16 Years and the Cross.

On May 17th, we will celebrate 16 years of marriage! Every year we add to our marriage is celebrated as if we climbed Mount Everest! Cause…we did, didn’t we?

We were able to sustain a godly, thriving marriage for 365 days, even as the flaming arrows of life’s obstacles and distractions were hurled at us. That is worthy of SUPER MOUNTAIN CLIMBER celebration, in my humble opinion.

Why were we able to make it another year?

Because of one thing: THE CROSS.

We didn’t get a divorce when our marriage completely fell apart because of one thing: THE CROSS.

We are able to love, forgive, accept, and grow as a couple because of one thing: THE CROSS.

When Jesus and his grace, love and mercy became the cornerstone for our marriage, everything changed. We began a new marriage, centered on God, just before our 7th anniversary.

“When Jesus and his grace, love and mercy became the cornerstone for our marriage, everything changed.”

And the cross was beautifully represented that year. You see, only weeks before our 7th anniversary, we were both fighting to restore a completely broken marriage. Our marriage had fallen apart and we were only just starting to pick up the pieces.

My husband had only recently been introduced to the grace that comes with following Jesus. I had just returned to God’s path.  We were in the beginning stages of healing.

We spent most of our free time in marriage counseling, marriage strengthening activities, or intentionally learning how to love each other well. We were also spending a great deal of time studying God’s word, as we had learned that the Bible is the ultimate source on how to thrive in marriage…and in life.

This season of life was exhausting AND exhilarating.

Leading up to our anniversary date, I think we both were shocked– or at least pleasantly surprised– at the fact we were going to make it another year! We had been through so much, and we were actually feeling the joy–deep joy–of a godly marriage.

So, when it came to an anniversary gift for my husband, what could I possibly get him that would properly reflect how I was feeling? What could we do for each other to adequately celebrate a nearly impossible feat of seven years of marriage?

God proved his love on the cross.   -Billy Graham

On May 17th, 2009–our 7th anniversary—we handed each other a small wrapped gift. We slowly opened our gifts….and can you believe it…we both gave each other a cross necklace. A cross. THE cross.

We were able to make it another year because of one thing: THE CROSS.

And we both chose to boldly proclaim that truth with our gifts to each other.  And seriously, what are the odds?!

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Our choice of gifts only further proves that, in the season, it was very clear to each of us, WHO was carrying us and our marriage.  Jesus.

Do we all need to give each other cross necklaces in order to show Jesus is the center of our marriage? NO.  That is not my point.

What I want you to see is that Jesus and his sacrifice for us is what saved our marriage.

Allowing God to reign over our lives and our marriage was the game-changer for us.

Is Jesus the center of your marriage?  Do you and your spouse recognize His sacrifice for you was enough?  Do you know, without a doubt, that He loves you and will lead you?

John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

www.sidebysideministry.org

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My Own Worst Enemy.

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

There are some days that I literally look at myself in the mirror and say, “what were you thinking?”  Or I look behind me to see who my husband is staring at in horror only to realize he’s looking at me…because of something I just said or did.  And I think to myself, “How did that even just happen?”

Have you ever felt like that?  (Please tell me I am not alone!)

Well, actually, I know I am not alone, because the Apostle Paul tells us about something similar in his letter to the Romans.  And I gotta tell you…I really love this verse.  Not because I want to hear that Paul messes up.  Back up…yes, it IS because I want to hear that Paul–the Apostle, amazing follower of Jesus who led multiple people groups to the saving power of Jesus Christ–wasn’t perfect.  He made mistakes.  He did things he didn’t like and didn’t understand why.  Even the great Paul was a sinner….just like me.

I imagine him saying, “I am my own worst enemy.”

(It’s actually the sin within us that is the enemy, but I will get to that)

So, if the things that I do, the things I don’t understand but I know are wrong are coming from ME….then I am the only one that can change them.

If I am my own worst enemy, I–with the power of God–need to choose to change those things.

It’s super easy to look at others (especially those that are in close proximity-like your spouse) and see what they are doing that you don’t understand or things that you hate.  It’s easy to label them the enemy.  We seem to prefer to have other people to blame–scapegoats for our issues.

It’s not easy to look within ourselves and see the things we truly dislike, even hate.  And then, imagine being like Paul and publicly professing it!  What?!

Who wants to admit that they don’t have control over themselves?  Who wants to tell their spouse, or neighbor, or friend that they are doing something they don’t like to do?  It’s not such a fun task.

