Tag Archives: love

The Waning of Desire: Thoughts on Modesty and Its Opposite

In our media culture, sex is portrayed as explosive, all-consuming, and irresistible.
Sex is everywhere. Or at least a caricature of it is.

Dancing now consists of real physical contact with only minimal clothing to separate partners. Young couples post “exercise” videos in which they mimic sexual positions with, again, only a layer of clothing to keep it unconsummated. I’ve seen beautiful young couples lying in a park on top of one another in skimpy bathing suits.
And then they laugh, get up, and walk away.

I am aghast. Not at their boldness, but at their impotence.

Because contact such as this is supposed to result in a particular response, and it doesn’t. They are doing things which ought to rev them up, but it does not seem to. The most powerful impulse known to mankind has lost its power over them.

As a culture, we have managed to desensitize ourselves to sex.

Do you remember gloves? It used to be that proper attire for a lady included gloves. Not winter gloves for warmth, but thin little white gloves with your daytime dress, thin long black gloves to the upper arm with your evening gown, gloves to wear to a prom or a dance.
A generation earlier, and women wore gloves and hats with their dresses anywhere but at home.

Why gloves? Because everyone understood that even the touch of hands could be potent.

In a potentially romantic setting such as a dance or a ball, romance was the object. But outright sexual provocation was not. Sex was understood as having a proper context; an ideal place, time and circumstance was expected to be achieved for intimacy to happen.

Brides often wear gloves still. And veils. What could that mean?

When I see someone who is dressed modestly on purpose, I see someone who might understand how powerful sex is. This is a person who respects sex enough to give it its own place. This is a person who has the potential to experience sexual intimacy full-strength later in life.

And I fear that the person with no modesty is a person who has little understanding of his or her own power, and who might pass over an ocean looking for a series of little glasses of water.

When sexually explicit messages and images are calling for your attention everywhere, what is being reflected is not sexual satisfaction but sexual emptiness. If you’re accustomed to eating satisfying home-cooked meals, do you constantly cruise the fast-food joints? If your bank account is in the millions, do you go on a search for pennies on the ground?

If you can count on a satisfying sexual experience of your own within a faithful and emotionally supportive relationship, you will not be interested in thinly veiled soft porn, no matter how relentlessly it is offered.

And since sex fills not only physical desires, other kinds of hunger are unfulfilled as well. People in our culture are thirsting greatly for emotional connection, true fidelity, and a unique oneness with one person. These things are not found in the crass caricature of sex that we see in our world.

People hunger for something sublime and special. And we teach everyone everywhere, even children, to seek the distorted echo of something real. There are hints of this in chick flicks, Disney romances and popular vampire lore. But the fulfillment offered is less than satisfying: impotent and gender-vague at its best and soft porn at its worst. What is sad is that this popular version of sex cannot deliver what it promises. Computer altered media stars and airbrushed almost naked ads cannot satisfy.

I think those modest people are on to something.

 

The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.

PASSENGER 008

Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.

PASSENGER 009

I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.

New Mercies

There is nothing really new or special about a morning. After you’ve been around awhile, spent a few sleepless nights, or pulled a few all-nighters, you realize that morning follows night without a break, and that time is continuous. There’s no barrier between the old day and the new.

But God says otherwise.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.      Lamentations 3: 22-23

What a relief to read a verse such as this when we are distressed. At the close of a day, when we lie down to sleep, we can put that day away. We can rest, and in the morning we can have a new chance to start over. Another chance to renew, repent, re-do, reconcile, resolve, and be refreshed.

Put this into perspective. Realize that God is holy, and that we certainly are not. In spite of all that we did yesterday, God gives us a new day in which to receive his mercies.

If God can allow us to start fresh each day, can’t we offer the same chances for resolution and forgiveness to those in our lives? Our mercies and compassions ought to be available every morning too.

Put it into perspective again. Here is Matthew 18: 23-35:

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Can I really hold a grudge against someone in my life? Can I hold something over his head when God has utterly put away all of my cruel and self-serving hours? If our holy God can offer us new mercies and compassions every morning, how can we who are sinful withhold mercies from those in our lives?

His mercies are new every morning. Are ours?

