Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons from the Front Lines

Soldiers in the Same Army

Our nephew married his high school sweetheart a few weeks ago, just days after our 25th wedding anniversary.  The ceremony was beautiful and the reception carried a great feeling of celebration for the bride and groom.   There was a message on our hearts for the couple, but sometimes, heartfelt words that are encouraging - yet paint a darker picture - aren’t appropriate to share during such a day of joy.  What we wanted to say, but decided to wait for better timing, was this:

Marriage is not merely difficult.
 It’s a battlefield. 
You are in the middle of a spiritual war zone.

You can see why we didn’t think their wedding day was the best day to share our hearts.   Since we can safely assume that no one is reading this blog post on his or her wedding day, we’ll get the message off our chests, as it were. 

We know that marriage is God’s design. He created it in the beginning along with the earth, the heavens, the waters, and every living thing.  God knew it was not good for man to be alone, so He created a helpmate – a woman – who would live her life alongside the man and journey through life with him.    

We also know that we have an enemy – Satan – who despises everything good that God provides for His children.  Marriage is a gift from the Lord, and Satan wants nothing more than its complete annihilation.  Truly, marriage is one of the things that Satan rails against most vehemently.  There is no need to take it personally.  He despises the institution of marriage as a whole and spends much of his effort trying to rip apart our God-ordained relationships.

That’s not very cheery news and, we realize, not much of an encouraging word.  But here’s an important reminder:  In the battle, the enemy tries to convince us that we – husband and wives – are in opposing armies.  When he successfully deceives us into thinking that our enemy is the one who shares our bedroom, his work is finished.  We do the rest of his dirty work for him and he can sit back and laugh at our expense.

God joined us together and no one can separate us if we lean on Him and stand firm in His truth.  Husbands and wives are on the same team – soldiers in the same army.  We fight a common enemy, and must not be fooled into thinking that our fight is against our closest human ally.  We’ll share some practical help in the coming weeks on how to lay down our swords against each other and turn to watch one another’s backs. 

If you are feeling today as if your husband or wife is against you, please pray – immediately – and ask the Lord to soften your hearts toward one another and begin to see each other as vital allies in His army.  Your spouse is not your enemy.  You’ve shared your hearts, your dreams, and your very lives together.  Stand firm for one another and trust that your husband or wife is your ally, not your foe.

Our practical help for today:  Treat your spouse as you did when you were newlyweds (yes, even if your spouse doesn’t do the same).  Speak kindly.  Touch gently.  Make a commitment to battle as one against the enemy instead of battling each other.  This will require huge amounts of prayer, but rest assured that each battle is won by partnering with the Lord.  He’ll provide all you need.

Questions?  Comments?  Please post them here. We’re here to minister tand pray for you and your marriages.  Please let us know how we can.  We know that we’ve touched just the tip of the iceberg, and we’d love to continue the dialogue.  Let us know your thoughts (anonymous comments are welcome). 

Michael & Cathy

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  
Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV)

This post is part of a series that details what we've learned over the last 25 years about honoring God with our marriage.  Click here to see last week's post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Better Than a Bed of Roses

It’s been over 25 years since Michael and I said, “I do” before God and our loved ones.  We married on June 20, 1987 in Arvada, Colorado and, while sometimes it seems like only yesterday, it was over a quarter century ago! We’re planning a trip to the beach this fall to get away and celebrate.  We look forward to the quiet and rest of a sabbatical where we can slow down, reconnect, and just be.  There’s not much I love more than having Michael by my side (unless, of course, you count the time we spend with our kids), and I’m already getting butterflies thinking about having him all to myself.  No meetings, very few phone interruptions, great conversations, lots of time to pray and study God’s Word together, sleep late, catch up on our list of “must see” movies, walks along the water, and hours of comfortable silence with my very best friend.  I can’t wait!