BUT it’s freedom.  Confession of sin is part of the process of growth.  Admitting our own faults–rather than focusing on everyone else’s–frees us to heal and grow.

We are always going to have sin.  We will always have something we are doing that we probably wish we weren’t.  But when we seek God to identify them, confess them and free ourselves from them, we have greatly lessened our burden and drawn closer to God.    That’s a win, in my eyes!

Sin (those things we hate that we do) separate us from God.

So, technically, I am not my own worst enemy.  My sin is most own worst enemy.  I am a child of God who daily needs to make the choice to kick that enemy out and make lots of room for the God I love.  The more I do that, the more open I am to loving those around me.

What do you do that you hate?  How can you ask God to help you remove it?

 

It’s just a rental.

We recently moved from South Florida to North Carolina. We decided to rent a house rather than buy in order to take some time to get to know the area.

We have been homeowners for years. Going back into the rental market has been a bit strange. We are also landlords of a rental property, so it is especially odd to be on the other side of the transaction.

Inevitably, whether as a renter or a landlord, this statement is used frequently:

It’s just a rental.

As a renter, we may say….It’s just a rental. It’s not our permanent home. It’s not ours. We are not responsible for it. It doesn’t have the same value as a home that we own. We won’t “gussy it up” cause we won’t be here long.

As a landlord, we may say…it’s just a rental. We aren’t going to treat it like a “real home.” I am not going to furnish it with top notch finishes, because I am not sure the renters will care for it well. Not like an owner would care for it.

So, we have been unpacking boxes for what feels like YEARS. It’s actually been about 2 weeks….but it feels like the boxes will never be empty. While unpacking, my husband suggested that we just keep all our wall art packed up since…you guessed it, it’s just rental.

He rationalized that we are only going to be here for a short while, and why bother hanging up all the photos and artwork just to take it down and pack it up again when we buy a house.

I get it. It’s a lot of work. But empty walls for up to a year seems a bit depressing to me. Even though it’s a rental, I desire to feel at home.

Even so, the other day, I had the choice of organizing something well or just “making do.” I made do….cause, you know, it’s just a rental.

This got me thinking. Both of us, in our own ways, are treating just about everything differently because of our perspective as renters versus owners. It seems that just about every decision we have made, however minor it may be, is affected by the fact that we do not own this house….it’s just a rental.

What if we all viewed our marriages as “just a rental?”

 

What if we went into our marriages thinking in the back of our minds that we may not be here long? No need to care for it because we aren’t sure it will work? Or we can always just break the lease. Or move on to the next rental when this lease was up? Or find a better rental when we are “better?”

Sadly, many people in our society DO think this way. They enter into the union of marriage with a clause, whether written or unwritten, said or unsaid, stating that this marriage may not be permanent. That there is an out. That essentially…it’s just a rental. When we have that perspective, it skews our nearly every decision we make, whether consciously or unconsciously.

 

With the perspective of “possibly temporary,” we are setting ourselves up for a high probability of that becoming a reality.

When we were repairing our marriage after near-divorce, we realized that both of us entered into the marriage with that perspective. It wasn’t discussed. It wasn’t written. But it was there. And it definitely affected the way we interacted in our marriage.

A renter uses. An owner invests.

We need to OWN our marriages. We must go into marriage with an “all in” mentality. Any other perspective is one that will likely lead to despair.

When we began the healing of our broken marriage, we made an agreement that we were both ALL IN for our marriage. There was no out. We decided to OWN our marriage…to invest completely in our newly God-centered union.

So, when we have a disagreement or a season of difficulty, we know that we both will fully invest in working it out. We are fully invested in our marriage.

Think of it this way. Let’s say the sink is backed up in your rental. You might just deal with it. You might throw some Draino down there….you may even call the landlord to tend to it. But you might not be so concerned with the fact that there could be a much bigger problem in the pipes. It’s not your problem…it’s just a rental.

But when you own a home and your sink won’t drain, you tend to get your plumber there as soon as possible so that you can diagnose the issue, repair the problem and be sure there isn’t any other hidden damage. You own the place and you plan to be there a long time. The last thing you want is a plumbing issue that could cause huge problems in your home.

When there is a problem in your marriage, which approach do you take?

Do you find a quick fix solution to the latest problem? Do you apply a band-aid, so to speak, or even completely ignore difficulties, hoping they will just go away?

Or do you actively pursue the root cause, investing and repairing in a healthy way, so that your marriage can continue to thrive and flourish?

Are you fully invested in your marriage, knowing that you are one until death parts you?

Do you OWN your marriage? Or is it….just a rental?