This morning I picked these pretty yellow flowers and put them in this little vase. Within a few hours, they had drank up every drop of the water and wilted. I refilled the vase and within an hour they had perked right back up again.

It got me to thinking about how quickly I can feel wilted … and how I easily I can be refreshed when I take the time to go to the fountain of living water.

In John 4, we read the story of a Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at a well. Jesus invites her to drink of the living water that He can give her, promising that she will never be thirsty again. Does this mean that the woman will never need to drink water again? No, I’m quite sure that’s not the case.

But, does Jesus mean that this woman will never need to pray or read the scriptures or fellowship with other believers again, if she drinks of the spring of living water that He is offering to her? No, it doesn’t mean that either. This spring of living water is the spring of eternal life, but she would still need, the daily living water that is offered to us through communion with God.

Let me share with you SEVEN ways I’ve found to refresh my soul when I am feeling wilted

  1. Read the Bible – I know, I know … Duh … But, seriously, friends, get out your Bible and read it. Take five minutes or ten or sixty. Read a Psalm. Read John. Read 1 Timothy or 1 Peter or 1 Thessalonians. Read it.
  2. Write out a verse – Pick a verse that you just read, or a verse you saw on your coffee mug this morning, or a verse that God stuck in your head out of nowhere, or a verse that you saw on Facebook, and write it down. Write it with a dry erase marker on your window or patio door or mirror. Write it in fancy script on a note card and mail it to someone. Write it down on the back of an envelope. Write it.
  3. Sing a worship song – I have an ongoing playlist on my YouTube channel called “Worship Songs” where I add worship songs that I love. (I’ve got over 150 there at the moment.) I can just click “shuffle” and I’m drawn into the throne room of God. Or I pop open “Pandora” to the Shane & Shane Hymns channel. Or I just start singing whatever song is in my head that moment. Sing it.
  4. Pray from the heart – God is always ready to hear us, whether we’re praying aloud or silently in the secret place of our hearts. You can pour out whatever is going on. Praise Him for who He is in the midst of a trial; Thank Him for His blessings past, present and future; Confess to Him all those ways you mess up, no matter how big or small; Ask Him for whatever you need. Pray it.
  5. Get outside – As Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” There’s something incredible about getting outside – even if it’s cold, even if it’s hot, even if it’s snowy or rainy or sunny. Grab a chair outside on your deck or balcony or porch or whatever you’ve got right now. Or take a walk if the street’s empty. Outside it.
  6. Connect with someone else – I like being alone, but there’s something really special about letting someone else in when I’m down. Call or text your husband or a sister in Christ. Let someone else know you’re struggling and ask them to pray for you. Don’t let this time of “social distancing” keep you from your family in Christ. Connect it.
  7. Journal – I don’t do this as often as I wish, but sometimes writing down how I’m feeling, or even voice-texting a note, really helps give me a new perspective. Sometimes I can hear God’s still, small voice in my heart as I put my thoughts down, plus it’s such a blessing to look back on things I’ve written down months or years ago and see how God has been working. Journal it.

Just one final thought, sometimes we get so used to feeling thirsty and run-down, that we don’t even notice anymore. We’re wilted and we don’t even know it. If it’s been more than 24 hours since you prayed or read the Bible, trust me here, you need a drink. He’s ready right now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you reconnect with God when you’re feeling wilted?

You are my Sunshine

Today, April 4th, 2020, my oldest daughter, My Sunshine Girl, had planned to be married. God had other plans. She and her Sunshine Guy got married a couple weeks early and I couldn’t be happier for them.

But … I tell you what, I miss her like crazy. “Social distancing” is nothing compared to “daughter distancing!”

Emily and I grew up together. When she was born, I was a baby Christian. I didn’t know Christian nursery songs, so I sang, “You are my Sunshine,” to her night after night as I rocked her to sleep. She has brought light and sunshine into my life like no other.

And now that she’s living in another state in the midst of COVID-19 lock-down, I feel like a part of me is missing (and it is), but that little girl was never meant to be the source of my joy or the light of my life. Jesus was.

Look at these references to light in the Psalms:

  • For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. (Psa 18:28 ESV)
  • The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa 27:1 ESV)
  • For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psa 36:9 ESV)
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psa 119:105 ESV)

In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jhn 8:12 ESV)  In Heaven, there will be “no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev 21:23 ESV)

Would you join me in praying right now?

