Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Lessons for Married Life

Read John Chapter 11

As many of you know who read our blog, Melissa and I are in the midst of fertility treatments. We lost a pregnancy in the fall and since then have had not had another success. We've begun the adoption process as well. It's been easy to get frustrated at God and we sometimes ask where He is while we go through all this. In light of Easter, I wanted to take a few minutes to relate some things I have been learning concerning the resurrection of Christ in connection to difficult times. (And all marriages will face difficult times of some sort.)

Over the last couple of months, the story of Lazarus from John 11 has taken on new meaning to me as I struggle with unanswered questions and difficult emotions.

I grew up in the church and have heard the story of Lazarus raised from the dead many times.  Not once have I ever caught the significance of verses 5-6.  Jesus had just learned that his good friend Lazarus was dying, and this is what he does:

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was."

Jesus loved...so he stayed where he was. 

Really??  Because Jesus stayed, Lazarus died.

Jesus had the power to heal him and had, in fact, healed numerous other people, but instead Jesus stayed put and Lazarus died. The passage explains that this was because Jesus loved Lazarus and his family? That doesn't seem like love, it just seems mean! Why would God allow this?

When we are wrestling with suffering and pain, we often ask "why"? A loving God wouldn't do this to us! However, later in the passage Jesus goes to see Martha and Mary (the sister's of Lazarus) and the Bible says that he wept.

Jesus wept.

I have heard two different explanations for Jesus' tears and I think both might be true.

When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany, he sees the hurt of his friend's family and breaks down. I think this is the way Jesus looks at all our pain. In the midst of our tears, Jesus hurts with us. He feels the same pain we do...we are not alone. 

At the same time, the story of Lazarus does not end in death and pain. Instead, it ends with new life, resurrection and redemption (as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead). All too often, we forget this about Jesus as we face pain and suffering. We stay focused on our present suffering and echo Mary's words, "If you were only here!!!" Meanwhile, Jesus knows that our entire situation will be redeemed and turned into good.

The pain isn't easy... I want to be a dad! But for some reason, it's not the right time yet. And in reality, which can be hard to fully understand, that reason is because God loves Melissa and I. He knows the plan and he wants the best for us.

This hope in redemption and a relationship with a God who hurts with humanity, is the reason that  Easter is a time for celebration. Resurrection provides a hope and encouragement that can't be found anywhere else.

Jake

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Modesty

A blog reader has asked of us, "What are our thoughts on modesty?" Where to begin? This topic is so loaded for married people, dating couples, parents, you name it. And everybody has their own opinions, especially when we start crossing gender and generational lines. I can remember my mother insinuating in high school that only hookers would wear spaghetti straps :)

It's too bad the Bible doesn't have a chapter called, "Women...this is what thee shall wear!"  Because really, when the modesty issue surfaces we're mostly talking about women right? Women do struggle with lust, but it's more often an emotional or relational lusting rather than visual. The simple fact of the matter is that men are (generally) visual beings and naked women are beautiful in all the shapes and sizes they come in. Naked men are less of a temptation (though we do need to watch our eyes as well ladies...cough Matthew McConaughey). I'm an artist and I've seen a lot of naked ladies and dudes. The female form is so captivating and gorgeous...no wonder guys can't keep their eyes off us! While most women love being intimate with their husbands, it's not the naked part that gets us going. It's how we feel connected and loved.

Guys? Well, it's a lot about the nakedness for guys! They usually feel connected and loving after sex.

So....The Bible does say in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."

This means both men and women are accountable for honoring God with their bodies. What this looks like realistically in terms of modesty is hard to pin down. Men used to get turned on by bare ankles, so really any skin showing could be called immodest as it leads men to "desire." But that would be ridiculous today. What if you have big boobs? It's hard to find shirts that fit correctly but don't look like they belong to your grandmother. Modesty can quickly become a finger pointing, judgmental issue when we really have no concise Biblical guidelines as to what exactly we should and shouldn't wear.

Since it's all such a gray area, I'm going to go with the words "moderation" and "wisdom".  It's okay to dress stylishly, it's okay to be beautiful, and as a woman it's damn hard not to be sexy... men find almost anything sexy. Jake thinks baggy sweatpants are sexy! Go figure. However, women need to use wisdom as they navigate ever-changing fashion trends. We are aware when a shirt is too low, pants are too tight, or the dress is just too revealing. We know it and we wear it anyways.  Change! Find something else that makes you feel good, but does not go too far. Honor your body by letting it be beautiful in clothes and don't cheapen it by dressing to reveal or invite lust.

Men, watch your eyes and your heart. It's okay to notice a woman is attractive (moderation), but don't let your gaze or mind linger. Use wisdom in how you talk to and address a woman, be careful you treat her as a human being and not run away with fantasies in your mind. If a woman is dressed in a way that does "divert the eyes", you're still responsible for those eyes and where they rest. You're responsible for casting away disrespectful/lustful thoughts. The thoughts will come, that's normal, but letting them linger and grow is not honoring anyone's body.

*Note - It's okay to think about your husband or wife in a sexual way and it's okay to be turned on by what he/she is wearing.

Husbands, if you find yourself becoming critical of your wife's clothes...first take a look at your own heart. Do you look at pornography? Do you secretly check out that woman on the treadmill in front of you? Take the plank out of your own eye and work on your own issues, before judging your spouse.

Wives, if your husbands mention that an outfit might be too revealing....consider that he may be correct. Respecting him (and yourself) by changing will allow you to work on your own heart. Did you notice that your clothes might be too much? Did you ignore it or did you not care?

We'll all fail at this over and over. Both men and women, husbands and wives are wired as sexual beings. Part of learning how to be a follower of Jesus is learning how to honor him with our sexuality, our bodies, and what we wear. Let's have some gentle and non-judgmental accountability and a whole bunch of grace with each other as we continue to learn and grow!

-Melissa
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.