Four Things I’m Learning

“Why have you stopped blogging since you got married? I want to hear what you’re learning!”

I was surprised by this question from a friend. I’d assumed that the last thing they wanted was to hear my new and naïve thoughts on marriage! But I’ve missed blogging, and there are lots of things I am thinking through. Here are four:

1) God’s wisdom and ways are so good!

This shouldn’t be a surprise of course, yet one of the things that Tim and I have been struck by is the wisdom and goodness of God’s design for marriage. Society offers numerous views and options, and today many are suspicious or outright incredulous that marriage can possibly be a good thing. Surely it’s just too fraught with difficulty, unpredictability, and potential heartbreak? Some of our friends think we are unwise to commit to lifelong marriage (and crazy to wait for physical intimacy until the wedding day!)

As Christians we decided to trust in God’s wisdom by obeying him even though we were scared. We’re grateful for the friends who have modelled marriage to us and reminded us of its goodness. We’re just at the beginning, but we’ve already seen profound wisdom in God’s design, and been so blessed by marriage so far that we feel ashamed of our doubts! When we’re fearful about the future we remind each other that God promises to help us.

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.” Psalm 25:9-10 

2) I have a god complex

Whether you have a housemate or a spouse, you quickly become aware of things that aren’t done the way you like them! It’s been shamefully revealed that I want everything and everyone around me to fall in line with my desires and preferences. What’s a helpful gospel response to this? Well, instead of being quick to complain or to push my agenda, I can accept the reminder that I am not God and so I can’t require everything to orbit around me! In fact, having my own way (in effect being worshipped) can’t satisfy anyway, because I was made to serve him who is infinitely greater and more worthy of worship. This frees me to show grace and consider others rather than seeking my own fulfillment.

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,” Philippians 2:5-7

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3) We need other people to challenge us

One of the things I was nervous about as we prepared for marriage was conflict. It’s a necessary but uncomfortable part of any real relationship. Yet, unexpectedly I find myself flourishing as my husband questions and challenges me. I’m fortunate to be married to a kind and patient man who challenges me more gently and less frequently than I deserve, but I can already see how key it is, and that it’s part of our love for each other to point out when one of us is wrong, unwise, or failing to see the bigger picture. I’ve still got a long way to go in this area, but it’s been encouraging to see how difficult discussions can actually lead to helpful change and growth.

And in relation to this …

 4) I can change

When I was a young adult I was used to changes in my circumstances, knowledge, skills, and personality. I was still growing and developing, and so I expected it, enjoyed the adventure, and tried to cultivate positive change in my life. However I’ve noticed as I’ve moved into my thirties that I’m much more change-averse . I make excuses, and  believe that when it comes to some things I simply can’t! And yet change is still a crucial process.

Marriage forces change. It brings a radical change in circumstances, and effects change in one’s habits, character, and countless other areas. It’s a process which is uncomfortable at times, yet exciting and fruitful. So I’m repenting of my negative attitude and asking God to use the changes which our marriage brings to transform us in ways that please him, growing us in godliness and greater love for each other. Moreover for the Christian, God is continually at work by his Spirit to transform us to be more like Jesus Christ. That’s change which I can embrace!

Can you relate to any of these? I’d love to hear your comments.

Nim

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Facing Reality

They just want to look out of the window and believe that everything is alright with the world

This was how a friend described the attitude of someone who had avoided engaging with a difficult situation. Yet she could easily have been describing me, and I felt selfish and hypocritical.

In our world of many instances of deep injustice and suffering, I can find myself trying hard to ignore reality. I want to live my life as though everything is ok. Perhaps if I protect myself, don’t look too deeply into the things going on around me, and  come up with quick rationalisations for painful situations: “it was a freak accident”, “they brought it on themselves”,” that could never happen to me because of x”. . .then I can feel safe and at peace?