Father, Help me to be grateful for the good gifts that You have given to me. I pray that I would be a spotlight, pointing people’s attention to You and not to me. I pray that my little light would shine like a city on a hill with nothing hindering it. I pray that you would use each of us as candles shining in a dark world that people would see something different in us, that we would live daily as children of light. I pray your blessings on our children, that they would shine for your glory and that we as parents would not make idols of these precious gifts, but that they would be straight arrows for Your kingdom rather than our own. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


Of Building Up and Tearing Down

I’m 33 days into my second “40-day Sugar Fast.” Wendy Speake’s book is really encouraging me to see fasting as a spiritual discipline focused on Jesus, rather than merely a dieting mentality.

Over the past 73 days, I am beginning to recognize the stronghold that sugar has been in my life. I’m trying to tear down that wall, to free myself of its grip.

But there are other walls that God has given to us for our good, for our protection.

According to Speake, “Our job is to yield to the good structures that the Lord has protectively placed around us, as we continually invite Him to bring down the strongholds that have held us back…. So often, we tear down the WRONG WALLS….” (pg. 172-73)

Am I building up or tearing down others with my words and actions? (Ephesians 4:29)

Am I building hedges for protection or am I building strongholds for sin?

Am I building my house or tearing it down?

Another word for ME today.


Pay back time

We are told that we deserve death because of our sin. (Romans 6:23) Aren’t you thankful that Jesus took your place?

Now we can love others because He loved us first. (1 John 4:19)

We can love others even when they hurt us. We can completely trust God, the only Righteous judge, the only one who is perfectly wise, perfectly good, and perfectly powerful.

A word for me today.


5 Tips For Those Suddenly Stuck at Home

In 2001, I began my homeschooling journey. My oldest daughter was just starting kindergarten and my son was two. Since then God has blessed us with two more children and we’ve moved three times, but we’ve continued plugging along.

My heart goes out to those who suddenly find themselves with a whole family at home … all the time. This isn’t the regular reality of homeschooling. My regular homeschooling lifestyle has involved plenty of field trips and social time with others. Normally, you’d have time to plan out your school year and you’d be in charge (not your school district). This is harder. If you can do THIS, you can homeschool. (Hint. Hint.)

Here are a few tips to help you in your homeschooling journey, whether this is your first week, your first year or your tenth.

1-Make a loose schedule for the order of your day.
Plan out what to do first, second, third, etc … Intermingle your schedule with some breaks and switching up activities. If there’s plenty of screen time, then mix in some exercise. If there’s plenty of book work, add in some screen time. You don’t need to watch the clock, rather watch the order of things.

For example: First, we get up and get ready for the day. Then, we eat breakfast. Next, we sing a song together led by someone on YouTube, read a chapter of the Bible, work on memorizing scripture and pray for our day. Then, Mom does math with big sister, while little brother reads by himself. When Mom is done with math, then sister reads and book while little brother works on math with Mom. etc…

Write out this schedule on a piece of paper and each day have your child put a check next to it. If you have a laminator, laminate it so you can reuse it week after week. If you don’t, you could tape it on the back side of a glass door/window and cross it off with a dry erase marker. Or, you could write the whole list on a dry erase board glass surface and check it off as it goes.

2-Schedule the most important things first.
When you’re making your schedule, put what is most important first. We are committed to giving God His time first. Then, math and language arts. If that’s all you accomplish in a day, then … so be it. First things first.

3-Have some time together and some time apart.
We go back and forth between time together and time apart. We have Bible time together. We read aloud together. We eat lunch and play a board game together. We walk the dog together.But we also spend time apart. What that looks like has varied based on the ages of the kids – sometimes an older sibling takes some time with a younger one, sometimes the kids are alone in their rooms, sometimes there is one-on-one time with Mom, sometimes Mom needs some time to herself.

4-Use a timer.
I love timers. Timers help hard tasks to feel lighter, and easy tasks to done more diligently.  “We will work on math for 30 minutes right now,” is easier to stomach than we will finish this whole lesson no matter how long it takes. “You need to clean up your bedroom for ten minutes,” is easier to manage than, “Don’t come out of your room until it’s spotless.” “You will stay in your room quietly for fifteen minutes,” can gradually be worked up to thirty minutes to sixty minutes. (This is how I taught my three year old to keep napping until he was six.)

