Our teaching team hopes that you will be able to use these materials to take further the experience of learning God's hope for you.
If you have any questions, e-mail Steve Whitby, Pastor of Creativity.
When you’re expecting your first child, people say the darndest things: “Your life is never going to be the same again,” “Get ready to be sleep-deprived,” or [my personal favorite] “You won’t remember what time alone felt like.” I just remember feeling slightly indignant at times when anyone from friends to complete strangers offered these strange nuggets of honesty. What happened to children falling under that “gift from the Lord” category?
But, when you get married, the same people ask about the cake, the honeymoon, the dress—the fairy-tale [or so it seemed to me]. No one warns you about the intense arguments that come in the “honeymoon phase,” the potential loneliness that can rear its head when you least expect it, or the unreasonable annoyance you never thought you’d experience over the silly things…like a cereal box that’s left on the counter every night [sorry honey].
Both of these things—parenthood and marriage—carry beauty and pain into our lives. Only it seems more and more obvious to me that it’s easier to be authentic with one and not the other. Who can deny the difficulty of raising a child? But how many really admit to the struggles of marriage? I knew parenting would be hard. And, while marriage is beautiful in its own right, I wonder how many expect the sometimes uncomfortable merging of two becoming one. In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller writes:
“As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining, and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, ‘Love shouldn’t be this hard; it should come naturally.’ In response, I always say something like, ‘Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball?’ Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative?’….Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature?”
I haven’t finished the book yet, but Keller sets it up as an explanation of how our lives, our living, breathing, down-to-the-details life, can be transformed by the Gospel. We don’t have to stay where we’re at. My temper doesn’t always have to get the best of me and I can learn to forgive like Christ forgives me, but not by trying harder or isolating myself from the unpleasant stuff. Real transformation requires faith in the power of Jesus’ work on the cross. The result of that faith is what Paul describes in Colossians 3:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
So…what does it look like? How does it happen? Forgive the leap here, but last night, my husband and I watched Crazy, Stupid, Love. And one, last line keeps ringing in my head. An estranged husband, played by Steve Carell realizes his young son has lost hope in true love, and, in an effort to restore that hope, he says (from his heart):
“I met my soul mate when I was fifteen years old and I’ve loved her every minute, every day since I first bought her that mint chocolate chip cone. I have loved her through the birth of our three perfect children. I have loved her, even when I’ve hated her. You married couples will understand that one. And I don’t know if it’s gonna work out, I don’t know what’ gonna happen. I’m sorry, Robbie. I can’t give you that. But I can promise you this, I will never stop trying. Because when you find the one, you never give up.”
Strangely enough, as I’ve thought about that last line, about not giving up, I’ve realized how many times I give up on God. How many times I lose my hope in His goodness, His promises, His power. Perhaps that’s why Paul writes in the beginning of Colossians 4 to “continue steadfastly in prayer, [be] watchful in it….” And why these verses from Isaiah 54 have challenged me to renew my faith and hope in God’s goodness, promises, and power:
“For the mountains may depart and the hills may be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace show not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
And so—we pray “steadfastly,” we seek to discover God’s character in scripture, and we live lives of authenticity with others so that God’s transforming work of the Gospel can be accomplished in our lives. I think it probably takes a lifetime built on hope.
We’d love to hear from you. Please share with us below your thoughts and insight. We would love to see Take it Further be a place where as a community we dialog, and together we all take the conversation further.
*Note: If you wish, you can look up this and other Bible passages online at youversion.com
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