Posts Tagged ‘Life well-lived’

I was surprised.  We’ve been married for almost 33 years and attended a half dozen marriage retreats and conferences.  We have a strong marriage that has effectively navigated a number of major challenges, always coming through stronger on the other side.  So when we attended the XO Marriage Conference this past weekend, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything new.  I expected to be reminded of biblical truths about marriage that I needed to emphasize and I hoped to be an encouragement to others.   The Lord fulfilled these expectations and, as usual, He went above and beyond.

My “Ah ha” learning was the inclusion of verse 21 in the pre-eminent scriptural description of marriage.  From Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read.

‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.’  Ephesians 5:21-33

The divisions in the bible are a fairly modern literary inclusion designed to aid in reading, marking, and discussing the bible.  They were not in the original manuscripts.  As such, later editors of the bible inserted the chapters, verses, and the topical breaks.  These are meant to help us compartmentalize our thoughts and better remember what we read.  There is an unintended consequence with this though.  In few instances these breaks may cause us to overlook an intended point.  Verse 21 is such a case.  The majority of translations tag verse 21 with the preceding verses and insert a break between verse 21 and 22.  The verses following are referred to as “Instructions for Christian Marriage” or something similar.  While still true and supportive of Christian marriage, these verses benefit greatly from the foundation that verse 21 – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” provides.

In the past when I read these verses I have seen the two admonitions – wives submit / respect your husbands and husbands love your wives sacrificially.  But undergirding the marriage instructions with this verse to submit to one another literally ties the whole together.

Marriage was God’s idea.  It was ordained from the beginning.

‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone… So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’ Genesis 2:18,21-25

Marriage is one of God’s pre-eminent ideas.  It’s a crucible in which some of God’s best work is done.  A crucible is a bowl used by chemists specially designed to take very high heat.  Into the crucible the chemist places different materials.  Sometimes the elements are crushed, sometimes stirred , often heat is used as well.  In the end the materials are mixed together and something new is created.  In the best scenario, the two materials, which prior to mixing had little clear purpose, combine to form something altogether different and new.  It may be a compound that serves as a new medicine able to save lives or a fragrance that sweetly perfumes a room or a food ingredient that enlivens and pleases the taste buds.  The good outcome is only possible because of time spent in the crucible and the melding that takes place there.

When a man and a woman enter marriage they slip into the crucible together.  In most cases they do so because they have “fallen in love”.  They usually enter with a host of ideas and expectations about marriage.  Some of these may be met.  Some may be discussed and compromises achieved.  But many will remain unmet.  The falling in love phase is not a permanent state for most.  In fact unless the falling in love phase is replaced with Agape love, the intimate feelings will fade, sometimes quite rapidly.  This in itself is a type of heat applied to the marriage.  There are of course numerous other ways crushing, stirring and heat is applied to the marriage – financial strain, medical issues, differences in parenting, not to mention that marriage is the joining of two different people who each carry around their own set of emotional, mental, and spiritual baggage.

Unlike two chemicals that have no choice but to remain in the crucible, people can leave.  They can physically leave or they can emotionally leave, i.e. remote in one hand, beer in the other.  Either way, the potential good the crucible can bring is thwarted because we leave.  Another alternative is to resist and fight.  We do not see the good that can come so we resist the heat and the mixing, the coming together that the crucible can bring about.  Coming back to Ephesians 5:21 when we submit to one another we allow the crucible time to do its work, to blend us into something new, something better than the sum of just two individuals living under the same roof.  As we read in Genesis above – the two become one.

We celebrate 33 years of marriage next month.  We have been blessed with four wonderful children and four grandchildren thus far.  We are part of an awesome church and a great home group of friends that are truly part of our family now.  But we have been in the crucible for more than just one heating.  I know I have at times resisted the lesson in the heat.  Crucible times are not usually pleasant.  But, God, Who is rich in mercy, has always brought us through.  And what has come out of the crucible has been better and stronger than what went in.  Learning to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ is the foundation for living through crucible times.  And there are blessings in store for those who do.

Be blessed and let the God of all grace use you to bless someone who needs it today.