5-Make the most of this time.
The days go by slowly, but the years go by quickly. Somehow my “Sunshine Girl” and my “Little Man” grew up and met those spouses we’d prayed for since they were little and got married.

Don’t lose sight of the great blessing it is to be home and to be together today.

Read a book or two or three. Play a board game. Learn a song. Memorize scripture.

Take pictures. Make a video. Clean something. Start a blog.

Discover a new hobby or learn a new skill. Better still, learn a new hobby or skill with your kids!

Have you considered keeping a family journal for this time? Write down (or have one of your children write it down) what you did each day. Make note of your prayer requests and praises. Write down what you read in the Bible and how God spoke to you through it.

Did you know you could read the whole New Testament in the next sixty days by reading one chapter in the morning, one at lunch, one at dinner and one at bedtime? Check out this 60-day reading plan on YouVersion.

I’d love to answer any questions you have.

How can I pray for you?

How are you using this time at home?


25 tips for staying married for 25 years … and looking forward to another 25

This has been quite a year for me. My oldest son got married January 6th and my oldest daughter got engaged November 8th. My in-laws celebrated their 50th anniversary this summer and my husband and I celebrated our 25th this Christmas.

This summer, my dad spent two weeks in the hospital during which we feared he would never recover and this fall my faithful prayer partner’s young adult son passed away unexpectedly. My children’s last surviving great grandparent passed away in his twilight years this spring, while their youth pastor began the hard journey of life on his own, after losing his bride of almost 30 years in a fire last Christmas.

It has certainly been a year full of intermingled joy and pain.

Earlier this week when my husband and I were out celebrating our twenty-fifth with a delicious fondue dinner, our young, blond, single waitress asked us the secret to staying married for 25 years.

My husband shared with her the advice that his recently-departed grandfather had shared at his last anniversary celebration, when he and Bill’s grandma had been married for 70 years. Are you ready for his sage advice?

“Don’t get divorced.”

Yep. That’s it. That’s the secret to a long marriage.

“Don’t get divorced.”

It reminds me of a song from my favorite movie of all time, The Fiddler on the Roof. The main character, Tevye, a dairy farmer, “Do you Love Me?”

Golde has a hard time answering, replying in song, “For twenty-five years, I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

Thinking through it more, and with some added prodding from her needy husband, Golde concludes that she does, in fact, love him, singing,

“For twenty-five years, I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him.

For twenty-five years, my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”

In our 21st century, me-first, emotion-driven, wealthy American culture, we are losing the basic understanding that staying married is largely about staying committed to the covenant we made before God to remain together through sickness and health, riches and poverty, good times and bad, to love, honor and protect until death parts us.

So, I agree with my husband and his grandpa, that the secret to staying married is, “Don’t get divorced.”

But let’s look deeper into the scriptures, to glean more wisdom from its pages, and consider 25 tips for staying married for 25 years …

