A Reflection on my First 7 Months of Marriage: An Honest Critique of Misconceptions

There are mixed perceptions on the concept and value of marriage in our culture. Some people are eager to jump into it and begin a new stage of life; others have little or no faith in the institution. Some people have made it their goal in life to get married; others are reluctant to make such a binding commitment. Whether you spend your time day-dreaming about living life with your future spouse (regardless of whether or not you’ve met them yet) or shudder at the thought of spending a lifetime with someone, I hope to be able to shed light on serious misconceptions that I’ve had about marriage, and misconceptions that I’ve heard other people express about marriage. This is not a call for people to be single, nor is this delusional honeymoon-phase jabber. My hope is that whether or not you are single, dating, engaged or married, that this will be insightful and encouraging regardless of your marital status or future dreams. Keep in mind that as I write this, I’m writing this from the perspective of a 23-year-old Christian male. My goal is to be as open and honest about my experience as I can. So, without going any further, here is my reflection on the first 7 months of my marriage, and a critique of misconceptions that have come along with it:

Misconception:  If I get married, it’ll fix problems I have in my current relationship.

Every relationship has problems because nobody is perfect. Everybody has a past and everybody has baggage. However, if you’re currently dating someone or engaged, don’t fool yourself into thinking that marriage is going to fix notable problems in your relationship. In my experience, it actually makes problems more visible. You’ll be around that person more than you’ll be around anyone else. Prior to being married, you likely lived apart from each other. If you needed some time to work things out in your head, you had it. But now that you’re living with your spouse, you are forced to deal with these issues as they arise. There is no retreating at this point. If you have problems, begin working on them now. Marriage will not fix your relational problems, it will magnify them.

Reflection: You’re more selfish than you thought you were.

I know it seems hard to believe, but you’re actually quite selfish—and I’m selfish too. Marriage is an excellent avenue to pursue if doubtful of your own personal depravity. You’ll continually surprise yourself at the things that make you angry. You’ll continually want to put yourself before your spouse. You’ll be very quick to point out what’s wrong with your spouse, and very quick to defend or justify yourself when they point out things that are wrong with you. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned in marriage is that I’m more selfish than I thought I was.

Misconception: After I get married, I’ll never deal with lust again.

Lust is something that has been criminally swept under the rug in the church. It’s rarely addressed because it makes people uncomfortable. And it makes people uncomfortable because everyone deals with it and it’s embarrassing. However, lust is much like being selfish or prideful or angry. It never goes away despite changing circumstances. But unlike selfishness, pride, or anger: lust has an appetite. I’m going to take a little extra time to unpack this, since it’s not very often that it’s talked about or preached. Sex within marriage is wonderful, but it won’t transform your mind. You won’t wake up on your wedding day with promiscuous thoughts, and then wake up the day after your wedding with the mind of a saint. Because lust is a hunger, it’s not likely that it’ll ever be completely extinguished. But you can control whether or not you feed it. At this point I practically beg my fellow men not to marry just for sex. If you only marry for sex, you will find yourself disappointed. Your wife is a human being, and you are with her forever. Lust is an appetite, and it likes variety. If the top 5 things on your “List of Things I Want in a Spouse” are all physical attributes, I beg you to rethink and revise your list. Of course you should be physically attracted to your husband or wife- but don’t fool yourself into thinking that they will forever destroy the possibility of lust in your life. We have a tendency to idolize sex in both our culture and the church, and it’s done a great deal of damage. In our culture, we idolize sex because we idolize pleasure. In the church, we idolize sex because we idolize abstinence. The common denominator is that both of these approaches idolize sex. Sex, as wonderful as it is, is not worth your worship. Be prepared to fight lust after marriage. The stakes are much higher now.

Reflection: It’s hard to love.

Everyone wants to love and to be loved. That is a natural human longing. But what I’ve learned through marriage is that love and being loving can be incredibly difficult. When I was dating my wife, it was easy for me to do things for her and to make sacrifices for her because my love for her was actually really selfish. I wanted her to feel loved so that she wouldn’t leave me. I was addicted to feeling loved by her. Now that I’m married, I’m much less worried about her leaving me, and if I’m not careful, I find myself being far less motivated to express my love towards her unlike I did when we were dating. My wife and I both have tendencies towards stubbornness (though I embarrassingly outscore her in this area). So when we’re both being stubborn about an issue, my initial reaction is get mad and stomp off like a child. Instead of loving my wife through a conflict, I love myself. My reaction should be to love her into loveliness, but I’m often far more concerned about getting my point across than being a loving, understanding husband.

