Marriage

Measuring Your RQ

The personal ad in the Atlanta Journal garnered a high level of interest as it ran:

Over 15,000 men responded and found themselves talking to the local Humane Society about an eight-week old black Labrador retriever.

There you have it. Talk about love, romance, and sexuality and you have people’s attention!

     If I was to give people a choice between preaching on dating, love, and marriage or exegeting from the Book of Micah, guess what wins?

     There is a keenly high interest level regarding the things of the heart, even in the context of a committed Christ-follower. Over the years, I’ve done Q&A sessions with our young people. On those occasions I’m not there to preach a sermon, but to create a time where they can feel free to ask me about anything concerning life, ministry, discipleship, or other topics.

     It’s always amazing that one of the things they want to know about is how I met my wife,

what our relationship was like, how I knew that she was the one, and so forth. We are most definitely talking about a very spiritual topic, one critical to everyone’s future. Like so many things, sin has tainted and left its mark on God-given realities intended for our good and His glory. Even God’s declaration, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him,” has not gone unscathed.

     J.R.R. Tolkien, along with being a magnificent writer,also had a distinct Christian worldview. His letters to his sons contain a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex.

     In 1941, he wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. “This is a fallen world,” he said. “The dislocation of the sex-instinct is one of the chief symptoms of the Fall.” Tolkien had a profound understanding of male sexuality and of the need for boundaries and restraint. As a concerned father, Tolkien warned his son to avoid allowing his romantic instinct to lead him astray: “The devil is endlessly ingenious, and sex is his favorite subject. He is as good every bit at catching you through generous romantic or tender motives as through baser or more animal ones.”

     Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and sex. Aphrodite is alive and well in the prevailing idolatry of our culture today. The entertainment industry as embodied in Hollywood has been effective at hijacking people’s understanding of love, romance, sexuality and relationships. The romance industry is a huge, multi-billion dollar enterprise fueled from dozens of sources. It is heavily invested in promoting the central lie that without some kind of romantic relationship you can never feel fully alive. Without a romantic relationship of some kind, even if it’s the wrong kind, life feels meaningless. My problem with this is the horrible models and mixed signals that are being sent by so-called celebrities and embraced by multitudes.

     Really, how many were shocked that the wedding of Kris Humphries to Kim Kardashian lasted all of 72 days? Complete narcissists may make for good reading in the tabloids, but they don’t make for enduring, loving marriage partners. That calls for self-sacrifice.

In the same way, was it really surprising that the marriage of Katy Perry (of I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It fame) to Russell Brand (notorious womanizer) unraveled in the manner it did? The list goes on and on.

THE PROPOSITION

     What I am proposing is that a critical area to living well is our RQ: our Romance Quotient. Think with me.

     If we want to know if someone is smart, we measure their IQ, which is their intelligence quotient. If we want them to be skillful, then their EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient comes into play. This truth was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s best-seller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, in which he defined emotional intelligence as “The ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.” Goleman’s proposition is that a person’s EQ is more important and life-shaping as somebody’s IQ.

     I would add to these a third measurement of true success: a person’s RQ, or romantic intelligence. Proverbs 18:22 gives us a secret: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” Divine favor is critical to true success in life, and favor is linked to our romantic lives! You can add to this Proverbs 24:3,4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

     Biblically, wisdom is more than a lot of head knowledge, but it could be translated as skillful living. I believe this is a critical ministry-charge today: to teach and preach that people should think biblically about love, romance, relationships, sexuality and marriage. I can rephrase that by saying that a necessary ministry task (especially today) is to help cultivate their RQ! A consistent and clear-sounding word on the subject must resonate from our pulpits.

     Before we proceed, let’s demolish the popular and prevailing myth of your soul mate; or finding “the right one.” The myth, foisted a naïve public largely by the media, says that in a world populated with 7 billion people, there is that one special person out there just for you, the guy or girl of your dreams, the one special piece of the puzzle that completes you. This leads people to fret over the question, Is he/she the right one?

Of course, you want the best possible fit, but biblical math is not ½ + ½ = 1… oh, yes, you complete me!

That may sound romantic, but it’s not true. The biblical formula for marriage is 1 + 1 = 1, two whole people united, who become one (Genesis 2:24).