  1. Choose your spouse wisely and refuse to be unequally yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) The best marriages are formed from the union of two people who are both committed to loving the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the most important foundation that can be laid for a successful marriage that can go the distance. If you’re not married yet, recognize that the choice of who to marry is truly the most important decision of your life. Count the costs and choose wisely.
  2. Heed the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-7, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” Don’t put your trust in your own wisdom, or articles you read on the internet. Put your trust in God.
  3. Pray together with your spouse. Pray for each other. Pray for yourselves. Pray for others. But, pray together. I noticed a big difference in our marriage when we began praying together after being married for almost ten years.
  4. Keep the marriage bed holy. (Hebrews 13:4) The greatest marriage struggles we’ve had have come from issues in this area. Wait until marriage to become intimate. Recognize that God intends for sexual relationships to be enjoyed exclusively in the context of a covenantal relationship between one man and one woman. (1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Ephesians 5:1-6, Matthew 5:27-30)
  5. Recognize that as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are equally important, but have unique roles, so are a husband and wife equally valuable, but have unique roles. As Jesus submits to His Father, and the church submits to Christ, so a wife is to submit to her husband. As Christ loved His bride the church, even unto death, so husbands are to sacrificially love, lead, and serve their wives. This mystery is indeed profound, but marriage displays the glory of God and the gospel in a visible way to a watching world. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
  6. Keep your heart humble, striving to remove the log from your own eye. (Matthew 7:5) See yourself, rather than your spouse, as the foremost of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:5) Remind yourself of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, not as a way of seeing how badly your spouse is failing, but as a way of seeing your own need for a Savior. Put your own name into these verses and see how you’re doing. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
  7. Confess your sins to each other. (James 5:16) Be transparent and honest with one another. Be quick to apologize and reconcile. As soon as you recognize that you have hurt your spouse, go to them immediately and seek their forgiveness. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  8. Forgive each other. Don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. (Hebrews 12:14-15, Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13) I have often struggled here. I have to remind myself daily of how much God has forgiven me and how important it is for me to forgive likewise.
  9. Maintain a “gentle and quiet Spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (1 Peter 3:4) Peter wrote this particularly for women, and particularly for women whose husbands are not following God, but it applies to men as well. In a marriage, we should both commit our lives to the Lord, to trust Him fully, so we can be free to have a meek spirit before Him and each other.
  10. Commandment #10: Do not covet your neighbor’s spouse. (Exodus 20:17) No spouse is perfect. They all have flaws. And so do you! Remember that the glimpses you get of other married couples on social media or at church on Sunday mornings are not full and accurate pictures of their married lives. All good marriages take work. (Ephesians 5:1-6, Colossians 3:5, James 4:2)
  11. In everything give thanks and give thanks in every thing. Trust that God is always, always at work, even in the very hardest of circumstances. Let the sacrifice of praise be ever found on your lips. (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20, Hebrews 13:15)>
  12. Do not give up meeting with other believers. No marriage can thrive without fellowship with other believers. We need our spouse, but we also need others. Get involved and stay involved with a local body of believers. (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42)
  13. Find a mentor and be a mentor. Young women need an older woman to train them to love their husband and children (Titus 2:3-5) and young men need an older man to teach them. And this isn’t only for the first 5 years of marriage. Even after 25 years, I still need older women to pull me back from the ledge sometimes. And I have grown so much in my own marriage and faith as I’ve mentored other women in theirs.
  14. Daily remind yourself of Romans 8:28, that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In the here and how, we only see the backside of the cross-stitched work of art full of tangled, knotted threads, while God is creating a masterpiece of interwoven colors. Trust that God is the only God Almighty, a good Father who always keeps His promises. When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. Choose to believe in the dark what you believed in the light.
  15. Keep a careful watch over your mouth. (Psalm 141:3) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) Recognize the importance of bridling your tongue and what terrible fires it can set ablaze.(James 1:26, James 3:2-10) Use your words to speak the truth in love rather than disdain, to build up rather than tear down. (Ephesians 4:15)
  16. Keep an even more careful watch over your heart, for out of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5)
  17. Recognize the spiritual battle that you are in. Have you been born again into the family of God and filled with His Holy Spirit? If not, you’re fighting a battle you can’t win. But, if so, remember that you are not battling against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil, so make sure you have on the full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20) There are going to be times when your spouse hurts your feelings. He will be insensitive. He will forget to call. He will leave the toilet seat up. She will burn the dinner and forget to wash the laundry. Pray and stay alert to the enemy’s schemes and don’t jump into a fight that you’re not supposed to fight.
  18. Sometimes the enemy will win for the moment, but remember that Christ is the final victor. Satan may win a battle, but Jesus will win the war. Satan may be the prince of the world, but God is the Almighty King of Glory. Sometimes your spouse will sin against you. When that happens overcome evil with good rather than repaying evil for evil (Romans 12:21, 17). Take up the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.
  19. Remind yourself that the anger of man will never produce the righteousness of God. (See James 1:19-20 and Matthew 5:22) You cannot nag or argue or guilt your spouse into changing. You are responsible for your actions and your words, not theirs. Entrust your spouse into God’s righteous, Almighty hands.
  20. Recognize from the start that life will be hard and marriage will be hard. There’s never been a perfect marriage because there’s never been a perfect man, except Jesus (and He never married and if He had, His wife wouldn’t have been perfect either). Unmet expectations are joy stealers. Beware of having unrealistic expectations of your spouse. If you want something from your spouse, kindly appeal to them for it, but trust God for the results.
  21. Make God’s Word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. (Psalm 119:105) Hide it in your heart like precious treasure. (Psalm 119:11) Let the scriptures transform you, trusting that all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that you may be complete, equipped for every good work. (Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 3:16-17) Here are a few good places to start: Psalm 119, 1 Peter 3, Colossians 3, Romans 12, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13. Read and study and memorize. Have daily drinks, weekly dates and annual days with God, the fountain of living water, the only one able to quench your thirst.
  22. Serve Christ individually and together. Whether at home, at church, or in your community, see yourself as a blood-bought servant of Christ. Serving alongside each other and serving together develops a common purpose and goal in life that helps you stand firm in the storms. As Paul encouraged those who were earthly bondservants, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
  23. Practice the golden rule with your spouse. “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31) Oftentimes it is easier to be kind to your neighbors and friends and even strangers than it is to be kind to your spouse. Intentionally seek opportunities to serve your spouse. Make him a cup of coffee. Rub his back. Send him a quick text expressing your love. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
  24. Tell your own soul that love is an action, a decision, a choice, not just a feeling. We can put on love. We can choose to love. The more you choose to love, the more you will feel loving. Like Tevye’s wife, Golde, you can wash the clothes, cook the meals, clean the house, bear the children, and maybe even milk the cow, and end up loving your spouse in the process of serving him. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8)
  25. Finally, remind yourself of the truth of the gospel, that we are all broken people living in a broken world in desperate need of a Savior, and that Jesus, God’s only Son, the God-man made a way to reconcile us back to a Holy God, by giving His own blood to pay the price for your sins. Trust in Jesus today. Repent of your sins and turn to Him and receive His forgiveness. He died for you that you can live for Him, both now and eternally.

