Ramblings on Marriage

Two things happened in the last couple of weeks that motivated this post. First, I was awakened at 9:35 last Sunday morning by my cell phone playing the little salsa tune that means Nikki is calling me (personalized rings -- where would my life be without them?). She recently got married, so of course just before we got off the phone, she (being in the throes of newlywed bliss) made an adorable comment about her "hot pastor husband." Aww... It's so great to listen to her talk about him.

The second thing wasn't nearly as delightful. I went to the grocery store the same morning (my church meets at night, people!) to pick up a few things, and as I was standing in the aisle comparing B-complex vitamin prices, I overheard something that made me want to cry and pull my hair out at the same time. In fact, if I pulled my hair out, I'm sure I would cry. Moving on.

A middle aged couple couple was standing in the pharmacy section of Kroger. I probably wouldn't even have noticed them had the woman not begun lecturing her husband loudly and angrily, even going so far as to shake her finger at him! Her eyes were narrowed, her voice pinched and full of disgust, and her body language screamed her distaste for this man. To his credit, he answered her quietly, offering his help. But I could hear the sorrow and fear in his voice. I can only imagine his thoughts -- then again, maybe I don't really want to! Was he thinking back on the woman he fell in love with, wondering where she had gone? Was he calculating how many days it would be before she spoke kindly to him again?

Now, lest you think I'm too quick to judge, let me say that it was probably nothing. For all I know, she just got fired from her job, and suffers from insomnia, and is taking a new medication that makes her irritable. For all I know, this was the first time they've ever fought like that, and she went home and tearfully apologized to her husband, promising never to treat him so abominably again.

But all I could think was, what a contrast! Talking to Nikki, whose genuine respect and admiration for her husband is so apparent, was a testament to the grace of God. I have been so fortunate to be able to listen to her talk about him and hear how deeply she wants to serve, support, and honor him. In every pre-marital disagreement (and they were few and minor), Nikki always expressed her desire to submit to JD and to follow his godly leadership. I can only imagine her horror at the idea of scolding and chastising her husband like a child -- much less in public! Such a thought goes against every godly impulse of a covenant wife, and flies in the face of God's plan for marriage.

And yet so many single Christians are setting themselves up for a relationship just like the grocery store couple's! Single Christian men refuse to become true men of godly boldness and pure character that will let them fulfill their God-given responsibility to someday be the head of a home. Rather than cultivating maturity and leadership, they settle for being "modern men," surrounding themselves with girl friends and believing that being modern means giving her the lead -- nice, supportive, benign boys who will wonder someday why they never made a difference for the Kingdom. Or they live for self, misleading young women with their flirtatiousness, and seeking to satisfy their own pleasures -- boys whose god is their appetite for skin, which must be satisfied.

And single Christian women -- this is a demographic I'm pretty familiar with -- reject the freedom in the path God has made for us and believe the lie of the world that says we have to take the lead, do all the work, make up for the "stupidity" of men! We become the pursuers, lapping up magazine articles that tell us how to perfect the techniques of seduction and manipulation to ensnare men. We buy into the world's pattern for marriage: smart, cute woman marries big dumb animal of a man (who is probably also lazy, clueless, sex-obsessed, and generally a total caveman), henpecks and browbeats him into silent submission, and he whines slightly, making monosyllabic excuses for his idiotic behavior, as he hands over his credit card to the goddess of the house. (See "King of Queens," "According to Jim," "Everybody Loves Raymond," etc., for examples of this pattern.) The only difference in the minds of many Christian girls is that they'll also go to church on Sundays, by golly, even if she has to drag his sorry behind out of bed every week!

I don't want to be the woman who scolds her husband in the aisle of Kroger. I don't want to marry a man who refuses to take the lead. I want to become the kind of woman who someday will admire her husband's godly character, respect his God-given position of leadership, and work hard to support and honor him in everything. And I want to encourage my single brothers in Christ to become the kind of men that God wants them to be, so that someday they can lead their wives and families with boldness and fervor.

So there you have it. I've jumped on the bandwagon and put in my two cents about that blissful state into which Paul encouraged single folks not to venture. And that's all I have to say.


Praying for Revival

Right now what is on my heart is revival.

I'm exhausted with the politics, and controversy, and maneuvering, and compromise, and fear of change, and factionalism, and apathy, and misdirected zeal that all seem at one time or another to characterize the American church. For pretty good examples of some of these things, check out Wade Burleson's blog or Marty Duren's website for the rundown on the tragically divisive and ungodly controversy swirling in the IMB.

It all makes me wonder.

What if -- what if every Christian leader -- hey, I'd settle for every leader in the SBC -- would stop lobbying for public opinion, stop seeking political gain, stop trying to toe the line of typical Christian (or Southern Baptist) ideology, and started focusing on Scripture and training believers and preaching the Gospel? What would happen if the Holy Spirit moved in a new and unexpected way and pastors all over the nation began to get serious about confronting people with the cross of Christ and all that His bloody death entails for those He bought? What if churches got smaller and more plentiful, and we re-examined every way we "do church," rejecting everything that gets in the way of the Gospel, without the fear that usually accompanies doing things differently?

How would our communities of faith look different if we quit thinking that every minister of the Gospel has to be a married, teetotaling, suit-wearing, clean-shaven, good-ol'-boy, cessationist, five-point, thirty-plus, Christian-lingo-using, glad-handing denominational yes-man? If we stopped leaving Gospel tracts instead of tips and started telling our neighbors about Christ? If we retired our "God hates fags" signs and our "Baby killers" banners and made the truth of Scripture be our only weapon and our first defense against sin? If we stopped letting truth and freedom be shut down in fear in our denominations, churches, and seminaries? If we got so focused on the fame of Christ that we forgot what it was like to let our petty, sinful squabbles escalate into huge rifts and walk-outs?