And so I harden my heart, restore my equilibrium and move on . . . for a while.pexels-photo-window

A Problem We Can’t Ignore

But it gets more and more difficult to preserve the illusion that everything is ok! And even if things are going well for me, will I preserve my peace at the expense of helping others? No one is immune to suffering,  and more and more I encounter situations that I don’t have words or wisdom for.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I’m a Christian, and the Bible tells me right from the beginning that everything is not ok! This world is desperately broken and so are we. We are rebels against the God who made us, and our ‘freedom’ from him has cost us dearly. No quick fixes, denials, or sentimental hopes are enough. We need rescue.

So when I refuse to  see the world for what it truly is, I also ignore the reality of the hope and rescue that the gospel provides. It’s not a vague uncertain hope, or wishful thinking. It’s a guarantee, long promised, won in blood and death, and sealed by life and the Spirit!

If I refuse to engage with suffering, I miss out on seeing God’s power at work in the world, and I may be ignoring the command of my Lord to take up my cross and follow him, and to find my life by losing it for his sake. (Matthew 16:24-7)

Courageous Care

Here are some of the biblical passages that are enabling me to boldly engage with compassion:

The whole of Psalm 46 is worth meditating on, it speaks of God, who is the shelter and strength of his people in the midst of suffering: God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . .The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Lamentations 3 describes what it is like to suffer and even to feel as though you have lost your hope in God, and yet ultimately it speaks of Jesus’ suffering and ends with these powerful words of hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 Luke 6:47-8 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

These are just a few of the rich promises that give us the courage to leave our comfort zones and boldly minister to those who suffer.

 Need of a Heart Transplant

And yet we mustn’t resolve to find more inner strength, or to develop a more charitable disposition. We must ask for the work of God to transform fundamentally self-centred and fearful hearts into those that love Jesus and serve him trustingly – hearts that follow the narrow way of the cross. Then we can throw open our windows with their rose-tinted panes and curtains of self-protection and proclaim hope to those who need it, helping to carry their pain, because Christ bore ours.

We serve in situations of suffering with the certainty that the gospel is our only hope, that it is a sufficient hope, and that the redeeming power of God is at work in this world through us, as we wait for Jesus’ return.

I’ll finish with a quote from John Stott:

“The Son of God did not stay in the safe immunity of his heaven. He emptied himself of his glory and humbled himself to serve. . .he entered into our pain, our alienation and temptations. . . he bore our sins in his own innocent person. . . “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” John 20:21″

Loving because Christ first loved me

Nim

The Sensuous Christian

sen·su·ous

Adjective

  1. Relating to or affecting the senses rather than the intellect.

Here is a quote that has been popping up in the Christian blogosphere lately – I’ve decided to share it too, because it has given me so much to think about.

It’s a passage from a book by R.C Sproul called Knowing Scripture, and he writes:

“I have often been tempted to write a book by the title, The sensuous Christian.”

What is the sensuous Christian?

“The sensuous Christian is one who lives by his feelings rather than through his understanding of the Word of God. The sensuous Christian cannot be moved to service, prayer or study unless he ‘feels like it.’ His Christian life is only as effective as the intensity of present feelings. When he experiences spiritual euphoria, he is a whirlwind of Godly activity; when he is depressed, he is a spiritual incompetent. He constantly seeks new and fresh spiritual experiences and uses them to determine the Word of God. His ‘inner feelings’ become the ultimate test of truth.”

“The sensuous Christian goes his merry way until he encounters the pain of life that is not so merry and he folds. He usually ends up embracing a kind of ‘relational theology’ (that most dreadful curse on modern Christianity) where personal relationships and experience take precedence over the Word of God. If the scripture calls us to action that may jeopardize a personal relationship, then the scripture must be compromised. The highest law of the sensuous Christian is that bad feelings must be avoided at all cost.” (R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, pp. 26-27). 

I won’t dilute this with my own comments, except to say that I am ashamed to find that I bear more than a passing resemblance to Sproul’s description.

Do you?

How might we change, or respond to this?