Sunrise, Sunset

On December 4th, I finished our 2017-2018 family photo album. The final page displayed a background of a beautiful picture of a sunrise in my front yard, and a sunset in the back, accompanied by the lyrics from the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof,

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset!
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.

The past three weeks have truly been a time laden with both happiness and tears.

Two weeks ago, my oldest son became the first of my four children to marry. My heart is full of great joy and hope for their future as I release my son into adulthood. I thank God for giving us Kristen and putting her into Nick’s life. These two young adults are better together than they are apart. An answer to prayer.

For my 46th birthday last Saturday, my family (minus our newly married son and his bride) watched “Fiddler on the Roof” together at my request. I reminisced about Nick as a three-year-old singing, “If I were a Rich Man” at the top of his lungs into his karaoke machine and dancing around with the best of them. Ever since he was a little boy, we’ve said that Nick would do something with a microphone in his hand. For years I’ve said, “Someday Nick will be a preacher, a singer or a politician!” This time, though, it was me singing along with the wedding scene as the Tevye’s oldest daughter marries under a candle-lit canopy, “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older. When did they?”

Sunrise. Sunset. Swiftly fly the years. One season following another. In the twenty years of Nick’s life, we’ve certainly had many seasons. We’ve had seasons of agonizing pain, persevering only by God’s grace through marriage and parenting struggles. And we’ve had seasons of immense joy, celebrating new accomplishments and relationships, granted us also by God’s grace. But this current season we’re in has been such a bizarre mix of pain and joy, that it’s hard to know how to feel at any given moment.

Christmas Eve, the day Nick and Kristen were engaged, was the very day we found out that Kari Coudriet, and three beautiful children who were staying with her family, Sharron, Aaron, and Joy Naik, had passed from time into eternity. Then, two weeks later, the very day Nick and Kristen were married, was the day that Srinivas and Sujatha Naik, their parents from India, shared their hearts with our congregation, and I got to see them for the first time since their children’s deaths.

That morning, I mourned with those who mourn, and that afternoon I rejoiced with those who rejoice. Tears of grief coming, and tears of joy going. Sunrise. Sunset. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Please join me today in praying for the marriages of Nick and Kristen Endraske, and Srinivas and Sujatha Naik. “May your lives be pointed always toward Jesus with hearts full of hope and peace. May your marriages demonstrate how deeply Christ loves His bride, and gave Himself up for her, even while we were His enemies. May God give you long seasons of joy, interspersed with short seasons of hardship, that you would lean on Jesus, savoring the good times, and numbering each day with hearts of wisdom. In the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.”

How can I pray for you and your marriage?

My Life as the Bride of Christ – Part 4 of 4

In this series which I’ve titled “My Life as the Bride of Christ,” we’re going to look together at a few things that I believe make the marriage relationship unique and how our relationship with Christ is particularly special because we are His bride.  You can read parts one, two and three by clicking here.

#4. The marriage relationship is devoted and sacrificial.

My husband Bill and I met in April of 1994, were engaged three months later and then married in December of that same year.  In that brief, eight-month time period, Bill became the focus of my life.  He’s what I lived for.  He’s who I wanted to be with.  I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, talking to him on the phone for hours and hours.  I spent countless hours primping and preparing to spend time with him.  I rearranged my plans to have the most time possible with him.  I wanted to please him and was willing to sacrifice my desires in favor of his.  I spent hours writing him love notes and making him goofy little gifts like a reflective coffee mug that said, “Guess Who I Love?” in paint pen with a big circle that would show HIS face.

Our young love was devoted and sacrificial.

But, somehow, as the months and years wore on, the trials and disappointments of my life took their toll.  I became increasingly selfish and demanding.  He wasn’t doing enough for me.  He wasn’t meeting my needs.  I no longer wanted to share hours upon hours of time with him, because deep roots of bitterness had taken hold of my heart.  My heart grew cold and distant, and I dare say, so did his.

