Monday, September 16, 2013

The Example of Enduring Marriage

The other day Robin and I sat next to a couple who have been married for sixty-seven years. That’s twice the number of years we’ve been married, and we were very much encouraged by the joy they shared in talking about their years together. When a man and a woman give themselves to each other in marriage a oneness union is created which is not intended to be separated this side of the grave. And to see couples, such as this, endure in a world where so many people give up on one another for one reason or another is a testimony to their committed relationship with each other, a relationship in which two separate and unique people come together to love and build into each other for as long as they both should live.

Today we were blessed with a trout dinner when another couple came by to share the bounty of their catch from a fishing trip that they did not know if they would have again together as the wife is very weak from her battle with cancer. Yet they went, and though she was very tired, it was a very good day for them together.  We have been so incredibly blessed by knowing them as friends during our lives here in Grants Pass, and it is difficult watching them walk together through this season of their oneness life together as they near 59 years of marriage.

Similarly, I am mindful of my own parents who raised four children while my dad was subject to the directives of the US Navy for my entire life in their home (30 years active duty complete with deployments). Following his Navy retirement they deployed to Saudi Arabia for a new ten year adventure in a very restrictive land where they experienced many incredible things together. And after returning to the US they settled in Grants Pass for another eighteen years where they continued to serve side by side until it was interrupted by my mom having a stroke followed by other events, with my dad spending every day by her side (even learning to cook and so much more). Even when he, himself, was found to have terminal cancer and my mom was in a care facility, he continued to be by her side every day until his strength would not allow, leading to moving to Utah and spending their last days together in my sister’s living room. They celebrated their 50th anniversary together here and were both in the presence of God before their 51st.

All of these couples demonstrate the enduring nature of marriage, and while I don’t know the first couple, I do know that the other two couples endured some very good times and some very difficult times. And as they finish together they did or are doing so knowing the strength that God provides and with the hope that comes from being united together in Him.

In Ephesians, chapter 5, the apostle Paul used marriage as an illustration of the relationship between Christ and His church, in which Jesus gave of Himself that His bride might be presented without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, as He nourishes and cherishes her. In verses 28-32 we read, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." (Ephesians 5:28–31, NASB95)

As humans, born alienated from God because of our sin, we are called by Christ into a relationship with Him. And having believed that He loves us and that He indeed gave Himself fully to purchase our salvation, we accept His hand and enter into an eternal relationship with the living God. At that moment everything changes, and yet in some ways little changes. Where we were once spiritually dead, we are now made alive in Christ. Our spirit is joined with His Spirit and we become inseparable.  Yet we also have all of those things which make us unique, which includes our passions, talents, and skills as well as our junky stuff and the tendency to still do junky stuff—to sin and rebel. But Christ is absolutely faithful to us as our God who can’t do anything else, not only always by our side but His Spirit even fully indwelling us, as He builds into us and we grow in our faithfulness to Him as we read in Ephesians 5:25-27.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25–27, NASB95)

What we can’t do for ourselves, God overwhelmingly does. But this doesn't work well if we fight Him in the process. Going back to the biblical instructions on marriage we find that there is also a submission that must occur. In verses 23 and 24 we read, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:23–24, NASB95)

Christ does His work in us as we submit to Him and trust Him to do what He said He would do for us.  Where I fail as a human husband, Christ does not fail. And He even sets for me a greater example as I see how He submitted to His Father (with whom He also is fully God), even to the point of death on a cross.

We don’t bring anything to Him except for us returning our admiration and submitting ourselves to His guidance in our lives. What He asks of us is that we love Him with all of our hearts and look to Him and trust Him fully as He directs our steps as the God who knows perfectly and will eventually even bring us to perfection.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (9/16)

I designed you to live in union with Me. This union does not negate who you are; it actually makes you more fully yourself. When you try to live independently of Me, you experience emptiness and dissatisfaction. You may gain the whole world and yet lose everything that really counts.

Find fulfillment through living close to Me, yielding to My purposes for you. Though I may lead you along paths that feel alien to you, trust that I know what I am doing. If you follow Me wholeheartedly, you will discover facets of yourself that were previously hidden. I know you intimately—far better than you know yourself. In union with Me, you are complete. In closeness to Me, you are transformed more and more into the one I designed to be.

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, NASB95)

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:13–16, NASB95)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18, NASB95)

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