Love Is The Way

Marriage is not easy. It takes work, it takes sacrifice, it takes mutual submission and it takes understanding. Most importantly, marriage takes a solid foundation. 
In our marriage the love of Christ provides the necessary foundation for us to function as “won.” This is a foundation based on sacrificial love modeled after our Savior’s love for us. Not that we have attained a perfect marriage, since we are both imperfect, but this is the love for which we strive.


1 Corinthians 13:7-8a describes the love we hope to attain daily.    

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” This is my favorite part of this “love chapter” because, in my mind at least, it describes the “love work” involved in a marriage. We bear, believe, hope and endure.  

In this manner, love never ends. And this is the way of love. 

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What Does Our Marriage Communicate?

I’ve been married 19 years and I just recently thought about what our life communicates to our kids. What have I taught my son about how a woman should be treated? What have my actions reflected about my love for my wife? In turn, how has Lisa’s married life impacted our daughter?

I guess we often think about what kind of legacy we will leave our family. I wasn’t always a good role model, but as I matured in my Christian walk and as the refinement process continues, I would think that I became a better husband, leader, father and disciple. I can certainly say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have seen that growth in my wife.  

As we have both grown, Lisa and I have made it a point to impart the importance of servant leadership. As I lead my wife, I try to do so by serving her. She has done the same by serving her family faithfully and sacrificially. We have been most encouraged in our “woness” by hearing others tell us that our lives are an inspiration.     This gives us great joy. Not the kind of happiness that leads us to believe that we have reached the mountain top. But instead, a humble joy that God would choose to use such broken vessels to speak life to those hurting or those contemplating marriage.  

I think I can speak for my bride of 19 years when I say that in 2016, we would like most of all to communicate love. Not the emotion. But the verb. We would like to reflect in our lives what Jesus commanded His disciples in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In this manner we can be sure we will leave a legacy of “won.”

Celebrating 19

19thAnniversaryIt was a rainy day in July, 1996. Although this event was to be held outdoors, threats of hurricane type weather forced the occasion to be indoors. I was nervous about what was about to occur. Was this inclement weather an omen of turbulence ahead? Did I make the right decision? Was I stable enough in my career?   After all, I hadn’t really planned for any of this to happen this way. I wanted to be well established before I tied the knot. Was I truly ready to be a husband? A father?

Well, all those fears and anxieties came to a halt when I saw the doors open at the Merion Tribute House. I know we had invited guests, but all I could see was this angel, dressed in white and a smile that could’ve lit up a New York black out. Her beauty radiated with each step and came to an ever increasing crescendo as she approached me.

I thank God for that moment 19 years ago. Although I was a different man then, somewhat insecure and scared about the future, that beautiful angel has not changed at all. She still gives me strength, courage and confidence. She has also shown me patience, kindness and unconditional love. I have since then become the true man that my angel deserves.

Rob n Lisa Godspell 2014

My angel has always been the wind in my sails, the coffee in my cream, the syrup in my pancakes and the milk in my cereal. So in honor of my beautiful wife, I’d like to share some things that these 19 years have taught me about marriage: First, you can never have enough love. Although we have had our ups and downs, love has brought us back to common ground. Through love we have battled back from a few disagreements and arguments. Through love we have stuck together during difficult times that could’ve easily caused division. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, our mantra has been “love is patient, love is kind.”

Second, through mutual submission servant leadership has been the focus of our union. Not having had a model for leading in a marriage, I had no idea what this meant much less how to start. But as I learned over the years from Scripture and godly men, the way to lead was through serving my wife. In doing so, we have humbly served each other without keeping tabs of who has done more. Love to serve and serve to love became a model for us. Serving in a Christ like manner, we have attempted to model Christ’s love to our children.

And finally, by forgiving one another we have avoided bitterness, resentment and division. As stated in Scripture, we are forgiven by forgiving. This could not be more important in a marriage. Although there have been times when I just knew “I was right,” this became less important as the two of us grew into “won.” It was only by forgoing our pride and self-satisfaction that the importance of forgiveness became clear.

So as I reflect on my 19 years of “woness,” I thank God for His grace to us. I thank my wonderful angel for her love, grace, and forgiveness. I look forward to many more years of our life together and more chocolate cake.

Unequal Yoking

I believe the third reason for the high divorce rate, even among Christian marriages is unequal yoking.

If one were to ask questions regarding compatibility in marriage, the usual responses may involve political affiliations, values, careers or how many kids a person may want have. And sometimes, unfortunately, no thought at all is given to any matters regarding compatibility. Faith issues seem to be less of a concern according to most research, especially right before marriage. To enter into a marriage relationship based on the afore mentioned items however, is not building a solid ground for a long lasting, successful partnership.

