Repetitive Love

So… Valentine’s Day.

I will be up front and say that I celebrate it. I find that any excuse to spoil my wife is a lot of fun. As we enter February, Hope’s high school ministry is asking us to engage in the process of talking to our students about love. Simple task, right? Now, I have a pretty good resume on this topic. I love my Momma and I love my wife. Both of those relationships have done more for my ability to speak to high school students on this topic than almost any other part of my life. My students in school are similarly taken by my affection for those two women. If I talk with high praise about my mother, students nod their heads in affirmation. If I brag about my wife or share funny stories about how we met, students lean in to hear them.

I contest, however, that I’ve learned more from one other source.

Knowing I would face a myriad of questions about love and romance and sex this month from our high school small group, I went to the Bible. I wanted to take another look at how Jesus loves us.Two important things for the rest of this blog post. First, being a Christian partly means acting like Christ. How do we act like him? Repeat his actions. So we look to the Bible and see how he talks to people. How does he handle adversity? Betrayal? Friendship? Questions? The lowly? The mighty? It’s all in there. We look at how he speaks and acts and we try the impossible: repeat.

Second, if you ever want to know what Jesus thinks about you, you can see it in the gospel. Instead of imagining him sitting down with Nicodemus, imagine he’s across the table from you. Zacchaeus up in the tree? You. Lady at the well? You. Then you just have to listen to what he says or how he challenges. Look at how he pursues and changes. That’s how he thinks of you and what he wants for you. It’s kind of cool.

Anyway, I started reading back through gospel of John. Here is a list of the ways that Jesus, in just ten or fifteen pages, brought love crashing down into people’s lives:

– honors John

– teaches his disciples

– goes seeking his disciples

– calls people to higher callings

– keeps the celebration going

– humbles himself

– gets angry about injustice and sin

– teaches the truth

– breaks through barriers and rules to love people, even at their worst

– redeems

– encourages people away from sin

– offers healing in word and deed

– goes out of his way to find people

– helps the weak and the lost

– earns the right to speak

– speaks with authority

– feeds the hungry

– invites people into his power

– offers life

– handles rebukes with wisdom and kindness

– doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t

– doesn’t abandon

– meets people where they are

– helps heal someone’s sight (physical and spiritual)

Wow. So that’s… a big list. This week, I read that to my high school students. It’s kind of daunting if we’re being honest about it. I told them that for relationships in their present and relationships in their future, for relationships with friends or with love interests, parents or teachers, it was still a heck of a place to start. What if love is a repetition? What if it’s looking at the Person that has loved us completely, and trying to do what he did? What if we could adopt just a few of these things into our every day conversations and interactions? What if we did that over, and over, and over again?

It makes repetitive love sound a lot more interesting than the alternative.

Russell Wilson’s Divorce: A Christian Perspective

Divorce. 

The reaction you have to that word depends so much on who you are, on what you believe, and on what you’ve lived through. So when we react to and talk about the Russel Wilson situation that came out in the news, what should we think as believers?

1. Most people don’t go into marriage with divorce in mind. I’d even dare to say that the Christian view of marriage would orient you in such a way that you are planning to be with that person for the rest of your life. A wise friend, Jim Gernatt, once told me that before marriage… Satan will do everything he can to push you too close to your significant other. He wants you to make sexual mistakes and leaps of intimacy that God designed for marriage. But when you are married? Satan flips the switch. He wants to do everything in his power to pull those two people away from each other, and from God’s design. If that’s the case, remember that the two people involved in this story were probably attacked from every direction. In Ephesians 6:16, Satan’s attacks are compared to flaming arrows. You can assume that both of these people were under fire.

2. There are no “heroes”. We make this mistake with the Bible, too. We want to teach kids to read the stories in the Old Testament and find heroes with qualities to aspire toward. David’s bravery and Sampson’s strength and Moses’ success. Those are great qualities, but they have to be described and explained truthfully. The issue that pops up with teaching our kids to revere these Biblical heroes? Well… adultery… and weakness… and cowardice. From all I’ve seen, Russell is a great guy that strives to live for the Lord. But this definitely points to the necessary caution we should take when idolizing a person. Any time you put someone up as a paradigm of the “Christian man”, he’s not going to really fit the bill. Jesus already did that.

3. I’m telling you your story, not hers. Now, Wilson is in a unique position for our society because he plays football and has millions of people tuned into his “story”. I love the bolded quote from “The Horse and His Boy”. When Shasta asks Aslan to tell him a part of Aravis’ story, Aslan pulls him back to worrying about his own story. This doesn’t mean we ignore lessons from other’s lives or stay secluded in our walk with God. But it always reminds me that I don’t know their story. I don’t know that marriage or that home, I don’t know those two people well enough to speak to what this divorce means or what it says. I can only trust that God is guiding their story as he has guided mine.

4. Pray first? The tempting thing is to say, “That’s a shame.” or “I guess he’s not all he said he was.” What if we prayed first? I’ll never forget a Christian comedian that described the almost-divorce between his wife and he. He said that it was like his skin being ripped completely apart. He explained that the Bible is right. Marriage makes two people one. To pull them apart through divorce is immensely painful. I’d say they need prayer, if that’s the case. Your judgments on the situation are probably gongs if they aren’t paired with thoughtful prayer for a fellow believer.

