Friday, July 29, 2011

The Will to Love

What does commitment look like?

When is commitment most visible?

Where is commitment often seen?

Why is commitment so difficult?

Who has commitment issues?

As you know, I discussed three key components which I believe are critical for any couple to experience the biblical model of love:
  1. Commitment
  2. Strength
  3. Endurance
Many of us recognize what commitment isn’t, but do we really understand what commitment is?

I was standing on my patio deck the other night thinking about commitment when the conversation between Jesus and Peter got me to thinking:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.

Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.

The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.

Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.1

Jesus was commanding Peter to nurture those whom he now called “lambs” and “sheep”.

I use to think that commitment was something you simply acknowledge. I think I associated it with the act of joining a local church, or asking someone, “Will you marry me?” But commitment isn’t one defining moment in a person’s life. It is a succession of moments, intertwined, and linked together over a lifetime. It is an investment of me into the life of another human being outwardly express as love, devotion, or dedication. I’ve shared my opinion of Cinema Love, a love that lasts for thirty minutes (not counting commercials). In Cinema Love, there are no problems which cannot be resolved in thirty minutes. Real Love requires a man and woman to exceed that thirty minute threshold, coming face-to-face with issues in their relationship. Family, money, jealousy, lust, abuse, illness, unemployment, and career are just a few of the areas of potential conflict men and women face in a relationship.

Many of the blogs I read are written by women who have roles defined as wife, mother, widow, divorcee, child of an aging parent, parent of a child with special needs, or a single woman. It’s interesting to me how we tend to compartmentalize our life as defined by our role or identity. I never felt truly secure in my place as husband. Perhaps, I never believed my position was secure. Now although this wasn’t true and I never acknowledged it, I still believed a lie at a subconscious level. And that my friend is what I discovered: How susceptible I was to believing a lie, particularly when it concerns me. While I don’t fault my ex-wife for my insecurity, it would have helped tremendously had I acknowledged my fear and discussed it with her. This was many years ago, and I certainly wasn’t the man I am today; I was immature and not emotionally or intellectually prepared for marriage or fatherhood. I would have benefitted from a mentor, but I’m not certain that I could have submitted my ego at that time.

I suppose if we break it down chronologically, commitment began with the spoken word of God:

And God said,Let there be light,and there was light.2

And a voice from heaven said,This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.3

In the Garden, we then see the commitment of Adam expressed as:
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…4

But commitment goes beyond what you or I say. What I say is an expression of me.

Unlike God, I do not always uphold my word. This is because I fail to understand that my word represents me.

When God spoke the words, “Let there be light...5

He understood that if His word failed to produce light, it would mean that He wasn’t accurately reflecting who He is. But God will never fail to accurately reflect Himself; He doesn’t need a mirror as we do. Please understand that I’m speaking as an unspiritual man using his intelligence would think. As Christians, we all know that God’s word cannot fail because He is God. This means that an intelligent, logically thinking person would have to surmise that God upholds His word because He is God. It also implies a certain responsibility on the part of God simply because He is God:
  1. He cannot lie
  2. He cannot fail
  3. He cannot cease to be God
God has established the principle that one’s word must reflect the character and nature of the one speaking. If my word fails to be honorable, it is because I do not honor what I say. Nothing we say is insignificant, particularly when it comes to love. So many people have spoken the words, “I promise to love, honor, and cherish as long as I live, so help me God”, but they’ve failed to uphold their word.

In the heat of the battle some soldiers experience fear and the desire to run away from conflict. Those who are committed face conflict because they understand their purpose and role. Many people when describing what went wrong in their marriage confess, “We just grew apart over the years.

But commitment doesn’t create distance between a man and woman; it actually enables a man and woman to forge ahead, accurately establishing a bond of unity that reflects their love.

I regret saying this, but I was always committed to my career at a level which I never fully grasped in my marriage; yet I thought I was fully committed to both. We can easily see the level of commitment someone else has, but too often we don’t see our own level of commitment from those same set of lenses. I’m certain my ex-wife realized this and found it frustrating. Unfortunately, by the time I realized it, she no longer needed me fully committed.

