In the past year we have seen four Christian marriages very close to us disintegrate. We watched (and are watching) them all disappear into the black hole of adultery. There are even more when we consider extended friends. Every generation of churches has its particular battles to fight. And the greatest threat to ours is not creationism, school prayer, or even abortion. It is divorce and all its wicked implications. In my naive opinion, divorce (and marital neglect, in general) is inflicting the most damage on the health, witness and strength of the church.
It is not that threats like creationism, school prayer, and especially abortion are not important issues. They are. But while we’ve been fighting on those (legislative) shores we’ve left our flanks open. The enemy has lured us into the open to ambush us from behind.
Everyday my wife and I thank our Great God and Savior for his grace. Why have three marriages of close friends dissolved and ours hasn’t? These friends heard virtually the same preaching, served the same churches, and lived the same scene as we did. We all participated in eachother’s weddings. Yet, God let the leash out on them and not us. Why protect our marriage despite the same struggles, sorry husbandry, and silly ambitions? My wife, Amy, spent time meditating on this during her prayer walk several days ago. Her thoughts are more than blogworthy and hopefully they can encourage you to man (and woman) the battle stations. (All the emphases are hers and Lidi is our daughter, just in case.)
Our prayer walk began in its usual way today. I unloaded the stroller, buckled Lidi in and then she and I began our quiet stroll through neighborhoods and our favorite city park. I began thanking God for the cool breeze, the towering trees that give us shade, the soft grass that is wet on our feet, the songs of PRAISE from birds soaring through the air.
I then began to pray for our dear friends and family. Every day I persist in prayer for each of them believing that God CAN restore broken relationships. How I hurt over our dear friends who are teetering on the brink of divorce. I weep just thinking about those we love the most being ripped apart by lies: lies that stem from the very lust of their own hearts (James 1).
But, today as I was pleading on behalf of those I love and lifting up my heart’s requests, my Father gently spoke to me! How I treasure those times of prayer when I can hear that gentle whisper of the Father, speaking truth and reminding me of who He is!
No longer do I hear my own babblings and selfish desires. No longer is my mind racing and wandering with each new request. No longer is it me that takes front and center. But it is God alone who holds my attention. It is He alone that speaks so loudly that everything else is silenced and still.
I am humbled.
My Father gently reminded me today that I am no different than my adulterous friends. I am no different from the man who abandons his wife and child searching for a life free of rules and conviction. I am no different from the women who got pregnant out of wedlock. I am no different than the man who sits at his computer overtaken by images of pornography. I am no different from the man who beats his wife. I am that very same sinner.
As my Father replayed the images of my life and reckless sin, I began to see His ever present hand.
What has made my marriage different? What has kept my life intact? It is nothing I have done. It is not because I am “good” enough or that I have the strength to restrain myself. It is only through the provision, mercy, grace and love of my Father. For reasons we may never know this side of Heaven, He allows His hand to raise a bit higher on some, letting them reap the full consequences of their sin. And yet, for others, He keeps them close in the “shadow of His wings” (Psalm 57).
As I remembered my stupid, selfish, ignorant sin, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. Why did God spare me? Why did He not let me rot in my sin and spiral down into the trenches of Hell?
I see a Father who is ever present. He is always with me, teaching me and correcting me. He is a Father who disciplines. Sometimes it may have been a gentle reminder through His Word. And yet, sometimes His discipline has been hard and painful.
But my Father has always been there, always loving and always wise! It is my Father who has been at work in me, not I. I see how He has been at work all of these years transforming me and conforming me into the likeness of my elder brother, Christ Jesus!
Can you please hand me a tissue? Better yet, just give me the whole dang box.