     The soul mate fantasy is very damaging to people’s RQ. It is also one contributor to the fact today that people are delaying marriage longer and longer. Think about this: in 1965, the median age for first marriages was 22.8 for men, and 20.6 for women. Almost a generation later, by the year 2002, the median age has risen to 26.9 for men and 25.3 for women. That is a huge reversal. There are several reason for this, from longer life spans, to the priority and push for more education, to greater overall independence and options that are available today. However, according to a report for the National Marriage Project, “Men won’t commit to marriage because they enjoy a sexually active single life in a social climate that does not push them to marry.” The Washington Times further elaborated: “Traditional social forces, such as the family, religion and the workplace, used to pressure men toward marriage, but that is no longer the case.” Given the relaxation of social pressures, coupled with general silence about unmarried couples living together, “men can relax their timetable indefinitely.”

   Can you see who becomes the loser in this equation? That’s right, the woman.

     Let me point out one other aspect of an abysmal RQ, which surfaces in post-marriage decisions – especially as you encounter difficulties in your marriage (inevitable), and discover that marriage over the long haul requires hard work. Instead of making that kind of sacrifice and investment, you can now say “I’m going to file for divorce, because he/she wasn’t the one. I don’t believe they are my soul mate [who’ve generally, they’ve already found, and a much younger one at that].” Flawed RQ thinks that affection is the glue that holds the marriage together, when it is in fact your commitment to marriage that safeguards the affection.

GROWING YOUR RQ

     Journey with me to a biblical drama of distorted romance in Genesis 29:15-35. What we discover is a seriously flawed and dysfunctional family involving Jacob, Laban, Rachel and Leah. This is one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction episodes in Scripture. Jacob came from a special family of promise (in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed). Even with so much going for him, Jacob’s life was in ruins. His family environment had been one of rivalry, deception, and manipulation. He was a “momma’s boy” and inherited and practiced cunning to advance himself at the expense of others. This culminated in Jacob’s deception of his old and blind father, Isaac. He violated and betrayed his older brother, Esau, who then became furious, vowing to kill Jacob. So Jacob is on the run, fleeing for his life, and he returns to the region that his grandfather Abraham first inhabited and had migrated from. He’s lost everything: his family, his inheritance, his future. So, he’s operating on survival mode; and in this condition, he searches out his long lost uncle Laban for refuge.

     What happens next is The Dream. You might want to have The Beatles’ song, “All you need is love, love...all you need is love” playing in the background. Yes, Jacob meets Rachel, one of Laban’s daughters, at the city’s well, and it’s love at first sight! In Genesis 29:11 The Living Bible says, “Then Jacob kissed Rachel and started crying!” Whoa, dude, get it together!

     Whether he thinks that finding love would be the “escape” from his hopeless circumstances or not, he’s totally mesmerized by this young girl. She brings him home to meet Daddy, his Uncle Laban. Here’s where things get interesting, not to mention complicated. Genesis 29:16-20 says: “Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. There was no sparkle in Leah's eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I'll work for you for seven years if you'll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’ ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I'd rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.”

     This was not a discussion about pretty eyes, but it was a question of physical attractiveness. It was the Bible’s way of saying that Rachel was absolutely, drop dead gorgeous; while Leah was plain and homely-looking. Jacob was so smitten – “Jacob loved Rachel” – that he offered 7 years of wages for her, which even then, was an enormous price.

     To understand this story, we need to ask why?

     There was a huge void in Jacob’s life. He never had his father’s unrivaled love. Although she was a queen of manipulation, he lost his mother’s love when he had to flee. At this stage of his life, he was unsure of God’s love and care for him. Then, the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen came into his life! All of the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed solely on this girl, Rachel. Love is all you need...

     We can note from this story that when people forget and forsake God, they tend to look to the “romantic solution” (sex and romance) to fill the void. Our whole culture has bought into this idea that, as the song says, “You’re nobody till somebody loves you.”

     If you’re cultivating your RQ, you will recognize that The Dream is so often followed by The Disillusionment. There are definitely some mysteries in the Bible that will only become clear in heaven. One of them is in our story. The wedding day finally arrives, and the time to consummate the marriage has come. What follows is a clever sting operation; a major “bait and switch” job. Genesis 29:23;25 says: “But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her... and in the morning, behold it was Leah!”