I’ve come to realize that it not the things which occur in my life that define me, it’s my response to those things. I’ve also come to realize that reasons and explanations mean nothing in the aftermath of a failed marriage. Who was at fault is a question that requires no answer. Two people joined together, and two people separated.

I think about Paul’s reflection on Israel’s rejection of Christ (Romans 9:1-5). Paul didn’t curse Israel for their actions, he didn’t want to see Israel punished; he prayed for Israel. I don’t know if my ex-wife prays for me, but I pray God’s blessings over her life; I want her to be genuinely happy.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. John 21:15-17, NIV
  2. Genesis 1:3, NIV
  3. Matthew 3:17, NLTB
  4. Genesis 2:23, NIV
  5. Genesis 1:3, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  3. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  4. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  5. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  6. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  7. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  8. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896


Friday, July 22, 2011

An Examination of Love (Part 3)

Love Scene Investigation

Just as there are a myriad number of reasons why people get married, there are an infinite number of reasons to love. But in examining the biblical model, I’ve seen a consistent pattern of characteristics which are revealed in the life of husbands and wives. These characteristics form an impenetrable barrier that is impervious to destruction, deception, and the death of love. The three characteristics I believe are consistently revealed in a loving relationship are:
  1. The commitment of love
  2. The strength of love
  3. The endurance of love
The Endurance of Love:
What is it that sustains love?
How is it that love endures?
Where does one find an enduring love?
Who is capable of both giving and receiving that kind of love?
When is that kind of love revealed?
Why is it that not all know the depths of that kind of love?

These are questions I pondered, hoping to find answers that would transform me into the man God desires me to be; a man after God’s own heart. While I've not yet attained my goal of the upward call of Christ (Philippians 3:14), I press on because it is my hope and desire to hear Him say, “Well done!” (Matthew 25:21)

I believe these questions on love are necessary because they demand to be answered. They place us at a fork in the road where we must choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Yes there are expectations from any kind of relationship, but expectations don’t always demand answers. Love demands answers. Love makes one accountable for what I choose to do. For two people in a casual relationship, they may have the fleeting thought of tomorrow, but there is really only today for them. Love requires two people to look into the eye of tomorrow and answer whether they see one another through that same lens.

I thought about something a married woman said to me about her neighbor who was home alone waiting for some guy to call her, “While my friend is waiting for a sign of commitment, my husband and I kiss again and say, I love you.Love demands commitment, doesn't it? How could it be love otherwise? Commitment contains its own version of passion; it is the passion of endurance. If there is one thing that will test the measure and mettle of love, it is time. Time is the great equalizer, because it levels off all the excess and fluff; leaving you with only a foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). Everyone has a foundation, but not all foundations endure. Without the ability to endure, love is only temporary. It is like a seed resting gently on the surface of the ground, only to be scorched by a blazing sun, blown away by a gust of wind, or plucked away by a scavenging bird. There are so many things that can exert pressure on a marriage that determines whether the love of a husband and wife can be sustained; it will not endure unless they are both committed to love, nurture and care for each other.

I was talking with a friend about the topic of love and I asked her, "Why is it a woman can love her child, be accepting and tolerant of her child, be patient with her child, be forgiving of her child, be understanding of her child, yet she seems so incapable of giving herself in these areas to her husband?" Her response was not only obvious, it was it was also honest and sincere. She expressed that there is the time and nurturing aspect between a mother and child that does not exist in the relationship between husband and wife. As I thought about her response, I realized how important it is for husband and wife to nurture one another. I don't mean from a parent/child concept, but an adult version of genuinely nurtured love.

Us guys don't give much thought to the concept of nurtured love, probably because we view it from a gender functional definition; but we guys need to be delivered from our archaic notions of love. We must be strong enough and committed in order to express our love in a way that nurtures our spouse. I believe this is true for some of you sisters out there as well. If you're not comfortable expressing love for your spouse through an attitude of nurtured love, then you need to get busy. Nurtured love of your spouse not only transforms you, it also transforms your spouse into someone who recognizes the quality, character, and value of love in their life because of you. Subtract you from the equation and what do I have? I'm like Adam all over again (Genesis 2:20, Genesis 2:18).

