Mourning the Death that Change Brings

I couldn’t wait to marry my husband. Most of our relationship had been long distance, and I wanted to be with him all the time. But after the wedding, I had to move from Orlando to Philadelphia. I left all my friends, family, a church I loved, and a well-established life of fourteen years.

Though I was happy to be with my husband, I was also very unhappy with my new life. I cried a lot. I cried when city life and marriage struggles got overwhelming. I cried thinking about the father-daughter dance at my wedding and how I had left those whom I was closest to. I cried because I had no friends, except my husband. And I had never suffered a shortage of friends in Florida.

I became a different person in Philadelphia. I was always so outgoing, and I suddenly grew more reserved and quiet around my husband’s friends and acquaintances. At the time, I didn’t stop and process or even admit something was wrong with me. I just tried to get through the unacknowledged struggle. It wasn’t until five years into my marriage that I could look back and see what had taken place. And I realize now that it was a death and resurrection.

Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts >>

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If Love is God, Love Will Fail

I was never any good at romantic love. I feared falling in love — being vulnerable with my emotions. I knew whoever I married would need to be a worthy man according to Scripture, but also someone I could fall in love with, and that second part scared me. As I dated my husband, two big questions hovered over our relationship:

Was he godly? Yes.
Do I love him? Yes, I do.

But it did not end there, like I had thought it would. Because I had overcome my fear of falling in love and “took the plunge,” I thought I had arrived. I thought we had arrived. Instead, I realized that, though I had fallen in love, I did not know a thing about true love. In fact, God walked me and all my fears about love through the door of romantic love on my wedding day in order to teach me about his true and lasting love in new and deeper ways.

Two Loves

There is a clear distinction between biblical love and romantic love. Biblical love is unnatural to us, so it is always worked in us by the Holy Spirit. No one loves like God without God’s help. Romantic love comes more naturally to us, and therefore happens easily.

Romantic love is a good gift of God’s common grace meant for our enjoyment, and it is good for this type of love to develop into marriage. Biblical love is a different category altogether. At its core, biblical love is selfless, committed to truth, and driven by a divine work inside of us. It never happens unless we draw near to God in Christ. Biblical love can also be expressed and experienced in any relationship, while romantic love is exclusive — designed to be expressed and experienced (at least ultimately) with one person in marriage.

Romantic feelings only scratch the surface of God’s design for us. They give us a glimmer of the ecstatic feelings God has for us, the kind of feelings that lead him to sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Biblical love takes us even deeper into that wondrous love. Our love for one another models his covenant love for us — a love so zealous to uphold his covenant with us that he will die for us, even when he had every reason to leave us.

Death is at the center of God’s love for us, and death is at the heart of all biblical love. The covenant vows we make on our wedding day are a death sentence of love. We vow to die to self, in every season of marriage, for the other — to keep the covenant at all costs, doing whatever it takes to serve our spouse’s joy in Jesus.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Made for community: The church, marriage and dying to self

I recently took my son to see “The LEGO Batman Movie,” and I was struck by its depth. Batman teams up with LEGO to show, not just the dark side of Gotham City’s villains, but the dark side of the dark knight. The LEGO cartoons always seem to depict Batman in a unique way from the other superheroes: as the loner. He likes to work alone and is portrayed as emotionally distant, egotistical and self-preserving. He’s afraid of being close or needing anybody in his life, especially emotionally. But by the end of the film, relationship and community trump individualism. Batman takes a long look inside himself and changes.

Individualism in America

Batman is one example of individualism. According to Britannica, individualism became a core part of American ideology by the 19th century. As James Bryce, British ambassador to the United States, wrote in The American Commonwealth in 1888: “Individualism, the love of enterprise, and the pride in personal freedom have been deemed by Americans not only their choicest, but [their] peculiar and exclusive possession.”

In her article for The Federalist, Heather Judd, traces back the history of individualism to the Enlightenment, where truth derived from reason and the self was exalted. Then, the Industrial Revolution centralized work in factories, which relied more on the individual for work instead of the family unit. Judd then brings the history to our present reality:

By the mid-nineteenth century, transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau turned from rationalism but continued to extol the self-sufficiency of the individual. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have dutifully followed the path they blazed, separating the individual from society, then family, and now even the self, as we question whether we have any inherent identity apart from our transitory desires and feelings.

Judd goes on to say that these historical shifts have brought our culture to a place where we navigate life from the perspective of the individual. These roots go down deep. Our country was established with the desire for independence and self-government, for good reason. And more than that, our first father and mother sought independence from their Creator. But that’s not the calling our heavenly Father has for us spiritually.