Even when religious affiliation is considered, differences don’t always detract wedding bells from being heard. In fact, interfaith marriages have been on the rise. According to this NPR broadcast stating that 20% of marriages in US in the 50’s were interfaith and this figure climbed to 45% by the first decade of the 21st century. In the same broadcast, it was mentioned that discussing family values and how to raise children within a world view was important but because society has become more focused on individual satisfaction, these concerns have taken a back seat. This lack of discussion leads to problems.

Looking at this topic from a Christian worldview, there is one primary factor that should be taken into account prior to marriage: whether your future spouse is also a Christian. The Bible describes this as being “equally yoked.” Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, where he warns against being unequally yoked, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with the Belial? What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”

To put this term yoked in the perspective of an agrarian society which is the kind of society in which the Bible was written, a farmer would yoke two oxen of similar size for plowing. This way they could both carry a load equally and efficiently, without one working harder than the other. Imagine for a moment if an ox were yoked with one of my yorkies. How much would Roxy (our yorkie’s name) contribute? Probably close to 0%!! Well, applying this illustration to a marriage, an unequally yoked couple will have different morals, values, priorities and friends. These differences can create significant problems as each person in the marriage tries to “plow” through life.

This is not a New Testament concept. It has always been God’s heart to give us joy through this parameter. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, as God led the Israelites into the promised land, He gave them commands about unions:
“Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” God’s command was not to stifle or harm His people but to protect them and us.

As a married couple plows together through life, “life happens.” Job changes, financial difficulties, family difficulties, sickness, etc. People with different mindsets, values, beliefs, and priorities can have a difficult time navigating together through this maze of problems. The tendency may be to pull in different directions. It is no wonder why a survey by the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, found that people of mixed religion marriages were 3 times more likely to be divorced than couples of the same religion. Why? I would venture to say that since Christ is not in the center, The foundation is weak and able to break. However, when Christ is at the center of a marriage two can truly become “won” and be able to withstand the pressures and challenges of life. God’s word relates this truth in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

So am I suggesting that is marriage a cake walk as long as Christ is in the center? Absolutely not!! Even with Christ at the center of a marriage, two imperfect people can have difficulty working through life’s obstacles. But when a marriage has been built on solid ground, on the “cornerstone that the builders rejected,” there’s a much higher chance that life’s challenges will be “won.”

So what if one finds themselves in an unequally yoked marriage? What’s the solution? I’ll touch on that in my next post.

What Does “I Do” Mean?

 

I said "I do" and I still do.

I said “I do” and I still do.

These two words which mark the signature on a binding contract seem to have lost their meaning over so many years.  According to the American Psychological Association about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher. This being the case, one must wonder if these two words have lost their meaning over time.  Or are they truly being spoken from the heart.

How can the promises that are made between two people as they face each other and later confirmed with, “I do,” lose their strength over time?   How can the commitment behind these two words diminish over time?   How can the love that two people profess to each other simply vanish in thin air?  These are questions that I have asked myself regarding half of the marriages in my family, including my mother and father’s.

Well, as I pondered on this topic, even before I said “I do,” I still never understood why a man, like my father, would dare to make a such an important, lasting commitment if he did not want to be loyal and monogamous.  How could he leave three teenagers behind and establish another family.  I understand that not all situations are the same, but as for my parent’s marriage, the main issue was a lack of leadership and commitment. My father was not the head of the house and never commanded respect from his sons.  He also was not loyal and had no commitment to his own promises – “I do.”  My mother had her own set of issues and broken promises but none of these warranted infidelity.  Of course, after this, trust went out the window.  They had never had laid a foundation for effective communication or the help of the Counselor, so getting over such a tragic situation was virtually impossible.  He then looked elsewhere and left home for another woman.

Those two words, I do, uttered several years before became a punch line.  They became a bed of resentment, anger and lies.  The commitment to “won” became a preoccupation with self.  “What makes me happy,” “How can I have what I want,” “I want, I need.”  “I” becomes the focus instead of “you” or “we.”

I share this story not as a form of catharsis, since I have made peace with my own demons of anger that plagued me as a result of a man not fulfilling his part of a sacred and solemn vow, but as a backdrop to what “I do” should mean.  You see, when I looked into the eyes of my beautiful bride and we exchanged vows, I made a promise first to God and then to my bride that I would love and cherish her, always protect her, work through any arguments, be a servant leader, always respect her, and never leave her.  I also made a promise to treat love as a verb and not a noun.  In other words, I made a commitment to fight for my marriage.