I think I'm going to go spend some time praying. I'm going to ask God for revival in the SBC, among Baptist churches, and in the American church. Please, I would ask you to do the same.


Loved Until Threadbare

Just for fun, here are a few pictures of my favorite stuffed animal from my childhood, including a couple of attempted self portraits (she's not a very good photographer), and a couple that I was trying to take of myself that she just kept jumping into. She got a major time out for that one. She is 21 years old (legal! Whoop, whoop!) and her name is Snuggles D. Bear. She's a little threadbare from going everywhere with me clear through junior high. That stylin' sweater she is sporting is from Noah's Ark in Estes Park, Colorado, which is actually an Ark, and is full of teddy bears and accessories. Some family friends bought it for Snuggles when we stayed with them one weekend while mom and dad were at a conference. She's been a part of my life forever! As such, of course, she has some pretty cool experiences under her little teddy bear belt.

For instance, at the Denver Zoo, there is a cool underwater viewing area for the polar bear habitat, so you go down underneath the walkways and can watch the polar bears swim around and play. Once when I was a kid, my family took a trip to the zoo, and of course I brought Snuggles along. I thought she would enjoy the polar bears, since she's related to them, and so we went to take a look. I stood up on the cement frame of the window and put Snuggles's nose up against the glass. Well, wouldn't you know it, a HUGE male polar bear saw her and got curious, and came over to look. He pressed his nose right on the other side of the glass from hers, and wouldn't break contact. I moved her to the right, and he followed, treading water with his enormous, furry paws. I moved her around in circles, traced designs with her nose, ran from side to side, and he kept right up, with his nose on the glass the entire time. By this point a crowd had begun to gather. My parents decided it was time to move along, so they nudged me toward the ramp. I reluctantly pulled Snuggles away from the glass, and the polar bear... well, he was Not Pleased. At first, he didn't move, but when I put Snuggles behind my back and began to walk away, he reared back, swimming 5 or 6 feet from the glass, and then flew towards me, slamming full-force into the pane with his black claws, mouth open wide in an underwater roar. Needless to say, I ran the rest of the way out.


What Makes A Christian? Part 3

Well, everyone, I'm finally back from the Thanksgiving- finals- packing- travel- home- Christmas- shopping- New Years- travel- wedding- travel insanity that has been my last few weeks. Yowza! The wedding part was amazing... my dear friend Nikki got married Saturday, and the wedding was so wonderful, undoubtedly the best I've ever attended, much less been a part of. The whole atmosphere was so worshipful and Christ-focused, but celebratory as well -- Nikki was actually bouncing with excitement for part of the ceremony. And it really got me thinking about the church. Why, you ask? Lemme 'splain. No. There is too much. Lemme sum up:

Last Fall, a speaker here on campus said something that really stuck with me. He said that it's impossible to love Christ truly but hate His body -- in other words, there's reason to question the commitment of folks who call themselves Christians and say that they love the Lord but refuse to incorporate themselves into the Church. After all, Christ's purpose was to redeem a people for Himself, not to sell fire insurance to a bunch of tunnel-visioned isolationists!

Ephesians 5:22-32 (The first scripture read at Nikki and JD's wedding) says,
"Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, to make her holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the Church."

See what I mean? Paul is writing to instruct the believers in Ephesus about relationships between husbands and wives, and he finishes by saying that he is talking about Christ and the Church! As Dr. Russell Moore has said, Paul wasn't searching for a metaphor for marriage: "Hmm, let's see. The relationship between a husband and his wife is like... The sun and the moon? No... The Earth and the sky? No... I've got it! Christ and the Church!" What this passage tells us is that God created marriage itself to display the relationship between Christ and the Church!

Now the implications for marriage are heavy-duty enough to merit another post (hm, percolating that one), but what about the implications for those of us who call ourselves by Christ's name? When God accomplished the work of salvation in my heart, I became incorporated into Christ; I became a member of His body, the Church -- His bride! Christ is my husband -- but not just mine, as if Christianity were an individual, private thing. Christ is my husband because I am a part of His Church!

Let's look at it like this: my friend Nikki got married on Saturday. She fell in love, and that love blossomed into a desire to know JD more, and then to make a commitment -- soberly and advisedly, but with joy and fervor as well. When she made her vows, she promised to be subject to her husband, and to devote herself entirely to him. To show that she is now under her husband's authority, she gave up her maiden name and took his name as her own. See any parallels to how our lives as a Church are meant to be? Our love for our Savior should motivate us to commit deeply to Him, seeking to know Him more, and to strive for more commitment to Him, both soberly and joyfully. We should devote ourselves as a Body to Christ, and be subject to His leading. We should give up the authority (the "name") of our sinful nature, and take on the authority (the "name") of our Anointed King.

So to tie this all together, both with the subject of the post and the subject of the blog, I'd like to ask you all a question: when was the last time you had a conversation with your Husband about submitting to His authority and joyfully serving Him? When did you last seek direction from your Groom about how to deepen your intimacy and commitment?

I'll close with a couple of verses from a great hymn, one that we sang at Nikki and JD's wedding, The Church's One Foundation:

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is His new creation by Spirit and the Word
From Heaven He came and sought her to be His holy Bride
With His own blood He bought her and for her life He died

Elect from every nation, yet one over all the Earth
Her charter of salvation: One Lord, one faith, one birth
One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food
And to one hope she presses with every grace endued

Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Amid toil and tribulation and tumult of her war
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest
And the great Church victorious shall be the church at rest

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.