The Humiliation of Getting into a Boat

This passage from Mark 6 demonstrates the everyday mundane but also the awesomely sublime qualities of Jesus’ love:

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.  He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out,  because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,  for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. ~ Mark 6

There are many remarkable things about this account.  But I am struck by this: why didn’t he keep walking and meet them on the other side? Jesus, walking across the sea as though about to pass them, gets into the boat with his disciples.

He was already walking across that lake with no problem. But he decided to get into that boat and join his friends in getting across the slow way, the hard way, the way we get across a lake.

He is the Creator of the wind and the waves, buoyancy, water displacement, gravity, as well as the fragility of our human bodies.

He is called: King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Prince of Peace; The Word of Life; Alpha and Omega; True God; Author and Perfecter of Our Faith; and The Way, The Truth, and The Life. But he chose to share in this difficult experience with his disciples, his dear friends.

Just as he who is God submitted to being born a helpless baby to a poor family.  As he submitted to a life of humility and trial.  He came to be one of us, and to experience the tragedy, the difficulty, the futility, the poverty, the sadness, just as we do.

Rome’s emperor was Caesar Augustus (The Grand, The Majestic) and held the civilized world in Rome’s powerful grip. Say what you will about the accomplishments of Ancient Rome; there was certainly a cost to their ambition.

Jesus chose to be passive in the midst of  this culture. He chose the place. He chose the moment in history. He chose the instrument, Rome. He let them kill him.

It was the most humiliating death available at the hands of one of the most aggressively brutal and perverse worldly authorities possible.

And so Jesus getting into a boat is no small thing. He came here to get into the boat with us.

 

Artist: Tintoretto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Branches with Free Will: John 15

4″Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

 5″I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

 6″If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them in the fire…”

When we encounter this passage, we tend to dissect and parse.  There are many questions.  Is my salvation secure or can I lose it?  Who are the branches which are burned? How do we “remain” or “abide”? What do WE have to do?  How do we work this?  Am I DOING the right things?

All these approaches focus on our actions. We examine this passage like engineers, and then apply it like lawyers.

For an excellent and comprehensive exposition of this passage, read this.  It avoids the engineering problem and yet answers all the questions.

http://www.gty.org/resources/positions/p25/the-vine-and-the-branches

But allow me to share my little perspective.  When meditating on a passage, I like to re-imagine the scene in the truest original context that I can, letting the Holy Word speak for itself. It’s also important to see a given passage in the proper context of the entire length of the scene, examining what came before the passage and where it leads.

Here we are joining Jesus and his disciples in the middle of a long conversation.  They are in the Upper Room during the Last Supper.  Jesus knows that very soon He will be arrested, tortured and killed.

He is not at this point giving a lecture on the requirements for becoming born again, or a treatise on the doctrine of eternal salvation. Earlier in the same discourse, he has told them who is his true disciple.

John 14: 23: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”  

Simple and easy to understand. These are the ones who belong to me.  This is how you can tell. These are terms of relationship, not legality.

Having established this, he moves on. Jesus is speaking to his most intimate disciples, his dear friends.  He is sitting with a small group of his companions, men who do belong to him, who have given all to follow him.  He explains what sort of relationship they can expect to experience even as he leaves them.

They are words of commission, but also words of comfort for dear friends.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

It’s not the entrance exam; it’s the job description.  Far from being a warning, this metaphor is meant to be a picture of loving reassurance to those who belong to Him.

He is the vine and you are one of his branches.  What privilege. What intimacy—what devoted care.  He is in you and you are in him. He gives his life to you.  Because he is alive, you grow and bear fruit.

You belong to Me. I love you so much and so perfectly.  I know who you really are, and I want to be as close to you as a Vine to its branches. I want to care for you and keep you alive forever.  I want to share my being with you.  I want you to be with Me, sharing all the eternal glories and treasures My Father has in store.

Who can discriminate the vine from the branch?  They are all one.

The branches of the vine do not need to strive to take care of themselves, find food and water, work, or decide what to do.  They simply abide in the vine, allowing the life of the vine to nourish them, make them grow, cause them to bear fruit.  They only have to abide, remain, and be filled with His life.

In order to understand this passage better, I imagine a vine whose branches are sentient. In fact, these branches have free will!

The branches can choose one of two attitudes.

They can humbly recognize that they are but limbs of a greater body, that their life is not their own, that they belong to the Vine; they can glory in the intimacy and grace that they enjoy as part of the Vine, they can praise and glorify the Vine, their Source.

