Thoughts On Marriage

I was watching a movie last night, and I had one of those moments I call “blogger moments”, but I think most people refer to them as those moments when God speaks to you by some random means. In the movie, the main character was dealing with a lot of difficult situations, he was angry and stressed, and he was handling everything the wrong way. The whole time, his wife was alongside him, praying for, loving, and supporting him. That wasn’t the point of the movie, but it was something that stuck out to me.

As I was watching that, it hit me more than it ever has before: marriage is going to be hard!

I can guarantee it, and I’m just a teenager with zero experience in the field of marriage. Yes, I can hear you right now – “who is she to talk about marriage? She’s fifteen, for crying out loud! She can’t know anything.”

Okay, I’ll give you that one. I’m not one to talk about how hard marriage is. But I can talk about the aspect of marriage that pertains to me and every other teenager hoping to get married one day.

My mom’s always told me that these years that we have right now are the years we should be preparing for marriage. This is the time that we have to become the husband, wife, father, mother that we should be one day. I admit, she’s been telling me that for years, and it’s only started to sink in as I’ve gotten older and realized more and more how much of my life needs to change. So last night, I wrote down some things that I need to be praying that God helps me to change in my life before I ever consider marriage and having a family of my own.

  • I need to grow closer to and fall deeper in love with Christ. If I don’t love Christ as I should, if I don’t have the relationship with Him that I should, then every other area of my life will show that. How are you supposed to show the love of Christ to your spouse if you don’t have it in your heart yourself? Not to mention that in general, having a close relationship with the Lord makes life 103x better (and often times easier).
  • I need to learn self-control. Just, yikes on this one. I’m a naturally very emotional person (a personality trait I dislike a bit), and I need God’s grace extra here… I need to control my outbursts, and not act off of immediate emotions and anger (or not “fly off the handle”, in the words of our dear friend Glinda).
  • I need to learn how to be a humble servant. My job will be to serve my family, and I must do it with a servant’s heart – with joy and humility. Unfortunately for my non-existent future family, I’m not completely there yet…
  • I need to learn to respond in love. Again, I mentioned how I tend to respond in outbursts of anger. A gentle answer turns away wrath; I’ve got to think before I speak!
  • I need to learn to surrender. In a marriage, the wife submits to the husband’s authority. The mother puts the family before herself. It’s selfless submission, loving surrender. It’s a beautiful picture, actually, and it makes me appreciate what my own mother’s done! God’s got to tame the stubborn, independent spirit inside of me if that’s the future He has in store for me…
  • I need to learn how to deal with my problems in a Christ-honoring way. NOT by moping for days on end and letting my emotions do as they please. I can see how God has been working in me at least for the past few months here. This is something I really struggle with, but there have been moments that I can clearly look back on and see how I handled things by going to His word and finding peace and fulfillment in Him.
  • I need to gain strength. I need to be ready to carry burdens and do things like I’ve never done before. It’s going to be hard, and if I were to go into marriage and raising a family with the strength I have now, hahaha… I’d collapse. God will have to strengthen me.
  • I need to learn as much as I can about love and how to really, truly love. This is honestly something I enjoy learning about, though. It’s a choice with feeling, as I like to think of it. We choose to love, but the feeling that we always associate love with is just a side effect of that choice. It’s hard, but strong.
  • I need to live for an audience of One. Yikes… With the place I’m in in my life right now, that sounds like an impossible thing to do. I know that sounds bad, but it’s true. I fear man so, so much. I need to learn to live for God instead of the world. His opinion ultimately matters so much more.

My mom also brought up some interesting points (she’s the one that has experience in marriage, not me, so I asked her to look over this before I posted so I could hear her thoughts), so here’s basically what she said: Understand that your commitment should be to God and not to your spouse.  When you are committed to a person, it is easier to leave when the going gets tough.  If you have promised your marriage to the Lord, then your commitment is to Him and He is your anchor during the rough patches that you absolutely WILL have.  It was mentioned briefly that love is a choice, and that cannot emphasized enough.  There will be MANY days (especially during the first year or two when you are trying to figure out how to live with each other) when you don’t necessarily LIKE this person, much less feel like loving them.  Romantic “love” fades away and your heart eventually doesn’t race so readily at the thought of your spouse, but true love matures and becomes more than a fickle feeling.  Don’t confuse the loss of romantic love to be the same thing as “falling out of love”.  True love matures and becomes a selfless act of service as you grow in your relationship and as you spend your years together.