Read the rest at The ERLC >>

Chasing Happily Ever After

There is a story little girls grow up with. The one where a handsome young Prince defeats every obstacle to save the Princess in distress. This is the stuff of fairy tales and a lot of older Disney movies. Now those movies have evolved into something where the Princess is strong, not helpless, and where she is in control as opposed to things just happening to her. She even does some of the saving now. Overall, this is a good shift of the classic narrative structure, because it shows the stronger side of femininity for little girls and lets them know they shouldn’t look for ultimate fulfillment in men. We can’t place our hope in another character in the story, but it must be placed in the creator of the story itself.

The story of the Prince saving the Princess and living happily ever after is reflective of a longing inside of us. We want this to be our story. We want the happily ever after. So we search for it in a man, in a relationship, and in a marriage. But when we bank on finding ultimate happiness in a boyfriend, fiancee, or husband we place them on a pedestal and put burdens on them they were never meant to bear. I didn’t realize I had put my husband on a pedestal until five years of marriage when he came crashing down. I was deeply hurt and he became a broken statue on the floor. I found out the depth of his sin, as well as my own, and reality could not measure up to the fairy tale. I felt like I had lost my happily ever after. I wrongly assumed my husband would fill that longing for my happily ever after, and I also wrongly viewed him, and his role, as more akin to Christ himself. My husband is called to be like Christ, but he is not Christ. I didn’t have this straight when I married him.

Read the rest at Young Wives Club >>

At Home and at War: How a Woman Fights for Her Man

My four-year-old son loves to help. And I love involving him in helping me, even though it will usually require more work and patience on my part. When he helps me clean, I still need to clean up after him, and when he helps me bake, he needs more help than I do.

The word helper can conjure up these sorts of images of a small, weak child. No wonder we squirm when we hear a wife is to be her husband’s helper. It might make us think of a second-rate position hardly worth valuing. Cultural stereotypes of the “happy housewife” passed down from the 1950s have infiltrated the church and given us a reductionist view of a helper’s role. No wonder we see a helper as someone subservient because her position looks similar to the hired help of a cook and maid. Domesticity is one avenue for support and service in our homes, but often it is the only focus given to wives from the church.

The role of helper should take on a more holistic approach than just domesticity. We’re not just providing for physical needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well. Our help is not limited to the kitchen and laundry room. God has designed us in such a way to help our husbands in multi-faceted ways.

God saw that Adam needed something else besides him. Adam was not fully equipped on his own. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18). God is distinctly calling women here to share in his work. We have a unique way to showcase a part of God’s character — the way God helps his people.

Spirit-filled help in marriage looks like God, not like a four-year-old.

God is calling us to be a helper like he is a helper. If God himself is a helper, then we know what he has called us to is something founded in power and strength. A helper who follows God’s pattern of helping pursues her husband, fights spiritual battles in her home, and loves with a strange, but real, formula of boldness and meekness.

Read the three points at Desiring God >>

Dream Weddings and Our Search for Wholeness

The gleam of a sparkly new ring, the rustle of satin and lace, promises made in tender budding love, and the glistening eyes of the groom as he beholds his bride are what make up the wedding dream. It’s the archetypal story of the princess who finally found her prince charming, and it all feels so perfectly magical. Weddings have long been a symbol of covenant relationship, but they seem to have morphed into something different, something more of an obsession. The dream wedding has become the utopia we all long for. It’s become the mirage we all envision and long for in this dry desert of a world—we think surely this will make me happy; surely now I will be complete. But as we walk through to the other side, we find ourselves still in the desert. We find ourselves still battling feelings of being incomplete, undone, and unsettled. Was it the wedding that failed to deliver? Was it the wrong bride/groom match-up? Was it the wrong timing? Nagging doubts demolish the fantasy of the dream wedding once real life resumes. The whole thing sets us up for a very disappointing post-wedding reality, scattering around us the casualties of disillusionment in the form of divorce.

But that sad reality is not what we think about, often because that’s not what the culture-at-large focuses upon. Our cultural wedding obsession is evident in the vast amount of reality shows dedicated to the big day. According to psychotherapist and divorce coach Micki Wade, “Shows like ‘Bridezillas’ and ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ have encouraged a cultural fascination with weddings, but it is our own entitlement that causes us to obsess over a one-day event…There is a much more materialistic emphasis today on the wedding.”