Misconception: If I marry the right person, our conflict will be minimal.

You’ve heard that you never marry the right person- and that is true to some extent. The word “right” in the context is ambiguous and broad. As a disclaimer, let me say this: my wife and I get along better than I get along with anyone else—and we still don’t always get along. Conflict is natural, and you will have it. But when we talk about the right person, we often talk about a submissive person—someone who will never push our buttons or disagree with us. But could it be that the right person is also the person that lovingly calls you out on your massive shortcomings? Nobody likes to be called out. It hurts our pride. It breaks our hearts. But it needs to happen from time to time. Marriage should improve the individual. Sometimes we’re improved by understanding that we aren’t as great as we thought we were. A spouse can do a great job at giving you these little subtle reminders. So the “right” person doesn’t exactly mean the “easy” person. Don’t marry a jerk, but don’t marry someone who is afraid to stand up to you either. A good relationship is not a relationship free of conflict. Many bad relationships are conflict free because one person decided that it just wasn’t worth the effort anymore. You’ll see a good relationship when you see two people who handle conflict in a good way. Redefine your definition of “right,” and don’t be fooled by this misconception.

Hopefully this will provide some insight and encouragement to you regardless of your marital status. The Biblical concept of human nature is that we are all selfish at our very core. Marriage is a shot in the arm of sanctification that is often painful. However, let’s not buy into pessimism and say that it is all difficult. The closer my marriage represents Christ’s sacrifice for his bride, the richer and more fulfilling my relationship becomes with my wife. It’s always in times of selfishness that my marriage is the most difficult. I encourage you that if you are single: do not idolize your singleness. By idolizing singleness you actually idolize marriage. If you are married: do not idolize your marriage. By idolizing your marriage you idolize your spouse. If you idolize your spouse, you set them up for failure, and you set yourself up for disappointment.

Jesus defined love as sacrifice. What I’m learning is the more I sacrifice, the more I love. And the more I love, the more I sacrifice.

What I Fear The Most

I was recently traveling to Asheville to attend a wedding with my wife, brother, and my friend Matt. As we drove down the interstate, Matt asked the thought-provoking question: “What is it that keeps you from being who you want to be?” It didn’t take much time for me to answer that question on a personal level. Without a doubt, the thing that so frequently bars the windows to freedom in my life is fear.

Fear of failure.

Fear of success.

Fear of punishment.

Fear of being wrong.

Fear of speaking out of place.

Fear of not standing up for what is right.

I was only 10 years old on September 11th, 2001. I can remember running downstairs to watch the live video feed of smoke and office paper pour out of the gaping hole in the first tower. The news anchors kept asking each other back and forth how it was possible for a pilot to crash into one of the largest buildings in New York City. It seemed as if time paused for but a moment as another plane entered from the corner of the screen and plunged into the second tower. “Oh my God. Oh my God.” That was all that could be said. It was in that moment that fear gripped the hearts of the strongest people that I knew. The world was changing before our eyes—and we were afraid. Change is fearful.

In a recent BBC interview with pop-atheist Richard Dawkins, Dawkins attempted to make the point that most so-called Christians are credulous, ignorant, and couldn’t even name the first book of the New Testament- therefore they must not really be Christians. The host then asked Dawkins to recite the full title of his favorite book (the full title is actually quite long), The Origin of Species. Dawkins then proceeded to stumble over his words: “The Origin of Species… The Origin of… oh god…” He had forgotten the title! I find it interesting that a man whose very impetus lies in proving that there is no god, cries out to the very god that he believes doesn’t exist in times of fear. Not knowing the answer is fearful.

God is a natural response to fear. Fear is a natural response to God.

This year the band Foster the People released a song called, “Are You What You Want To Be?” There’s a line in the song that goes like this, “I’m afraid of saying too much and ending up a martyr / Even more so I’m afraid to face god and say I was a coward.” What a paradox it is to be afraid to speak, but at the same time, afraid to remain silent! I find these words ringing true in my own life. The wise man Solomon once said: “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). “For everything there is a season;” everything has its appropriate time—and we should not let fear keep us from allowing the seasons to bloom. Not knowing when to act is fearful.