Along those lines, it was also mentioned about becoming a humble servant.  So true, but also, you have to give up any selfish thoughts and desires.  If you fall into the “What about my feelings?” or “What about what I want to do?” mentality, then you have made your marriage about serving yourself.  You have to understand that by definition, serving your husband and family will automatically mean that there will be many things you would love to do but cannot for various reasons.  However, if your spouse has the same attitude of serving you and his family, then you each will have your needs met.

As I thought about it all last night, it was really hitting me that marriage isn’t just a field of roses. I already knew that, but the reality of it was… real. (Do I get the reward for the weirdest thoughts a 15 yo. can have at 11:30 at night?) So now, we have to ask that question – is marriage worth it? Marriage will be harder than anything we’ve ever known. She’ll give the silent treatment. He’ll respond in anger. She’s stubborn. He’s overbearing. Can she be enough? How will he handle her reactions? Can he control himself for her? Can she live every day putting him first? All the questions and thoughts swirl around in our heads as we envision different scenarios based on different traits… will the roses be worth the thorns? Can we make a life-long commitment to an uncertainty?

Mk. 10:6-9, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Gen. 2:18, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Marriage is God’s design for mankind. Marriage is the unification of two people delighting in the Lord together. It’s the beginning of new life. It’s a picture of Christ’s love for us. It’s sanctifying. God delights in and endorses marriage! He created it to fill a need inside us, to glorify Him, and to do His will on earth. What God desires will always be worth it! Just like following Him is incredibly hard sometimes, we can’t expect marriage to be much different. But I believe in the bigger picture, it is worth it.

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Thoughts on Serving

For every Thursday night this summer, I’m helping out with a kids’ program at a church, playing the piano, assisting with crafts, etc. I’ve done VBS and other similar programs in the past, so this isn’t anything new to me. In fact, I love these opportunities to work with kids while presenting the Gospel or talking about God’s Word.

Tonight, I was cleaning up the craft supplies by myself while everyone else did their activities in the other room.

(Edit: I wrote this last night. But it was too late to post it. Carry on.)

It was pretty quiet, though I could hear the noise from the other room. And I hate to admit this, but I began to grumble in my heart.

I didn’t want to be there, cutting paper in an empty room by myself. I’ve had a rough week, and the last thing I wanted to do was to waste my time on a project that some little kid would probably lose within the week anyway.

They would never know that I had taken time from my busy schedule to come and serve them in a little way that didn’t seem to count for anything. It was a tiny act that would go unappreciated for all of eternity.

And that’s when it kind of hit me.

 This is what serving looks like.

I hadn’t ever grumbled working at VBS or the other programs. I had had kids that adored me, I worked alongside friends, and I had seen positive results and feedback. It was fun. Good came out of it that I was able to see with my own eyes. Why should I complain?

But tonight, it was different.

This wasn’t fun. I didn’t know anyone. I wasn’t seeing any positive results. I was alone in a room in the back of the church, cutting paper for a kid who I didn’t even know what they looked like.

I was serving.

Albeit that I wasn’t serving in that moment with the best attitude, but that was service. And it was real service.

There wasn’t anything in it for me. I didn’t benefit in any way, shape, or form. Yet I was there for a purpose – to selflessly serve others.

That’s not to say that serving can’t be fun! I’ve been in several instances where serving is a joy, and it’s a blast to serve when you can see positive results and work alongside friends.

But not every service is going to be “fun”.

 And that’s okay.

The key is the heart attitude. It’s not about the capacities or departments we serve in so much as it is who and how we serve. Tonight, I was not serving God. My grumbling heart was not a pleasing offering to my Savior! I was not working for Him with a joyful heart that was turned toward serving Him by serving others.

This probably isn’t anything you didn’t already know, but it was something that sort of hit me tonight. “Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you are working for the Lord” – it’s where the heart is.

I just have to add real quickly, service isn’t going to be a huge act every time. It’s not always going on a mission trip, or volunteering at a convention. It’s in the small, self-denying acts too. They count just as much. For me, that looks like doing something with my brother instead of getting on the computer, or watching my youngest brother so my mom can rest instead of going off to write. “Service” isn’t just the large, glamorous deeds.

His Peace

It’s summer now, at least at our house. In years before, that would have meant nothing – simply that the weather outside got insanely hot.