We remained married, but life became more about the checklist of things that had to be done, rather that things that got to be done.  I lost my desire to want to please him.  I no longer cherished and adored this man.  Caring for my marriage became little more than a chore among a long list of chores.

Is that how we see our relationship with God?  Have we grown cold? Bitter? Hardened?

Is our time spent with God one chore among a long list of chores?

Do we hunger for him, as a starving beggar on a lonely road in the wilderness?

Do we thirst for Him, as a parched traveler in a desert land?

Do we crave time with him, as a young bride looks forward to the moment her bridegroom will return home from a hard day at work?

Just as sinful human fathers have given us a wrong impression of our perfect heavenly father, so fallen human marriages today have given us a wrong impression of our perfect heavenly groom.  Jesus Christ, our adoring, sacrificial husband, longs to spend time with us, His spotless bride, for whom He gave His very life.

Remember what the Lord said to His people in Jeremiah 2:2, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.”  And Revelation 2:4-5a “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. ”

Am I satisfied to just know ABOUT Bill, to study his likes and dislikes, to know his favorite food and sports team, to know facts about him, like when and where he was born and his mother’s maiden name, to know random trivia about him so I can show off how well I know my husband, like what elementary school he went to and how much he weighed when he was 16?  Is that good enough for me?

Or, do I really want to KNOW him?  Intimately.  Personally.  Deeply.  Do I REALLY want to know what grieves his heart?  Do I REALLY want to know what he ACTUALLY thinks about when nobody’s around?

Do I truly want to please him, just because I love him – expecting NOTHING in return?  Sacrificially giving up my own desires in deference to his?

This is not supposed to be a talk about “how to love your husband,” though I’m sure we could all use that one, too.

No. This is a talk about “how to love your GOD.”

Friends, we cannot be satisfied by just knowing about God from a distance.  We cannot stop at knowing “1001 Facts about God and His Word.”  We cannot be satisfied with just being “good bible study girls.”  Remember Hosea 6:6, the Lord desires “steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Do we truly desire to PLEASE God BECAUSE we LOVE Him?  Rather than because we think we can (or that we have to) earn His love and approval.

My Jesus loves me so much.  He wants to be with me.  He wants me to arise and come away with Him.  He wants me to willingly choose Him over sleep, over stuff, over other relationships, over the multitude of cares and distractions of the world that want to choke out the fruit-bearing of my life (See Mark 4:18-19)

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US … How does the fact that The marriage relationship is devoted and sacrificial impact our lives?

For me, what this looks like is largely wrapped up in having a committed, set aside time with God, my Savior, Lord, Father and Husband.  Truthfully, the closeness and intimacy and joy of my relationship with God is directly correlated to the quality (and quantity) of time I spend with Him.  Just as my relationship with my earthly husband suffers when we aren’t spending time together, so my relationship with God suffers when I am too busy or tired or distracted or stressed to spend time at His feet.

And might I add here that in those times when your daily life with your husband (or with your God) feels like a grind – DO the things you did at first.  Do it.  Don’t give way to your emotions.  Choose to serve your husband with a cheerful, sacrificial heart even when it’s hard.

 

My Life as the Bride of Christ – Part 3

In this series which I’ve titled “My Life as the Bride of Christ,” we’re going to look together at a few things that I believe make the marriage relationship unique and how our relationship with Christ is particularly special because we are His bride.  You can read parts one and two by clicking here.

#3. The marriage relationship is deeply intimate, close and personal.

All relationships involve some level of intimacy, but the relationship between husband and wife goes the deepest of them all.  I fear that this was a great stumbling block for me in seeing God as my husband.  For me, marital intimacy was intricately tied to the physical, sexual union between a man and his wife, and because of past sin on my part, I could not see intimacy with God in any other way.  Yet, as the Lord has peeled back these layers in the past year, I see now that true, pure intimacy is not dirty or corrupt.

In the beginning of time, when God made a “helper fit for” Adam since it was not good for man to be alone, God created Eve out of Adam’s side.  We are told that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)

Adam and Eve had nothing to hide from one another.  They were one flesh, with nothing to separate them.

