Friday, October 22, 2010

The Fruits of the Spirit: Longsuffering

Looking in the mirror sometimes, past the cheeks that aren't as plump anymore and through the beginnings of crows feet, I still see an insecure twelve year old girl looking back at me...I still can't explain why I ever put my worth in what boy was paying attention to me. I remember as far back as third grade feeling rejected by a boy. Maybe in middle school it was new hormones or maybe some event I haven't yet unraveled, but for some reason I wrapped up my joy and my worth in having a boyfriend. My middle school days were focused on either obtaining, or keeping a boyfriend and high school wasn't much different until I had a turning point. Only after being hurt multiple times by guys I had always given a second or even third chance to hurt me again, did I wake up one day with a new perspective. One guy made clear his agenda and when I informed him I had no intentions of sleeping with him, broke up with me the next day. Not long after that experience, did I finally release myself from the self-imposed obligation to have a boyfriend, and I began to enjoy my life as a high schooler. I began to look at guys as potential husbands, not boyfriends. There's a B-I-G difference.

When you know you want to be married one day (even if you're really young), again, I say, you need to act like it! Boyfriend/Girlfriend relationships whether you're twelve or twenty are faux-marriages with an always present escape route. Most of these kinds of relationships do not model covenant keeping, godly relationships. If you're in the mindset of these types of relationships you could live a life full of a succession of boyfriends and never get to the life for which you had hoped. If you are not even an adult yet and know you want to accomplish x-y-z before getting married one day, take my advice and don't waste your time. Don't waste the day to day having fun in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship that could land you in a wilderness of consequence. Trust me, if you spend enough time one on one with someone of the opposite sex, especially in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, it will not take long for hand holding to turn into much more. While you are young, focus on long-lasting friendship with trustworthy friends of the same sex and focus on figuring out who you are in light of who God has made you.

In my post "Looking for a Soul Mate?" I began to explore the topic of marriage and got some good feedback so I've decided to write more on this topic. This time, I want to lightly explore how the 'fruits of the spirit' should be played out in marriage and how the adolescent boyfriend/girlfriend relationship does not reflect a covenant keeping picture of marriage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

Christian or not, you have to admit the 'fruits of the Spirit' listed in the Bible are good qualities in a parent, a friend, and especially a spouse! Let me preface this by saying my marriage is not and never will be perfect, but my husband and I are committed to the good, the bad and the ugly - his, mine and ours- for a lifetime. I am writing this as much to myself as a twelve year old girl as any of you today.

Some versions of the bible leave out "longsuffering" for reasons I haven't explored, but I think longsuffering is a very pertinent quality that any marriage hinges upon. Maybe you've already suffered a great deal or know someone who has, but rest assured, you WILL deal with some kind of suffering in this life - because of sin or sickness or loss... Will you choose a mate whose character can withstand the very worst of circumstances? Are you with someone now who would run away when things get rough? Are YOU a person who cuts and runs at the first sign of conflict?

The teenage boy/girl relationship does not promote longsuffering, rather it teaches one to break up at the first sign of trouble. Merriam-Webster defines longsuffering as "patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship." The fact that the bible lists longsuffering as a fruit of the Spirit suggests that the Christian, like anyone else, WILL, in fact, experience offenses and hardships.

In marriage, you bring every one of your qualities -good and bad- to the table. Your strengths and your sins, his strengths and his sins. Yes, your bad habits (his leaving socks on the floor, or your propensity to burn everything you cook) will annoy each other, but your ever present sins will require grace extended to one another over and over and over again! And you don't get to be the One who is responsible for your spouse's sanctification! God will use each of you to sanctify one another, but at the end of the day you have to pray and trust God. You have to focus on your own sin instead of looking to your spouse's sin every time. There is no one in the world who I love more than my husband, but there's no one who can hurt me more or make me madder than hell either!

You will NEVER be "ready" to get married, but I pray that you would be confident in who you are in Christ before you turn your attentions to a spouse. Longsuffering could mean sickness for you, or in my case it seems to be financial struggle; whatever 'it' is for you, you can be sure the Lord will bring hard times to your marriage. Will you choose to be longsuffering forgiving one another as God has forgiven you?? Will you choose to fight for your marriage when the slings and arrows of the world are being thrown at you? Will you marry someone strong in the Lord who is confident in Christ, confidently willing to longsuffer with you 'til death do you part?

I encourage you to listen or at least read the notes to John Piper's sermons entitled:
Marriage: God’s Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace and Marriage: Forgiving and Forbearing. My favorite point is that when you recognize how much God has forgiven you, it's not so hard to forgive your spouse.

Colossians 3 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beautiful Things

For almost a year now I have been more stressed out than ever in my life. My spiritual health, mental health (I could've already used several 'mental holidays' to date if given the chance), and lately the stress has even affected my physical health bringing headaches and nausea. In attempts to combat the stress, I've begun regularly working out and trying to decorate a rental home I'm not sure I'll be in much longer. All I can think about is the next beautiful thing I can add to enhance the decor. I like beautiful things. I covet beautiful things. I'd rather have a new accessory for my home than a new outfit. My budget rarely allows for either so I've been getting a little creative. I've been perusing through countless home decor and craft blogs for inspiration and don't plan on turning this blog into a craft blog, but I might add a section showing off my thrifty transformations. All this begs the question, why do I want the things that I don't really need? Why am I so drawn to beautiful things, to beautiful homes and clothes?

For me, the answer is simple, we aren't made for this world. God made us for His glory and ultimately, heaven. My heart is not home, yet it longs for heaven. That is why I attempt to make my home a heaven on earth - choosing the right paint color, every picture in place, attempting to be organized down to the last paperclip. I have four little folks and my favorite man to help in the disarray of my home, but in vain I try.

My heart longs for a beautiful home (that has my name on the title) where I can live for the rest of my life with a parade of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren visiting my perfectly decorated home every Christmas where wassil is warm on the stove, my husband is leading us in carols and everyone is peaceful and content. Idyllic, hmm?

The reality is that God doesn't want our hearts to be here. He is jealous for our attentions and if you look at scripture closely you'll read how often He moved his people around, requiring them to depend upon Him often.

My comfort should never be in the stuff that this culture has taught me to love: that American dream we chase after - the house, the car, the shiny wardrobe and perfectly obedient children. I'm sure I've said this before, but houses rot, cars rust and breakdown, clothes go out of style (or get washed with a random red scarf and turn pink) and children will disobey.

While I wait for heaven and attempt to train my heart for it, I will continue to try to make treasure out of this world's trash and I will still attempt to make my home lovely on a shoe-string budget, but maybe as I transform a thrift store skirt into a new pillow or paint something I found at a garage sale, I will be reminded of my need for the Father who has made all beauty. And in Him is where my treasure should lie.

I can still hear this song being sung by the older ladies at my grandparents' church when I was a little girl:

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.
Christ, the bless├Ęd One, gives to all wonderful words of life;
Sinner, list to the loving call, wonderful words of life;
All so freely given, wooing us to heaven.
Sweetly echo the Gospel call, wonderful words of life;
Offer pardon and peace to all, wonderful words of life;
Jesus, only Savior, sanctify us forever. -Words & Music: Phil­ip P. Bliss, 1874

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:20-21

Semper Reformanda- Ever being reformed,
I'm attempting to attach my husband's quick (and beautiful) version of Wonderful Words of Life below. video