Do you ever feel tempted to play God? To take over? To make something happen the way you feel strongly it should happen? To get involved in the “how” of something that you feel confident in the “what” or “why” of? You have!? Want to be best friends? I am tempted to do this on a regular basis.
I once took a strengths assessment and discovered that one of my greatest strengths is my sense of responsibility. That sounds good, right? Don’t you want to have people in your life who have a strong sense of responsibility? Who won’t bail on you in the middle of something? Who will take ownership over a task? Who will not drop the ball? Who think ahead and count the cost before committing? That sense of responsibility has served me very well these past 39 years – it helped me get good grades in school, complete my college degree, be a faithful spouse, a devoted mom, a dedicated employee. It has helped me stay on top of finances and keep the housework from getting completely out of control. Not a bad strength to have!
So what is lurking on the flipside of the coin of responsibility? For me, it is a tendency to want to control things that are either beyond my ability to control or exceeding my right to control. As a responsible mother, I want to raise my son with attention to detail – I don’t want any character issue, health need, spiritual discipline, or mental aptitude to go unnoticed or unattended. Why? Yes , because I love him, but also because I feel responsible. The danger comes when I take my responsibility to far. I stop focusing only on my responsibility to do the right thing in a given situation and, in addition, take on the responsibility for the outcome of the situation as well.
To be responsible for myself: my actions, attitudes, and words; is a wonderful thing. To take on the responsibility for anything beyond that is where I start to get into trouble.
In a scientific research environment, experiments are conducted to arrive at conclusions that can lead to helpful solutions to difficult problems. Lots and lots of experiments are conducted before the solution is reached. In order to get the specific desired outcome that they are looking for, scientists isolate all the different variables that could have an effect on the outcome of the experiment. They do this in a sterile environment where they control every possible variable. That way when they complete an experiment, they know exactly how and why the result was achieved and they can replicate it.
My overreaching sense of responsibility would LOVE for life to take place in a controlled, sterile environment. I don’t know about you, but in the complex world I live in, I can do all the right things and still end up with a result that is riddled with the effects of all the variables I couldn’t control along the way… variables like other people’s actions, attitudes, and words, my own limited understanding and perception, and the effects of an unseen spiritual war that is going on all round me at all times.
Repeat after me: “I am only in control of myself! I cannot control any other person on this planet without eventually hurting them. I cannot control every variable. I cannot control other people’s priorities or their desires. I cannot control the outcome of any situation, only my role in it.”
Responsibility is a wonderful attribute, but taking responsibility for things that are clearly God’s responsibility is, at best, setting me up for frustration and, at worst, paving a road that leads to deception and destruction. I think I need to create a pin board somewhere in my mind for my “Junior God” badge. Any time I find myself overstepping my bounds, I’ll remind myself to head to that pin board and hang that badge back up where it belongs. There is no such thing as a Junior God, but there is such a thing as a “dearly love child of God,” and that is the badge I want to wear instead.
How about you?
This picture of us was taken at a wedding reception we went to recently (Hi Nate and Ashley!). The couple had this great stand set up with floating picture frames, their monogram and the date of the wedding along with a table full of props and a camera on a tripod that had a timer feature. As the wedding guests got brave enough to venture over and give it a try, the results were pretty fun and produced some great shots (that the newlyweds wouldn't have had otherwise) of their family and friends (which I'm sure were fun to look through after they returned from their honeymoon).
I don't know where they got this clever idea, but I've noticed lately that creative wedding ideas ABOUND on the internet. We know several young couples who are getting married this year, and the wedding planning is in full force. Here are some of the ideas that I've seen lately online (stay with me, there is a point to all of this):
- Mason Jars can be used as lanterns or as centerpieces.
- You can preserve the petals from your bouquet and put them in a clear glass/plastic Christmas ornament as a memento.
- If you are having a beach wedding you can give away inexpensive flip flops to your guests as a useful party favor.
- Sparklers or bubbles create some great get-away photos.
- Stringing clothesline or twine between trees or posts and using clothespins to hang Polaroids or other photos of the happy couple and wedding guests is a great conversation piece.
- Having things for guests to do at the reception while they are waiting on the happy couple to arrive is good - mad libs or board games are popular options.
So many great, creative party planning ideas abound! The ideas are easy to find and as you plan, there are usually no shortage of people who will be willing to listen to all of your ideas, get excited with you about the possibilities and offer their suggestions to make the day just perfect. In the midst of all of this excitement, there are also some GREAT ideas for preparing for your pending marriage. At the end of the day, every bride and groom has to know that the wedding is only a few hours out of their lives, but their marriage is intended to last for the REST OF THEIR LIVES.