When two people grow old together in love, they’ve learned the lessons of endurance. It's easy to see that a husband no longer looks solely at the external appearance of his wife, who had such beauty as a young woman. His wife no longer sees a man with broad shoulders and ripped muscles. What they now see is not visible with the eyes, their love has exceeded the boundaries of physicality; they are no longer imprisoned by their perceptions. Perceptions are deceptive. Someone you see may not be who they really are, once you get below the surface of their exterior. It doesn't make them unlovable. At one time or another, those of us who say “Yes”, to the question, “Are you in love”, were indeed unlovable.

I'm going to personalize what I'm saying here because it will hopefully illuminate what I'm trying to say. When I talk about being unlovable, I don't mean to say that no one wanted to love me; I simply didn't make loving me an easy endeavor. For example, I wasn't an easy person to communicate with. I was suspicious and guarded about the motives of anyone who sought to learn about me. Now I use to tell myself this it was because I grew up in Chicago, a place where people turned out to be deceptive, manipulative, and envious. Now, I felt totally comfortable with members of my immediate family, but since we were all indoctrinated into an ideology of trust, I interpreted it to be mistrust. So while my grandmother taught me not to trust strangers, I expanded my scope to be inclusive of everyone; including to some degree her, my grandfather, mom, and brothers. I just didn't reveal what I was thinking or feeling to anyone. So loving me was difficult and challenging. I made it difficult because I constructed an emotional minefield and obstacle course for anyone seeking to get close to me. OK, that's my version of Truth or Dare!

I’ve come to realize that in love, you at some point stop looking merely at the external qualities of a person. This doesn’t negate that a beautiful woman isn’t desirable. I’ve never met a man that failed to acknowledge the beauty of a woman. I doubt that you’ll find a shortage of women that want a good looking man; but both men and women eventually give way to time. Time strips away those looks. We gain weight in places that expose us. We lose hair in the most visible part of our appearance, and we find those follicles growing in unwanted areas of our body. Our faces begin to show the wear and tear of time and sometimes, the effects of how we have lived. I realize that over time, it becomes easier to look beyond the surface of who a person is, and love them for who they are. Those who realize this early in the marriage relationship are way ahead of the curve, because they know, “it’s not what's up front that counts”, “that image isn’t everything”, and “looking good, doesn’t make it good”.

When you love someone, you learn to look beyond their flaws, their frailties, and insecurities, and love them anyway; come rain, shine, hell or high water, you still love them. That's a love that endures. And it's not in a word, because words become shallow and forgotten. It's in a life committed to living with and loving someone. It doesn't mean they never get on your last nerve, because there will be times when they do, and believe it or not, you are just as capable of aggravating them. In spite of that nerve-wracking aggravation, you're still, loveable old you. Maybe you'll evolve and become less of a pain, but you're still loved in spite of it; and that's the really cool thing about love, it endures.

A lot of things fail in this life. Cars break down, food spoils, memberships expire, and things sometimes just need to be replaced, but love hangs in there. Love doesn't give up, and love won't wear out. Long before Eveready ever started their advertising campaign with that bunny, some guy, in love with some girl, sat in an advertising strategy meeting, as he and others tossed out ideas for a client. As he sat there thinking, he thought about the fact that despite all the grief he’d given his wife over the years, she somehow managed to hang in there with him. How many times had he forgotten her birthday or their anniversary? How many evening dinners had he missed because he chose to work late? When would he keep that promise to take her on that trip she always talked about? She didn't give up on him, she didn't give out, and she kept going and going and going. Suddenly, he jumps to his feet realizing this woman loves him unconditionally, and he’s so excited because he knows what to tell his client. All eyes are on him, watching this man make a fool of himself, imitating a bunny with an inexhaustible supply of energy. He looks at the client and says, “Eveready Batteries…they keep going and going and going…

The client sits there quietly, as silence envelopes the conference room. He looks at this man, waving his arms, and twirling around in circles and says, “I love it!