A foolish man would say that a young person has never truly experienced fear because the youth hasn’t lived long enough to experience it. That’s similar to saying that a man has never been truly thirsty because he’s never been in the desert. All people experience fear, and all people experience suffering. Siddhartha Gautama was born into a family of privilege. His father showered him with all the pleasures that life could offer in order to spare his son from the world of suffering. Upon seeing an old man, he inquired about the nature of aging. “We all must age”—a frightening reality that sunk the heart of Gautama. As he ventured around the palace, he would later discover a diseased man, a corpse, and an ascetic, which would thrust him into depression and cause him to venture around the world in search for answers to suffering. Gautama would later be known as “The Buddha,” and the belief system that he established would be a direct response to the world of fear, pain, and suffering that we all live in. Suffering is fearful.

Many times, I fear change. I fear not knowing the answer to a question. I fear not knowing when to act. I fear suffering. But of all these things, the thing I truly fear the most is “facing God and saying I was a coward.” To be alive is to interact with God’s glorious plan for the human race. We are made with a purpose. That purpose is not to live a fearful life, but through His Spirit, to live a life of “power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). What I fear most is wasting my life fearing to do what I know I must do. Everybody lives their life by principals (even if the principal is to have no principals). Everyone has a sense of what is right and what is wrong, and what is good and evil. While we may disagree on the fine elements, we know that a line is drawn somewhere. As I try my best to live my life by the Scriptures, I become more and more aware of my imperfections. Logically, I become more and more aware of how I should live by knowing I don’t live that way. But what I see before me, despite my imperfects and my fear, is hope. And the very Logos that creates a universe by the words that he speaks is the same Absolute Reality that permits and governs the circumstances in our lives. Unchanging, and unfailing, until death and beyond. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Do we trust Him? If we trust Him, no obstacle in life can keep us from living out our purpose—even if we’re unsure of what purpose He has in store.

In JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, there is a scene where Frodo becomes wearied and weighed down by the evil and harships that have surrounded the burden of carrying the ring. “I Wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.”So do I,” said Gandolf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Every waking moment of time that is given to us, we must respond with faith.

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me, was the ability to think. This thinking led me on a search. And after much searching, I finally found the Way. This thinking allowed me to ask questions. And after many questions, I finally found the Truth. And as I continued thinking, I concluded that there is no way, and there is no truth, if all of these things ultimately lead to death. And that is when I found the Life. This Christianity wasn’t daily Ritalin, it was bread.

Repaying God

For some time, I had subconsciously believed that every time I committed a sin, that it was my job to do something good for God in order to prove my allegiance to him, and make up for the sins that I had committed in the past. In my mind, whether I knew it or not, I felt as if God was keeping a balance of the things that I had done wrong, and it was my job to pay off that balance. Surely, God must have been angry towards me, or at the least, highly annoyed, rolling his eyes every time I tripped over the same sins over and over again. This lead me to believing that God was more of an impatient, cosmic police officer, than a loving Father. Every time I made a mistake, I ran whimpering off with my tail between my legs before he wrote me up or launched a lightning bolt towards me out of anger. 

Theology irons out the wrinkles in the fabric of our beliefs about God. My problem was that fact that I didn’t really know who God was, and I certainly didn’t understand grace.

(Romans 5:20) “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”

(Romans 6:14) “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

(2 Corinthians 4:15) “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

What I did not realize that was I was a debtor to grace. In fact, even when I tried to repay God with good works, every good work that I was doing for God, God was actually doing through me in the Spirit. So instead of my good works repaying God, I was actually growing deeper into his debt. This was eye-opening. Now that any shimmer of hope that I could repay God was put to rest, I finally began to understand the mystery, joy, and freedom of God’s grace.

This verse summed up my life: (Galatians 3:3) “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

I had been trying to reach perfection through my humanity, instead of through Christ. The more I tried, the more I failed. Not only was my view of God and his grace critically flawed, but it removed the power of the gospel (Galatians 2:21), and caused me to view God in a way that was far from glorifying to Him. 

