Friday, 2 May 2014

Preoccupation with Potholes

 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 NIV

A week or two ago I wrote about how devastating this past winter has been on the roads in the US Northeast.  We have potholes that look more like fishing holes.  For those of you not familiar with the term pothole, these are large gaping holes that show up in the middle of our road ways.  My wife, Kathleen, who is my most faithful reader suggested that we expand the pothole analogy.  The following is joint effort. The more insightful comments are hers, but I probably didn’t need to tell you that.

A really bad winter reveals weak spots in the road’s surface, spots that heretofore had been undetectable.  These small fissures begin to widen until large holes begin to form.  When a roadway is left unattended over a long period of time it may require major reconstruction, so it is with a marriage that has been neglected for years.

Things can seem fine for a long time so we forget to keep working on our marriages.  Stressful times like bad weather can reveal weak spots in one’s marriage.  Perhaps the stress fractures in the marriage start out small but over time just like the potholes in the road the gaps in the marriage become huge.  Often one of the partners is totally surprised but normally a marriage doesn’t disintegrate overnight, most likely there were warning signs.

When the road gets bad enough and the municipality that has the responsibility to maintain the road receives enough complaints from tax payers the road will get repaired.  That is not the best system but it works.  There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent warning for couples.  The longer the marriage goes unattended the less likely it will ever get repaired.

As I see it a couple has essentially three choices.  They can get a divorce, but the emotional pain, anguish and expense associated with a divorce is well beyond what most couples imagine.  They can continue to live in the situation just as it is, trying to avoid the potholes for another 20 or 30 years.  Or they can do the major work to rebuild from the bottom up.  

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to make working on your marriage a priority before the first fissure shows up?

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

It Never Rains but it Pours

13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b]beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1Corinthians 10:13 NIV

This title was suggested to me by a reader.  Perhaps his suggestion was prompted by the constant dripping of rain that we are experiencing or a series of unanticipated events, in either case here is what it brought to mind.

The basic meaning behind this idiom is that often we will go through a season with little or no rain and then all of a sudden we are faced with a deluge.  Sadly that deluge is usually an unexpected, costly series of circumstances that leaves us reeling before the sun comes back out.  It may be that a family of six has just learned that two of the children need braces, the same week their washing machine breaks down and their car needs new brake pads.

Most of us have lived long enough have had a week where our world seems to crash in around us.  In all honesty our first response is not to sing the doxology –“praise God from whom all blessings flow…” Christian though we may be.

This is where the rubber meets the road.  When we are experiencing a mild shower or two followed by periods of a few clouds and some sunshine it is easy to acknowledge God’s sovereignty.  When we are faced with torrential downpours in our lives He is still the same all powerful, all loving, omnipotent God who only wants our best.

It is this confident understanding of who our God is that helps us to weather the storms of life.  For it is our trust and faith in His unconditional love that gives us hope.  After all is it not hope that we most need when faced with great difficulty?  Is it not the hope that comes from firmly believing that God is in control that enables us to wade through our troubles in anticipation of seeing the sun?

Maybe you have not seen a sunny day for a long time.  Some of you are facing a serious illness or have a loved one who has received a terminal diagnosis.  Some of you are estranged from loved ones.  Some of you are unemployed or under employed and worried about meeting financial obligations.  Perhaps you have an addiction that you just can’t shake.

It is at these times when even the strongest of marriages are at risk.  It is at these times that we must remember a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  You, your spouse and God can emerge victoriously.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Fan or Follower

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 NIV

IF Jesus had a Twitter account would you follow His Tweets?  If so you might be a fan, someone who was an ardent admirer of His.  In fact there are those who read the Bible, pray, and/or attend church with some regularity who could be considered fans.  As a fan we are a spectator, who at most has an emotional investment in the success or failure of the person to whose fan club we have joined.  A follower however is invested emotionally, physically and perhaps financially.  They have, in many cases, devoted their life to emulating the person who they are following, they want to be just like him or her.  For example, Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, had followers, i.e. men and women who followed Wright’s principles for designing a building.

It would not take someone with a Doctorate degree in Neuroscience to see where this discussion is headed.  Many of us are merely a fan of Jesus.  We accept that He was an incredibly moral human being, a righteous man, and a wise teacher.  Some of us even attempt to quote some sayings attributed to Him like, “money is the root of all evil”.  Which is NOT what He said.  But the real question is do we want to follow Him, to “deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily and follow Him”?

Following Jesus is difficult, following Jesus in the context of marriage raises the bar to a new level. 1Corinthians 7:28 tells us “…But those who marry will face many troubles in this life,…” This is not a passage that is quoted during most wedding ceremonies.  For starters, we must acknowledge that we are self-centered which is why Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself…”  No one knows us better than the person we are married to.  No one sees our flaws as quickly as the one to whom I said “I do”.   Different life experiences coupled with gender and personality differences can make living with another person difficult.  Sadly our true self is more apt to come out in the confines of our own home than in public.

Back to our central theme – are you a follower of Jesus?  Would your husband/wife say you are a follower of Jesus?  Being a fan merely requires saying good things about Jesus.  Being a follower requires our willingness to be transformed by His Word, to yield to the Holy Spirit, to put our spouse ahead of ourselves, and to sacrifice for the good of others.