Or they can chafe against their place, refuse the nourishment and life force coming through them from the Vine, and decide to determine their own course.

I want to feed myself.  I want to work.  I want to be a tree.

They can rebel, but if they do that, they die, wither, and end up in the fire.  They have borne no fruit and so the Gardener has cut them out and discarded them.  Apart from me you can do nothing, as apart from the vine, a branch withers and dies.

Notice also that the branches which revel in the life flowing through them cannot help but bear fruit; fruit is inevitable and intrinsic to the Vine. If you are a humble branch in a thriving vine, fruit will grow. You will bear fruit.

Your will bear fruit entirely because of Him.

We belong to a God who cares nothing for credit.  It is starkly obvious that all glory and honor truly belongs to Him.  There is only the credit which He has all right to, and we who deserve no applause whatsoever in simply bearing what he has grown.  We eagerly reflect all praise upon Him.

We can work away pettily at making sure we get credit for our poor tiny bits of self-interested effort, or we can be free and worship Him who is All in All.

I find this scene very touching  and encouraging.

 

 

 

 

Dear Blank

Dear Blog Writer, Editorialist, or Distinguished Journalist for a Nationally Sold Publication:

I was reading your piece because the subject is of interest to me and you were making lots of sense.  It was early in the essay, so you were still getting to  your thesis.

Suddenly you stopped me short.  I could not read one word further. Apparently you absolutely had to use a meaningless word.

It’s a word which excludes a good part of our society because many, many people  find it offensive.

So I am reading your thoughts, the insightful thoughts of an adult who is respected in his or her field, I am taking you seriously, and suddenly you turn into a naughty 11 year old boy.

You cause me to discredit everything you say. Your credibility is at zero.

You sound as though you are stupid.

You suck any humor out of your comedy.

I stop reading you, permanently. I move on.

When? When you use those words. You know the ones I mean.

It seems you only want to communicate with a select slice of the population. You know, the ones who already think just like you. You sure don’t want to try to communicate with someone who doesn’t already agree with your whole thing.  Imagine persuading someone on the other side of an issue. Those people are uncool.

Using those words reflects your peer-consciousness rather than a priority to communicate your thoughts.

You tell me, when you use those words, that you are not creative enough, or diligent enough, to find the words you really mean. You make a conscious choice to use a vulgar slang word which has lost all—all–meaning.

“Hm…word which expresses exactly what I mean…..or…..meaningless swear word which shows off my hipness…what to do?…”

You tell me that you are so self-consciously peer-dependent that you must confirm early and often that you identify with your slice of the population; that you care much more about your status among your society of preference than you do about your commission to inform or to provoke thought.

You show me what you think of me also. You tell me that you think I am in awe of your words, and I am willing to fill in the blanks, supplying what you were too lazy to say.  You show me that you think I am peer-dependent too because you think I will be willing to translate for you into the pre-digested thoughts we already agree on, because we’re all in the same club.

You are limiting, rather than expanding, thought with your language.  Newspeak doesn’t need to be imposed; it’s voluntary.

You think I will be satisfied with your broad suggestion, and that I don’t deserve your concise, thoughtful statements.

You demean me. You demean yourself. You diminish human communication.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Grown-Up Reader

The Bible teaches that the Creator gave us the gift of language because he loved us. Love includes communication, and the communication of great ideas requires great language.” ~ Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

 

Love and Respect

It’s often repeated, but I think this one is true.

Women need love; men need respect.

No one can deny that both men and women need love and respect. But there is a difference between the awesome design intrinsic to being a man, in contrast to the beautiful design intrinsic to being a woman.

     At his core, a man has a basic need to be valued by being respected for who he is.

     At her core, a woman has a basic need to be valued by being loved for who she is.

What a woman feels is her most basic and essential need is love—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

protective,

lifelong

love.

 

What a man finds to be his most essential and basic need is respect—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

supportive,

lifelong

respect.

 

Maybe love and respect are slightly different perspectives on the same thing. Isn’t love respect? Isn’t respect love?

Can you truly love without respecting? Can you truly respect without loving?

You may have noticed that there was a one-word difference in the list of qualities. I said men need supportive respect; women need protective love.  Women need to be protected. Men need to be supported. Here is one place where the designed differences manifest differently.

