Archive | August, 2010

My wonderful husband

20 Aug

Marriage is like life. There are times when everything is falling apart around you and you feel like you can’t take even just one more step or your entire life might implode. Then there are times when everything is going right. You feel at peace with the world, you enjoy little things that you usually don’t notice, and you feel like your life is better than you deserve.

Right now, I’m in one of those happy times with Travis. Marriage hasn’t always been coming-up-roses. There have been hard times when I wondered WHY is marriage so HARD? There have been times when I really couldn’t handle being in the same room as the man I married. There have been countless times when I have broken down in a fit of sobs because I so fail to be the wife I want to be.

And while I still have not attained to being the wife I want to be, I have to praise the Lord for what our marriage is. Travis has been so amazing to me in the past couple of months that I am just in awe of the man I married. He cooks me dinner when I get home utterly exhausted from a long work trip. He buys me flowers just because he knows I like them. He cleans the house and does laundry when I don’t have the time. He tells me he loves me and that I’m a wonderful wife (even if I don’t *quite* believe that last part). He supports my interests and hobbies. He doesn’t get mad when I cook tofu for dinner instead of steak.

In short, he is just absolutely incredible.

When Travis and I first started dating, I remember feeling amazed at who Travis was. How he treated me with respect and love, how he went out of his way to make me feel special, how his character remained solid even in the face of temptation and badgering. I felt so blessed by God because Travis truly was everything I had wanted in a man – so much so that I really hadn’t thought a man like Travis even existed. But he did.

But despite it being Travis doing all the sweet, thoughtful things for me, I know that our marriage is God’s work. It is God who has been our hope during the hard times, softened our hearts when we wanted so much to be spiteful, kept our commitment to one another firm when it seemed like we were so at odds, given us love for one another when our hearts felt dry and barren. God has given us so much and I can honestly say that I don’t know how couples make it in marriage without God. And not just believing that God exists but calling upon His strength and wellsprings of love day after day, week after week.

Because of God’s grace, I am committed to Travis until death do us part. I am committed to supporting and loving him, to encouraging and respecting him, for our entire lives together. But when I feel so in love with Travis like I do now, when his smile gives me butterflies, his touch comforts me, and his thoughtfulness melts my heart, I feel God pouring so much of His grace into my lap that it is overflowing and covering the floor. I feel God’s work in my life, creating these emotions that my stone-hearted person of flesh doesn’t have naturally. I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve Travis. I don’t deserve redemption or eternal life. But that’s the kind of God we have – the kind who gives and gives and gives and doesn’t expect anything back. The kind who gives the most at the times when we are the least deserving.

Before Travis and I were engaged, I struggled a lot with believing that God could bless me through a man. My only experience with guys had been heartbreak and disappointment. But God has proven over and over that He can indeed bless me through whatever means He wants – and I praise Him that He has chosen one of those ways to be my husband.

Validation

18 Aug

Tonight, at my women’s meeting, one of my friends shared about how much it affects her when she remembers how she lived before she really started living out her faith. I’ve heard most of her testimony and the first thought that runs through my head is “That ain’t nothing.” It’s a big deal to her and she knows where the Lord has brought her, so it shames me that I so quickly discredit her experience because mine is supposedly better, because it’s more dramatic.

Which got me to thinking – what is it about human nature that has that tendency? When someone has a cute purse or new car, it’s not enough to just admire it and say “Wow, that’s really something!” Instead, we want one just like it. When someone gets a haircut that makes them look really stunning, the first instinct is to feel insecure about our own hair and how we look drab and boring.

While it would be easy to blame this phenomenon on society’s tendency to define beauty (thin) or success (money) one way, I actually think it’s the reverse – society tends to do that because people do that. We are narrow-minded because our pride does not allow for multiple things to be equally as good. Whatever I have is good, whatever they have is not as good. By invalidating whatever you offer, I in turn validate myself. If I were to validate anything of yours, I would be invalidating mine – so the sinful logic goes.