If you’ve ever planned your own wedding, or helped someone planned one, you know the cost is high. Each year in the United States, about 2.5 million people get married, and the industry is estimated to be $60 billion ($300 billion globally). The average wedding cost in the United States is $26,645. Couples typically spend between $19,984 and $33,306, but most couples spend less than $10,000. Money is where it’s at in the wedding industry. A quick scroll through Pinterest will help you find anything and everything wedding related: centerpieces, dresses, bouquet arrangements, photo booth ideas, favor ideas, themed cakes, table settings, and the perfect candy and dessert table spreads. Weddings are no small affairs and become the focal point for a couple once they decide to commit.

“The wedding is, on the one hand, a healthy way of making a public commitment to each other and acknowledging that you’re part of a web of family and friends that helps to nourish the relationship,” says Stephen Fabick, a consulting psychologist who specializes in conflict resolution. Planning the big day together can also build teamwork as a couple, preparing for a unified life. But when the main focus is the wedding, and not growing together as a couple, then the couple is set up for disillusionment, just like Fabick continues to say, “But on the other hand, it preps like a cancer, where the focus is on the show and not the long-term or reality of the relationship.”

In addition to the burgeoning wedding industry, we can also see this wedding obsession play out in the tabloids littering store checkout lanes. Personally obsessing over our own weddings isn’t enough; we also obsess over the preparation and planning of countless celebrity weddings, even those across the pond. Remember Prince William and Kate Middleton’s royal wedding? They literally embodied the archetypal story of Prince and commoner-turned-Princess; hopeless romantics everywhere swooned. And then there was the highly publicized wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries the same year as Kate and William. Although Kim and Kris are far from royal status, their following is just as grand. Both weddings were major media events, with coverage on everything from the dresses to the guest lists to the receptions. Sadly, it only took 72 days for the Kardashian–Humphries marriage to end in an equally publicized divorce. And here we have the cultural dichotomy of wedding obsession and the common reality of painful divorce.

Read the rest at Christ and Pop Culture >>

Marriage is Not About Me

All my girlfriends were in a desperate frenzy to find a husband, and I was the fish swimming against the current. I gave a resounding “yes” to Paul when he said, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

But my upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision. I was afraid of marriage. I was afraid of getting hurt.

Though I wanted to remain single (sometimes selfishly), God kept putting marriage on my heart. I sensed he wanted to give me a gift, but in my heart I kept resisting him. To me, marriage looked mostly bleak and dark. I didn’t want to be put in a vulnerable position, because I wanted a life without personal pain and heartache.

Then I met my future husband.

As I confronted my fears in our dating relationship, I kept walking ahead with faith in my Father. God gave me peace to trust him on that path, and the end result was marriage.

But a few years into marriage, I began to question again whether it was truly a gift. Aren’t gifts supposed to make you feel good?

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

The Identity Beneath Your Identities

I was strongly rooted in my singleness. I was content in that season. I had grown up in the same city for thirteen years with many friendships built along the way.  I was a leader among the youth and singles in my church. But then I married my husband, which meant moving out of my parents house for the first time and leaving the rest of my family and friends to move out of state. When I moved from Orlando to Philadelphia I didn’t know anybody unless they were friends of my husband, and everybody knew me as his wife. I had also just graduated college and couldn’t find a good job in my new city. I experienced a multitude of quick transitions at once, and I had an identity crisis. I didn’t know what to do with my life except clean our one-bedroom apartment, wash and dry our clothes at the laundromat, grocery shop, and attempt cooking. Growing into a wife away from home was lonely.

When I did finally find a job I was pregnant two months after I started. I stayed home after our first son was born, and just when I was getting comfortable with the new me, my identity changed again. I had a traumatic birth experience and a battle with baby blues my first month home with my newborn. On top of that I was adjusting to the constant demands of a nursing baby who kept me up at night. I was being stripped of my independence, learning about true sacrifice and the strength of a selfless life.

My identity changed when I moved and became a wife and then a mom…

Read the rest at For the Church >>

If He Does Not Love Jesus, He Will Not Love You

Latest article up on Desiring God >>

Growing up in church as a young single woman, I heard a phrase about men I might date, “Make sure he loves Jesus more than you.”

I thought, “Well, of course,” and glossed over the cliché without really thinking about it. Adam, walking in the garden with God, would have been perplexed by that advice. For him, there would have been no competition for his heart and mind, because God gave Eve to him in a perfect and sinless world…

A Dangerous Fairytale for Future Wives

As little girls we might have pretended to be a damsel in distress — held hostage by a fire-breathing dragon, and saved by a knight in shining armor. We grow out of pretending, but as women we still tend to gravitate towards romantic books and movies.

