Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Man on a Hot Tin Roof

I am not a sports fanatic in any way, shape, or form. Athletics have never been my strong suit, although I have a very competitive streak when provoked. But I can recall attending my first and only hockey game with a friend while I was in college. It strikes me as humorous now, seeing as neither one of us had a particular affinity for hockey. I'm not even sure why we went. All I remember is the pure aggression that the players exhibited on the ice. They would glide along, working together with their teammates, when suddenly a fight would break lose. People yelled. Punches were thrown. Heart rates increased. Blood boiled. And then it was over. Someone was sent to the penalty box and the game continued. Until the next brawl.

Sometimes marriage can be just like that hockey rink...minus the ice and the face masks. There are days when we glide along, working together in perfect sync. And then a bad day hits. And then another. And if you are anything like me, my mouth moves faster than my brain. Before I know it, words have escaped my lips, and I desperately wish I could take them back.

I have been reading  in the book of Proverbs in my quiet time, and I came across these verses...

"It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife." Proverbs 21:9

"It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman." Proverbs 21:19

"A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand." Proverbs 27:15-16

Do you sense a theme here? Quarrelsome wife = NOT GOOD. Scripture says that our husbands would be better off hanging out on the roof than sharing perfectly good space in the house with their contentious, argumentative wives. The desert seems like paradise compared to spending the day enduring our verbal attack. Trying to restrain our belligerence is like trying to bridle the wind. 

So how ARE we supposed to act?

First of all, disagreements will naturally occur in a marriage because the marital bond is shared by two sinners who sometimes have vastly divergent opinions. The word "quarrelsome" indicates that our attitude has somehow slipped out of line. Remember to respond to your husband with gentleness and kindness, even if you have a ironclad case against him. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." You are responsible for your own actions. Watch your tone.

Secondly, when you do sense that you have taken a simple disagreement and turned it into a verbal boxing match, be quick to seek forgiveness. Apologize. Forgive as you have been forgiven in Christ. How much has He forgiven you? To the uttermost.

My prayer for you (and ME!) is that you would be trustworthy, that your husband would have no lack of gain, and that you would do him good and not harm, all the days of your life. (Proverbs 31:11-12)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Answer is No

The scene I am about to describe plays out multiple times over any given week in my house.

Lights, camera, action...

Eden gets bored with the three thousand toys and games that are piled into the playroom and her bedroom. She approaches me as timidly and humbly as possible and asks if she can please, please, please watch something on TV. I respond by saying "no"and she proceeds to pout for the next ten minutes. Then when I ask her to come to me so that I can attempt to reason with her, she erupts into tears and wails, "I THINK YOU DON'T LIKE ME!!! I calmly reply that I do like her, I think she is the coolest five year old in the world, and I LOVE her more than I can say. She continues to cry for a couple of minutes but eventually moves on to other creative ventures.

End scene. 

I am not withholding TV time because I am mean-spirited and I want Eden to wither away in apathy. I want better for her and I know that she is fully capable of coming up with something to entertain herself on her own. I am loving her by saying no. However, she interprets my actions as hateful and wonders if I even like her. I most certainly do.

Does this scene ever happen between you and God? You pray and beg and plead for something and His answer is no. You pout for a little while, and then you begin to wonder if God is truly wise and kind and loving like His Word claims. Maybe He's holding out on you because of that sin that you committed many moons ago. Maybe He's refusing your desired happiness because you haven't quite grasped the concepts of patience and gentleness and kindness. You speculate about why others seem to be winning the "life lottery" and seeing their wildest dreams come true. You even allow yourself to ponder the thought that He doesn't even like you. I can assure you that He DOES.

First of all, GOD LOVES YOU. Truly. Madly. Deeply. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV) And there is nothing that could make Him stop loving you. According to Romans 8:38-39, neither "death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ESV) His love for us is unchangeable and unshakeable.

Secondly, GOD HAS A PLAN FOR YOU. He knows you better than you know yourself and He has a purpose for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 states, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (ESV) God created you and designed you, and His plans for you are so very good. When He says no, it's because He wants you to experience the pure joy of HIS perfect plan for you.

Third, GOD IS NOT LIKE YOU. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord proclaims that "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (ESV) He doesn't think like you. He isn't consumed with worry and fear like you. He isn't limited by time, so He can see the beginning, the end, and everything in between. He sees every thread in the tapestry of your life and He knows exactly how to weave your circumstances into something incredibly beautiful for His glory.

So sit tight, my friend. God is in control and He sees you right where you are. His plan is best. Trust Him completely and watch His wonders unfold.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Forbidden Fruit

We have a brand new kitchen floor, and as the guardian of cleanliness in the Fletcher household, it is my duty to make sure that it is well-maintained. When we moved into our house, I was told to use a certain, high-powered cleaner to really make the floor shimmer and shine. But because of the potency of this particular cleaner, I get very nervous about my children pitter-pattering their little feet across the kitchen floor while it is still wet and potentially dangerous to their precious growing bodies.

So the other day, as I began mopping the floor with said cleaner, I gave my "sometimes compliant" children express instructions to stay off the kitchen floor while it dried. They listened with rapt attention as I explained that, under no circumstances were they allowed to cross through that doorway into the temporary danger zone. And while they immediately obeyed and kept their footsies off the floor, I also noticed that they sat right up against the line that divided the family room from the kitchen. Perilously close to the forbidden floor, but not actually touching it.

After a few moments, both of my daughters grew bored with watching the floor dry and ran off to occupy themselves with more interesting things like Barbies and baby dolls. But when they sailed past me to cut through the kitchen minutes later, I had to warn them once again that they had to choose a different route. Eventually, I didn't catch the three year old in time, and she waltzed right through the prohibited area without even blinking an eye. Thankfully, the floor was bone dry by then and the perceived danger had passed.

I wish I could say that the desire to push the boundaries (and sometimes run right past them) is a rare inclination in our household or even in our society at large. But sadly, it is a cancer that infects our hearts as a result of our sinful nature.The book of Genesis paints the glorious picture of how God spoke the world into existence and lovingly placed the first man and woman in a beautifully perfect garden that was fully stocked with all sorts of wonderful plants and fruits so they could fill their bellies to their heart's content. There was only one tree that God withheld from their smorgasbord. Only one. And only three short chapters into the very first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve fall head over heels into sin by eating the only fruit that they were commanded not to eat. But thankfully...and mercifully...the story doesn't end there.

God had a plan. He knew what we were going to do before we even did it. And He sent and sacrificed His Son on the cross to atone for our sins and satisfy His holy justice. Hallelujah! What a Savior! God continues to work out His plan in the lives of those who have surrendered to Him. So even though we still reach for that forbidden fruit day after day, His mercy remains and He stands ready and willing to forgive and receive us back by the power of His unending love. His grace is truly amazing.