But with God, all things are good because He created them all and everything He created is good. Look around – God loves variety. He decided to weiner dogs short little legs instead of longer ones that matched their bodies. Why? Because He could. Are they any less of a dog than a Golden Retriever? Ask any Daschund owner and they’ll tell you no.

The same goes with conversion testimonies. Is my friend’s testimony any less compelling and amazing because she didn’t do drugs and sleep around before dedicating her life to Christ? No. She’s still a sinner saved completely by grace – an amazing thing.

Is my testimony any less compelling and amazing because hers is too? No. Mine is different and perhaps more dramatic according to the world’s standards but God sees the same jaw-dropping transformation in my life as He does in my friend’s.

Good things can co-exist. Two or more things can be equally as good as one another at the same time. This may sound trite or obvious but think about it. Think about how many people in this world live believing this is true. Think about how many Christians in this world live like this is true. Think about whether or not you live like this is true. If you really lived like it were true, jealousy, pride and selfishness would be eradicated from your life. You would feel no need to validate what you have or are because you recognize that, in Christ, everything you have and are is already validated and is equally as good as what anyone else has and is.

Especially as a Christian, what we have is Christ Himself! It doesn’t GET any better than that!

But alas, we will never be rid of this sin until heaven because this is exactly the character flaw that Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden of Eden – suggesting that God had something better than she did – knowledge. With that sin was born discontentment – the idea that what I have isn’t good enough – and pride – defending what I have because I must be good enough.

That’s just one of the reasons why the gospel is amazing. It shows humans that we don’t have to prove how valuable we are…

Because Christ already did.

Fighting against self-righteousness

16 Aug

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted'” (Luke 18:9-14).

One of my co-workers is a Christian and while she goes to church on a regular basis, she doesn’t read the Bible much, doesn’t know much about what the Bible says on specific things, and doesn’t seem to care about changing that. She also has a perpetually bad attitude, complains a lot, and has a tendency to focus on the worst in people.

I have found myself passing judgment on her, thinking that at least I try to have a godly attitude, I make Christian fellowship a priority, and I know more about the Bible and theology because I read the Bible and was very involved in a college ministry.

I know this tendency of mine is a sin. Who am I to think that I am better than anyone else? And even if I am “better,” it is solely by the grace of God. Before I was a Christian, I had no morals, no ethics, and no standards. I did whatever I wanted, regardless of the consequences to others, as long as I came out pretty well off. Any action I do now that takes others into consideration is evidence of the Spirit working in me.

But this struggle reveals something about my condition. It is the same reason why it’s so tempting to tell non-Christians stories about what a rebel I was before I became a Christian. The reason why I want to be skinnier and prettier than other women. The reason why I need to be successful in my job. 

I want to prove my worth.

I want to show others that I have something to offer, that I matter, that I am to be envied. My flesh does not think it is not enough to be loved by God, to be saved by Christ, to be validated by the One who sets the ultimate standards. I want my worth to be about me.

But I’m glad that it’s not about me, no matter how misled and lost I am about what is really important. If it were about me, I could never be sure of my real worth because everything would be relative. Who can define beauty? Who can define success? Who can define truly living? Humans try but without an objective truth, everything becomes subjective and nothing is for sure. Only God can define those things.

And only God can judge other people. My co-worker’s relationship with God is just that – her relationship with God. It’s between her and God. I cannot hold her up to a standard that I cannot attain myself. Without the Holy Spirit, neither of us are anything. But with God, all things are possible.

So instead of judging her and setting myself on a pedestal because “at least I’m seeking to know God,” I should pray for her. I should ask God to make Himself ever more real and lovely in her life, so that she desires to know Him more. I should ask Him to change her attitude, to give her the grace to give thanks always, to soften her heart in repentance, to help her focus on what really matters.

And while I’m at it, I should pray those things for myself as well.