Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A message on marriage has been on my heart for months. God keeps showing me illustrations, verses and quotations that have pushed me to preach or write this message. The picture keeps getting clearer and I feel it is now time, dear friends, to share this message with you.

It all started in the spring when God first pointed out in me that I wasn't making time for Him in my life. There were times when I saw clearly that our relationship - God's and mine - was suffering. God put it on my heart that just as a married couple cannot go days or perhaps even one day without "checking in" with one another, God and I needed time together every day as well. So I heeded that call - to make time with God, to enter my prayer closet every day and just start the day with praising Him for the day before me. It has made an incredible difference. In the times that I have stumbled recently, I can see that it was those particular days that I did not stop and praise Him that helped to knock my focus off of the only One who deserves it.

Fast forward a couple of months. I stepped outside of my church where my husband has stood for the past hour "chatting" with the guys. One man says, "Man... I'm telling my kids to never get married. Marriage is soooo hard." Derek tells me more of the conversation later. It seems this whole conversation of these men revolved around marriages and relationships and how you can never please women and blah, blah, blah. Derek related to me that he was so happy to be able to say, "Fellas.... I don't know what to tell you, but after Danielle and I butted heads for years, our marriage gets stronger every day." He said his eyes welled up with tears as another man standing there looked at Derek and said, "That's God."

I know that it's God that brought Derek and I out of darkness and brought us together. I know that it's God who took these two strong-headed and strong-willed people and their children, as well as the baggage from their pasts, and turned them into a TEAM. We say it to each other ALL the time, and we say it to our kids: "We're a team." And this team looks for every opportunity to bring Glory to God through our gifts and talents that God has given us. I praise God every day for bringing us together. I praise God every day for the ways in which He has stripped us of our old selves and made us new in Him. We would still be butting heads. We would still be scrapping every day. We could possibly be divorced and handing Zoe back and forth on weekends. Our Theatre Company would be no more and Ellen and I would no longer have much contact with Darianne and Julian. A family of six could have been reduced to ruins... BUT GOD. Oh, Hallelujah.

But with all this praise I have for God in my marriage and for my marriage, I have to stop and wonder why my Best Friend is going through a horrible divorce as I write this right now. I have to stop and ask myself why a man and fellow church member would be standing outside the doors of the church and saying, "My kids ain't getting married, if I can help it. Marriage is too hard." God has painted this wonderfully clear parallel in my spirit - let's call it "The Recipe for a Successful Marriage," or "The Blue Print." He calls me to share it with you.

The key to a successful marriage is this simple: "Love your spouse." Earth shattering, isn't it? But I know you don't realize the truth in that statement, so I will expound. I will show you the parallel that has been revealed to me regarding our relationships with our spouses and our relationships with God. But it starts with examining what "Love your spouse" truly means.

1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

A wise man once told me to replace the word "Love" with "God." I see now that you can also replace the word love with "Praise" in terms of our relationship with God. And that's the secret.

When we learn as individuals in our marriages to truly love our spouse, it means to shower them with our love, our praise, our trust, our hope and our respect. When we learn to love our spouse and do everything for them, it frees up your spouse to reciprocate. Suddenly, all of your needs are being met by the other person. This is the making of a holy marriage. When you took your vows, there was supposed to be a "death of self," just as in Baptism. You were no longer two, but one in marriage. You can no longer live with your selfish desires before you. It is all about the other person now. But if you can accept this, your efforts will be rewarded through your spouse loving you back.

I once read that love is like a ball of liquid Mercury held in your hand. If you squeeze it too tightly, it squeezes through your fingers and is gone forever. But if you keep your hand open, allowing the other person to love you back, it will remain.