When he arrives home, he wants to tell his wife how much the client loved his idea for a new ad campaign, but as he opens the door, she’s standing there smiling. He looks in her eyes and sees a reflection of himself, but behind that reflection is a woman with a love that endures. He realizes that she is his inspiration, her life is wrapped up in his; they are one because love endures.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays


Friday, July 15, 2011

An Examination of Love (Part 2)


Last week, I said, “Love demands commitment”, and those of you in love, know that's right! Although I’m writing about love between a husband and wife, I believe it is applicable to any relationship; be it parental love, friendship, siblings, or relatives. I’ve asked myself, “Am I capable of loving someone from the biblical framework”, and I want to believe I am. I know what it’s like to love myself above others, and as I’ve said numerous times, "I've never had a problem loving me." I never get so upset with me that I sever any concern for my life. No my friends, my love for me will never cease. But I’ve come to realize that God wants me to love others the way I love myself; unconditionally (Mark 12:13, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8). I believe love is the greatest gift in life one can give. I say this because the bible reveals what God has given, and the cost of His giving. Whether I’m giving it or receiving love, I’ve discovered what a joyful experience it is. In the end, when all else has failed, love endures (1 Corinthians 13:8).

The Strength of Love: Simply put, love needs strength; it needs your strength to endure. Let the Marines look for “A Few Good Men”, love cries out and seeks the strong; an area where husbands don't alwaysman up, and where wives don't alwayswoman up”. Why do you need the strength of love? Because if you’re not strong enough to handle the challenges that occur in a marriage, things which will sabotage a marriage, then you're gonna faint, give out, and give up. A lot of people will say, “I just want to be loved”, but they're not even close to being strong enough to give love. They have the capacity to receive (or take) love, but truly lack the ability to give it. They have no strength to give love. I really believe we get the concept of love “twisted and confused”; we focus so much onme, me, me....love me, love me, love me. We become as burdensome as that plant in the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” constantly demanding, “Feed me” with the demand to “Love me”. But real love isn't about what you're getting from someone, it's about what you're giving them; and the weak cannot handle giving.

Often, we focus on the superficial, external expects of a person, instead of the identity of who they really are. A husband may think that his identity is wrapped up in the things he acquires. A wife may think her identity is wrapped up in how she appears. While this may have value in the physical attractiveness and appeal to one’s spouse, there must be strength of love in your life that gives your identity a lasting beauty that is not compromised. Impatience with a spouse not only robs a relationship, it disfigures a person in a way that distorts how they’re viewed. A husband who lacks patience with his wife is not handsome; no matter how ripped his muscles are. A wife who lacks patience with her husband is not beautiful; no matter how luscious her lips appear.

Strength illuminates the eyes in a way that cannot be glossed over with eye shadow. Strength stretches a smile that spans time and distance. I know some guys think their wife will appreciate how you take care of your body. You lift weights, run, and push your body through a regimen of exercise; hoping that she still finds you attractive. But it takes training to change your body from flab to fit. If you haven't trained your body to lift weights, you’ll find that you are incapable of lifting very much. It takes time, consistency, and commitment to gain physical strength. You have to work yourself up to handling more and more weight. Strength of love is no different; your love strength quotient will not be able to handle the kind of weights that someone who's been doing "Love Training" needs to lift. Relationships that struggle, require strength to endure those times of struggle, part of the strength comes from a mindset that builds up through an investment of time, consistency, and commitment. You've got to be mentally tough in love. A weak-minded spouse will usually find love frustrating, because they are too selfish to prioritize love. Things always seem to rise up to the top of their own selfish love totem pole, leaving love at the bottom.

How many of you really understand the kind of strength it takes to be unselfish in love?

