Forever Yours

Not many people intentionally lie during their wedding vows. When they say “til death do us part” or some variation, many are honestly hoping that’s how long the marriage lasts…and that their spouse’s death is more than just three weeks away. Ah, but there’s the operative word: hoping. A few may go in with a commitment that, come what may, the marriage will last, yet so many are going in with a quid pro quo hope, a commitment that lasts only as long as their needs are being met.

Leah and I have had something of a trying time in Houston. Jobs that I thought I nailed the interview for seem to have fallen through. She’s missing her family, friends, and the two little boys she used to nanny. Fears that this was a bad decision or that God won’t come through have clouded our minds and brought with them, for me anyway, a lot of regret over past decisions.

Our relationship with each other has remained strong throughout all this. We haven’t fought, haven’t regretted marrying each other, haven’t tried to push the other one away. If anything, our marriage has grown stronger. We know that, even should we end up on the streets (which we don’t believe we will), we will stay together because of our commitment to and love for each other. Our marriage isn’t dependent on circumstances.

Why then is it so easy to let our relationship with God, which is far more eternal than any marriage and with a love far greater, at least on His end, than any we have for each other, be dependent on what’s going on in our lives? Are we not forever His? During this struggle, both of us have questioned why God brought us here. We still don’t know. We feel like for what we’ve given up and for following His will that He somehow owes us something, which makes our love and our obedience conditional.

I have absolutely no fear that Leah will leave me, cheat on me, or recklessly spend all our money. It would go against everything I know about her. Why should I have any fear that God will let me down when He’s perfect and she’s not? He cannot let me down because He’s promised to work out all things for the good of those who love Him and He cannot deny Himself.

Usually, I don’t post until I have some sort of answer to the question I’m posing, but this time, I am. I think part of it is that my top love language is physical touch, which I can’t do with God but can with Leah, so it’s easier for me to have a deep love for Leah. Yet I think there must be more to it. I’m open to any suggestions or thoughts here.

Faith Determines Focus

They say the eyes can focus on only one thing at a time, that everything else becomes slightly blurry and is not fully comprehended. For the time that your eyes are focused on something, it’s the thing that matters most to them. The rest of the world is secondary.

In our lives, we’re often like that. When I’m hungry, I think about food. When I’m tired, I want to sleep. And when I’m scared, I think about that which scares me. In this case, that’s the idea that I won’t be able to find work down here, forcing Leah and I to live on the streets, which would mean, in my mind, that I’ve utterly failed as a husband. The thought terrifies me, not that she’d leave me, but that she’d stay and love me regardless, that I would have taken the person I love the most and who loves me more than I can fathom and make her destitute.

It’s a difficult thought to shake. The problem with it is that there’s no faith in God to be found there. If we believe God told us to move down here, then it’s on Him to provide for us when we’re in His will. If I had enough faith in that, my focus could be elsewhere because I wouldn’t see a problem; I’d see a certainty that He would come through. We focus on those things we either want or want to avoid. Those that are already taken care of are generally forgotten. 

My focus should be on doing God’s will, not on my problems. It’s not wrong to pray about situations or have plans, but it is wrong to focus on them to the point that I’m not focusing on God and His will for my life. My focus is only on my problems because my faith in God is not strong enough.

It’s difficult to have that faith when I struggle to focus on God long enough to build it. I guess that is perhaps the first step of faith, to willingly shift your focus from your problem to your Almighty Solution.

Faith vs. Feelings

It’s easy to have faith in God when you don’t feel you need Him for anything. When your relationship with your spouse is good, when the kids are healthy, when you have enough money, and when your boss appreciates your work (or when you don’t have an upcoming test, for those in school), it’s easy to forget God. Yet this is when faith is weakest, when it’s not needed.

Leah and I have started working out since we’ve moved down to Houston. She was already in pretty good shape, but I have a few pounds I could easily lose. It’s hard, though. We have the P90X videos and plyometrics is ridiculously difficult. I can only get to 33:30 remaining and I’m sore the next morning. It’s ok, though, because my work is paying off. I’m starting to lose weight and that pain I feel is because I used my muscles beyond their capabilities, meaning they’ll rebuild themselves to be stronger. I hope to, within a month or two, be able to do the whole thing. My legs will be stronger, my heart will be stronger, and I’ll be leaner.

Oddly, we seek to work out our bodies, but don’t seem to want to work out our faith. We’re often happiest when we see no reason to need God, when our lives are going according to our plans. Personally, I think it’s a matter of feeling in control. With working out, I can stop if it’s too much or if I just decide I don’t care. I have that power. With life’s struggles, I usually don’t have that choice. But just as my character can only be built when I don’t want to build it, so my faith can only be built when I’m not in control. That feeling of being out of control breeds fear and, though I could quote Yoda here, I’ll quote 2 Tim. 1:7 instead, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

When you come to a challenge in other areas of your life, how do you respond? Do you back away and give excuses, or do you face the challenge head on? The way you respond to challenges in your life shows a lot about what you believe about yourself, but it also reveals a lot about what you believe about God. A weak faith in Him will make someone seek to avoid life’s struggles because uncertainty is uncomfortable; a strong faith will enable a person to embrace those times because their faith is growing stronger still and their God gets another opportunity to show them and the world His infinite love.

So…how strong is your faith?

Bearing Others’ Burdens

Marriage has been a blessing in so many ways. I am amazed that it has been nearly four months already while simultaneously astounded that it has been only four months. My life has entirely changed. There’s another person here with me almost all the time, another person I have to make plans with, make shopping lists with, and split the chores with. I have my best friend with me nearly always, and we’ve had some very intimate conversations.

There is no one on this earth who knows my strengths and weaknesses better than Leah. She knows me well enough to finish my sentences a lot of the time. She laughs at the jokes running through my head before I even make them. And she knows the issues I struggle with on a daily basis.

With her help, grace, and wisdom, I have gotten better with certain issues, though I’m a long ways from being perfect. Her bearing my burdens, though, whether it’s having conversations with me, praying for me, or working with me on the books, has helped me immeasurably.

I know that not everyone who reads this will be married. Some of you may not have many close friends or anyone you feel you can open up to entirely about your life. I don’t know how you’ve been burned in the past (and nearly all of us have experienced the sting of betrayal or abandonment), but I do know that faith in God can help you overcome these fears.

It seems we have a much easier time bearing each other’s burdens than baring our own burdens to others. We like being trusted, we like the emotional intimacy and close friendship that comes from being open. We often just don’t want to be the ones who open up first.

A lot of this reluctance comes from a fear of rejection. Much of the rest comes from a fear that we’re just unloading on that person unfairly and they don’t really want to hear it.

As someone who has been deeply hurt in the past, let that hurt cause me to be a very private person, and has opened up again, I’m going to encourage you to do a couple things you might be uncomfortable with. I want you to tell someone what you’re going through. If you’re married, tell your spouse. Tell a trusted friend. If you have neither, tell a pastor. Find someone and just tell them something about your life that you’re not having an easy time with.

And then find someone and ask what they’re going through. Many people feel ignored and insignificant; just letting them know that you honestly care is often enough for them to open up, or at least be friendly with you. It doesn’t take much time, and the results could change the rest of your life.