Romans 5:1-8, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

1 John 4:9-11 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

If the Almighty, Perfect, Sovereign, Creator-God of the universe, can take on flesh, coming to earth as a humble baby and die a criminal’s death on a cross in my place to save me from my sins, then by the power of His Holy Spirit at work in my heart, I can say no to sin and yes to Jesus, forgiving and loving my spouse, like God in Christ forgives and loves me. Apart from His saving grace and power, I can do nothing good. And apart from His saving grace and power, neither can my husband. We are both nothing more than two forgiven children walking hand-in-hand down this narrow road that leads to eternal life. That’s the true secret to a joy-filled marriage.

Want to join us?

A Word of Truth and Encouragement for a Hurting Sister

God has called you.

God has purpose for you.

God is with you.

God has placed His Spirit in you.

God has given you wisdom and faith.

God has delivered you and redeemed you.

God has made you a new creation, the old is indeed gone and the new has indeed come.

God sees you and knows you. He sees your hidden thoughts and deeds, and still He loves you.

God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing, eternal love.

God has demonstrated His overwhelming, boundless, undeserved love for you, a sinner, in sending His very own Son from the glory of heaven to live a humble life and die a painful death in your place.

God will never leave you or forsake you.

God will never take His Spirit from you.

God wants always and only for your good and not for your harm.

God’s commands are always and only for your good, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful and all-good.

We can always, always trust Him because He always, always keeps His promises.

God is our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in time of need.

Come, praise His name with me.

Come, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with me.

You are not alone.

Almighty God is with you in this good fight of faith and so am I.

Related scriptures:

  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 139
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, 5:1-21
  • Ephesians 2:5-22, 3:14-21, 6:16-17 (better yet, read all of Ephesians)
  • 2 Timothy 1:7-9
  • Titus 1:1-3, 2:11-14, 3:4-7
  • Hebrews 13:5-6


How can I help you in this good fight of faith?

The Meaning of Marriage – Chapter 5 – Loving the Stranger

Keller begins this chapter with a quote from Stanley Hauerwas, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is … learning to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.” (pg 147)

This opening paragraph jumped out at me because I’ve often thought that Bill and I should’ve dated longer before entering the covenant of marriage. In many ways, I still think that, but frankly, people change. We certainly did. Marriage changed us. Becoming parents changed us. Trials changed us.

The person you marry after dating for ten years, won’t be the same person after ten years of marriage. Certainly, we ought to do our “due diligence” to get to know someone before getting married, but we also ought to be prepared for that person to grow and mature in unexpected ways.