A lot of women (not all) get it, I believe more women get it than men (at least in the beginning); but the potential is there for anyone to have and exercise strength of love. It doesn't take much effort to walk away from a relationship. In most instances, by the time you actually leave, you've mentally left some time ago. No, it really takes strength to stay with someone when things aren't going the way you perceive or want them to go. I'm not advocating you stay in a marriage, just because you have strength of love. Some marriages are truly wrong, not because of love, but because they're unhealthy. As far-fetched as this may sound, some people just DON'T WANT TO BE LOVED. They prefer to exist as unlovable, miserable, and intolerable people. You have to be wise enough to allow them the freedom they seek, by letting go of an unhealthy relationship. A true loving marriage requires the component of strength to support and sustain the love between a husband and wife.

In order to demonstrate Strength of Love, one must be mentally tough; because, most of the things that attack marriages and relationships start in our mind. Insecurity, fears, doubts, jealousy, lust, greed, selfishness, all originate in our minds. We think about something in one of these areas, and the more we think about it, the weaker we get; it’s what I like to call theSamson/Delilah Syndrome”. We slowly give in to the demands of temptation and become blinded by the selfish desires of our appetite. So if these “things” are the enemy, how do you succeed in maintaining strength of love? Like any opponent, you face it, acknowledge it, deal with it, overcome it; preparing yourself to face the next temptation. You have to prepare yourself for these battles; because your marriage (or relationship) is in a life and death struggle. Some marriages may be in ICU, barely hanging on with very little pulse. Some may be in ER, where your heart is frantically being massaged, so that it doesn't stop beating. Your love will either live on to love or your marriage will die; and there are no heroic deaths in love, unless it’s that cinema kind of love.

Up to now, I've been talking about what YOU have to do, but we all know love is a partnership, a potato-sack race; to the finish line. As they say, “It takes two to tango”, and if you're really “in love”, it's probably a good idea to be in a relationship that allows you to love, to be loved and grow stronger in love. It takes strength to open up and bare yourself to someone (no matter how long you've been married). It takes strength to admit you can be flawed, to admit that you were wrong, and acknowledge that you want to change. Yes, it takes real strength to say, “I WILL CHANGE”, not, “I want to change”, “I'd like to change”, or “I should change”, but “I WILL CHANGE”. Strength of love does not leave wiggle room for excuses, extenuating circumstances, or contingencies. Strength of love will “examine you” by holding you accountable, and verifying the results of your actions. Strength of love determines whether you honor what you say by the results of what you're doing. When you see the results, you’ll know that you made the right decision to love. You’re demonstrating to your spouse the strength you've gained from loving them.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  8. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  9. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  10. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


Friday, July 8, 2011

An Examination of Love


I was thinking about something a woman said to me on the subject of love:

Maybe there is such thing as true love. That cinema love, that lasts forever. I don't know, but I’m willing to find out. I know I’ve said a few things about not believing in love....

I know Hollywood studios can release an updated version of the movie, “Love Story” that gets women weeping tears of unending joy, and causes men to sit uncomfortably while our spouses squeeze the circulation from our hand. But really, does anyone really want “that cinema love”? A portrayal of love that is so lacking dimension and depth, that it's as flat as a three-day old warm soda. I don't know about you, but, I've yet to find anyone who can get “hyped” about being “in cinema love”. No, people I know want the “real deal”. Even if they have no idea what the “real deal” is, they know it isn't “cinema love”. I call it the “real deal” because it HAS to DEAL with the REAL issues and complexities of a loving relationship.

I’ve had time now to reflect upon the pain of a marriage that nosed-dived into the abyss of failure. I’ve tried to understand what went wrong only to come to the conclusion that I needed to accept the words my wife shared with me over a year ago, “I want to live alone”. Initially I assumed that she was telling me that I needed to change, but I came to realize that she simply no longer wanted to be married to me. The day she left began with her saying, “we need to talk…” I asked her what was wrong, and the words, “I’m moving out” was the beginning and end of our talk.