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I desire to live a “Life well-lived”.

I suspect that phrase will conjure different images to different people so let me give a quick picture of what I mean.  A life well-lived is one that fully hits the mark of why we were created and live on this earth.  It includes making the lives of those God places in our lives richer for knowing us.  It has as its heart beat a living, vibrant relationship with our Creator God, our Savior Jesus, and our Inspiration the Holy Spirit.  It will include minimal negative impact on others because of the things we say and do.  That is not because we live a perfect life (can’t be done unless you happen to be the Son of God and your name happens to be Jesus) but because we live a life of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  A life well-lived will be characterized by a high degree of peace even though it will likely have as many (or more) challenges and difficulties as anyone.  A life well-lived will be exemplified by intimacy with the Lord.

I guess it is important to note some of the things a life well-lived isn’t.  It is independent of worldly accolades and accomplishments.  It may include some, but it isn’t necessary.  It is not tied to worldly fame or the number of people who know your name.  A life well-lived is not one filled with tons of stuff, but rather one filled with quality relationships with the people who pass through our life.  It is possible to own a lot of stuff and still achieve the LIFE, but stuff is never the focus or priority of a life well-lived.

So periodically it is important to see how I am doing.  Admittedly it varies and I often have to make a course correction.  The past month has been one of those reflection times and a course correction is underway.  Basically it gets down to being intentional about setting and adhering to the priorities in my life.  Unfortunately I can get distracted and off-track too easily.  I relate very much to the dog in the movie UP that has a problem with squirrels.  (If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it.  It speaks eloquently to this very topic.)

So I share with you now my Priorities as I step out of this period of reflection and into a renewed life.  Other than the first one they are not necessarily prioritized.

Become more intimate with my Lord and Savior – Jesus.  Beginning every day with quality time reading and studying the Word of God and talking to the Lord.  Jesus is real, present, and He wants to be involved in our lives in tangible ways.  Beginning the day when everything else is quiet and I can focus upon Him is the best for me.

Journal or blog.  I am not exactly sure why this is so important, but I have come to find that I am buoyed when I put a portion of my thoughts and discussions with the Lord down in print.  I hope and pray that the persons who read these are edified and drawn closer to the One Who loves them more than they can imagine.

Double down on love and understanding toward the persons God has put in my life.  This begins with our spouse if we are married.  Our children follow.  Extended family and friends.  I love my wife and I know she is the greatest gift the Lord has given to me besides himself, yet I often fail to show her the love and appreciation that she deserves.  As husbands we are called to love our wives as Christ loved the church, laying our lives down for them.  Check out Ephesians chapter 5:25-33.

Be more intentional about loving everyone who crosses my path.  It is easy to take for granted the person who serves your food at the restaurant, takes your money at the check-out counter at Walmart, or cuts in front of you on the highway.  Okay the person who cuts in front of you may not be taken for granted, but they definitely aren’t the object of kind and warm thoughts.  Turn those around to be opportunities to share from the well of love and blessings God has given to us.  A nice tip, a kind word of encouragement, a prayer uttered in faith are gifts of love that we can give.

Be more intentional about sharing the Good News of Jesus with people.  Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is critical.  We’ve all met (or perhaps been) the person who wields the gospel more like a club than the precious gift it is.  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17.

Be actively engaged in the Body of Christ – the Church.  I see this manifested in two distinct ways.  Engaged in a local body of believers and within a small group.  I will probably expand upon this in the future.

Simplify and prioritize all the other things that demand and drain our time and energy.  Many of the chief priorities mentioned above can and should be practiced through our work and social interactions.  However I have had work and other activities move into the place of priority a number of times and the result has always been regretful.

Today is a new day.  I am making the decision to get back on track toward a life well-lived.  I realize mistakes I have made over the past few months and the lost focus.  I am ready to be the man God created me to be, to do the things He has called me to do, and live the life He has set before me to live.  Halleluiah! Halleluiah!  I am so thankful for forgiveness, fresh starts, and the opportunity to give my life to the Lord for Him to use a He sees fit.

Be blessed and be a blessing.


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