“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Proverbs 31:18-29
So a week or so ago, I wrote a post called A Cord of 3 Strands. For those of you who didn’t read it, it was a kind of rant about my feelings concerning the people and things that try to undermine my marriage. Well, yesterday, I took a blogging day off because I wasn’t really sure what to write about. But after reading some more of Not a Fan, and a late night phone call from my sister, I figured out what I wanted to say today.
Every time one of my siblings calls me asking for wisdom, guidance, or Biblical references, I praise God for giving me that opportunity to witness to the people closest to me. Somehow, when my sister called, I knew she was going to ask me a question about scripture. I got my Bible out and I was ready to give her whatever answer she was searching for. She asked, “The Bible says divorce is bad, right? But what about cheating? I mean, I would want to work at it and try to fix the marriage, but if it keeps happening, and happening over and over?” I flipped open my Bible to Matthew chapter 5 and I read her verses 27 through 32. She said, “Okay, that makes more sense…” I was glad I had found a satisfactory answer for her at the time, but as I sat and thought during my devotional time about the rest of the conversation we had, I felt like there was probably a better answer I could have given her. I thought of Mark 10:7-9 (look it up.) My sister isn’t married, but she has been in a relationship with her boyfriend for over a year. Sometimes when she calls me she expresses exhaustion in trying to be perfect; disappointment in the way she looks, or just overall exasperation with life. The reason she feels so much pressure is because she is trying to do it on her own. I’d like to offer an answer or two to you all now through a quote from Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan.
“Fans will be careful not to get carried away. Followers understand that following Jesus is a pursuit that may cost them everything, but it is the best investment they could ever make. Followers will do some crazy things for love, but fans want to play it safe.
Cohabitating with Jesus
There is a fear among fans that by going all-in, they’re going to miss out.
Fans want to have just enough of the pleasure without having to risk feeling any pain. We want to enjoy what’s available to us without having to sacrifice for it.
Instead of come after we hold back. It’s not that we don’t want a relationship with Jesus; we do. We just don’t want it to cost us very much. To go back to the romance metaphor, it’s like a man and a woman who have been dating. Things get pretty serious, and she wants to get married. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her, but he doesn’t want to get married. He’s afraid that if he makes that kind of commitment it will require too much of him or somehow he’ll miss out on something better. So he makes the suggestion, “Hey, why don’t we move in together?” Translated: “How about I get all the benefits of marriage without having to make any of the commitments and sacrifices?” (Idleman p. 133-134)
The problem with my sister wanting to put the effort of a wife into her dating relationship is that she isn’t receiving the commitment of a husband from her boyfriend. She is giving, and giving, and he’s simply her “biggest fan.”
Taking that a step farther into my relationship with Jesus, I’m totally guilty of being a fan. I go to church, I give an offering, I sing in the chancel choir, I play in the hand bell choir… I do all the right things. But it’s not about doing. We can never earn our salvation. If we could, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die for the forgiveness of the sins of all humanity. In fact, he did that so that we don’t have to go through life worn out and exasperated! We are covered by his grace and his mercy!
As I was reading my devotion for Lent, I was hit by reality pretty hard. I feel like a lot of people (myself included) when deciding what to sacrifice for Lent, try to choose something of little significance like caffeine, or chocolate, or strawberries (“sacrificing” something you already have a fatal food allergy to hardly counts as a worthy sacrifice in my opinion, you would’ve stayed away from it anyway!!!) We want sacrifice to be easy, but the word sacrifice by its very definition means a destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost; offering up of something precious! Thank God for not having that mindset! I originally thought, I’ll give up sugar! That didn’t work. It wasn’t important enough for me to want to stick with it. So I chose something a little more difficult for me to do without: literature. The time I would have spent reading science fiction, I’ve spent reading the Bible. I have a feeling I won’t ever be able to go back to the way it was before, and that’s good. I mean, I will still read other books for entertainment occasionally, but I won’t devote nearly as much time to those books as I will the Bible.