     Why? How? Don’t even begin to ask me. Either way, Jacob was snookered, big time! When he calls “Foul,” I’m sure he must have remembered his own actions with Esau. When questions this injustice, Laban tells Jacob to settle down. After all, you should’ve known our customs, that the oldest daughter must be married off first… I’ll tell you what, Jacob, how about a 2 for 1 sale? Yes, just sign here, that you agree to work for me for another seven years, fulfill Leah’s bridal week, and then I’ll throw Rachel in as a bonus!

     Remember, we’re talking about your RQ. Let verse 25 echo in your mind: “and in the morning it was Leah.” Jacob had been saying finally, finally, I’m going to have happiness in this life. Finally, I’ve got Rachel. But, behold, in the morning it was Leah.

     Derek Kidner commented on this: “But in the morning, behold, it was Leah. This is a miniature of our disillusionment experienced from Eden onwards.” Oh, I’m going to have such a career. I’m going to get myself a hunk. I’m going to marry myself a babe. And I’m going to live in this palace, and I’m going to have this kind of life… “But in the morning, it was Leah.” There is a kind of cosmic disappointment woven into the fabric of humanity. This story teaches us that whatever we put in the place of Christ becomes an idol, and you will experience the inevitable disappointment.

FINDING A BETTER WAY 

     I don’t know if it’s because of desperation or the fruit of deception, but a lot of things purported to help people make real and lasting connections are degrading, if not pure nonsense.

The article titled “A Secret Weapon for Dating” got people’s attention. Yes, the secret weapon is called pheromones, or the airborne compound molecules in members of the same species that are responsible for various instinctual behavior, sexual attraction being one.

   So, what about a human equivalent? Okay, let’s have Pheromone Parties. People come together, take dirty T-shirts, and place them in numbered plastic bags. You pass the bags around and take a big whiff – yes, breathe deeply – and see if there is any visceral reaction or attraction. Can you imagine a conversation later? “So how did you and she meet?” “Well, I’ll tell you: I took one whiff of that T-shirt, and I knew that she was the one!”

     This reminds me of Samson’s warped RQ, which was nothing more than the “hotness factor.” Samson was the archetypical he-man with a she-problem. He’s interested in dating a Philistine. When his parents object and try to talk some sense to him, he responds: "Get her for me! She looks good to me." There you have it, and that’s basically the format for dating shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

     The good news is God wants to help us. This is the fundamental work of sanctification that needs to happen in each of us. Romans 12: 1-2 says: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

     This is dear to my heart, since “Keeping Your Head In The Game” is devoted to helping people think biblically about a myriad of life issues. If we want our RQ to grow and guide us in a confused generation that calls good evil and evil good, then “Here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Rom. 12:1-2, The Message).

One of my favorite wedding invitations was for the marriage of Zachary Scribner and Hilary Hagoski.

The first picture is of them participating in a couple’s wedding as ring-bearer and flower girl. The second is their own actual wedding picture. I liked this so much for a number of reasons, the first being two young people doing what is right before God, which is such a powerful testimony in our confused world. The second reason is the two pictures side-by-side communicate the need for Christ-centered living and decisions to transition from the first picture to the second. The better way for the Christ-follower to cultivate a healthy RQ is the way of wisdom.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

     This is not an exact science. Life doesn’t come with a no-risk guarantee that you’ll get all your money back if you’re not completely satisfied. Let me give you some pastoral observations that come from working with people and seeking to shepherd them and their RQ toward a successful outcome.

     Consider some of the criteria:

Cornerstone. Proverbs 18:22 says: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” The goal or the desired destination for your RQ is marriage, not just a hook up, or to become an item or to experiment by living together. God’s will and goal for human relationships involves marriage.

This reminds me of the classic scene and conversation between Alice and the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.

“I just want to ask which way I ought to go,” says Alice.

“Well, that depends on where you want to get to,” says the cat.

“Well, it really doesn’t matter,” answers Alice.

“Then it really doesn’t matter which way you go,” says the vanishing cat.

For a healthy RQ, you must realize that the way to go is marriage. This means that the church must strive to create a culture of marriage: a culture where marriage is recognized as God’s plan for love, sustained relationship and romance, and children. A culture where marriage is taught on and modeled before the eyes of young people looking for answers.