As a married woman, I should have nothing to fear in bearing my heart and soul to my husband, because he is bound to me in a way that no other relationship is.  Other people (maybe even some of you) might grow sick and tired of me, especially as you get to know the “real me” and you might move on to find nicer, easier people to deal with, but not my husband.  He can’t. He knows my numerous flaws, and yet, he remains by my side – in spite of them.

A dear friend and fellow church member reminded me in the van on the long trip back from our mission trip to Reynosa, Mexico last month, that our love for our husbands grows all the deeper as they demonstrate faithfulness toward us in a way that new lovers are unable to appreciate.  In that way, our love for our spouse is magnified as their commitment to us is proven true through the years and decades.

And yet, for as well as my husband knows me, I can still hide things from him.  But, God….  He knows a word before it’s on my lips.  I cannot hide anything from Him; I cannot hide any thought, word or action from Him.  Even the darkness is as light to Him.  I cannot flee from Him.

Mediate on how deeply God knows and loves us according to Psalm 139:1-4, 11-12 “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. … If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

As the bride of Christ, I have nothing to fear in bearing my heart and soul to Him, because I can have full confidence in his steadfast love and faithfulness.  I can cast all of my cares on Him, because I know that He fully cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).  It reminds me of Stephanie’s talk yesterday, that we can pour out of cries of lament, knowing that God has given us in the psalms this model of real, genuine, authentic relationship with Him.

In Hosea 6:6, we are told that the Lord desires “steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  God wants our hearts, our souls, our minds – with all of our everything.  He wants us to know Him and trust Him deeply and personally.  He wants more than just to “be known about” and studied and served.  He wants to be known.

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US….  How does the fact that The marriage relationship is deeply intimate, close and personal impact our lives?

God wants our time with him to be transparent and real.  He is not fooled by any false pretense.  God detests hypocrisy and deceit.  We can bear our true souls to Him without fear or shame.

I can confess ALL my sin to Him – agreeing with Him about my need for salvation and deliverance.  I can cry to Him all day long without worrying that He will grow tired of me.  I can share my every joy with Him without fear that He doesn’t care.  I can talk to God without ceasing, in everything giving thanks, trusting that this, too, is God’s will for me in Christ Jesus.  I don’t have to hide from Him.  Ever.

Stay tuned for the final installment Part Four: The marriage relationship is devoted, and sacrificial.

My Life as the Bride of Christ – part 2

In this series which I’ve titled “My Life as the Bride of Christ,” we’re going to look together at a few things that I believe make the marriage relationship unique and how our relationship with Christ is particularly special because we are His bride. (You can read Part 1 by clicking here)

#2. The marriage relationship is designed to be ‘til death do we part.

The Lord is described over and over again throughout scripture as steadfast and faithful, promising to NEVER leave us or forsake us.  His love toward us is eternal.  We were never designed “grow up and move out” like a child with their parents.

This is one reason I am so certain that we cannot lose our salvation and also one reason why I’m certain that God hates divorce.  When God places His seal upon us and fills us with His holy spirit, He will never break that covenant with us.  We are bound to Him eternally.

As Ephesians 5:31-32 says “’Therefore, a man shall leave [Greek: kataleipo – leave behind, to depart from, leave, forsake] his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  Wow.

See, our children are designed to grow up and leave us, that they may become one flesh with their mate, and so are we to be ONE FLESH with Christ.  We are His bride, and He is our bridegroom.

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR US….  How does the fact that our relationship with Christ is eternal impact our lives?

We can demonstrate our love for Christ, by remaining certain of His love for us while we’re in the midst of trials.

I have been through some hard times in the last 23 years since I bowed my knee to Jesus, and I have been tempted countless times to doubt His love and power, and yet, God has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.  By remaining faithful in my love toward Him, and certain of His love for me, I commit my life into His hands until my last breath.

Stay tuned for “Part Three: The marriage relationship is deeply intimate, close and personal...”