Compassion in Crisis: A Pregnancy Story

 

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No matter how prepared you think you are, there is something a little frightening about those two solid little pink lines.

Matt and I are so excited about our baby boy, coming in February 2015. I was able to write for the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center blog on this new development in our lives and how it relates to the Care Center. Check out the blog HERE!

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Why Social Media has Ruined My Life

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So I exaggerated – social media hasn’t ruined my life. And this isn’t a post lamenting the evils of social media. But it’s a thought that popped through my head today as I was attempting to spend a few moments with God.

I was sitting on our screened-in porch – something I don’t do enough – and began bringing to mind the laundry list of things I for which I needed to pray: my husband, family, job, future plans, friends…the list never ends. But before I began, I happened to glance to my right at our white wooden porch swing. The sun was setting and, in that moment, was filtering through the screened porch in a beautiful way. The view was overwhelmingly calming. It just seemed right. Peaceful. A gorgeous and temporary moment.

So naturally, I ran inside to grab the iPad so I could take a picture. This would be such a cute picture to post! I thought. I snapped the picture, mentally running through witty captions I could place with it (yeah, embarrassing…). I then settled back into my chair in order to continue enjoying the view and to get back to my list of prayer items.

That’s when I realized the moment was gone.

The sun had already set further, so that the light no longer streamed through the screened porch. It was still a pretty and peaceful view…but not the one that had originally made me stop and stare. You missed it, I said to myself.

I was struck by how quickly the moment had passed. I immediately began to hear quiet whispers in my heart, pointing out to me that this was not the only moment I had missed.

Moments from the weekend began flashing through my mind…

Working in the yard. Watching my husband faithfully mow the lawn. Making curtains for our bathroom. Sleeping in. Picking up a pizza just because. Talking with friends. Seeing Matt look at me like he’s always looked at me. Talking about the future. And a hundred other moments that, I realized, I probably didn’t completely enjoy. Appreciate. Relish.

Because those are often the same moments in which I am preoccupied with to do lists, fears, expectations, doubts, and insecurities. And I realized that, just as my temporary preoccupation with a social media picture distracted me from drinking in a unique moment, so also my other daily distractions can steal from the still, quiet, and priceless moments of each day.

As this realization dawned on me, familiar words drifted through my mind.

Be still, and know that I am God.

And then it hit me – how many times had I allowed the stuff of life to steal my moments with my Heavenly Father?

Worries and cares of this life will always exist. But the individual moments that give value to life are fleeting and should be enjoyed and guarded. And that includes my moments with the Creator.

So yeah, social media didn’t actually ruin my life. But I was reminded tonight to not let it – or other distractions – keep me from living in and experiencing moments that are gifts from God.

Don’t let the little moments slip away.

Be still.

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Another Perspective on A ‘Positive Abortion Story’

Recently, a video of a young woman’s abortion procedure has received a lot of attention. This woman said that she wanted to share her story with others and prove that abortion could be a “positive experience.” The video follows her into the procedure and focuses on her face most of the time. She smiles, giggles, and hums during the procedure, continually pointing out how lucky she is and how much support she has. “You guys are my heroes,” she tells the doctors. All the while upbeat music is playing in the background.abortion

The last few seconds of the video she talks about the experience:

“I don’t feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was gonna do was right, because it was right for me and no one else.”

This young woman has received a ton of feedback – both positive and negative. When I saw the video and read her story, the question that kept popping into my mind was, “What is the biblical response to this situation?”  Apparently Emily Letts has received lots of hate mail and even death threats from people claiming that what she did was wrong. Others have responded very positively, arguing that Emily is right in stating that no one should feel guilty for having an abortion. It was right for her, and she shouldn’t have to feel any remorse.

This story has caused varying emotional responses to rise in people. But the thing about emotions is that they can’t always be trusted. Feelings are subjective and can be relative. In situations like this, we need to know what is true, regardless of feeling. So I went to God’s Word and this is what I found:

1. Sin leads us to suppress the Truth. Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”  In other words, certain truths are self-evident. God has revealed himself to us in a variety of ways – one of those being through the miracle of life. We are made in his image.

This verse also says that, because of sin, men tend to suppress these self-evident truths. (Suppress: to withhold, to put an end to, to do away with). So it is possible for man to silence truth or pretend it does not exist for the sake of continuing in a desirable path that is not honoring to God (that’s a nice way of saying ‘sin’).

2. We are without excuse. Proverbs 24:11-12: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ dos not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

The thing about abortion is that people aren’t really claiming ignorance anymore. Not too many people are saying, “But I didn’t KNOW that it was a life. I didn’t realize.” The unsettling thing about this video is that this woman acknowledged that there was a life inside of her. In fact, she says that she is “in awe” of the fact that she was able to get pregnant. So her claim isn’t so much ignorance as it is convenience. “What’s right for me.”

This verse – and many others throughout the Bible, including the above passage in Romans – are very clear: we are without excuse.  We can blame our actions on convenience, ignorance, ‘what’s right for me,’ our upbringing, and a thousand other things. But it ultimately comes to the same thing – we have no excuses before God.

3. God will not be mocked. This young woman’s argument is that abortion should be a guilt-free thing. You shouldn’t feel bad for doing what’s right for you at any given time. In moments like these, it can be tempting to follow that logic. We might think, hmm…well, she doesn’t feel bad or guilty…and it doesn’t look like she’s suffering any negative consequences…so what’s the big deal?  

God doesn’t leave sin unpunished forever. The fact of the matter is that one day we will all stand before God and have to give an account for everything we’ve done (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:12; 1 Cor 3:10-15). Those who stand covered by the righteousness of Christ will experience the forgiveness of those sins and will enter into an eternity with Christ. The same cannot be said for those who do not know God. God is patient with us (2 Pet 3:9,10) – we don’t always experience consequences of what we do immediately. But His word promises that we will experience them – either in this life or the next. It is not for us to decide what is right or wrong – that is God’s role. He is God and we are not.

4. Where sin runs deep, His grace is more. I’ll end by saying what this post is not: it is not a verbal attack on a woman or an attack on anyone who has ever had an abortion. It is not an attempt to change people’s minds on the issue of abortion – God is the only one who can change minds and hearts. Rather, it is the expression of a desire that truth be known: that life is precious and should be guarded, not belittled and devalued for the sake of convenience or ‘choice.’

The Bible calls sin ‘sin’ and doesn’t apologize for it. Sin is ugly and is something God hates. But the Bible doesn’t just call us out for our sin – it offers a solution in the form of Jesus Christ. The book of Romans says that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more…” (5:20). In other words, nothing we do, no matter how great or small, will ever be ‘too much’ for God. He has overcome the power of sin through Christ’s death on the cross. Nothing can separate us from that. He can heal the deepest wounds and make beautiful things out of our ugliness.

My heart hurts for those who have felt the pain of a past abortion. Rather than trying to suppress, bury, or deny the guilt, my prayer is that those affected by ANY past sin – no matter what it is – would lay it at the feet of Christ, accept His forgiveness, and begin pursuing a life that is pleasing to Him. Christ alone can remove our guilt and give us freedom.

I have never experienced an abortion, but I have known the pain of sin – and I know, with all my heart, that Christ can make all things new.

2 Corinthians 7:10: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret…”

God our Healer, He has overcome.

 

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Uncertainty: A Short Story

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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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