Christ. He must be at the center of everything. Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained social researcher, author and public speaker. In her new book titled The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, she presents a compilation of statistics and the results of her own research on marriage; specifically, on what makes for a happy marriage. One fact stands out that directly relates to your RQ. Feldhahn states that 53% of very happy couples agree with the statement, “God is at the center of our marriage,” compared to only 7% of struggling couples. So she writes, “Highly happy couples tend to put God at the center of their marriage and focus on Him, rather than on their marriage or spouse, for fulfillment and happiness.”

Compatibility. The Scriptures warn against being “unequally yoked.” This is more than the obvious fact that a Christian should not date or marry an unbeliever. It is saying that you want to yoke yourself to someone who is going to be plowing in the same direction you are. Remember the picture of Zach and Hilary? In response to my question he wrote to me: “The three most important qualities of Hilary that led me to marry her were: #1, she loved God (of course) - more important that she would draw me closer to God and the church as opposed to farther away -- #2, her family was involved in the life of the church – #3, she had not shown that when things got tough she would throw in the towel.” I believe the two questions for anyone getting married are: does the other person love God, and is divorce an option?

Character.It’s true that you may fall in love with a personality, but you marry a character. Marriage will always be two flawed sinners saying, “I do.” The way of wisdom teaches not to focus exclusively on the external, but on the real person within; on their character (displayed in all kinds of settings, if you are looking). I like Zach’s outlook when I queried him: “The aspects of Hilary that caught my eye: she has a unique beauty (auburn hair), amazing cook, athletic, loves children, but the one thing that I couldn’t pass up was her love. When we were courting she would come and clean the church with me, because I didn’t have other time to spend with her. I saw how much she cared, and knew that I wouldn’t want anyone else raising my children.”

     I love that their date involved coming and cleaning the church. It didn’t have to be “it’s all about me,” but rather a heart to serve. That’s character. The Bible makes two character-priority statements. These are not gender-exclusive, or meant to single out one sex. They may be addressed toward the woman, but they are equally true about men in a similar setting. The first is Proverbs 11:22: “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Discretion carries the idea of “perception and good taste.” Without this, it will overshadow physical attractiveness. The other is Proverbs 31:20. The Message translation says: “Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the fear of God.” The character trait most desirable in a spouse is someone who fears God, who takes God and His ways seriously.

Chastity. Marriage is more than “friends with benefits.” Sex is God’s wonderful gift to be enjoyed within the boundaries of a committed marriage. This is why God’s standard for life and love is: “Purity before marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

Church. That might surprise you as a criteria for a wholesome RQ, but some of the best guys and girls are not the ones at the club movin’, movin’, movin’ – but the ones following Christ and serving in His church. In fact, one of the great joys of marriage and the two becoming one, is being able to serve the purposes of God together. I really do like the insight Zach had: “her family was involved with the church.” There may have been other great girls, but the fact that her family was involved in the things of God attracted him, because he knew the truth of Psalm 92:12,13: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

Counsel. In ascertaining the will of God, the way of wisdom is to solicit wise counsel from respected others. Just listen “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Along with this is Proverbs 15:22: “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Dennis Prager is a nationally-known and syndicated radio talk show host and commentator. He authored an excellent article (also one of the staples of his public speaking menu) “If You’re Thinking of Marrying,” in which he sets forth 12 important considerations in marrying well. #12 is What do people you respect think of the person you’re considering marrying? I know those assessments will not always be perfect, but youcannot easily dismiss them either. If others whom you respect are unenthusiastic, you should take their objections seriously or at least attempt to find out what their opinion is based on. If you were buying a car, purchasing a home, or investing in a new computer, you’d hopefully get qualified feedback. Well, none of these will have anywhere near as much impact as your choice concerning a husband or wife. I was involved in a situation with a young man wrestling with decisions that have to do with his RQ, and I asked him, “In the circle of people you know and respect, how many of them are in favor of this particular action?” His answer was telling, because nobody was in favor of it.

Choice. I’m talking about the necessary initiative that is called for. You should not be waiting around for some sky-writing to take place, giving you the name of your future spouse. If you’re betting on a romantic lightning bolt to strike you, you’ll probably be disappointed. There’s a popular religious phrase that is very misleading: “Let go, and let God!” Somehow through a combination of your passivity, laziness, and a generous portion of God’s grace… voilá! You’ll live happily ever after. God may have done that with Adam’s rib, but He will not do it with yours.

