Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Yes, I am going to Alberta. God may be pleased to allow me to see my father while he is still alive, but I don't have a right to it and I will not set my heart on it. Mostly I am glad, glad, glad that my father tasted the grace of God about 20 years ago. It gave him a dependence and tenderness that was sweet to see. For a little more detail and a picture, see our daughter Ruthiey's blog:
Sunday, February 7, 2010
For the past five years Bethlehem has had marriage retreats. We have gone several times and been blessed every time. This year we were exceptionally blessed. Paul helped us see and even laugh at the petty quarrels we all engage in with those who are closest to us. "Sin causes us to shrink our lives to the size of our lives." Instead of living for the glorious Kingdom of God, we end of living for our own little kingdom that we have built on our definition of what we need. We live self-absorbed, self-oriented lives focussed on my wants, my feelings and my needs.
He told of a birthday party that was held in the kindergarten class he taught. The birthday girl had a huge stack of gifts and one little boy proceeded to snort in jealousy until one of the mothers knelt by him and slowly said "Hear me. This is not your party." The point? Folks, this is not our party. It is God's glory we need to love.
Paul asked whose kingdom is shaping our marriage. If it is self, we will manipulate others to deliver what makes us happy. If it is God's, we will minister, and seek to love our neighbor as ourselves. I love his definition: "Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not demand reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving." This convicted me that I have loved very little in my life -- and marriage particularly.
The lectures up to this point were painful -- like surgery. Like a stiff pruning from the master gardener.
Next Paul helped us to see what marriage looks like when God's Kingdom is shaping our marriage. We must believe that God is creator, that he is sovereign and that he is Savior. If we believe God is creator, we will view our spouse as a unique creature made in the image of God and be less irritated by the differences. They may be hardwired to be social, analytical, mechanical, bookish, handy, etc, and we will stop berating them for not being more like we are. Second, if we believe that God is sovereign, we will accept the story ( the particular influences) that have shaped them. However messy their story, God intends to take us beyond our comfort zone and to grow us through it. And of course sin makes everything very messy, but Paul says this is a grace -- grace because the messiness of relationships takes us out of fixing our heart on another and pushes us to cry out to God. What do we do the the sin of our spouse? Do we keep a record of it? Do we throw it into their face? If we do, we are cursing God.
The seminar made me aware of how afraid I am of giving up the interests of my own little kingdom and giving up the manipulating I do to secure what I believe I need. It is a reckless throwing myself into the arms of God. But then again, with all of his promises to richly reward those who seek him, maybe it is not so reckless after all. Surely it is more reckless to try to secure my paltry kingdom and lose the Kingdom of God in the process.