Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reflections on 20 Years of Marital Bliss!

On October 7th, my husband Billy and I will have the distinct pleasure of being married for 20 years! “That’s half of your life,” my math-minded hubby pointed out recently. Wow. I have been letting that sink in lately, mulling over the fact that I, basically, “grew up” as a married woman. Oh, I thought I was all grown up at age 20, as I walked down the aisle, ready to say “I do” to Prince Charming. And, although I was mature in many ways, there are just certain characteristics that internally develop only through time and experience. I just happen to have the privilege of maturing along side a very godly man. I don’t regret it for a minute but time does let us look back at God’s hand of provision, protection and His “mysterious ways” with a certain sense of awe and amazement.

I am astonished at God’s loving care in even bringing me into a relationship with Billy to begin with. I was allowed, yea even encouraged, to date from quite a young age. Though raised in a Christian home, this was not during the serge of homeschooling families that were pulling away from the world. Somehow, the Lord kept me close to Him, walking in the light I had (and my parent’s light as well, I don’t blame them in any way), and leading me to Texas where I met my future husband one day at church.

Though somewhat older than me, his job wasn’t the greatest when we married and I have distinct memories of newly wed predicaments: eating off of the ironing board because we only had two chairs, a waterbed and dresser to our name…eating Hamburger Helper because I didn’t know how to cook…spending $15 on some decorations for the tree, that would have otherwise been empty, and getting a lecture because we didn’t have $15 to spare…not driving my car for months because the tags were expired and having to wait for Billy to get home to use his car to go to the store, only to get pulled over one morning on our way to church because his tags were expired too (the same month as my car!)…eating Hamburger Helper months later because I was still learning to cook on a very limited budget…playing “April Fools” jokes on each other (that’s another story)…going to watch the planes land at the air force bases for “free” entertainment…making a huge bowl of French fries, only French fries, for dinner one evening and finding out I was better off making Hamburger Helper…oh, the memories!

Somehow, we made it through all of those newly wed speed bumps, managing to remain pretty crazy about one another. Here we are 20 years later, maybe just a bit crazy--- period--- but also very much in love. The longer we are married, the more I notice that many other marriages aren’t quite as loving and happy as our own and that just makes me sad, even angry. It is a shame that so many are missing out on what the Lord has for them through the blessing of marriage.

What Billy and I have should be the
norm, especially in a Christian union but it is unfortunately quite rare. Why are so many marriages failing? Why is the divorce rate in the church the same as that in the world?

I can only speak for our marriage, not really being able to relate to the unhappiness around me. Why is everyone willing to settle for so-so, hum-drum and see-ya-later? Why is marriage not prized and valued and fought for with every fiber of our being? It is sacred, it is holy, it is designed by our loving heavenly father to be a blessing. What lies have we believed that makes so many so quick to look for greener pastures?

I can't answer these questions but I often wonder about them. All I know is what has worked for us. So, perhaps a discussion of these things could be helpful to someone else. I pray the Lord would use any of these things as needed to help readjust your focus on Him and His plan.

I will back up and begin at the beginning, (so clever), and talk to those of you that may be single or engaged. I want you to start on the right foot. You can't do things the world's way and expect heavenly results!

Purity matters. Commit to being the wedding present that your spouse gets to open on your honeymoon night. A short study of covenants will reveal that biblical covenants involved sacrifice (usually of animals, eventually the most precious of all being that of Jesus), their blood being the seal of the covenant. When a virgin joins in a union with a man for the first time, what happens? There is blood that seals that covenant of oneness. That is not some fluke of evolution but an amazing plan on the part of God the Father that created the idea of marriage and intercourse. If you have already given that part of yourself away, repent. The Lord forgives all sins when you have accepted the sacrifice of His son. Repent and commit to purity; don’t beat yourself up but don’t justify remaining in fornication either (“well, it’s too late now…”).

Secondly, divorce is not an option. It cannot be. Satan knows that the relationship of husband and wife mirrors that of Christ and His bride, the church. Division in the home allows for that much more division in the church, ruining our witness and causing the world to mock what God has ordained as sacred. I am not going to touch on strange and unusual circumstances of abuse or drug use etc. but I am discussing the normal struggles and potential lack of feelings that will inevitably come in a relationship. Those things that are beyond the “norm” would still need to be handled with wisdom and a strong desire for restoration. Godly counseling is the only kind to get for any sort of marriage crisis, in any case.

Once you commit to marriage for good, “for better or for worse”, don’t just settle for existing under the same roof. Love each other, even if you don’t necessarily feel “in love”. Feelings are fickle. They will wax and wane but they will always return, in deeper ways, when you treat your spouse with tender consideration, serving their needs, and working to make the life you have one of happiness. The joy of the Lord needs to be your strength; it is the only kind of joy that will last, regardless of the circumstance. If your happiness is based on circumstance, it is extremely shallow. Make loving your mate an adventure. Have dates. Even staying at home because you are flat broke, as we once were, is no excuse…light a candle…pick some flowers…enjoy a backrub…snuggle while watching a movie. Just doing things out of the ordinary now and then strengthens the love relationship and says, “I am making an effort because I think you are worth it.” If your spouse doesn’t seem to notice-- do it anyway. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:3-4.