But this year, it’s quite a bit different. And it’s not just because it doesn’t get hot in Pennsylvania…

Last year’s school is done, and I’m about to go ahead and start my junior year. (Whaaa?!)

I’m working a few days a week now, and I’ll be working more in a few weeks.

There are all kinds of appointments to go to, errands to run, things to do, on top of every day living. (Which, you know how that can go…)

In short, it’s been a bit crazy around here.

Crazy isn’t always bad. In fact, sometimes busy crazy can be good. But it’s not always a great thing if you have stress problems, like me.

I’ve been running around freaking out about life for the past week or so now, and it doesn’t promise to slow down.

(Stress and I don’t look good together. Let’s just leave it at “it’s not a very pretty sight.”)

 Going to see a friend Sunday, meeting and work Monday, appointment Tuesday, piano Wednesday, volunteering at the church Thursday, working Friday and Saturday, then Father’s Day and birthdays and more work AND there’s school and life AND IT DOESN’T STOP……….

So. I don’t know if you have a busy summer planned for you or not. But let me tell you something that can be a comfort even if you’re not stressing right now. This may just be a reminder, but it’s worth repeating.

 God gives peace.

*breathe*

I have two favorite peace verses I want to share. The first is found in John 14:27.

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Can y’all feel it too? This verse just… is so perfect. He doesn’t give to us as the world gives. He gives us His peace.

His peace.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, and don’t be afraid, because He gives you His peace.

Jn. 16:33 is the second one.

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Yes… this one gives you chills, too. In this world you will have trouble – He’s not saying that you might encounter trouble, or that it might just be a minor hard time that won’t show up again. He guarantees it: you will have trouble. Not very comforting, in my mind…

…but He read my mind. (Proves how much my Creator knows me, huh?) The words following it up say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

“You can breathe again, Lauren, because I have overcome the world,” He whispers to me.

“I have overcome the hard trial you face.

I have overcome the tears you shed when you think no one cares.

I have overcome the shadows in your eyes.

I have overcome your fears and anxieties.

I have overcome the world.”

Do we not have an INCREDIBLE Father?

When we have trouble, He gives peace, because He has overcome every trouble we could ever know.

May this give you comfort and joy today.

Is God Good?

I texted a friend yesterday with the words, “God is good” (to which they replied, “All the time”, and we did the little back and forth thing…). Which, when going through a hard time, are not easy words to write. It stuck in my head for the rest of the night, and when searching for hope, I remembered those three words. God. Is. Good.

It may have turned into a meaningless cliché to some, but I’ve been thinking about this a good bit. This past year has been the worst year of my life, full of darkness, pain, tears, loneliness, and a lot of other things I would never wish anyone to struggle with. During that time, I’ve had to face the doubts, the questions, the silence from God, the confusion and chaos, and my faith is being violently tested. I’d like to think that I’ve been strong; I pray that I will be faithful until the end of this trial. But throughout all of this pain and darkness, I’ve spent several occasions in tears, wondering, “Is God good?”

I think it’s fair to say that anyone going through a trial will wonder if God is good. If we receive bad things in life, wouldn’t we ask if our God is good? The theological, good little side of us says “of course! I know that God is good.” But the deepest part of us, the part of our heart we don’t really want to admit is there, quietly wonders if a God who can allow darkness is actually a good God. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, all we can do is ask, “Why?” But no matter how deep the darkness, it does not change the goodness of God.

The story of Job’s suffering is well-known to believers. This was a man who lost everything – the “greatest man among all the people of the East” lost his oxen, sheep, camels, servants, children: his wealth, prosperity, family, treasured loved ones. And what’s his response? “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)

His response to this tragedy floors me. He doesn’t shake his fist at God, doesn’t curse His name, doesn’t renounce his beliefs. His faith is unshakable. Yes, he falls into a horrible, miserable darkness, but he can still say throughout all of that, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him” (13:15). Job still clung to the goodness of God.

It’s hard. When darkness stares you in the face, and life offers you nothing but pain and confusion, it’s hard to say that God is good. But even through the troubles, anxieties, depression, doubts, disorders, diseases, and darkness, Jesus has overcome the world. God is good.

Priceless

I don’t normally post multiple times in a day (much less one right after the other), but oh my goodness… this song… it’s so perfect. It hits me right where I’m at. (Songs do that to me…) So maybe it will help you, too.