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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Three Months of God's Plan at Work

This Sunday will mark three months of marriage for Jeanille and myself. In such a relatively short space of time I have learnt so much more about God and what a relationship between Him and us should be so I wanted to share some of the parallels I have learnt. Ultimately, marriage so far is the most rewarding challenge I have ever undertaken as it both connects me to two rocks in my world in new and crazier ways.

With so much talk about 'changing the definition of marriage' here in Australia it is interesting to me to turn to sources of wisdom to find out more about what marriage is supposed to represent. Aside from learning to pray together for all sorts of things (houses, jobs, our families) and seeking advice from married couples around us, Jeanille and I have begun reading through Timothy Keller's The Meaning of Marriage. In his introduction Keller writes the following words:

"The Bible begins with a wedding (of Adam and Eve) and ends in the book of Revelation with a wedding (of Christ and the Church). Marriage is God's idea. It is certainly also a human institution, and it reflects the character of the particular human culture in which it is embedded..."

In short, what I want to talk about is what marriage so far in a short time has shown me about God's plans - not about whatever particular changes people may wish to make to the human institution. Humanity can 'redefine' marriage, but they can never truly capture God's heart for marriage unless they stick to a Biblical definition. After all even the most 'perfect' marriages break down in our modern society (look at Brangelina as of yesterday for a sad example).

Timothy Keller also points out the following two ideas
1. "It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family's interest. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual's happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good - not the individual or the family - and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.”
2. "Through the gospel we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage."

In the following video, Terry Crews shares his thoughts on being a Christian in Hollywood. One line he mentions stands out to me.

"If you get rid of the concept of father who are you getting rid of? You are getting rid of the concept of God." The same thing goes for marriage. If you get rid of the concept of a Biblical marriage as a standard - you are getting rid of a relationship with God as the standard. And that is a choice that individuals are free to make. The discussion just needs to be made that ultimately in the end marriage is meant to be a reflection of what a relationship between God and ourselves should be.

So with that long preamble I simply wanted to state what Biblical marriage is coming to mean to me both physically and spiritually, This is regardless of what our society places as the highest good (the love and satisfaction of the individual, the family etc.) as Biblically, marriage places the gospel as the highest priority. And here are some lessons I have learnt about the gospel as a result of the past three months.

1. Patience
Patience cuts both ways, yet we often can only see it from our perspective. How often do we look at any other person and think 'How many times have I been patient on that subject or towards your frustrating habits.' This goes for friends, as well as our other halves. Yet one thing that learning to be patient, and seeing Jeanille be patient in regards towards me, has revealed is this: God is infinitely patient towards us. How many times a day do we stumble from perfection? God is patient regardless and his patience is infinite - unlike the patience of a husband or wife. 

2. Selflessness
I am a stubborn individual - we all are at times when we do not get things our way. Now of course there are some issues of integrity we can never release but that is not what I am referencing here. I am referencing those minor selfish qualities that do not really matter in the end. Like the difference between where we want to store various collectables or which house we love. Marriage is meant to be a partnership and one thing I am trying to learn and will continue to learn is when to let go of something that is a silly little desire of my own and not a necessity, after all what is mine is hers now. The same thing works out with God - why should we squabble over giving a little tithe to God (it's all His anyway) or going out and speaking a word of Faith or encouragement to someone when prompted. As I need to put my wife first (after God) so I need to put God first over myself. 

3. Maturity and our identity
At one point when Jeanille was frustrated I found myself comforting her by reminding her that she was 'not normally like this.' She has numerously done the same thing over my own minor frustrations - reminding me of my true identity. And as a result, helping me to abandon childish habits or aspects in favour of maturity. God too does the same work in our lives spiritually - He is constantly exhorting us and reminding us of our spiritual inheritance and leading us to maturity as Christians.

4. God's unconditional love for 'strangers'
Timothy Keller points out that we never truly know the person we marry and that has been exciting for me. Every day I discover something about Jeanille that I never knew before and I learn to love her more for it. He states that, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” The two of us learning to love the aspects of the other that we did not know about, or never realised ran so deep, is a true example of how much God must love the deeply flawed aspects of our own persona. 

5. You are never alone
The biggest adjustment that Jeanille and I have been making is getting used to the idea that we are always around each other. That is both an incredible gift of intimacy, but it is also something which creates tension in any person. If we as humans squabble with siblings simply because of their little annoying habits how much more is that exacerbated with 'annoyances' in our spouses. And sometimes this can lead us to hold back thoughts or ideas for fear of the consequences of 'will this make her mad for the next hour and I will not be able to go anywhere in this house?' Yet that is something that we can forget as Christians - God is always there with us as well. We are in essence 'married' to Him and so often we fail to acknowledge Him, talk to Him or reveal our hearts to Him. This is something that I am slowly being made more aware of as I continue to lovingly adjust to the mystery and beauty of married life.

6.  Finally...the mystery
The Bible refers to marriage as a mystery, and everyday I realise more and more what this means in different ways. I am sure when I reach one year I will look back and realise how mysterious the whole process has been. And when I reach another year the past years will be more mysterious again...and so on and so on. Yet, that is exactly the same process of the gospel's saving power inside of me. 

Some might read this and think 'he is only young in this, this won't stay the same.' I am neither naive enough to believe that everything will stay the same and indeed why should it, or to listen to the excuse that I am too young. After all Paul's exhortation to Timothy was "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)

And I take that as an example to learn from those who are older and wiser, to learn from those who are younger and to live out my own life (and now marriage) as an example to others around us. The road ahead is long and windy, and the gate is narrow, but the destination and the journey with Christ is going to be worth it all. For to paraphrase 1 John 4:4 greater is He who lives in me, than he who is in the world. So I want to step out in faith, believing that I can share what I am learning now and that I will learn even more in the future through the good times and the bad.

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