     Listen up, men. What is required is for you to do something; to make every effort to see the foundations and fulfillment of a marriage covenant. Kevin DeYoung wrote about this: “Let me say it one more time: there is nothing wrong with being single. It can be a gift from the Lord and a gift to the church. But when there is an overabundance of Christian singles who want to be married, this is a problem. And it’s a problem I put squarely at the feet of young men whose immaturity, passivity, and indecision are pushing their hormones to the limits of self-control, delaying the growing-up process, and forcing countless numbers of young women to spend lots of time and money pursuing a career (which is not necessarily wrong) when they would rather be getting married and having children. Men, if you want to be married, find a godly girl, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, and tie the knot.”

HAPPILY EVER AFTER...

No, we’re never going to get this perfectly right this side of eternity. However you try, there is not some foolproof algorithm that will make up for all the way we come short. That’s why I called this your RQ (romantic quotient) instead of DQ (dating quotient). Because even if you are married, you must work on yourself and your marriage for the rest of your life. We never arrive (trust me, I know). We never fully accomplish this. No. We are to be growing all the time.

     My encouragement to you, and where I want to leave you, is at Cana of Galilee, with Jesus’s first miracle. I don’t believe it is an accident that He began His public ministry at a wedding feast. Can we assume that the presence of Jesus happens at weddings? Can we extrapolate that He is willing to work miracles in your life, and with your RQ? “They have no wine” is the truth about all of our lives – there is something terribly lacking in each of us. All of this world’s promises that seem so refreshing at the start slowly begin to fade, and then all we have left is the junk. With God involved, we watch Him reverse this process, saving the best until last.    

     Thankfully, Jesus is still in the transformation business; He’s still turning water into wine! This includes everything in your life, your relationships, your career, your family, your ministry, and your dreams.

     What, then, is the posture that we need to have and carry with us? Here it is – live with this and things will never be the same: “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Kardashian’s they are NOT...thank God!

God has allowed me to see and do some genuinely awesome and very cool things in the years that I have followed Christ.  I thought about Simeon in Luke’s Gospel, a fascinating character in the Christmas drama.  We are told, “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah.” (Luke 2:25,26)  In other words, “Simeon, you’re going to see some pretty amazing things in your lifetime!”  I could compile a long list of things, some big, some small, but all are part of the wonderful tapestry of the adventure of doing God’s will.  Recently, in the last number of years, my “ministry portfolio” has expanded to include marrying the children of the people (parents) I married 20-30 years ago.  It really is something special.  It has an almost sacred quality to it, and I try to oblige whenever it is possible, especially since the ones asking and desiring this are the new generation!

Last week was supposed to be a “luxury week” for me.  I was going to have plenty of time to read, re-order and re-fill the wells of inspiration in preparation for renewing my preaching responsibilities on November 20th.  Well, it didn’t quite work out that way at all.  I don’t know where the time went, but it went by very quickly!  But, one thing on my calendar that was a “must” was marrying Claressa Ford and Jordan Suiter Sunday morning, November 13th.  Especially, given the fact that Claressa is an Rn and has been a part of the medical side of my “Team Victory” for many months, I wasn’t going to let a little thing like an amputation keep me from being there.

As I was sitting on the platform before the service, her grandmother came up to me and brought me a picture.  This was another one of my treasures because it was the picture of me and Dave and Mariah Ford in 1984 when I was privileged to marry them.  I’m not a picture person, as many know, so this is the “customary” (lol) one picture of the bride and groom with Pastor Warner after the wedding!  So, as part of the service that day, we quickly scanned the picture so we could project it on the large screen in the church.  Why?  I wanted to illustrate and set things in context about the awesome power of heritage taking place that day.  It is rare that the same pastor who married your parents, the same church setting and worship of Christ, becomes the place where you as a younger person enter in to your marriage covenant!  There was such a glorious realization of the power of Jesus Christ as the foundation of marriage and the source of LONGEVITY.  As you’ve heard me say so many times, “If you lose longevity, you lose blessing.”  Trust me, there was heaps of blessing tangibly present in Sunday’s service.