I admit that I never imagined a life without her, and yet, here am I, alone. I miss being in love, sharing conversations, laughter, the hugs and kisses. I miss having her as my traveling companion and confidant, but I've come to accept that what we had is dead. Accepting this fact is the first step I'm making as I traverse the desert with God as my guide. So now I’m studying the biblical model of marriage and love. I will write about this topic until I run out of words. It is not a feeble attempt to persuade my ex-wife that I’m a changed man. I just want to be prepared so that when the opportunity to love again is revealed; that I'm ready, willing and committed to loving until the last breath escapes my lungs.

From the comments that many have shared, and my own reflections, I’ve come to realize that a husband must love his wife for the woman she is. She may never become what he hoped for, but that isn’t why a man loves his wife. A wife must love her husband for the man he is. He may never become what she hoped for, but that isn’t why a woman loves her husband.

I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons why one marries a person. Beauty, wealth, prestige, and recognition are just a few, but the bible says, without love, I'm just making noises which have no purpose or meaning (1 Corinthians 13:1). So in my quest to understand the biblical model of marriage, I found myself looking at the biblical model of love. Just as there are a myriad number of reasons why people get married, there are an infinite number of reasons to love. But in examining the biblical model, I see a consistent pattern of characteristics which are revealed in the life of husbands and wives. These characteristics form an impenetrable barrier that is impervious to destruction, deception, and the death of love. I believe there are three characteristics consistently revealed in a loving relationship:
  1. The commitment of love
  2. The strength of love
  3. The endurance of love
The Commitment of Love: You’re watching a romantic movie with your spouse and suddenly she asks the question so many guys have heard before:

Why do guys have a problem with commitment?

It’s a timeless question that so many women seek an answer to, while many men try to dodge. Some guys will feign ignorance and ask:

What’s the problem with the way things are? What do you want from me?

A wife needs to know that you’ll be there with her through every moment; she needs that assurance that only comes with your willingness to commit to her. She needs to know that nothing will supplant her in your life. As strange as it may sound, guys need to know that you’re just as committed to them. Guys may be hesitant to talk about or acknowledge their commitment, but you’ll find no shortage of men who seek a wife or potential wife who will be committed to them.

It’s not a gender issue, it’s a commitment issue.

The Greek word pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o) means, to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, it means to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):--believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Commitment is the belief and acknowledgement that proclaims faith and trust in another.

Commitment does not require validation or proof, although we may often seek it. One does not earn a commitment. No! Commitment, like grace is extended from an act of love. I remember discussing my relationship with my ex and indicating that I’d grown frustrated by not only failing to measure up to who I needed to be in her mind, but the constant reminder that I had yet again failed. It was for me, a no-win scenario that reminds me of the frustration Paul wrote about in Romans 7:24. My ex-wife looked at me and pleaded, “Am I not worth the effort? I should be valued to that level that you would want to do just that!” And although she was right about being valued and worthy, she was wrong to hold me to a code of law which she herself couldn’t live by. She wanted me to earn her trust while she believed that she had established a bank account of trust that I in turn should go to when I needed to make a commitment withdrawal.

Commitment is given by one person to another. You cannot store up commitment. For me, commitment is like manna, it has an expiration date; each new day brings about a renewal of my commitment. I do however believe that each new day that my commitment is renewed brings about a greater level of understanding and appreciation of how much one values their spouse.

Commitment not only values and appreciates a spouse, commitment accepts them for who they are, rather than whom my thoughts imagine or seek them to be. So many wives and women have written me saying, “I want to be accepted for the woman I am. Although I’m flawed, I still need to know he (i.e. my husband) accepts me. I need that.

I need to pose this question to my male comrades:

Can you envision for a moment how powerfully enhanced your marriage becomes when your wife becomes aware that you not only accept her for the woman she is, but you do so from the place of commitment?

She becomes aware that you’re there, and not just for a season. You are there…periodend of discussion. Men understand words such as power, victory, and competition. That’s what your commitment brings in the marriage relationship with your wife.

Your commitment liberates you to love her.

Your commitment empowers you to love her.

Your commitment builds success in your love for her.

