Whenever someone gets married, we say they are "taking the plunge," or making a "leap of faith." Everyone recognizes that going into marriage, you can't possibly know everything about the person that you are committing to spend your life with, and yet, we do it anyway. We admit we don't know it all, but that what we do know is enough.
In the Bible, in the letter to the Hebrews, the 11th chapter and 1st verse, we read that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," and in the sixth verse of the same chapter we learn that "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." As a parent, this makes complete sense to me: without my son having faith in me, he will never please me. Never. His faith in me is the evidence that we have a good relationship, that he acknowledges my love for him and my good intentions toward him. If he continually questions me and never trustfully relaxes in my presence, how could I ever be pleased with that relationship? It is the same in our relationship with God, our Father, and rightfully so.
Similar to marriage, if we have committed to spend our lives with Him, what we do know about Him should be enough. That doesn't mean we stop getting to know Him after that commitment is made - most married couples learn far more about each other after the wedding day than they do before - but it does mean that we live out our days in both knowledge AND faith - growing in both, but not swerving from what we originally held to when we made that "leap of faith" to begin with.
This reflection on faith, led me to look up places in the Bible that shed more light on the word. Here is what I learned:
1. Faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7)
2. Faith results in the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:9, Ephesians 2:8)
3. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. (1 John 5:4)
4. Faith is required for miraculous healing. (Mark 10:52, Luke 8:48, Matthew 9:2, 22, 29, Matthew 8:5-13, Acts 6:8)
5. It doesn't take much faith (relatively speaking) to be able to live out life to the fullest (the size of a mustard seed would suffice). (Matthew 17:20)
6. Faith purifies and sanctifies hearts. (Acts 15:9, 26:18)
7. Local churches are established by faith. (Acts 16:5)
8. Faith brings comfort. (Romans 1:12)
9. Faith is counted as righteousness by God, which is good news because there is no one who actually IS righteous, not even one. (Romans 4:5-20)
10. Faith is the key that grants us access to God's grace. (Romans 5:2)
11. Things that don't come by faith, are often sinful. (Romans 14:23)
12. Faith exercised apart from love is worthless. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
13. There is only one true faith. (Ephesians 4:5)
14. Faith brings unity. (Ephesians 4:13)
15. Faith is a shield against the devil. (Ephesians 6:16)
16. God's promises are inherited through faith and patience. (Hebrews 6:12)
17. When faith is tested (and it WILL be tested), the believer acquires perseverance. (James 1:3)
18. Faith is a required prerequisite when asking God for wisdom. Faith that God is all-wise and that He willingly imparts wisdom to His children. (James 1:6)
I also learned through studying the scriptures about faith that we have internal and external responsibilities once we have invested faith in God:
Internally we are to:
Externally we are to:
It is a beautiful cycle - attending to our faith internally leads to a stronger desire to demonstrate our faith externally, and those experiences of acting on our faith in God fan the flame of our internal faith-walk even more, until 10-25-50 years later we celebrate anniversaries of faith in Christ and marvel at how much more precious He is to us now than he was when we first believed, and tell the world how glad we are that we took that leap of faith!
Tonight we had the blessing of sitting on a panel for a young adult small group at our church discussing the topic of marriage. There were three couples on the panel - one couple had been married for 52 years, another couple had been married for 22 years and Jason and I were the youngest having been married for 14 years. A combined total of 88 years of experience at this thing called: "til death do us part." I enjoyed participating and I really enjoyed hearing the responses from the other panelists to the great questions the young adults had come up with for us to answer. Questions like, "How do you establish good communication?" "How do you turn your heart back to your spouse when you feel distant?" "How do you maintain joy in your relationship?" Good stuff! One response in particular from the most veteran of the couples really made me think. When asked about red flags in dating, they responded that things were different when they were younger. You didn't have all the resources or even think to have certain discussions while you were dating... "You just got married!" "It's funny," he said. "We didn't have half of what you have today to guide you, but the divorce rate today is so much greater than it was when we were young."
It is so wonderful to have the perspective of an older generation - things WERE different then. Things ARE different now. We will not learn from our elders and their unique perspective unless they show up to the table when these discussions are had, and they won't show up unless we invite them.
"The greatest asset a church can have is mature saints. We shouldn't alienate ourselves from these dear people. They have grown in their knowledge of God and in His likeness and have learned things that only experience can teach. On the other hand, the greatest liability a church can have are saints who got old and didn't mature. All they want to do is censor and control. They are no more loving, kind or patient now than they were 20 years ago." - The Common Made Holy by Neil T. Anderson
This is one of the great challenges of the Christian life: To remain teachable throughout our lifespan and to be willing to teach as well. We do not have the luxury of remaining stuck in our own generational rut, declaring our way to be the only way. We must expose ourselves to those who have grown up or who are growing up in a different culture and context from our own. True unity and true growth depend on our refusal to settle for ignorance when it comes to the ways of those older/younger than us.
When was the last time you purposely sat across the table from someone from a different generation as yours, either to humbly teach or to humbly be taught? When was the last time you read a book about the nuances of a different generation in an effort to better understand? (Such as: The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, or Generation iY by Tim Elmore, or You Lost Me by David Kinnaman) When did you last go out of your way to seek someone out from a different generation to ask advice on a specific topic or just to hear their story?
Proverbs 3:13-18 (NIV)
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
May we never stop learning and growing. May we never stop seeing the value in those older or the promise in those younger. May we learn to spur one another on toward love and good deeds and refuse to let walls of ignorance be built between generations.
"Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future, and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and the flowers and the rolling
hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent. These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and in your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.
But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not
even be true, but sometimes it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies.
Noël and I have come to believe that the combination of forbearance
and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. That’s where you shovel the cow pies.
You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a
lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more
to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that
because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all
in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell
it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then we are
going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of the
field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are
not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of
the field that is sweet.
Our hands may be dirty. And our backs may ache from all the
shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the
compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is a gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved."
This is an excerpt from John Piper's book, This Momentary Marriage. It is my favorite book on the subject of Christian marriage and it is a resource that Jason and I rely on HEAVILY when offering premarital counseling sessions. I pray that you can find your own way to keep the "cow pies" where they belong - in the compost pile, and that you pitch your tent far from that place.
PS - Congrats to our friends Jared and Emmy on their recent wedding and many blessings to Sabrina and Emily and their grooms as they make final preparations for next week's big events! We are blessed to have you in our lives.
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):
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.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!