I haven’t written much lately because there are simply too many thoughts in my mind. I could start rambling as I do sometimes but these thoughts are important and they deserve time to be processed. So I have been and will be processing. Even knowing where to start is a dilemma. Mondays on this blog have been directed towards marriage. Marriage is a word we hear, a relationship we see, and a debate in the political world of America these days. Marriage can bring great joy or cause great pain. But what is it, really? Why is it so important? This is a dialogue that I don’t think we talk about nearly enough. I know that when I got married over 32 years ago I did not know “why” marriage existed. I just knew it was a part of life for many people. I had been taught that marriage was ordained by God for a lifetime relationship. I had never really thought about why marriage existed. Now, many years later I believe we have done ourselves a disservice by not fully teaching what marriage is and why it exists. I can’t help but think that if we did a better job of teaching this BEFORE people got married we would have less divorce. I have been studying this for sometime now. I do not pretend to know it all by any means but if you are wondering about my qualifications my “resume” for discussing this topic would read as follows:
- 32 years of marriage
- working in healthcare and ministry my entire adult life
- mentoring engaged and married couples of all ages
- a lifetime of studying the Bible
Please note there is far too much to talk about to cover it all in one blog post so I will just begin this discussion today. We will “talk” more as time goes by. I welcome you to join me on this journey of discovery and conviction. I would like to hear what you know and what you are learning.
This is hard subject to write about because several people that I love dearly have experienced the pain of divorce, starting with my own mother, a sister-in-law, one of my best friends and most recently our son and one of his best friends who grew up in and out of our home. We have all been touched by divorce. It’s ugly and painful at best. I have no desire nor need to inflict more pain or shame on anyone who has been or is going through divorce. That said, with statistics hovering right around 50% of marriages ending in divorce both in and out of the church nationwide it’s obvious something needs to change so I won’t shy away from this any longer.
Sacrifice is a word not often used in every day American language. And to be perfectly honest until this morning I had not put this word into this context of my current thoughts. However, this morning I was reading from a book entitled “Authentic Faith” chapter 10 which is called “Not My Will…The Discipline of Sacrifice”. The general theme of this book is living out your faith authentically. Let me say before I give you his words that although this author, Gary Thomas, often writes about marriage, that is not his subject here. Page 203 reads like this:
“…sacrificing for our faith is something we need to do. The reason we feel disillusioned about our life and faith is not because Christianity isn’t fulfilling, but because we’ve stopped thinking and acting like a Christian – someone who has sold all she has for the pearl of great value, someone who considers everything a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ. Without this opportunity to suffer we will.., “go crazy,” becoming undisciplined robots who think that relief is found in leisure and irresponsibility when in fact it comes from being wholly devoted to God’s kingdom.” (emphasis mine)
I read that and stopped cold. This pierced right to my heart. Sometime in this past year my husband and I were discussing that when people are not involved in an activity, when they are just observing an activity they often become critical. The sermon is too long, the music too loud or the kids are too noisy. However, when we are fully engaged these types of things are only minimally noticed. In fact, if they are noticed it is usually for the purpose of seeing how these distractions can be better handled the next time around. When your goal is to be a part of a gathering where you can draw closer to God and actually invest in your relationship with Him you are more focused on Him than all of the surroundings.
I believe the same is true in marriage. If you are committed to this relationship, truly committed, you are focusing on how to grow your relationship, not on how comfortable you are at every moment. I believe we are not doing a great job of teaching our children that life is not all about us and our comfort level. I believe we have neglected to teach them that the primary reason for marriage is because God created it to be a visual lesson of His love for us. Genesis 1 and Ephesians 5 both tell us that “the two shall become one flesh.” That is total commitment or being “all in”. Our nephew has been working for my husband for the past 6-7 years during his breaks from school. While he has been a good worker he didn’t always get here on time or pay attention to the weather which can totally dictate their work for the day. He is currently becoming a partner in the business. I’ve noticed him checking the weather on his phone multiple times during the day. He’s detailing the clean up of the equipment more than he ever has before. Why? Because he is “all in”. This equipment is now not just something he is using to make money. It is partially his. Couples that just live together or get married saying “as long as our love shall last” are just employees of the marriage business. If they become bored on the job or find they can get paid a bit more across the street they will move on. After all, it will be better for them, at least that’s what they think. However if they would start their relationship making a covenant promise before God that they are lifetime owners of this marriage business from day one I believe they would attend to the business of their marriage with a different focus. No one wants their business to fail. No one wants their marriage to fail either. I can’t name one couple who on their wedding day said I want my marriage to fail. However we all know that if all you do in business is work the bare minimum to get the job done and never add to the initial investment you business will not grow and more likely it will fail. The same is true in marriage but this is what far too many of us do. We spend a lot of time and money getting ready for the wedding but almost nothing on the relationship itself after the wedding.
So let me finish for today re-wording author, Gary Thomas’s thought to directly address marriage:
“…sacrificing for our marriage is something we need to do. The reason we feel disillusioned about our life and marriage is not because marriage isn’t fulfilling, but because we’ve stopped (or maybe we never started) thinking and acting like a committed married person- someone who has sold all they have for the pearl of great value, someone who considers everything a loss compared to the satisfaction of marriage for a lifetime. Without this opportunity to sacrifice we will, “go crazy,” becoming undisciplined robots who think that relief (happiness) is found in leisure and irresponsibility when in fact it comes from being wholly devoted to your marriage relationship.” (emphasis and paraphrase mine)
What say you?