Imagine a couple putting the same kind of investment into planning for marriage as most brides put into planning their wedding! Sounds like a good idea to me. Here are some ideas for planning and preparing for a life together that honors God:
I hope these practical suggestions are helpful! I can't wait to go to all of the beautiful weddings this summer and see all of our friends' fabulous ideas for the ceremonies and receptions, but even more than that, I can't wait to see how they develop strong, God honoring marriages by the energy and effort they pour in ahead of time and throughout their lives together.
- Put time and consideration into who will provide your pre-marital counseling. I know many couples just go with the minister who is marrying them, or someone in the clergy who they feel close to. As a minister's wife, I can tell you that pre-marital counseling is a skill and some are better at it than others. The hours you spend with your fiance' in premarital counseling can either become the bedrock of your marriage or something you check off your to-do list that you barely remember a year later. Ask around, find someone who LOVES to provide this service and who has a proven track record of providing great biblical counseling.
- Read and discuss quality books about communication, role definition, money management and sexual intimacy. Read them separately and discuss them together or with an older couple that you respect. Some suggestions are: Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs; Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance, by Dr. James Dobson; This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper; His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard Harley Jr.; The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples, by Larry Burkett; Financial Peace, by Dave Ramsey; Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott; and Things I Wish I'd Known Before We'd Gotten Married, by Gary Chapman.
- Remain sexually pure. Do not give into the reasoning that says, "We are getting married anyway, what's the harm?" The harm is that you are communicating volumes to each other in these days of your engagement about what you are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the other. Marriage is about sacrifice, about putting God's will ahead of your own and putting your spouse's needs ahead of your own. Practice this in your engagement by 1.) putting God's will for purity ahead of your own desires and 2.) putting your spouse's need to know that your relationship goes deeper than physical attraction ahead of your own temporary pleasure (or his/hers).
- Pray together regularly. It may not be every day depending on your location or schedules, but it should be consistently. You are about to join your lives together, "until death do you part." You will want to consult regularly with the God of all creation who has a plan for your lives and growth.
- Invest time in your personal spiritual growth. At the end of the day, "happily ever after" only exists in heaven. Your happiness is not dependent on whether or not you get married, or whether or not your spouse is meeting all of your needs in exactly the way you want. True lasting joy is found in Christ alone. Ask God to strengthen your love relationship with HIM, to help you read His word with anticipation and insight and to grow-up in Him more and more over the course of your engagement so that you will not go into marriage putting unhealthy expectations for your own happiness and satisfaction on your spouse, straining your marriage from the start.
- Dream together. Spend time imagining your life together. Not just what kind of dog you'll get or what your house will look like, but things like: How will we serve together in church? What passions can we share in ministering to others? How will we plan to be generous? Will we be open to going on missions trips together or with our children? Would we consider adopting or serving as foster parents? Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God prepared good works for us to do in advance. See if you can discover together what some of those might be and get excited about them!
- Begin exploring your God-given roles in marriage. The Bible is clear that the husband is to be the spiritual leader in marriage and the wife is to respect and submit to her husband's leadership. The Bible is also clear that men and women are equal before God. Guys, start learning about spiritual leadership from other Christian men that you respect and start taking steps toward showing your fiance that you have what it takes to take on that mantle of leadership. When you discuss a book you've both been reading, you share your insights first! When you pray, pray first! Girls, refrain from nagging your fiance. Pray for him instead. Encourage him when he takes initiative. Start taking the initial steps toward embracing these roles and gracefully accept that neither of you will be perfect at it.
- Refrain from spending every waking hour together. You are still your own person. There is still a world around you that needs your unique personality and giftedness. As hard as it can be when you are in love and want to be together all the time, deliberately spend time apart, living your lives as individual people. Strengthen individual friendships, strengthen family relationships, and pursue your own passions and interests. These are the things that make you unique and give you things to talk about with each other at the end of the day.
- Minister together. Teach a children's Sunday School class, visit a nursing home and volunteer, practice hospitality together, lead worship together at church or for a youth group, go on a mission trip together, offer to babysit together for your pastor and his wife or other friends, serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen... the possibilities are limitless. The focus of your marriage relationship should not be solely inward. Begin putting into practice your desire to have a marriage that will bless and point others to Christ.
- Plan beyond your honeymoon. Many couples spend so much time planning their wedding and honeymoon, they give little to no thought about what comes next. Start talking about how you will set up house together, who you will invite over first to share a meal, how you will decide which side of your family you will share Thanksgiving and Christmas with this year and next (if either), how you will decide who will do which chores, how you will handle it when you have your first fight as a Mr. and Mrs., what devotional book will you use as a couple (or will you do something else to stay spiritually in tune), what things will you do to make sure that you are implementing all you learned in premarital counseling, etc. Luke 14:28-30 says, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and do not have enough money to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'" If you don't believe that this passage rings true when it comes to preparing for marriage, ask Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries who were ridiculed by a nation for calling it quits 72 days after their elaborate, highly publicized wedding. You aren't building a tower, you are building a life. Plan for a successful marriage. Plan beyond your honeymoon!