Marty Singer, to do public relations damage control for her (i.e. he’s the same attorney who worked with Charlie Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenneger, which is all you really need to know).  The reason for hiring the attorney was to manage the “PR fall out,” especially the allegation by her former publicist, Jonathan Jaxson, saying that her wedding to Kris Humphries was a sham from the start.  Others have piped in on the subject.  Mona Elyafi: Kim Kardashian Divorce Makes a Mockery of Marriage wrote, “They say that allowing same-sex marriage would make a mockery of the institution of marriage.  Really?  Then what do you call a celebrity who utilizes her notoriety to deliver and exorbitantly lavish wedding production as a money-making publicity stunt?”  Lisa Coffey: Kim & Kris Krash & Burn: What Went Wrong says, “Was it telling that Kim appeared solo on the cover of People magazine, beaming about her ‘dream wedding?’ Is it a coincidence that Kim filed divorce papers the day before her mother’s book hits stores?”  I’m sorry, I don’t know Kim Kardashian anymore than what you read in the tabloids, but celebrity or not, a complete and total narcissist does not make for a good marriage partner!

OK, I could probably be accused of “piling on” here, but I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between what we were part of Sunday, and Kim Kardashian’s seeming mockery of marriage.  After a whirlwind romance with Kris Humphries, who she met on October 31, 2010 (that’s Halloween, folks) they were married on July 28, 2011.  The marriage lasted an incredibly long 72 days when Kim filed for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.”  Excuse me if I’m a bit cynical or turn a bit sarcastic about all this.  Irreconcilable after 72 days?  You haven’t even had time to decide what side of the bathroom belongs to each spouse, the color of your sheets, or even some of the cooking responsibilities.  I’m sure there was a huge effort made on her part to make this relationship work.  In a statement she released on her website, she said that she married for love and it just didn’t “turn out to be the fairytale” she wanted.  Dear Kim, that is simply because “theatrics” and a fairy-tale mentality never does match the true reality of what makes marriage work.  You can just imagine the plethora of jokes and tweets about this fiasco.  There is actual a hashtag that’s gone viral #ThingsLongerThanKim’sMarriage.  Even the author Salman Rushdie tweeted his once-only, never-to-be-repeated “kim #kardashian limerick” by writing

“The marriage of poor kim #kardashian / was krushed like a kar in a krashian. / her kris kried, not fair! /why kan’t I keep my share? / But kardashian fell klean outa fashion.”
So, please, repeat after me, OK, slowly if you need to, “until death do us part!”  You cannot parse away the fact that successful and fulfilling monogamy calls for and is undergirded by longevity and commitment, not feelings and emotions, or your idea of a “fairy tale.”  Jordan and Claressa, like their parents almost three decades ago, did not spend $$ millions on their marriage ceremony.  They had something better: knowledge of what marriage is all about, and the “covenant glue” in Christ that makes it work. 

Someone sent me an article about lawmakers (a bit of a joke to call them that) in Mexico City that are considering a two-year marriage arrangement.  Let me just quote from the news article

“Mexico City lawmakers want to help newlyweds avoid the hassle of divorce by giving them an easy exit strategy:  temporary marriage licenses.  The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple stays happy.  The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits.  Leftists in the city’s assembly (no different from leftists in our own government) - who have already riled conservatives by legalizing gay marriage – proposed a reform (what they should’ve said was deform) to the civil code this week that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime.  ‘The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationships is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends.”  

Leonal Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill says the proposed law is gaining support and he expects a vote by the end of this year.  “You wouldn’t have to go through the tortuous process of divorce,” he declared.  One of his supporters, the mayor of Mexico City, has also announced that he would soon step down in order to run for President.  Oh, that’s just grand; can you say hope and change?!

Folks, man without God can be incredibly absurd.  I think of Romans 1 and the fruit of failing to acknowledge God and His ways that says, “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness...as a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” (Romans 1:18;21,22) Dear ones, all of man’s “better ideas” about the meaning of life, morals and marriage tends to the irresponsible and the immoral. 

It also contradicts the very nature of marriage which is put on display in Christ’s love for the church.  Paul’s description of marriage is one of the most profound and definitely challenging blueprints you’ll ever find, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:25-33) I know this can be a sensitive subject, especially to those who’ve experienced a marriage failure, often through no fault or desire of their own, but, he sets the bar very high where it needs to be.  This is why to glibly claim “irreconcilable differences” is to insult both the character and love of Jesus Christ for His church. 