The joy of Christianity is found in the grace of God. You no longer bear the weight of repaying an impossible debt. That very debt becomes the reason of your gratitude. 

Science vs God

Are God and Science diametrically opposed? I believe the answer to this question lies within another - “Does the belief or the non-belief in God prohibit science in any way?” Clearly, the answer should be “no”. One person believes that God was a first cause, who brought the universe into being, the other believes that the universe is a product of random processes. The argument is not really God vs Science, the argument is, as it always has been, Creation vs Naturalism. 

Allow me to briefly explain why the argument is not God vs. Science. The definition of science could be watered down to a process of asking questions, finding and testing the results of the original question you asked. It is inquiry. By its nature, there is no way to disprove God through inquiry. Neither a microscope, nor a telescope, by its nature, has the capacity to disprove God. The ludicrous ideology that science has disproved the existence God is the fair equivalent that the Model T disproved the existence of Henry Ford.

"Who said the universe needed a creator?" you might ask. Consider that the very implications of something being "created" binds the object to a point in time. A created object has a beginning. Because it has a beginning, it is now a participant in history- it is subject to time. But God is not like something that was created, because God was not created. He had neither a beginning nor end. He was, He is, and He always will be. That’s a harsh principal for a finite being to wrap its mind around. The question "who created God?" is guilty of the fundamental error that God was created.

Creation is stapled to a timeline - a timeline in which God does is not subjected to. Because we know that the universe was created, we choose between two popular options: The first being, that universe was spontaneously thrust into existence by random, natural processes. The second being, that an intelligent creator created it. Now the fatal flaw with the first popular option, that the universe was spontaneously generated, lies within the very idea that “something material was, before nothing material was” - in other words, “something material came from nothing”. Obviously illogical. Material objects do not come from nothing. This is where the second option makes sense. A non-material creator, who is exists out of time, must be the explanation. This is why the universe needs a creator.

A belief or disbelief in God does nothing to hinder people from doing science. Regardless of belief, the door of science is open to all who dare to ask questions about the universe that we live in. Faith should never be a threat to advancement. Science has done nothing to disprove God. On the contrary, it has continued to prove Him over and over again. From the complexity of DNA, to the mystery of consciousness - God has revealed His creativity and beauty throughout the universe, and left the imprint of His image on the people who explore it. 

"Men became scientific because they expected to find law in nature. They expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver." -CS Lewis

2 notes

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.
CS Lewis 

3 notes

Be Perfect

Many people grow up believing that love and acceptance can only be acquired through performance. If their performance doesn’t meet an expectation, then love is undeserving. If you’ve grown up under this ideology, you understand that it can be difficult to shake. In fact, it may even seem fitting when you read the words from Christ in Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect”. 

Perfection is impossible. Good moral works and religious practices will not gain you any favor in the eyes of God. God is perfect, and God demands perfection. Therefore we are doomed from the start. 

"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3). Works done in the flesh will never perfect you. You cannot be perfect. You will never be perfect. When Christ says to "be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect", He fully understood that this command was impossible when left to your own devices. The good news of the Bible is that Christ is that perfection for you. You cant do it on your own. 

God’s love is not rooted in a performance-based acceptance. His love is rooted in Christ. If Christ is in you, then you are in possession of that love.

"So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope". -Tim Keller

3 notes

How is Success Measured?

How do we measure success as Christians? Some might say that your success is measured by the number of people you lead to Christ. Some might say that your success is measured by how many Christians you have discipled. While both leading people to Christ and discipling believers is an important part of what it means to be a Christian (not to mention a command), it is paramount not to fall victim to believing that your success is in any measured by numbers. 

Take a look at what Paul brings to our attention in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.”

It is important for us to remember this verse in regard to both evangelizing and discipling, that all growth comes from God. Our job is to plant, water, and then leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit. We cannot force people to grow, nor can we force salvation upon them. Thats not your job. Be glad that isn’t your job.

So if success isn’t measured by the number of people we disciple, nor the amount of people we lead to Christ, then how is success measured as a Christian? Its simple: Success is measured by obedience. Theres no question whether or not you are called to share Christ. You are. But do not be discouraged when people reject the gospel that you present to them. The truth of God is foolishness to men (1 Corinthians 1:18). It takes supernatural intervention for the gospel to settle into a heart. 