5. But for the grace of God– Geoff Bradford did Katie and I’s wedding. One of the coolest parts of it? We had to admit, right then and there, that we don’t have what it takes. But for the grace of God, Katie and I would have never met! But for the grace of God, we would never survive a lifetime together. But God is good. I think it’s hard to look at a situation like Russell’s and understand the purpose behind it. What’s going on there? How will He use this for His kingdom? Those questions rattle my brain, too. I wish I was content in knowing and trusting that God has a good, and righteous answer (because he’s good, and he’s righteous). But often I think my questions are too deep for God to answer. They really aren’t.

Prayer can go in two ways I think. We hear something and we pray for damage already done. It’d be cool to hear about believers praying for Russell and his wife. But prayer can also be hopeful for the future. I know that my first thought when I read that story was that I hope Katie and I never, ever have to go through something like that. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient and effective. 

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There’s Still Time…to be a Better Groom

I recently got married to the love of my life.

No blog post can go wrong when it starts with that! I’ve been dying to write a little bit about married life, but as I sat down for this blog post I kept thinking back to the weeks and months preceding Katie and I’s marriage. There are just so many social dynamics that evolve and form around weddings, some of which are lovely and some of which are dreadful. I wanted to specifically talk about some of the perceptions of a guy and his involvement in the wedding/marriage/engagement process. These are a few things I’ve noticed:

1. There’s still time. I was told this so often. A laughable, knee-slapper. There’s still time! Time to get out! Time to be free! I know it’s just an age old joke, but really? Is this the mentality of men on marriage? Is our mentality that Christ has created marriage to bind and shrink our souls, rather than expand and improve them? I’m sorry, but it was just so frustrating. I got this from the typical guys you’d expect it from (dudes out on a golf course), but I also heard it from strong Christian men. I hope that I never tell a guy that is about to make one of the most important decisions in his life that there is “still time” to change his mind. You know what there’s still time for? There’s still time to make Christ the center of your life. There’s still time to read your bible and pray that you can be a good husband. There’s still time to read more books and get to know your spouse’s needs better. There’s still time to reflect on how good God is for orienting your life and the events in it so that you met this lovely person when you did. There’s still time.

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2. Not that you care about that. I often had people ask me how the wedding planning process was going. Most of these people, guys or girls, would eventually assert that the process, stressful though it may be, had little to do with me. Well, of course not! She will choose this and decide this and you? You’ve never even thought about it. You’re coasting down the aisle on the hard work of others. Your opinions are second-rate and most likely uninformed. Your attitude? Well, you obviously don’t care about the wedding as much as she does. She’s been waiting her whole life for this and spending every hour planning it all out… you? You’re lucky she let’s you show up! So what’s wrong with this?

The main thing that I see in this is a perpetuation of man’s most difficult sin. You can look all the way back to Adam and Eve for our tendency. We, as men, have a tendency to do nothing. We tend toward laziness or inaction. We like to sit back and watch things happen, rather than take an active involvement in our roles that are God-designed. So this perpetuation, this constant discussion of my lack of involvement or my lack of caring or my lack of opinions… isn’t it all pushing the guy toward the belief that he SHOULDN’T care? Do we want our guys soft and uninvolved? Do we want guys that are content to sit back and let others do everything?

Don’t get me wrong. Katie is superior to me in all things wedding. Her sense of colors, design, and decoration? Amazing. I could add little to those categories. But what I could add, I was happy to add, because this day is about a lifetime of action or inaction. Men! Be active, take a role, and love your wife through your decision-making.

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3. So… how’s the wedding stuff? If you’re about to get married… be prepared. You’re about to experience one of the most alarming and undeniable shifts in social interaction that you will EVER experience. It is almost impossible, now that you are engaged and have selected that lovely locale for your big day, to go into any conversation without this as the center-piece. People dynamically shift to asking you, not about writing or about your job or about sports, but about your wedding. How is that? How are things? And you get to generally say, “A little stressful, but coming together.” I’d urge you to continually reclaim your conversations and talk about things other than your wedding.

Is the wedding a big deal? Of course it is. God has designed a ceremony and a party that will unite you with another person for the rest of your life. His grace is so, so sufficient in that. But you should also talk about life with people. You should keep learning from married couples. You should keep joking and laughing and telling stories. I’m not suggesting you avoid the topic, I’m just suggesting that you remember to love your friends and family by de-focusing them on a “day” and focusing them on the reason for the day (God).

4. Honor People – I don’t know when guys got in their heads that they can’t be emotional or sincere. It is one of the biggest lies we are told. That we must be tough. We must not cry. We must always strive to be hardened men without feelings. I was so thankful to have the opportunity to honor important people in my life. I said something about each of my groomsmen, about my brothers, everyone. It was such a great chance to remind people that God put them in my life with purpose and precision. It was a great chance to make a big day about not just you, but all the people that made you who you are and changed/impacted you for the better. Don’t miss your chance to take the stage in this positive way. For a weekend, everyone is kind of… watching you. They’re looking at you and talking to you or about you and celebrating you… What if, as often as you could, you made it about them? What if you tried to point outward? I don’t know.

All I know is that there are a handful of stereotypes regarding guys and weddings. Ignore them. There should be a few simple rules:

1. Remember God is good to you.

2. Honor and love your wife during this week.

3. Thank your family and friends.

4. Ignore what people tell you about being a man and try to figure out what God tells you about being a man

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