With love in the air and Valentine's Day coming up soon, I decided to postpone my followup post to "Interrupted", and save it for the next blog post. Instead, I want to tell you about what I think is probably the best Valentine's Day gift you could give your sweetheart.
But first, a throwback picture....
Awwww. This was in 2006, just a couple years after Zack and I were married. I think we kind of look all dreamy in this picture (it was before the wedding of a dear friend), but honestly, our marriage at that point wasn't exactly a dream. It sometimes resembled more of a nightmare :) Zack and I ran across this picture the other day, and I asked him what this picture made him think of and he said exactly what I was thinking.... "rough times". We both smiled and in some strange way it was comforting that we both thought and said the same thing. Weird, I know. Please don't hear me say that we never had good days or times in our first couple years of marriage. We definitely did. We had a blast. But it is also true that on more than one occasion in our young and fragile marriage, both of us honestly wondered if we would make it. The reasons for this line of thinking at that point in our lives were complex and would take too long to detail here. But suffice it to say that pride (sin), bitterness, and a lack of grace and mercy are a pretty solid recipe for a disastrous marriage, and that is what we had been cooking up during those times.
Thankfully the story didn't end there, and God's redemptive power took hold of mine and Zack's lives, and eventually our marriage. It took time and grace on both of our parts. We never, ever, gave up. What both of us knew deep down, but often times couldn't articulate to one another was basically, "As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. He is big enough to transform this marriage".
Easier to articulate now (though we still have so much to learn). Not so much then. Which brings up a good question.....Why? For two people who have grown up in wonderful and loving Christian families and who have been raised "in the church", why was marriage so tough? Again, another loaded question. No doubt that the way in which our culture portrays marriage and love played into it. Marriage and love (according to our culture) have become so about "us" and are such self serving concepts in our culture. It is very unfortunate and frightening to see these beautiful gifts from God extremely distorted from the selfless, sacrificial love that we read about in scripture. What Zack and I failed to realize in our early years of marriage is that the byproducts of loving God with all our hearts, seeking first His Kingdom, and sacrificially loving and serving our spouse are truly what makes for a joyful, peaceful and loving marriage. When we begin to take the focus off of ourselves, and seek God and His very best for our spouse, marriage truly becomes what it was meant to be.
Which is where my idea of the best gift you could give your spouse comes in (Sorry, I just took the long way around to finally get to it :)It's not fancy, sexy, or cute. It's a book. But it has the potential to rock your world, and in turn your marriage upside down.... in a good way, of course. Here it is......
Now, I have read my fair share of books about marriage....how to improve it, how to diagnose what's wrong with it, how to keep it interesting....you get the picture. But never have I read a book on marriage as profound as this one. It is not necessarily what you would think of as a warm and fuzzy book about marriage. I mean, right on the back of the book it says, "Marriage is great, but it's not forever." Sound harsh? Well, let's think about it this way- When you look back on your marriage years from now, what will you see? When you stand before God one day (as we all will), what will He have to say about how your marriage served Him? I don't know about you, but I fear that many things that I think are so important now, might not seem so important then. What will matter is if you have a marriage that has shown the grace, love, and glory of Christ to all who have known you and your spouse. What will matter is how your marriage helped to bring God's Kingdom to earth. How your marriage reflected the very love that Christ has for His church and for a world that so desperately needs to see genuine, sacrificial love- that will matter. My prayer is that one day when Zack and I stand before God we will hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant". I want our marriage to function in such as way that hearing those words is our main goal for our marriage. By the continued grace of God, I believe that truth can be a reality for all of us who seek to bring Glory to His name through the precious and wonderful gift of marriage.
I know Valentine's Day is two days away, but order this book anyway and let it be a belated Vday gift, or an extra surprise a couple days after, or just order it for you and then you can give it to your spouse to read when you are done. Just buy it. I promise what may seem a little harsh or rough around the edges when it comes to a book about marriage will open your eyes to the beauty and depth and purpose of marriage that God intended when he created this beautiful union between man and woman.
Before I finish this post, I do want to get a little mushy (sorry, I can't resist) and tell my husband just how much I love him and how proud of him I am. The last few months have not been easy, and I think Zack has had a much more difficult job than I have had in terms of adjusting. He has had to adjust not only to a new city, new home, new church, etc., but also to a new job and new coworkers, new customers and new demands. And he has done so in a most excellent way, excellent in both work performance and character. I am so proud of the man, husband, and father he is. When I kiss him goodbye every morning, I have gratitude in my heart to God for my husband. He really is my best friend. He dreams big dreams with me, encourages me, cries with me, and laughs with me. He is with me. God has given him to me to be my fellow sojourner in this world, and together with God's help and grace, we will strive to show others the love of Christ. It is Christ alone who keeps us, guides us, and strengthens us.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. There is truly no replacement for the amazing love of God. Don't be fooled by anything the world may try to offer in its place. May all of our marriages be a light in this dark world, reflecting and revealing what love is all about. Let's not settle for anything less.