Got is present and working in my life and in order to see or feel that, I actually have to spend time reading His word, and praying! DUH! I can’t believe that didn’t occur to me before. Friendly reminder: you have to seek God!
Reading Not a Fan has made me ask myself a series of pointed questions, one of which being, “Has being a Christian changed my life?” If not, I’m doing it wrong.
I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark every Friday and Saturday of Lent. Today I read Mark 7. When I got to the story of Jesus healing a deaf-mute in verses 31-36. After healing the man, Jesus commanded the people not to say anything about it to anyone else. Why? I’ve struggled with that question for a couple of years and I think I finally figured it out. Isaiah 6:9-10. It didn’t matter how many miracles they saw Jesus perform. Their hearts were hardened; they were fans, not followers. They just would have wanted Jesus to put on a show of healing and miracles for them. Jesus wanted people to follow out of love and denial of self (Luke 9:23-24) I was also struck by a specific word in Mark 7:34, “He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!“(which means “Be Opened!”) With a sigh? Not just a sigh, but a deep sigh… Was Jesus exasperated by the ‘miracle seekers’? He knew that even after miracles, people still would not believe that he was the Messiah.
I think that’s why Jesus said that the healed man shouldn’t tell anyone. The people, upon hearing of Jesus’ miracles, didn’t respond by confessing Jesus to be the Christ; they said, “He has done everything well…He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:37) I think that’s why Jesus asked his disciples who they believed He was in the next chapter. Who did they believe they were following? Even then, Peter was the only one who said, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)
It makes you think doesn’t it? Are we actually willing to go all-in and sacrifice the way we want our lives to be for the way God wants our lives to be? I promise God’s way is better… But I’m like the rest of humanity, I’m finding it difficult. You can’t just section off the parts of your life that you’re okay with God changing. That’s not how it works; that was never the deal. I can’t have church on Sunday, and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, or “Your Highness” through the week. I can’t pray the Lord’s prayer in church, and be too embarrassed to pray out loud each night with my husband listening. I can’t pray for change, and continue to try to stipulate the areas in which I’m okay with the change taking place. I can’t be offended by how upset the congregation was at a lack of bulletins when the church copier broke, yet not bring to their attention that worshiping God is not about the traditions of the Church, but rather the relationship and commitment they have to following.
God doesn’t want me half-way committed, similarly to the way my husband wouldn’t want me half-way committed. I wouldn’t walk up to my husband and say, “Look I really love you and all, but just not enough to stop seeing other people…” He would leave then and there, wanting nothing more to do with me. Why do we think that our spouses expect more of us than God? Kyle Idleman summed up the answer to that question when he said (and I’m paraphrasing here because I don’t remember what page that was on) that the Bible compares pursuing Christ to pursuing a romantic love, probably because that’s the deepest, most intimate love we can know and experience as human beings. That has been a struggle for me, because so often in my mind, God and my husband are fighting for first place. And honestly, I struggle with it because I don’t want Mitch to think that anyone could ever replace him. And no human ever could. But I need God to be first. And I bet if it came right down to it, Mitch wants me to have God first because in putting God at the forefront of my life, His love, and His mercy, and His grace, which are stronger and more powerful than any of the same I could offer, overflow to the other parts of my life. In loving God first, I’m able to love my husband more… Does that make sense? It’s sort of the only way I could think of to describe it.
Anyway, you sort of have to think about whether you’re trying to patch up an airplane with scotch tape, or solder. Personally, I would refuse to fly in the plane fixed with scotch tape- there’s no way that’s safe. Scotch tape works just fine on a torn piece of notebook paper, but when it comes to your life, would you be willing to risk flying in a plane held together with scotch tape? Or would you be calling TSA (Idk if they handle the safety standards of the actual planes, or just who and what boards them) asking for someone to actually fix it?
My point is that if your life is broken, you have to decide if you’re content with being a sheet of torn notebook paper that can be patched easy with some tape, or if you’re an intricate machine of flight that needs a little something more than what scotch tape can fix.