My mom used to say that spring and fall in Northwest Tennessee were the "in-between" seasons when the weather pinged back and forth between summer (hot) and winter (cold), until it finally decided to stick with one or the other. Earlier this week, we woke to patchy frost and we scrambled to find long sleeves and sweaters to wear. Today, we are peeling off the layers, back down to shorts and tank tops. Next week? The weatherman will probably be forecasting high temperatures in the 90s, with scattered snow flurries.
Gotta love life in Northwest Tennessee!
But on a more serious note...
We have started a marriage study/class at Grace on Sunday evenings. We are using Paul Tripp's book What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage as the foundation for our study, along with a weekly video presentation featuring Mr. Tripp himself. He is a fantastic speaker. He keeps us alternating between rib-cracking laughter and the kind of painful silence that results when your heart is squished so hard that it hurts for you to breathe.
We are only a few weeks into the study, and Mr. Tripp hasn't gotten to the Big Point of marriage, yet - I think he's getting there soon (maybe next week?), but I haven't read ahead in the book. At this point in the study, I'm not sure how it will compare to my all-time favorite book on marriage, Gary Thomas's Sacred Marriage.
One frustration I have with the study guide is that it assumes couples will go home and have serious, intimate conversations about the material covered each week. If your marriage isn't characterized by serious, intimate conversations, the homework assignment can be a bit of a downer. And what about those "couples" in the class where only one spouse participates? What if you see the benefit of a how-to-strengthen-your-marriage class, but your spouse cannot or will not attend with you?
Is there any encouragement for these people?
I think there is very great encouragement, and I am hoping Mr. Tripp will get to that soon, before some of our "lonely" class participants throw in the towel. Following are a few truths that have encouraged and strengthened me during some very lonely times over the years:
1. All marriages, even unhappy ones, have value. They have value because God himself established the institution of marriage, and because marriagedisplays to us and to the world around us important truths about God.Truths such as: God is a covenant maker; God is a covenant keeper; God is faithful even when we are not. Marriage is the stage where these truths are acted out in the drama of life.
2. Even if you are not happy in your marriage right now, God can use your marriage to grow you in holiness. A friend once described family to me as the crucible where our sin is exposed and burned away. If that is true, then within the family, marriage is where we feel the flame of God's refining fire at its hottest. Fire burns: growing in holiness is painful. But even in the most painful times, we can be confident that God is accomplishing his good purposes in us and that He is making us more like Christ.
3. Commitment to your marriage is an evidence of the gospel at work in your life. Years later, another friend made this statement: "The fact that you persevere through difficult times is a testimony to the power of the gospel." The truth is, we all have moments when we feel like giving up. It is only by the grace of God that any of us are able to persevere.
We may be tempted to think of "gospel witness" in terms of street-corner evangelism, social programs, or relief ministries. But commitment to our marriages, come hell or high water, is a powerful, silent witness to the power of God's grace and to the effective, life-transforming influence of the gospel in our lives.
4. Still not happy? You will be! The same friend mentioned in #3 (above) also said: "You need to get over the idea that marriage is all about your personal happiness. Stop thinking that life is all about your being happy right here, right now. After you die, you are going to be happy forever. FOREVER. In the meantime, what you need to focus on are obedience and holiness."
People, this life is short. Even if I live to be 90 years old, and even if every single day is filled with nothing but pain and heartache (which it isn't - there is so much joy and delight, even in the midst of much hardship!), all those years of pain and heartache will be redeemed and transformed into something glorious the moment I step into an eternity lived in the presence of my God and Savior.
I am often tempted to think that marriage is all about me and my happiness. The truth, however, is that while I do have a part to play in this story, marriage is ultimately about God.
Wish You Were Here: Letters From the Foot of the Cross
It is difficult to imagine that someone with an ideal family, a Ninja body, and a six-digit income can relate to my messy life in the middle of a hay field: my pants are too tight, my marriage is stressed, and my closets are a disaster.
But the truth is, life is messy...whether you look like you have your act together or not. If you are struggling in the trenches of life with muck up to your eyeballs, then you and I have something in common. Welcome!
This collection of "letters" explores the practical implications of the gospel for the nitty-gritty business of everyday life. Join me on a journey to discover strength for the day, encouragement to persevere, and flashes of joy to brighten the way.