A danger that many Christians face (especially those in ministry- pastors, missionaries etc.) is being shot down by the pride that comes from their own God-given success. Every good work that is done, is done by Christ in you. You are merely and instrument in the redeemers hands. Take comfort in this truth. Do away with pride. 

Be obedient to the Word of God, and get out of the way. 

The Truth About Grace

Grace is not just the foundation of your relationship with God it is way that God has called you to live with and respond to others.

There is one constant in your life  that you can bank on, God’s grace won’t be withdrawn, won’t grow weary and will never wear out.

When you convince yourself that your sin is not such a big deal you also tell yourself that grace is not all that necessary.

God’s plan for you is very different from what you would’ve had for yourself, his wisdom and grace leads you where you didn’t plan to go.

You don’t have to fear the fact that you’re weak and needy because grace has been given precisely because God knows you are.

It is only the heart-satisfying riches of the grace of Jesus that can protect you from the dissatisfying “riches” of the fallen world.

No matter how deep your sin, weakness and failure is, God’s amazing, forgiving and transforming grace is greater.

No matter how foolish and without understanding you are, no matter how confused you may be, God’s grace is greater.

It’s not the strength of your faith that saves you, but the unstoppable zeal of God’s grace.

No matter how fundamentally weak and unable you feel, no matter how long you’ve felt that way, God’s grace is greater.

The grace you have been given is grace to be extended. The grace that is God’s gift you are called to give to others.

Don’t try to turn this world into the paradise you long for. Right now you get grace to deal with this unparadise. Paradise is coming.

You and I were born “without God and without hope in this world”. Grace didn’t just alter our destiny, it changed our present identity.

You should work to develop spiritual strength, but in your weakness, God moves toward you with  amazing grace.

With God’s call comes every necessary provision, grace to face what you do not know yet is coming.

With God’s presence comes mercy, with his commands comes enabling grace.

No need unmet, no forgiveness ungiven, no wisdom withheld. GRACE.

No more condemnation, no more guilt and shame, no more separation from the Father. GRACE.

No need to fear rejection, no need to cover wrongs, no need to deny weakness. GRACE.

In the power of the storm, the percussion of the rain and the grandeur of the mountain God reveals his presence and his glory. GRACE.

It’s so easy to convince yourself that you’re more righteous than you actually are, so easy to think you’ve moved beyond forgiving grace.

If grace has purchased a place for you in paradise, then it has also guaranteed you every provision you will need along the way.

You will never work yourself into greater favor with God than what you received by grace the first moment you believed.

The situation is still the same. Your standing with God is based on grace and nothing else even though you’ve grown and changed.

Hope isn’t found in your ability to make sense out of your circumstances, but in the grace of the One who understand and rules them all.

God calls you to confess, repent, follow, and obey and then provides every grace you need to do them all.

Just accept it; you cannot measure up to God’s standard and you prove it daily. That’s why you need daily grace.

Today you’ll be tempted to attribute to yourself righteousness you don’t have, denying growth you very much need. There’s grace for this.

Grace calls you to accept the hardest news ever so that you are hungry to receive the best news ever.

Corporate worship is designed to remind you how inglorious sin and glorious grace collided on the cross in a sacrifice of life-giving hope.

Grace reveals your sins, weaknesses and failures, but never turns and uses what has been exposed against you.

By grace Jesus welcomes us into community with him and with one another where the work of his transforming grace can continue and thrive.

The storm, the trial, the disappointment are not interruptions of God’s plan of grace they are loving and effective tools of that grace.

You have moral obligations before God, but your moral achievements  have no power to gain you his acceptance. You’re saved by grace.

So much attraction the the whispers of the world. Still seeds of resistance to the call of God. So grateful for rescuing grace.

(Credited to Dr. Paul Tripp)

Regardless

Regardless,

He is not cold. Love in loss. 

An open door, a seal of trust.

I am scattered, he collects me up.

Sews me new, provides enough.

Frail and broken, scared to death.

Worlds are formed, by his breath.

Every die I walk with ruin,

And more and more his promise proven.

Nothing more that I could give,

Than broken bones and tears again.

Through places you should not have been,

You lived the life I could not live.

With love, my violent heart.