The thing we love most about a fairytale romance is the happy ending. No matter what the ups and downs, the guy and girl always make it in the end and achieve romantic bliss. It’s so neat and clean, and perfect. Yet, the romance books and movies are just pretend. They deliver us a modern fairytale: the American Dream that comes with a successful career, two children (a boy and a girl, of course), a faithful and devoted husband, good health, and an abundance of wealth and material possessions.

But what happens when reality doesn’t line up with our hopes and dreams? What if the real story of our life and marriage disappoints us? Is our knight in shining armor who we thought he was when we married him? Can he save us from the dragon?

Read more at Desiring God >>

The Daily Work of the Spirit

Growing up in the church I was familiar with ministry nights. I also grew up experiencing the full gamut of Christian conferences and retreats. These events included extended times of prayer and worship accompanied by serene guitar strums and low lighting. Sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit felt as effortless as the melodies falling softly on my ears. These felt like special times when God would reveal himself to me in my stillness, and the Spirit would convict me of sin and help me set my sights on Christ.

These organized events can be refreshing and beneficial, but I’ve realized I should be seeking ministry from the Holy Spirit at all times. The Spirit’s ministry doesn’t have to be still, quiet, peaceful, and at a scheduled time. The Holy Spirit works in the mundane everyday moments of life — the nitty-gritty daily grind.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Do Not Fear the Hard Things of Marriage

The picture in my head was clear, the image of a sheep being guided along from the rear by its shepherd. The sheep stayed the course on the straight path by the taps of the staff to its hindquarters. I heard the Lord say: “Do not fear, I will guide you and protect you.”

God was speaking to my heart as I confronted my fears of marriage. I was dating my husband at the time and fear tethered me back from going forward in the relationship. I was afraid of putting myself in a vulnerable position, because it could possibly lead to hurt. I wanted a life devoid of personal pain and heartache. I wanted to take my own hands and shelter my heart, instead of placing it into the hands of my Father…

Read the rest at desiringGod.org >>

Dispelling Our Fear of Submission

Before I was married, I thought fulfilling biblical roles in marriage would look like a paint-by-number picture. My husband and I would both know exactly what to do, and our marriage would take off in the right direction on its own.

Now I see roles in marriage more like an inspired work of art: It takes time, thought, practice, some messy spills, and mental roadblocks. But with each brushstroke applied to the canvas, a picture of colorful beauty begins to take shape. Unlike the hard and clear-cut lines of a paint-by-number picture, the colors on this canvas bleed together in a way where distinction isn’t always obvious, but a glorious harmony emerges.

Before marriage, I also viewed the submissive wife as a shadow which loomed over me as Scrooge’s ghost of Christmas future. In my misconceptions, Ephesians 5 sounded like the rattling of Jacob Marley’s chains. Yet, three things helped me to dispel the fear of submission.

Read more at Desiring God >>

Adversity Can Drive Our Affections to Christ

I didn’t want to get married. But I knew I was turning away a gift from God. Fear was gripping my heart as I resisted the gift of marriage. I knew it would be hard work and I would get hurt in the process. I thought thinking about marriage in terms of a gift meant adopting a sentimental view: a dozen red roses, date nights, dinner and wine, romantic picnics, and late night pillow talk. Maybe the romanticized view of marriage would elevate my negativity? After five years in my marriage I’m just now learning what that gift actually means.

Read More at For The Church >>

Helpers for Unfinished Husbands

My husband recently saw the spectacular Victoria Falls in Zambia. I said my husband because I was not there to witness the beauty and glory of such a sight, although he did text me a photo. I was grateful for the kind gesture, but it did nothing to keep me from longing to be there in person.

I could see sunrays beaming through the upper half of the falls, creating a rainbow in the watery mist. Yet I couldn’t hear the thunderous crashes of the water careening into the ocean below. I couldn’t experience the feelings that well up when our senses are bombarded with wonder like a massive waterfall. I saw a fraction of the majesty on my phone. I love that he sent me the photo, but it was a poor representation of the real thing.

In much the same way, my husband is called to represent the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ in our marriage. But I have to remember he’s just a photo — a representation, an image, a sketch of the real thing. Our husbands have a great and glorious calling to be like Christ for us.

Read more at DesiringGod.org >>