Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Iron Sharpens Iron

The past few days, I have gotten somewhat off-track. My mind has not been focused on Jesus, trusting Him, striving to grow, seeking to honor Him. Rather, it has been on work, on finances, on how messy my house is. Yesterday, I attempted to make hamburgers for lunch, but after putting them on the grill, I went inside and forgot about them, getting caught up in cleaning my house. I'm not certain how much time passed before I remembered that I was supposed to be cooking lunch, but regardless, it was too much time. The burgers were charcoal. I snapped. The burnt burgers were the last straw and I burst into tears. As my husband attempted to comfort me and tell me that we could have something else for lunch, that it was not a big deal, that he would grill some more burgers for us, the true reason for my breakdown came out. 

"The house is a mess and we have no money," I say as I continue to cry.  

"It's not a big deal that the house is a little messy," he responds, "and I am working so that we will have money." 

But that was not the point. Because it does not matter how much I clean, the house will still be messy again and I will have to clean it again, and although we work and make money, it will all be gone again by the next paycheck. Work and clean and work and clean, and still we are getting nowhere. What is the point of it all? It is meaningless. 

And as I got out my notebook to move on to the next item on my to do list, my husband stopped me and ordered me to read my Bible. I could not really argue, since reading the Bible is important and even I knew that I needed a perspective shift. So I stomped up the stairs, grabbed my Bible, and flipped open to somewhere in the middle and started reading. 

Before too long, I stopped crying. Then my perspective shifted and God reminded me that what was holding my focus was not actually important. He showed me that I had gotten my focus off of Him and onto this world. As I finished Psalm 16, lunch was ready and I had gained some perspective. 

"Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."
Psalm 16:5 (HCSB)

And that is one of the many instances that my husband has helped me to refocus, to grow in my walk with the Lord, or to stretch myself in an aspect of it. 

His example of sharing his testimony with random people, his emphasis on looking at the original languages and learning the historical background when studying the Bible, and his willingness to step out in faith and trust God, even when it is difficult for him all inspire me to do the same. When he is having a bad day and stops to read his Bible, the way that he picks out illustrations for aspects of God's word in movies and books, and his encouragement and prayers for me, all encourage me in my own walk with God. 

While my relationship with Jesus looks different now that I am married, that does not in the least mean that I am not growing or He is not working in my life. God very often uses the cause of my divided interests to encourage growth in my walk with Him. 

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Divided Interests

"The unmarried woman is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband."

1 Corinthians 7:34

Before I was married, I would read that verse and get quite frustrated with Paul for dissing marriage. I am a girl, I would think to myself, Girls are not allowed to be pastors, and I would be much more productive as a missionary if I had a husband. I can serve God just as well married as I can single; probably even better. I did not understand. Paul is not necessarily saying that single people can serve God better than those who are married (although there is that vibe, and those who are single do have a unique opportunity that those who are married do not.) Paul is simply pointing out a simple fact of marriage. We now have (necessarily) divided interests. 

While I was still single and did not have any cares in the world, or at least, no husband to care for, my relationship with God was very spontaneous and time consuming. I spent time in the Scriptures and prayed when I was lonely or depressed or afraid or conflicted. I looked at the world as God's gift to me specifically. When the trees blossomed in the spring I viewed it as God giving me flowers. When the leaves changed color in the fall, I could not help but know that God did that just for me, because I love it so much. Every so often, I would go out to coffee or to the park with the sole purpose of spending time and hanging out with Jesus.

When I got married, things changed. While I still schedule time with God and in His word each morning, the spontaneous prayer walks, the afternoons at the park, and the hours spend poring over the Psalms when I was depressed have largely disappeared. It is not that I no longer want to dedicate long hours to spending time with Christ or that I have replaced Jesus with my husband. Rather, it is because I have "divided interests." 

I would love to spend hours upon end each week studying the scriptures and going on long outings to pray. I would love to read through half of the book of Psalms as I cry my eyes out and ask God for some direction and peace. But I am no longer on my own. I have promised much of my life and affection and energy to a certain man who is my husband. Having a husband takes time, on top of which I also live with him. 

Bedtime is no longer a good time to cry and read the Bible and cry and pray for help and cry and read some more. Having your wife crying in bed with the light on so that she can read is not very conducive to sleep. Plus, my husband is certain to ask what is wrong and want to help make me feel better (which is great, by the way). The middle of the day is no longer a good time to go to a coffee shop or the park for serveral hours to read the Bible and journal and pray. I have work that needs to be done, a house that needs to be cleaned, and dinner that must be made before my husband needs to leave for work at 5:30.

My interests are divided. Christ is always the first and foremost in my life, however, He has called me to love and serve my husband. And so (even aside from the fact that I enjoy being with my husband and talking things over with him), the simple fact that Christ has commanded that I make my husband a priority in my life causes me to be "concerned about the things of the world, how [I] may please [my] husband."

Jesus must be the center, the foundation, and the most important thing in my life, and I must set aside time to simply be with Him. Nevertheless, I also must be faithful to what He has called me to by loving my husband, loving my children (when they come), being sensible and pure, working at home, being kind and submissive to my husband. Husbands take time (as does keeping a home moderately clean and food on the table!). And my time with God now needs to be more scheduled so as to make it a priority. It is not a bad thing, just different. 

I have grown so much in my walk with God since getting married just as a result of sorting through the differences of then and now, as well as the differences between me and my husband. I have been challenged in different ways to rely on God and TRUST Him. The "divided interests" difficulty is not necessarily bad, simply streching, and makes me treasure the time that I do have even more.

So, if you are single, I encourage you to take full advantage of this time! Learn to lean into Christ when you are struggling, take all of your fears and desires to Him, spend a few hours simply reading through His word. It is so beautiful and worth it to simply be with Him. If you are married, tell me what works for you to keep your relationship with God going strong amist your divided interests. I have found that getting up early so that I can schedule in time with God before the day begins works well for me. But I would love to hear your ideas--I am still pretty new at this whole "being married" thing.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
Ecclesiastes 3:1