A man and a woman in a marriage or in a relationship headed for marriage, complement each other.

When she supports him by respecting him, hoping all things for him, she is the missing element he needs to be a truly noble man. He can so much more easily lead when the one to whom he has been vulnerable shows confidence in him.

He values her mind and insight more than anyone in the world…she knows him better than anyone in the world…and she trusts in his judgment and decisions. That trust is powerful.

If he loves her, he protects her. Protectiveness is a beautiful and noble expression of love which does not depend upon the weakness of the protected. The impulse to protect is an expression of tender care. It is an expression of the high value placed upon its object.

Why do any of us need anything; why aren’t we self-contained?

An honest godly man knows he’s fallible. His default identification is self-doubt. That’s why he needs supportive respect from the person he trusts most. It’s objective confirmation that he is ready to lead; that he is a good leader.

We are designed with those lacks. We are made to need what our mate brings to the relationship. As human beings we need to need. It humbles us; it compels us to reach out to others and build deep relationships. It awakens us to our need for God.

And we are all fallible, not lovable, and we know it. We women doubt our value–we doubt our worthiness to be loved, until someone loves us in such a way that we believe it. A woman believes it because she has been vulnerable to him and he knows who she really is, and still loves her. He protects her not only physically; he places high value on her whole being.

Can a marriage survive without mutual respect? Can a marriage survive without mutual love?

As I have said in Submission is Good, the definition of survival is not the tenacious unwillingness to let the spouse go when you’re living in a train wreck. Unwillingness to divorce does not win the successful marriage prize.

What I mean by survival is thriving… both spouses benefitting each other, intentionally supporting and caring, cultivating and growing the relationship.

Have you ever seen a successful marriage with only one partner who loves? Or with only one partner who respects? I never have. A relationship  thrives on mutual love and respect.

 

Submission Is Good

Submission carries negative baggage today.

But submission is at the heart of every successful relationship.

What do we mean by submission?

Here is just a taste of what the Bible says:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 …and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Place yourselves under each other’s authority out of respect for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Also:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3

How do we identify a successful relationship?

Not all relationships which endure are successful.  There are unhealthy, co-enabling relationships which last because the two people have a death-grip on each other. So what is meant by “success”?

The two questions have the same answer.

Submission to one another is how any type of relationship survives, and remains beneficial to both people, for any length of time. In order to have a good, healthy, loving  relationship, each must be continually submitting to the other…giving some turf, respecting, letting the other choose, giving little rights-of-way to the other…putting your interests before mine.

This is normal, standard operating procedure within relationships to any but the truly controlling.  We take it as a matter of course that this behavior is ideal, even if we don’t always achieve it.

So why do we object so loudly when it is suggested that there ought to be submission within marriage?

Submission– putting the other before oneself –is basic equipment for conducting a marriage. How can we expect to happily coexist with another human being without submitting to one another in the most intimate and intense relationship in our lives?

Submission is what both of you sign up for in front of witnesses when you get married.

 

Love is as Strong as Death

(My husband and I composed this as a testimony about marital intimacy, to be delivered at a recent marriage conference at our church.)

Please forgive us if we do not give a personal testimony on this topic.  I’m sure you are as relieved as we are about that.  But we would like to tell you how we see God’s vision for the intimate relationship in marriage.

Place me like a seal over your heart,

like a seal on your arm; 

For love is strong as death,

its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

it burns like a blazing fire,

Like a mighty flame.

  Many waters cannot quench love;

   rivers cannot sweep it away.

   If one were to give

   all the wealth of one’s house for love

   it would be utterly scorned.

This passage is from a book of the Bible, Song of Solomon, a poem by the wisest man in the world.  It doesn’t describe someone’s experience.  It declares the actual reality and intensity of love.  Like intimacy in marriage it can’t be reduced to explanation.  We can’t fully grasp it through reason or instruction; we can only learn to open ourselves to it.

Like a seal expresses exclusive ownership.   I belong to my beloved, and my beloved belongs to me. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

Place me like a seal over your heart, so you know, on your arm, so everyone else knows.  Why?  Because love is as strong as death.