Since they say a picture worth a thousand words, I’d like you to feast your eyes on these two pictures.  Take a good look, and give God the glory!
 Dave and Mariah Ford 1984

Dave and Mariah Ford 1984

 Jordan and Claressa Suiter 2011

Jordan and Claressa Suiter 2011

 

Monday Morning Musings - I’m Not Sure About Everyone Else...But, I Had A Wonderful Time!”

I have to relate the story of God’s working by picking up the story in the middle, which would make it Sunday morning.  We’ve just finished a “non-revival revival” (not a scheduled series of revival services) or as I liked to dub it, a “ministry sandwich.”  We had Pastor Greg Farrell, and his wife Tina, from Busselton, West Australia here for our annual Marriage Retreat.  “Sandwiched” around this was his preaching our Wednesday night midweek worship service, and then staying over to minister both services yesterday, on Sunday.

Greg and I have been friends for years and enjoyed a wonderful bond of friendship in Christ.  One reason contributing to this is that we share some mutual loves and interests.  We both love to fish.  He has a major leg up on me in this department since he lives right on the ocean, and I am a desert dweller!  We also both love to cook fish as part of our personal and family menu.  In this department it’s probably neck and neck with each of us sharing with the other different ways to prepare and cook fresh fish (the key word here being fresh).  While Greg can actually go out and catch his own fish, stocking his freezer, I have to buy mine at my local fishmonger which supplies excellent product.  The final and most important link in this bond is that we both have a deep love for the Word of God.  I would consider him one of the handful of people that I can sit around with and talk about God’s Word and the inspiration and revelation the Holy Spirit brings. 

This is why I thoroughly enjoyed the richness of the preached Word this week.  On Wednesday night the message from (Ezra 8:21-23) focused on how the God of the Book becomes the God of Experience; a spiritual alchemy which needs to take place in every Christian’s life.  One of the aids available to all of us in this process is the “prayer factor” that Ezra practiced.  Prayer is not just the means of us getting what we want from God, it is also indispensable in theology being translated into reality in our lives.  The Marriage Retreat was truly an outstanding time, and I think one of the largest attendances ever.  Launching everything was Thursday night’s message on Jealousy as the “silent killer” that resides in the selfishness of our hearts.  Friday morning was a very practical message on Greed, or how money affects and cannot be divorced from marriage.   The statistics bear this out that money, or better yet, disharmony on how we view and handle money, is behind the breakdown of many marriages.  Friday night concluded with a masterpiece on the subject of Communication, the quiet achiever.  The word communication literally means “to connect” and it involves a lot more than just words.  In fact, we can speak words without really communicating.  Words account for about 7% of communication.  Real communication is made up of a number of important ingredients, beginning with words, yes, but also involving tone (around 38% of communication), and also gestures (accounting for another 55%).  So, it’s not just what you say, but it’s also how you say it that matters. 

Sunday morning was my first “back-to-back” since my surgery in late June, meaning I was able to be in both the Sunday morning and evening services.  There was such an awesome presence of God, that having missed so many church services was like an elixir to my soul!  This was the middle of the story that I began this article with.  If Pastor Farrell was not preaching, I was almost prepared to give the altar call after the worship and prayer time.  That’s how real and precious it was.  He preached on “Gold Fever” and Rehoboam’s act of replacing Solomon’s gold shields with his bronze shields.  We can hold the shields, they “look” like gold or the real thing, but deep down inside we know there’s something missing.  The wonderful grace of God available is that the “gold” is not all that far away from any of us.  Jesus admonished the lukewarm Laodecian church to “buy of Me gold tried in the fire.”  I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where there isn’t some kind of advertisement on the advisability of buying gold as a means of protecting our assets or future.  Jesus is telling all of us that the “gold” is not far away, we can have it back in our lives, our worship, and our service, if we desire it.

Sunday night we ended the week of ministry with a kind of “unplugged” ministry.  A combination of excellent music, worship, and woven through all of it was truth about God’s reality, and stories that were a wonderful confirmation of that fact.  (Use pictures I sent you).  Like a fine coffee, all of this was a wonderful blend.  The one thing that made all the difference in all of these different settings was a real manifestation of God’s presence.  It is when God shows up that everything changes, people’s lives are helped and transformed, and nothing is impossible!