I recently had shared with me, by a very strong Christian man, the most beautiful story about the death his wife. He shared with us the short fight with metastatic cancer she had finally succumbed to. With tears spilling down his cheeks and a huge smile on his face, he told us of the final journey he and his wife shared.
They spent the last month together in the hospital room which would ultimately be a one way trip. Their faith spilled over into the hospital staff around them. They would come her room and pray with them for the wisdom of the doctors and sing in the Spirit as they came in and out of the room as their lives momentarily touched. Even though the various treatments did not improve her state, she continued to defy the odds in that she remained coherent to the very end.
Eventually, he told us about knowing it would be their last day together. No man could have predicted the day since she was still completely aware and engaged with her surroundings. He just knew that one way or the other they would be leaving the hospital that day. Either God would heal her and they would return home together or God would take her home.
The tears spilled down his rugged face as he told us of the gut-wrenching pain he felt. He knew there was nothing wrong with him. Even still, he looked down to see if he could see his shirt and stomach being bunched up and torn apart. God reminded him that he had made them one-flesh and had to separate them to take her home.
They shut the door and said goodbye while she was still quite coherent. She was laying back with her eyes closed as her vital signs began to deteriorate. Later, he said that right before her final breaths, her eyes suddenly opened; like she was looking up. Then she closed her eyes again and was gone.
It was a beautiful passing in that this fine woman of God knew without a doubt that she was going to be with the Lord. It was a beautiful passing because she and her husband of 25 years shared this final journey together sharing their faith along the way. It was a beautiful passing because, while he’s not sure what he’s going to do without her, he is at peace.
As part of our wedding vows, we promise to love, honor and cherish. What does it mean to honor your spouse? How we speak about your spouse to others says a lot. Do you spend your time griping about those things that aren’t perfect? Or, do you honor them with your words? By that I mean can anyone say that you’ve said anything derogatory, anything that implies you don’t respect them, anything that belittles them? Even if you do have a problem brewing between you and your spouse, do you complain to others and possibly damage their relationship with your spouse in the process? Every time we cross the line and show the world what’s not so good about the person we’ve vowed to share our lives with, we are not holding up our end of the bargain. We are not honoring them.
I honor my husband by keeping the chinks in his armor to myself. I am supposed to be his ally so telling where his weaknesses are does not honor him. No matter how great the infraction, I will not tell others how he failed; it would not honor him. I only speak to others the words that lift him up and show the world how wonderful he is. I’m not lying to myself or other people when I do this. I’m using discretion about what I share so that I present my husband in the best possible light. Wouldn’t you want the same? Wouldn’t you want the person who knows whether or not you drool in your sleep to choose not to ridicule you to others? Honoring your spouse is a key ingredient to a wonderful, fulfilling marriage. That’s not to say you won’t ever disagree. Just choose carefully when, where and how you’ll express your opinion.
Also, when you honor your spouse, you remind yourself of all of the good qualities that brought you both together in the first place. People fail, that’s just part of being human. When they do, it is much easier to forgive if you can remember why you loved them in the first place. Do you honor your spouse?
I Do, Except For The Obey Part!
A Cultural Attack On Biblical Marriage
In everyday life, do we recognize God’s hand in action? I think there are many things that slip past us simply because we aren’t looking. I like to ask the question, “What are the chances?” What are the chances that your bank awards you a sweepstakes that you didn’t do anything to enter at the same moment that you’re in desperate need of that same amount of money with NO hope of coming up with it on your own?
In fact, this specific example is true. The previous Sunday at church, I cried through the entire service because I thought we had finally run out of hope. We needed nearly $5000 to be able to get caught up on our house note. They had already sent us the warning letter stating that they would foreclose if we didn’t pay and time was running out. Later the same week, I had a phone call from my bank. I could hardly believe it was true. They had awarded me the Sweepstakes for doing something I was already doing, online bill pay. What are the chances?
Needless to say, as always God’s provision was in time, but I learned that I may not come in ways that I could foresee. He is constantly moving behind the scenes in ways that we can’t conceive. This experience reinforced the fact that I can trust God. I don’t need to be able to predict how his help will come to me. I don’t have to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together. All I have to do is trust that God is faithful and that He loves me no matter what.
There have been many times throughout my Christian walk that God has proven Himself faithful. I am truly blessed that He is willing to do that over and over again when my fears were echoing in my head, drowning out that still quiet voice. I cannot thank God enough for the many times he’s spared me from what I deserved even when the doubts creep in. I’m so glad that God knows my heart even when I fail; He loves me unconditionally.
Unconditional love is hard to come by from people. It is hard to give it. When was the last time you were able to love with no expectation in return? When did you love your child without any performance criteria? It’s easy to say that you love your children no matter what. Think about what you do. Is there a statement, “I love you, but…?” Whether it’s about grades, cleaning their rooms or anything else, if you withhold some of your grace towards them because they disappointed you, your love is not unconditional.
Growing up, I struggled with my weight. The way my parents talked to me about it made me feel like I had let them down by being heavy. It was beside the point that I was only eating what was in the house. This shaped the way I looked at myself. I was a disappointment. I didn’t perform as well as my brother did in school, I was heavy and I wasn’t as social as my sister. It wasn’t until recently that I saw what unconditional love was in action.
Our daughter got in trouble in school. My husband was sitting in the school office praying about how he should handle it. God’s answer to him was to treat her as He had treated my husband. In many ways it’s hard to realize that God is giving us grace every moment of every day; that His love is greater that anything else we can imagine. Are you capable of that kind of love? When someone has hurt you can you forgive them unconditionally? Can you throw that offense as far as the east is from the west?
Hat’s off to Miss California, Carrie Prejean. At a time it would have been easy to give a politically correct response to her pageant question; she stood up for her values and supported the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman. It is troubling that standing up for Biblical values is somehow now politically incorrect or beyond that, even offensive. A slow erosion of American society’s expectations for a Biblical standard for behavior has led to many small compromises along the way so we can all “just get along.” As Christians, are supposed to love one another. This has been twisted over time into total acceptance of this behavior. We now have “rights” for what used to be called sin.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate anyone. I can love my fellow man without accepting behavior that is self destructive to both themselves and to others around them. Since the relationship we have with God is like that between a father and a child, if we don’t have that model in our lives anywhere how skewed will our view of any relationship with The Father be?
In Revelations 3:15-21, the Church in Laodicea is warned about being neither hot nor cold and because they are lukewarm, God will spit them out.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (ESV Online)
We now live in a time where it is imperative to choose this day who you will serve. Our efforts to be tolerant in the name of Christianity have made us luke warm. Each of us is faced with the decision to get along and say nothing about the deterioration of our values or to risk personal consequences for standing up for what we believe. What do you believe?
To love extravagantly must require the whole heart and soul. Every part of your being warms at the thought of the one you love extravagantly. Some how your lungs have a greater capacity as you breathe. The knowledge that your love is returned brings peace and joy that fills you to overflowing. How can you give the one you love any less? How could you withhold any part of that extravagant love from the one you said, “Till death do us part?” Their well-being must come before yours, as Christ loved us first. How do you accomplish this? Christ loved whether or not it was returned when He gave His life for each of us. If you want to love extravagantly, you must first die to self and selfishness. If you continually ask, “What’s in it for me?” you will never find extravagant love. Instead ask, “How can I show them my love?” Extravagant love begins with self-less love.
Just as Christ laid down for us, can you lay yourself down for Him? Can you love Christ extravagantly?