It is easy to make our marriage sound as if it’s always been romantic and filled with bliss, but that is not the case.  Throughout our blessed years of raising beautiful children, living life, and enjoying many reasons to celebrate, we’ve seen our share of struggles.  We’ve buried loved ones, experienced job loss, watched our kids suffer, and battled spiritual attack.  We’ve each worked to the point of sheer exhaustion and family neglect, placed inappropriate priorities ahead of each other, and wondered if our marriage should continue.  There were times we handled the stress of heartache, disappointment, and near-collapse situations by attacking each other.  Yes, we’ve experienced separation and at various times turned our back on the Lord. 

In His great mercy and abundant loving-kindness, God has always drawn us back to Himself, both individually and together as a couple.  He alone has helped us refocus on the big picture and learn to let the small stuff go.  Christ has knit our hearts together in love and deep friendship and to Him alone we ascribe the glory - not only for the longevity of our marriage, but the joy and happiness that we experience. We realize that we walk in His strength, together as a team of three (God, Michael, and Cathy). 
Our marriage has not always been a bed of roses, but I’ll tell you in all honesty, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Each trial has made us rely more fully on the Lord and has drawn us… eventually… closer to one another and closer to Him.   It has not always been fun (but most of it sure has been), and not one single moment was wasted.  God has used every second for our good and for His glory.  Our marriage has been worth the effort, worthy of the fight, and it is, without question, a gift from the Lord.

In honor of 25 years together, Mike and I, for the next many weeks, will write these blog posts together and share our best advice as a list of “Top 10 Tips for a God-Honoring Marriage.” We pray you’ll be blessed and that you’ll find these posts worthy of sharing with those you love.  We hope to offer our stories honestly, vulnerably and selflessly with you, with the aim of glorifying the One who gave it all.   

Stay tuned.  Our Top 10 List is coming soon!

Monday, July 2, 2012

100 Times More

Missionaries visiting our church this weekend delivered a beautiful, blessed and heart-felt message where I was reminded of a verse that I haven’t visited for a long while.  The concept of the verse has been rumbling around in my heart for months, but I was directed to Matthew 19:29 on Sunday:  “And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of my name will receive 100 times more and inherit eternal life.” (HCSB)

In other words, when we are obedient and follow His calling to the point of sacrificing what is dear to us, He promises to bless us by returning even more than what we’ve given.  I’ve seen this many times in my personal journey: with time, with things, with relationships, with financial matters, and so much more.  The Lord returns that which we lay at His feet and sacrifice to Him.  When we are willing to give it up, He is willing to give it back, in an even better form.    

Let me give you some recent examples:

·         When my schedule is tight and I don’t know how I’ll ever complete my “To Do” list, I still make a choice each morning to begin my day with Him.  I give Him my time and my focus.  Somehow, He returns the time that I dedicate to Him.  Sometimes I feel that He supernaturally blesses me when tasks fall into place easily, like this week when I had some special packages to ship for our church.  I did not have the correct sized envelopes and knew that it would require some shopping to get the task done.  When I arrived in my office on Friday morning, there was a large box of envelopes on my desk – the exact sized envelopes I needed, mind you - with a sticky note that said, “donation.”  I have no idea who brought them, but I smiled knowing that the Lord took care of my need and saved me the time (and money) it would take to shop.  
·         I’ve laid difficult relationships at His feet, too, surrendering them to Him to heal in His perfect timing.   While I wait, I’m often met with a renewed sense of rejection and heartache.  I had a difficult time with this just last month, but then my daughter and some in my beloved church family reached out and gave us the most genuinely loving gift.  At the end of a long weekend where I had to face a number of difficult emotions stemming from difficult relationships, we received an invitation to a dinner that –SURPRISE – was in our honor to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  The timing was all God’s.  The group told us they had been trying to schedule the party for many weeks, but the day that it finally worked out was the day it touched my heart the most.  God reminded me that He loves us with an everlasting love and gives us all that we need.  At the end of a weekend of renewed rejection, I basked in love that He poured out through His people.  I’m still glowing.

While we must guard our motivation for giving and use care that we don’t “give to get,” how have you seen the Lord return something to you “100 times more?”   I’d love to hear your story!