Keller continues, “Marriage brings two human beings into closer contact than any other relationship can bring them. The parent-child relationship is of course very close – they live together and see one another’s character – but there is a major power differential there. The child and the parents are on such different planes that it is easy for either the parent to dismiss the child’s criticism or the child to dismiss the parent’s. Besides, it is expected that children grow up and leave.” (pg 151) “While your character flaws [fearfulness, pride, perfectionism, impatience, miserliness, lack of discipline, etc.] may have created mild problems for other people, they will create major problems for your spouse and your marriage.” (pg 153)

As a child, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality was really hard for my parents.

Then, as a parent, I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been really hard for my kids.

But I’m sure that my controlling, know-it-all personality has been the most difficult for my husband. My struggle to humble myself and submit my will to his, has been the hardest for him to handle.  Indeed, as Keller puts it,

“Marriage brings out the worst in you. It doesn’t create your weaknesses … it reveals them.” (pg 153)

I’ve often been inclined to blame all of our marriage struggles on my husband or to think that I must have married the wrong person. In reality, my own sinful pride and selfishness have often been the true culprit.

As Keller writes, “Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth” – the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin to think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of you heart – it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it.” (pg 154) Ouch.

So often we balk when our spouse tries to share ways in which we need to grow. Keller urges the reader to “give your spouse the right to talk to you about what is wrong with you.” (pg 155) Often the very person who rubs you wrong, is the exact person that the Lord is going to use to conform you into His likeness. If your spouse reveals how impatient, prideful and selfish you are, it isn’t your spouse’s fault. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially if we still think that marriage is all about our happiness, rather than a vehicle to bring God glory.

Keller goes on to explain, though, that marriage has not only this great power of exposing the true flaws of your heart, but also to heal your deepest wounds. The powerful, unconditional, faithful love of a spouse can bind up the wounds of the past like nothing else. “We must learn to send love in forms that the other person can comprehend.” (pg 169) We each hear, feel and receive love in different ways. Sometimes we particularly need to receive a certain communication of love because a significant person in our past was inept at it. Sometimes we need a certain form of love because of our current life circumstances. “We tend to give love through the channels in which we like to receive it.” (pg 172)

“In the incarnation, God came to us in a manner that we could grasp. So we, too, must clothe our love in the forms to which our spouse can relate.” (pg 171)

Loving your spouse should be seen as a conscious action, rather than an involuntary feeling. We must transition from “falling in love” to demonstrating love. Keller then shares his description of several ways to demonstrate love, including affection, friendship and service.

But, as is Keller’s way, the author once again returns to the importance of practicing gospel-love with your spouse. In marriage, we see the immense power of truth and love intertwined, because our spouse knows our sin all too well, not like a physician or counselor looking in from the outside. Rather, they know our sins intimately and personally because they have been the recipient of our selfish, careless, insensitive actions.

This pain can push us one of two ways. We can either lash out in anger, telling our spouse how foolish, messy and selfish they are, destroying them with our truth-telling. Or we can fall prey to the opposite error: avoidance. We can stuff and hide how we really feel, affirming them with charming lies.

“The gospel transforms us so our self-understanding is no longer based on our performance in life. We are so evil and sinful and flawed that Jesus had to die for us. We were so lost that nothing less than the death of the divine Son of God could save us. But we are so loved and valued that he was willing to die for us. The Lord of the universe loved us enough to do that! So the gospel humbles us into the dust and at the very same time exalts us to the heavens. We are sinners but completely loved and accepted in Christ at the same time.” (pg 185)

Friends, Jesus knows us to the bottom of our heart. He knows our secret deeds and thoughts. And yet He loved us enough to die for us. This is true love.

Jesus was perfectly full of truth and perfectly full of grace. Can we do that, too?

This is the beauty of marriage.

The final sentence of Chapter 5 has new meaning for me today as my oldest daughter begins looking forward to her wedding day next spring. Keller ends this chapter with, “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.'”

Let’s pray together for our children and their future spouses. Let’s pray together for the newlyweds in our midst who are thinking, “I must have married the wrong person.” And let’s pray for our own hearts and for our spouses as we walk this difficult road of marriage hand-in-hand.