Solomon says it is like a mighty flame in intensity. It is unquenchable.  Our drive for intimacy in marriage is not simply a physical, biological urge.  We are made with an intense, relentless need for emotional and spiritual connection.  We are made for this kind of love.

JOY

There are three things that are too amazing/ wonderful for me,

     four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

     the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

     and the way of a man with a maiden.   Proverbs 30: 18,19

God’s Word suggests that this sublime  experience is not a temporary altered state of mind , or an overpowering feeling which passes; it’s not a chemical-physical automated response.  It is the truth. It’s how it really is.

God wants me to have this joy. And out of all human relationships, He chose this particular relationship to best illustrate His love for us!

PURE

What you have within your marriage is NOT what you see out in the world.  In our culture we see sex relentlessly depicted as “forbidden fruit”.

God invented it!  It is from a good God who loves you. It is pure, undefiled, holy, selfless, a celebration.  Sex as God designed it is pure affection.

DIFFERENT BUT COMPLEMENTARY

It is a union of different but complementary beings.

He created  male and female to complement each other, to literally fit together. It’s a physical demonstration of what’s (supposed to be) going on in the hearts, and the spirits.

Because men and women sometimes have differing expectations, we can make the mistake of thinking that there’s something wrong; that we aren’t connecting.  But we believe God designed this difference, as a way for us to have to reach outside ourselves . The woman must exercise unselfish giving; the man must exercise unselfish patience. It’s an ongoing process of choosing unselfish love for the other person. We need to develop our communication and have understanding for each other.

He’s worth the effort; she’s worth the wait.

COMPLETE EQUALITY

The Bible describes our intimacy as a relationship between complete equals. The husband and the wife are always given the same advice.  An example:

Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  I Corinthians 7: 2-5

HERITAGE

Sexual intimacy builds in two ways:

First, it builds your relationship with each other:

Intimacy builds our relationship in a unique and powerful way that nothing else can.  Without it we remain two separate people.

It shows spouses how deeply we are valued when we are at our most vulnerable.

Sex reminds us that we are ONE.  It makes us need to exercise all the best virtues toward each other.

It keeps putting us back on track, repeatedly drawing us away from the mundane, the busyness, the responsibilities of everyday life.  It re-focuses our attention upon each other.

It’s good for you. It’s good for your marriage. God is pleased when we utterly enjoy this gift.  It produces a future…there is no downside.

Second, intimacy builds the future God planned:

Intimacy in marriage provides our only connection with the future.   Every other experience lasts as long as it lasts and is no more but God ordained a legacy, a heritage,  to be left through the experience of intimacy.  He did this because He is a God of joyful abundance.  Our God loves people so much that He gave us the privilege of producing more of them and raising them to His glory and their eternal joy.

Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.  Malachi 2:15

Procreation is not one of the purposes of sex any more than having two wheels is one of the purposes of a bicycle.  Building a family is meant to be the inevitable, glorious, natural outcome of the mystical union of a husband, wife and God. The oneness, the pleasure, the potential for God to work procreation–all of one piece.

To our understanding, the Bible presents a vision for intimacy in which all those purposes are an inseparable ONE purpose, over which He is sovereign.

Think about the tremendous potential that God has implanted in the relationship of a couple. They have the power to create life and raise these new people to invade the world with God’s presence and power.

Your relationship has influence because you are modeling God’s design for marriage to everyone you know. Your marriage can be a testimony to God’s awesome work, love and presence.

REWARDS

Those who stay faithful in a marriage for a couple of decades find that there are rewards waiting.  You would never have suspected that such joy was waiting after all that time.  It gets better.

You’d never have suspected it because the whole world has been telling you that marriage gets boring, that you tire of being with the same person the rest of your life.

But boredom is not what God designed!  It’s about knowing, understanding and caring more and more.  It’s about two people having thrown away all other options all those years and cultivating their hope and affection on each other.

We’ve been married for 30 years. I knew I was going to marry him 8 years before that. We always knew our marriage was a gift. It continues to be a gift, but not like a fine item you put on a shelf.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. That’s because the Giver is living, dynamic, generous, and full of concern, love and kindness.  Our marriage gives us new possibilities every day; continual love and goodwill; opportunities every day to live for Him in real ways; the future, a heritage ….

God gives gifts which sprout and grow into more gifts.