Through commitment, you gain an ally (i.e. your wife) who helps you:
  1. Liberate your marriage from one of legalistic guidelines to spirit-filled freedom.
  2. Empower your marriage to remain fresh, alive, passionate, and loving.
  3. Achieve success in your marriage with a daily transformation of a greater emphasis and commitment to love.
Commitment is the basis for not only loving your spouse; it is the daily affirmation that you love your spouse for who they are.

We sing the song, Just as I Am because the lyrics describe our need to come to Jesus as a flawed person; sin has imprisoned my life within its ruthless walls.

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Although Jesus has already shed His blood for me, still I ask, Lord, bid me to come to thee. Christ has committed Himself to me through the ultimate act of dying on the cross for my sins, but still I ask for that assurance, bid me to come to thee. It is what Peter asked when he and the other disciples saw Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:25-33). It was as if their eyes betrayed them. They witnessed the impossible. In their mind, what they saw defied reason and understanding. Yet this same Jesus fed five thousand earlier that same day (Matthew 14:14-21). Jesus didn’t scold Peter for making this request, he simply said, “Come!” (Matthew 14:29) Jesus lived a life of commitment; a commitment to love the Father, and a commitment to love each believer. Loving one’s spouse requires that same commitment from you.

Almighty God and Father,

As I try to understand the biblical model of love, I see there is no greater love than the love You bestow upon those whom the bible calls the children of God. What could be greater than the sacrifice of Your own Son Jesus Christ? I don't seek mere knowledge Lord, because knowledge would simply puff me up; I seek to be obedient through a conscious committment. I pray not only for myself, but for others hurt by the acts of ignorance and selfishess; choosing what only pleases me. There is a greater joy in obedience. There is a greater purpose in service to You. There is a higher love in my committment. May we who call on the name of Jesus discover greater height, depth, length, and breath in our lives and in the lives of those we love. A life that's committed to love.

Whether married or single, we have the capacity to love one another; not simply in word but in the life we're committed to live. May the love we share represent and relfect You through our committed thoughts, words, and actions. In the name of Jesus. Amen.


Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).Spiritual Sundays

References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  8. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  9. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  10. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6


Friday, July 1, 2011

Love and Submission

Our marriage is in crisis, image courtesy of Long Island Marriage and Family Therapists, http://www.limft.com

“I’ll love you if you submit!”

“I’ll submit if you love me!”

How does either position honor God?

True authority proceeds from the throne of God: Moses was a man who himself acknowledged his flaws, and yet, God chose an imperfect man to lead Israel from Egypt to Canaan. God delegated His authority to Moses. There were also instances when this authority was challenged. When Miriam and Aaron took issue with Moses by using his Cushite wife as justification for their actions:

While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?’ But the Lord heard them.1

No man should ever think that being the head in the marriage relationship is about hierarchal authority or privilege. No wife should ever think that being subject to her husband is about lower rank and limited rights. In both instances, it has to do with the willingness of each (husband and wife) to submit and obey God. Just as I question God about my wife being subject to me, I too am questioned whether I’m obeying the command to love her. Just as I question my husband’s love for me, I too am questioned whether I’m obeying the command to be subject to him.

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them,You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?’”2

It may seem so easy for a wife to believe, "I can do this better than Him", or "I can do this without him". But what you’re actually saying is that, “I can do this better than God.Is God unaware of the flaws in your husband’s life? Perhaps God has succumbed to Alzheimer’s; forgetting how prone your husband is to being wrong.

The authority a husband has is not one that can be siezed by any man, it is given by God. No man of God who loves his wife imposes authority over her; he recognizes the authority he has is delegated from God. No woman of God who subjects herself to her husband does so under the duress of human authority; she recognizes the authority of her husband is delegated from God.

Until Death: A question I’ve pondered goes back to the garden; it was there where sin came into the world and consequently death to all from one man’s sin (Romans 5:12). The moment Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she died. Some might even argue that Eve died the moment she decided to eat (James 1:15). What we must understand is that Eve believed a lie and disobeyed God’s command because she was deceived. Adam however, was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), he understood the consequences of disobedience, but he chose death rather than obey God.