And this is what “I do” means to me. It’s a commitment, a promise before God and bride that two will ALWAYS be “won.”  It means that no there are no obstacles that can’t be overcome.  It means that I commit to making this union work.  Not out of compulsion but out of love.  It means that I and my wife will work on our shortcomings to make our “won” functional.  It DOES NOT mean that it’s easy.  But it does that “It’s worth having and saving.”

Marriage and sacrifice….can’t have one without the other

Everything that is worth having is worth working for.  This old adage couldn’t be any truer than in the marriage relationship.  In the context of marriage this “working for” can be labeled as sacrifice. Sacrifice has a bad connotation in our society when it comes to relationships because we are told to always look out for number one. But we admire those who sacrifice of themselves for others in other contexts- military, physicians, firefighters, etc. 

When you sacrifice for someone, you show them love.  And love is more of a verb than an emotion and therefore requires action. Love as a feeling is conditional and dependent on our mood or our feelings.  True love however, should cause you act in tangible ways for the one you love.  We think of our spouse’s well being first. True love requires sacrifice. 

Men, by nature are explorers, conquerors, and protectors.   The first two characteristics serve well in the context of dating.  But when a commitment is made, when two truly become “won”, the role of protector should take over.   As such, sacrificing of ourselves for our wives should come as a natural extension of who we are.  When we sacrifice of ourselves for our wives, it communicates that they are important, that we care about them and we want wants what’s best for them.  Sacrificing of ourselves more importantly puts us second.  This is not only sacrifice, but it’s the basis of servant leadership.  

 What does sacrifice look like in the context of marriage you ask?  Great question!  Well, I can say I would watch “The Notebook” with my wife if she wanted me to instead of the Super bowl but I would be lying! Just kidding.  But really, there would be no way I could do that.

True sacrifice in marriage means that I would be willing to do whatever is needed for my spouse’s well being.  That means I will be cancelling a planned golfing weekend to be with my wife after a stressful week.  This means that I will leave work early to pick up and stay with the kids if she needs time with her friends.  This means that I will wash dishes after she has cooked.  And it definitely means that I will help her onto a boat if I sense danger in the water while snorkeling. … Well actually this is one area that I failed since I did the exact opposite when confronted with the same situation during our honeymoon.  But to my defense, it was my first time snorkeling.  Ha!

The real take home point here is that when we sacrifice for our loved ones we are really sacrificing for ourselves because in marriage two become “won.”

We don’t feed the Machine

Roses

We don’t Feed the Machine

So what are you getting your wife for Valentines Day? Are you getting your wife flowers? Every year these questions are asked of me by some women at the work. There is such an expectation to hear some great, elaborate story that it almost seems like a chance to live vicariously through a romantic tale. The irony of it all is that usually these questions are asked by ladies who openly complain of their married lives and how much their husbands don’t do. The interviewers are almost dumfounded when they hear my response: “We don’t feed the machine.”

I understand about doing something special for the one you love, which sweeps her off her feet all over again. But why should this be relegated to one day of the year that dates back to the 5th century? Why should the expectation of treating the one you love, the one with whom you became “won” be for only 1 out of 365 days?

Well, before I get labeled as a curmudgeon, I will say that I like to do special things for the love of my life. I like to be spontaneous, romantic and do things that just make my wife feel as if she were a newlywed. But I enjoy doing these things throughout the year instead of one day where society has created an expectation that a husband’s love is to be proved with flowers, chocolate and cards. The only spontaneous, romantic thing I cannot do is breakfast in bed. Why you ask. Unfortunately I cannot cook. : (

However, I like to clean after my wife cooks. I like to vacuum, sweep and mop the floor. What I like even more is to hear my wife say, “Thank you honey,” after I do these things. Not that she needs to say this but to know that I did something special for my beautiful wife is GREAT! To see the look of relief on my love’s face as if she were to say, “I am so glad I don’t have to do that after I’ve just done…,” is so satisfying that if makes me want to do it again. Why? Because I love her and she deserves it. You see, the Bible is clear on how I should treat my wife: with respect and in a way that protects her. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter states that if we neglect this, a husband’s prayer will not be answered.  This refers to how a husband treats his wife on a daily basis.  Not on special occasions.

By telling my wife that I love her throughout the year, two can truly become “won.” This is not necessarily done with words, although saying “I love you” everyday is important, but with actions. This is especially true since love is a verb not a feeling. If this is practiced often it is easy to continue. It takes a lot more inertia to do this once a year. Just sayin’…. Happy Valentine’s Day!!