Now I challenge you to take this lesson and put it into the perspective of our relationship with God. When we shower God with our love, our praise, our trust, our hope and our respect, He has no choice but to return that love. Furthermore, it is our faith that allows us to praise God, despite our circumstances and despite what we are going through. If we focus on ourselves and on our circumstances, our eyes are no longer on God, but on ourselves. This is where our relationship starts to falter. This is where we find ourselves saying, "Oh, woe is me. I have it soooo hard. What am I going to do?" But in the moment that we cry out to God, He holds the power to change our circumstances and will do so because He loves us.

There is a speaker and author coming to The Pregnancy Care Center's Annual Fall Fundraising Banquet. His name is Gary Thomas and he is a prolific writer. One of his books, "Sacred Marriage" is subtitled, "What If God Designed Marriage To Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?" I have to wonder, what if? What if marriage was the physical and earthly training ground in order for us to be rightly related to God? Can we learn to love our spouses in the same way we are expected to love God?

Let us not forget that we are being prepared for another marriage. God is preparing our gowns of white for that day, described in Revelation 19:

5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great." 6 Then I heard {something} like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. 7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

The church is the bride. We are the bride.

God calls us to be holy, not happy. How many times have we heard this? 1 Peter 1:16 declares: Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. Holy means "Rightly related to God." Rightly related to God means: eyes fixed on Him, not having selfish desires, but wanting to give God what He wants. And what does He want? He wants our praise, our love and our acknowledgement at all times. Our spouses desire the same.

Derek and I were some ugly people. We were afraid to trust, afraid to love. We were unable to submit to one another. He had to be The Man, and I was not about to be the Subservient Wife. Both of us had to be right all the time. Everything was a fight: who was more intelligent, whose idea of raising children was better, who was cleaner, who was messier, who was a better steward of money - everything was a fight. But God was working in the midst of it all. I was seeking. Derek was seeking. Somewhere along the way, we realized that all either of us really wanted was to be loved. God helped us move beyond our fears and our need to be self-sufficent. God laid our selfish desires to death and instilled in us a new love and respect for one another.

On September 13th, Derek and I will celebrate our fourth Wedding Anniversary. On our fifth anniversary, in 2008, we are planning to renew our vows because, Praise God, we are not who we were back then.

Our marriages are not meant to be a struggle, just as being a Christian is not supposed to be a struggle. We are not to walk around, saying, "Oh, this is soooo hard. God, why'd I get married?" That's like saying, "Oh God, why do you love me? Being a Christian is soooo difficult." Surrender to yourself. Love God. Love your spouse. And watch your needs get met. Yes, watch the blessings flow.

I wrote this song for Derek:
You walk into the room and at once my spirits soar.
It’s only been a moment, but it seems like so much more.
I love you that much
And your every touch
Sets my heart aflame.

It’s been six long years and yet our love grows stronger every day.
There’s been so much doubt and so much hope, but now it seems we found our way.
God’s hand in it all
He wouldn’t let us fall
We give Him all the praise.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

We both came from a place called “Self,” and it’s a lonely place to be.
No matter how we tried, how hard we kicked, we couldn’t seem to break free.
But then His good Grace
Shone on our face
And His Glory was revealed.

I gave a little and you gave a lot and how the tables turned -
Both learning how to trust again, not afraid to get burned.
All of His love
Poured from above
And helped us to be healed.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

You know tomorrow we don’t know
If the sun will shine or hide
But I know the only thing that matters
Is that you are by my side
You are my love, my help-mate
My husband, my Best Friend
Together we will run this race
With every rock and bend

I don’t know what sets us apart; we watch those around us fall
I know too many times and too many hearts that get hid behind a wall
They think they gotta stay tough
It’s never enough
To protect yourself from pain

You and I learned how to love by learning how to give
I got your back and you got mine, and that’s how we must live
Our needs always met
No regrets.
More sunshine than rain.

It seems I found you and you found me
When we needed each other most
And we stitched together a family
By the Power of the Holy Ghost
And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.

And I don’t know where I’d be without you and I don’t really want to know
Once we were lost, but now we are found.
Together let’s grow.