The question I've asked myself is:
Did Adam choose to die with Eve because he loved her to the extent that he freely chose to give up his life?

In Adam, I see a type of Christ that represents fallen man. Adam chose death through disobedience with the resulting consequence being all have sinned, and therefore all die (Romans 5:12). Christ chose death through obedience with the result producing salvation to all, and therefore all who believe are alive in Christ (Galatians 2:20).
Let’s examine the wife as a type of church to her husband:
  1. Church equips the saints/wife prepares her husband (Ephesians 4:6, 11-12)
  2. Church performs the work of ministry/wife ministers to her husband (Ephesians 4:6, 11-12; Colossians 3:23)
  3. Church edifies the body of Christ/wife builds her husband (Romans 15:20-21; Matthew 16:18)
To what end?

That the true purpose of a husband and wife might be revealed to a world shaped and imprisoned by sin and deception. God wants those around you to see what true love is, how that love operates, and who that love accurately reflects.

What does Wives, be subject to your own husband mean?

The dictionary defines it as, one that is placed under authority. The Greek word Paul uses is, hypotassō (hü-po-tä's-sō), which means, to arrange under, to subordinate, to subject, put in subjection, to subject one's self, obey, to submit to one's control, to yield to one's admonition or advice, to obey, or be subject. This word was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

A wife cannot be made to “be subject to her own husband”; that would violate the scripture. Her decision must be “voluntarily made”, as she seeks to please God. A husband cannot be made to “love his wife”; that too, would violate scripture. His decision must also be “voluntarily made”, as he seeks to please God.

Why must being subject to Christ be a good thing while being subject to my husband be a bad thing?

Living this command out in a woman’s life requires faith; the same faith necessary for a woman to be subject to Christ in her life. When a wife is obeying Christ, she is obeying her husband as well. I see that this is more of a partnership in marriage because it takes the faith of both husband and wife, representing Christ and the church to navigate the waters of marriage.

Heavenly Father,

You have given us the example of Christ and the church to ensure that both husbands and wives share a loving relationship with one another. Sin corrupts our view and understanding of Your truth; it is only through the power of the gospel that we are transformed into the image of Your Son. We seek to be willing participants in the heavenly calling; to be a living testament of the covenant established by Jesus Christ on the cross when He died for the sins of the world. We have been made alive by Your Holy Spirit and the life we now live is a life of love and submission.

I ask You Lord to bring about healing in the lives of husbands and wives who find themselves struggling in a marriage that is lifeless, and without purpose; a marriage lacking direction. Give them a vision of Christ and the church; a relationship born of love. May they see with clarity of mind, and a willing heart that You empower them to obey the scriptures. May they experience the grace that You freely shower upon them; enabling them to love one another as Christ loves the church. Give them a renewed passion for one another, fulfilling and enriching one another.

Thank You for those husbands and wives who walk before us as living testimonies of what it means to be one. Unified in spirit, mind and body. Thank You for singles who live a life of celibacy and commitment to Christ; choosing friendship with Christ over friendship with this world. All of us, whether married or single are commaned to submit ourselves to one another. May we discover true love through submission. Amen.


Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).

Footnotes:
  1. Numbers 12:1-3, NLTB
  2. Numbers 16:1-3, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  4. The Amplified Bible, by The Lockman Foundation, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ISBN-13: 978-0310951414
  5. King James Version, The Crusade Analytical Study Edition, Crusade Bible Publishers, Inc., PO Box 90011, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
  6. The Message Bible, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress Publishing Group, Colorado Springs, CO, ISBN-13: 978-1600060250
  7. New King James Version, by Nelson Bibles, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., PO Box 141000, Nashville, Tennessee, ISBN-13: 978-0840713704
  8. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
  9. The New Living Translation Bible, by Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, ISBN-13: 978-0842384896
  10. Matthew Henry's Commentary, McDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia 22101, ISBN 0-917006-21-6