Your children need you to stay married, my friend. Some may reason that it is worse for the kids to be a part of a “loveless marriage” than for the parents to divorce so they can be happy (that would be the parents not the kids). I can testify that this is utterly false. My parents had a loveless marriage. I knew I was the glue. That was ok; I also knew that they loved me enough to stay together. Though I didn’t agree with how they had just given up on being able to enjoy a good marriage, (which I think drove me to want the best from my own marriage), but they showed me that marriage was worth the commitment, if at least for my sake. Kids need that security and they need that example. Everything,
everything else in this world says it is all about us, our happiness, and if it doesn’t work the way we think it should it is disposable. If marriage is truly to be a reflection of the relationship of Christ to His church, what message does that send to our children about God’s faithfulness? One that is false, because God is always faithful, but they will adopt it nonetheless.

Finally, we all must accept that, ultimately, it is not about us! We like to make it so, I do too, and things seem much more enjoyable to me when it all goes my way, but that is another great American falsehood. It is not about us. It is about the Lord. It is about our covenant before God that should be taken very seriously. “Until death do us part,” should not be merely mouthed with ceremonial emptiness. You have stood before God and man and made a vow and that must be honored, even defended, at all costs. “For better or for worse,” really needs to mean just that. We all want to highlight the “better” part and forget we ever said “or worse.”

I recently heard something that actually spurred this article into existence. I have been thinking about it a lot. You have heard people say something like, “couples that pray together, stay together.” Sounds like a nice little quip, but is actually a doctrinally skewed statement. First off, it is a way of saying that God is obligated to us in some way (i.e. making us happy so we want to stay together) because we have fulfilled our obligation to pray. This is a “works” mentality at best and the prosperity gospel at worst (or maybe the former is worse than the latter, I can’t say for sure!).

Rather, I Peter 3:7 says that we are to be “heirs together of the grace of life, that our prayers may not be hindered.” This effectively states that we should have a marriage full of love and grace (a.k.a. committed and gracious toward one another) so that our prayers our heard by the Father. That pretty much turns the other notion on its head. Now that is something to ponder!

It just isn’t about us. It is about glorifying God in all we do, particularly this commitment of marriage. That is a high calling, but one made possible by the Holy Spirit living in us and by the love of God abiding with us. We will all stand before Him one day and give an account; that is not something to take lightly. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Apply His wisdom to your marriage and glorify Him by honoring your covenant.

I will leave you with two pieces of advice that our pastor gave to us during our wedding ceremony. They have made a lasting impression on both Billy and I and we have shared them with others many times. Simple but effective, I pray they will be a baby steps in the right direction, if you are struggling.

First, this may seem simple or even obvious but it is a quality often lost to familiarity: always be courteous. You should not be more polite to strangers and acquaintances than you are to each other. Use manners and be considerate. Men: open the door for your wife, treat her with gentleness, lead by serving, and consider her feelings in making decisions. Ladies: respect your husband, encourage his dreams, cook him good meals, do not manipulate with your emotions and try not to assault him with all 25,000 of your “daily word quota” when he walks in the door! Everyone: you can still say “please” and “thank you”, even “excuse me” when you make bodily noises!
Pardon me while I harp on the ladies for a minute…after all, I am female, so this goes as a reminder for me too! Another false quip that I have heard goes something like, “respect is not a right, it must be earned.” That may be true out in the business world but it is a hurtful position to claim in your marriage. You are to respect the position of your husband, the position that God chose for Him to have simply by marrying you…that, indeed, is the only qualification needed. You are commanded to respect your husband, and much like tithing, it should be done cheerfully, not through gritted teeth. I would highly recommend the book "Created to be His Helpmeet", by Debi Pearl (, for a well rounded study on being the wife God intends for you to be (and the natural byproduct of such obedience just happens to be a more fulfilling and blissful marriage! How ‘bout that!).

Sorry about the rabbit trail there…where was I?

Oh yes, marital advice from our ceremony! The other point that really struck us was this: My spouse can never make me mad. I may choose to get mad. However, if I can choose to be angry, I can also choose to be happy or thankful or whatever else that may be more constructive. We have practiced this and we have a great relationship because of it.

Lastly, the old adage that you have probably heard and—hopefully-- practiced is also a great habit: never go to bed angry! This is simply a restatement of Jesus’ instructions not to let the sun go down on our anger and it is the best way to walk in love and forgiveness toward each other, not letting the little things build up.

A good healthy relationship must be very intentional. I have heard it often stated that “marriage is a lot of work” but I honestly have never felt that it was so. If you focus on the Lord and on each other’s needs above your own, if you are not in competition with one another but want to consider the other as better than yourself, if you walk in forgiveness and learn to laugh together, the rest of life just happens around the peacefulness of your relationship. It will be a joy and blessing to your children as well as a wonderful legacy to leave them. Don’t be a statistic! Be salt, be light, be the exception to the rule and the couple that others turn to when they have problems. Honor your covenant and glorify God. Make Satan mad.

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.