Wow. Where to begin?
God is so amazing, isn’t he? Today I am once again marveling at the gift of his Word and the power of each of the many verses written therein. The inspired word of God. The Bible was written by so many people over a course of thousands of years; perfectly accurate, coherent, applicable, timeless, and unfailingly true.
My Bible is full of highlighted passages. It is evident that I have been over many of the books and chapters and verses several times, yet, God always has something new to teach me every day. No other book can do that. How much greater are His thoughts than mine!
Last Sunday Pastor Dean did a sermon on marriage and divorce. I am so thankful for the “Personal Reflection” section at the end of each sermon when he brings it right down to how each passage can be applied in our everyday lives. One question in this section was:
If you are not married, but someday hope to be, how are you preparing for marriage?
Now, I would say that, for as long as I can remember, I have been thinking about and tentatively ‘preparing for’ marriage if that turned out to be God’s will for me. All my life, my only desire was to someday be a wife and mother. And lately of course, I have been spending most of my day reading and researching and striving to put into practice whatever I learn in regards to being that help meet that I want so much to be. So, for a second I started to give my self that holy pat on the back... “I’m doing all kinds of things to prepare myself for marriage! Have been for awhile. Good job, self. I mean, I’ve read every section in the Bible about marriage 150 times! I could almost recite them backwards while hanging upside-down. Pretty good, don’t ya think God?”
And of course the answer was:
You can do better. You can do more. You’re not finished, and just in case you’re wondering, you won’t ever be done.
So Monday I started out my Bible time asking Him to show me what He as for me next. What areas do I need to grow in personally? God, what do you want ME to learn? I began to flip through my Bible and read what I had already underlined, highlighted, and marked all throughout the epistles. Did you ever realize just how much God has to say about loving one another, but in a context that did not particularly single out a married couple? How about forgiveness..."7X70 times"..."love covers a multitude of sins"..."bear with each other and forgive"..."let all that you do be done in love"..."be slow to speak"..."be imitators of Christ"..."let know un-wholesome word proceed from your mouth"...etc. I never thought about how amazingly so many passages apply to a marriage. So many times I have read the lines “wives be subject to your husbands, husbands love your wives.” And those are awesome verses. But there are so many other areas of scripture that can teach me how to put that submission command into practice, and not only this, but how to live in a manner that will build up my husband and a marriage rather than being a drain or tearing at them and slowly destroying them.
“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
Whoaaaaa. If this is directed toward the Christian Body in general, how much more must it apply to a married couple! Paul says that if you have the consolation (i.e. comfort) of love, fellowship, and affection and compassion, you should also strive to be of the same mind, maintaining love, united together, intending on one purpose. If working toward this goal wouldn’t build a marriage, I don’t know what would!
Keep on reading!
“Do nothing from selfishness, or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourself. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Do nothing from selfishness. Zilch. Nada. Quite noticeably, marriages in this me-centered world aren’t thriving. Our natural, human tendency is to favor ourselves, to look out for our own interests. What a horrible, disgusting thing when you think about it. Our culture embraces it. It encourages self-esteem, self-love, self-indulgence self-centeredness…anything with self in front and it’s likely to be labeled as beneficial to your mental and physical health in our culture. Like one of my favorite pastors says: “We’ve got an "I" problem, and need to get it fixed by the "I" doctor.” I am tired of seeing teen (and toddler!) girls in shirts that say “It’s all about me.” It’s not cute or funny to me, because that little girl is learning to think that the world revolves around her.
If I can just rant for a second, there’s even a popular (or used to be at least) CHRISTIAN song that says in it's lyrics “you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself.” Hold your horses! You mean, you ought to work on making sure you love yourself very well before you try and love others? I hope that’s not the way she was intending people to interpret her song, but that’s what I took from it.
Skip down a few verses:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
Everything? Everything! Grumbling can be done without words, can’t it. From the time I was born until now, I was trained to do everything “with a happy heart.” No grumbling, talking back, complaining or whining allowed. But the truth is, grumbling and complaining aren’t always just conveyed through outward appearances. They fester in the heart. And actually, that’s worse. I need that reminder, constantly. So many choices every day. One of them is whether you are going to grumble, or be thankful. Complain, or have a “happy heart.” Nothing can ruin your day or your mate’s day like your own sour attitude can. I know that from living in a big family! There is never an excuse to grumble. When things aren’t going right or well, grumbling will only make you (and your husband) more miserable.
One lesson I remember being taught by my parents was that, if asked to do something, I should cheerfully say “Sure! I’ll do my best!” Rather than saying “I guess so…but how will I do that? Why? I don’t know if I can.” This sort of a negative response had become a bit too common with us kids when asked to do something we weren’t exactly thrilled about doing. It wasn’t really that we thought ourselves incapable of doing the project or the favor, it was essentially that we just didn’t want to do it, but knew we’d get spanked if we said “no, I don’t want to.”
It ain’t just lawyers that look for loopholes, I’ll tell you that.
What is my default setting going to be? There is never an excuse for grumbling. Never.
I continued in Philippians and started compiling a list of things that prevent grumbling.
From Phil. 4:4-6:
Rejoice in the Lord always
Be anxious for nothing
Present your requests to God
Be content in every circumstance
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
That one hit home for me. The secret (which is not a secret!) to a peaceful existence, a peaceful marriage, and a peaceful family is ultimately a thankful, grateful, content, rejoicing spirit!
As if this was not enough, read Phil. 4:8
“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Bang. Right there. No doubt about it, God takes our “thinking” seriously. If my head is so bursting full of the good, excellent, and praiseworthy things that I see in my husband’s life or in anyone else’s life, then there is no room for complaints. If my mind is so busy praising God and thanking him for all of his innumerable blessings, there is no room for grumbling. Sorry, but there’s no room at the inn for you, Mr. Bad Attitude.
Is there anything more excellent and pure and right than the Bible? I don’t think so. So there’s another thing to dwell on. Constantly. Everyday.
The question is…am I going to be a glass-half-full or half-empty type of person? To a negative-minded individual, there is always going to be something negative to complain about. No one can stand being with someone like that (without strangling him) for more than a few minutes. I am learning to set my “default” to gratefulness, thankfulness, encouragement, contentedness, and others-centeredness. Putting this into practice every single day and in every single situation (or not doing so) will determine my daily demeanor whether I like it or not. It’s not easy, and doing it in my own strength would be utterly impossible.
Am I going to regard others as more important than myself…all the time, every time? Lord, please help me to do so!