelings, or desires of a person” – and that’s exactly what is happening with the author here.

He talks about storing God’s word in his heart, fixing his eyes upon it, walking in his law, delighting in his commandments, clinging to his rules, meditating  on his testimonies….he even goes so far as to say that his soul is consumed with longing for God’s rules at all times.

Secondly, the author resolved to live by God’s Word.  He set a standard for himself and chose to live by it.  He doesn’t say, “I will do my best to live by your statutes,” but rather, I will keep your statutes.  I will meditate.  I will fix my eyes.  I will delight.  I will not forget.  I will keep your word.

This tells me that following Christ isn’t just about knowing what is true or what is right, but it’s about doing it as well.  This isn’t to say that we won’t experience failure – that’s part of the human experience – but it does mean that our goal should always be to pursue holiness.  Resolving or promising to keep God’s word at the center of our hearts is one of the most practical steps we can take towards godly living.

Next, the author asks for God’s wisdom and understanding to further comprehend and love His word.  Again and again, the author cries out to God, “Teach me your statutes!”  In some ways it almost seems ironic.  One moment he’ll be saying, “I keep your word,” and in the very next verse, he’ll be asking once again for God to teach him his ways.  He wants understanding so that he can continue to follow God with his whole heart.

I found this very interesting, because it shows where the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God meet.  The author obviously bears responsibility to learn God’s word and commit it to his heart in  order to guard himself against sin.  But then we see how the author is dependent on God for the understanding of His word. Apart from God, His word and His message would be foolishness to us (1 Cor. 1:18).  That is why we must be desperate for His Word and understanding.

Also, the author’s admittance that he doesn’t know everything there is to know about God’s statutes points to his humility.  He recognizes that he has much to learn from God and about God – and this leads him to ask God to “open [his] eyes that [he] may behold wondrous things out of [God's] law.”

Reading these words showed me the ways in which I often do not value God’s Word.  I do not always treasure it above all else or spend time “obsessing” over it and the truth it contains.  I am thankful for moments of clarity – those moments when I’m sitting on the couch holding icepacks on my cheeks – when I can slow down, be still, and really just enjoy God and His Word.

Sometimes wisdom can be found in the most unlikely places.

Leave it to the Author of Humor to plant new wisdom in my heart after He’d just yanked it out of my mouth.

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