Living Titus 2

 

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. NIV

3 Likewise, tell the older women to behave the way people leading a holy life should. They shouldn’t be slanderers or slaves to excessive drinking. They should teach what is good,  4 thus training the younger women to love their husbands and children,  5 to be self-controlled and pure, to take good care of their homes and submit to their husbands. In this way, God’s message will not be brought into disgrace.  CJB

What does it mean? How do we obey it in real life?

We have talked about the need to pass the torch, to mentor and to be mentored. We have all agreed that we ought to support, encourage, and teach each other.  We should give out of the riches we have been given. But we have not so far discussed what we are supposed to teach, the real subject of this passage –the reason it’s in the Bible

Elisabeth Elliot on Titus 2:3-5:

“It would help younger women to know there are a few listening ears when they don’t know what to do with an uncommunicative husband, a 25-pound turkey, or a two-year-old’s tantrum.

It is doubtful that the Apostle Paul had in mind Bible classes or seminars or books when he spoke of teaching younger women. He meant the simple things, the everyday example, the willingness to take time from one’s own concerns to pray with the anxious mother, to walk with her the way of the cross—with its tremendous demands of patience, selflessness, lovingkindness—and to show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart.

You don’t have to be a mother or a mother-in-law to apply Titus 2:3-5. Just take a look around and you will find many motherless women in need of that listening ear and practical advice. Give them a call. Offer to babysit or make a meal. Be their friend. “Show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart” so that she “may glimpse the mystery of charity and the glory of womanhood.”

(Elisabeth Elliot, “A Woman’s Mandate,” from Family Practice, ed. R.C. Sproul, Jr. (Phillipsbur, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2001), p 62.

I agree. It is so important that we love our sisters in Christ by serving them and working for their practical good.  And mentoring relationships often begin in small acts of service.

But I would like to add that we are also called to teach intellectual substance in an intentional, yet organic manner. In the same way that we are all called to share the truth of the gospel, we should be equipping ourselves and then looking for opportunities to open up so that we can walk in and teach.

     I Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

     The reason for the hope I have as a believer is also the reason why I do what I do, and for why I live my life the way I do.  Our lives ought to demonstrate what we truly believe, and in fact they do.

There are foundations to be laid, premises to establish.  There are also strongholds to be torn down.  The world all around us is relentlessly tearing apart the family, and you, Mom. Minimizing you, calling you a myth, demoralizing you.

So let’s follow the instructions we know we can trust. First of all, the instructions for the older women:

to be reverent in the way they live

not to be slanderers

or addicted to much wine

but to teach what is good

It doesn’t seem too difficult—I shouldn’t be a malicious gossip or an alcoholic—easy!

Wait. “To be reverent and to teach what is good” sets the bar pretty high. These require a singular state of mind where a woman is focused on the Lord and His call on her, day-to-day in real time. These older women had to have accomplished that which they were to teach.  They had been living their faith.

Having established the requirements for an older woman teacher, the text tells us what these women are to teach.

Then they can urge the younger women to:

Love their husbands and children

to be self-controlled

and pure

to be busy at home

to be kind

and to be subject to their husbands

so that no one will malign the word of God.

Since they were to teach these things, the younger women must have needed instruction in these tasks.

Don’t we still need these instructions?

 Do we not need reminders to consistently love our husbands?  Is it natural to love when we feel it, or to love consistently?

Do we not need some accountability to stay pure in our current culture?

Are we human beings prone to laziness and carelessness?  Do we not need encouragement to make our houses into homes?

Do we need someone to share with us a vision for cultivating our homes and families?

Are we always kind?  Do we tend to serve ourselves?

Do we need encouragement to be subject to our husbands?  Do we need to understand why that makes sense, in contrast to the culture we live in? Don’t we need the example of women who are joyfully submissive while freely sharing their gifts for the benefit of their families?

And finally, do we need reminders every minute that we are constantly representing God in this world?

The ultimate object is that God would not be maligned. How we represent God is of ultimate importance.  It’s always about Him.

Prepare to give a reason for why you live the way you do. Be ready to share your hard-won insights on cultivating relationships within your family; on how and why to live on your husband’s income;  on why you have adopted Biblical roles in your marriage; on discipling your children consistently; on how you teach your children not to conform to this culture.

You are a wellspring of philosophical support and encouragement. You can live Titus 2.

I say we get busy.