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Forever For Real: The Power of One

Notes & Transcripts

Forever . . . For Real?

The Power of One

Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor

April 9/11, 2010

Mawwiage. I could say that all day and enjoy it. Today we do start a new series called Forever, for real? Anybody have a tattoo you regret? Anybody ever thought a relationship would last forever, and it didn’t quite make it?

Marriage is designed to be this forever relationship, but that more and more seems more like a fairy tale idea, or for some a nightmare. Marriage as a concept has taken a really big hit over these last few years, making many ask some very basic questions about the validity of the whole thing. Watch this short clip from Up in the Air. I know a lot of you ladies aren’t going to mind looking at George Clooney, but don’t get distracted. Hear the perspective on marriage in the clip.

Up in the Air Clip

How would you sell the concept of marriage? Or would you even try? I did a little Googling on marriage, to get people’s current perspective, and there is growing negativity to the concept, which I guess is predictable, with so many people growing up in broken homes, who know the pain of divorce first-hand. Not too long ago I heard this conversation where someone’s son was eating with a group of his dad’s friends. He was newly engaged, and they were all giving him a hard time, saying, “Oh man! Enjoy the months you’ve got left buddy! Only a few more months, and a life sentence begins.”  You’ve probably been in that conversation before. In the wake of all this bad branding for marriage, cohabitation, living together without being married, is up over 700% over these last few years.

Yet, marriage is God’s idea, and one that most of us are created to experience. And today I want us to go back to the beginning, to when marriage was first created, to see what this relationship is all about. Today we are going to see God’s design, to recapture this concept that has been so ruined and so mistreated and so messed up over the years. So, if you are single, today is a perfect day for you as you look ahead in life, and if you are married, let’s go in with an open heart and mind as we look at the way this relationship can really work. Let’s go back to the beginning, back when life was a little simpler and choosing a mate was very simple. No need for online dating services, because there was just one couple. Just Adam and Eve. Turn with me to the book of Genesis, and actually at the beginning of the story there isn’t even an Eve. Turn with me to Genesis 2.

God has created everything. The days of creation are over, yet there is one thing that is not right. In 2:18, we read,

Slide: ___________________  ) Genesis 2:18

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’  Then in verse 21,

Slide: ___________________  ) Genesis 2: 21-23

 

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of the man.’

From the very beginning, humans were created to be connected to other humans—not alone. Around Chase Oaks we talk a lot about how we are created for community, which is true—how we can only thrive in life connected to others. Our church is designed around that concept. Yet, please understand this relationship between a man and a woman is a very unique and essential part of our design. God not only designed you and me for intimacy with other people generally. Our souls crave a connection with a counterpart with a person of the opposite sex. Yes, the Bible does say that God gives some people the grace and calling to be single, which is way cool. But our basic design is to be connected with someone of the opposite sex. Tom Cruise may have been cheesy when he said in that Jerry Maguire movie, “You complete me,” but he was spouting off good anthropology. So, go ahead, if you are married or maybe dating, and turn to that person and say it, “You complete me.” Go ahead! And if you are here and single and see someone you think you’d like, go tell them…no! Let’s not do that yet.

This is not the end of the story though. God created us with this hole in our soul for this unique connection, but he didn’t stop there. He then created the concept for that unique connection. We were created with a need for something and he then created the only kind of relationship that would ultimately meet that need. We call it marriage. Let’s read on:

Slide: ___________________  ) Genesis 2:24-25

 

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. When Jesus later quotes this passage when talking about marriage, he adds,

Slide: ____________________ ) Mark 10:9

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. That’s marriage, God’s design, so let’s unpack it. It’s fair to say we’ve in general compromised the concept over the last thousands of years, so let’s go back to God’s basic design, and this time I really sound like a preacher, because I’m alliterating today. I’m very proud of myself, because I have three “p’s” to describe God’s basic design for marriage. Before you decide whether or not to write off marriage, let’s at least look at God’s original design.

The first “P” is priority.

Slide: ___________________  )

·        Priority

God said, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife.” The idea sounds like your kids are supposed to leave the house when they get married, but in ancient Israel, that didn’t happen. They didn’t physically leave, but stayed on the family land and farmed it. This isn’t just about physically setting up a house somewhere else. It is leaving primary allegience to your own family unit to set up a new one. When you get married, your biggest earthly priority is your spouse, is your marriage.

That means when you and I make that marriage vow to someone else, we are saying to them, “You are now the most important thing in my life, outside of my relationship with God.” And I think we’d all say that sounds great, but we also know how easy it is to cheat on our spouse when it comes to priorities. We can let any number of things take priority over our spouse and compromise our marriage commitment and health: our career, a particular project, a hobby, kids. Why is the divorce rate so high once people become empty-nesters? Their priority has been their kids and career, not each other. They haven’t cultivated their relationship in years, and they get to that stage when the kids are gone and what do they have in common? Not much! Or think about things like career. How many people do you know who have compromised their career path so they would have more ability to prioritize their marriage? I can count them on one hand. Marriage is significant but not easy, and therefore if it doesn’t get priority, it’s not going to function well.

The next “P” is a promise.

Slide: ___________________  )

·        Promise

The very foundation of marriage as God designed it is a promise. That’s why Jesus adds, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” When you stand before your spouse and get married, that promise is a very solemn vow that God takes seriously, and that promise is the basis for marriage. Without that commitment, marriage cannot flourish. That’s the whole concept of marriage in the first place, commitment, and why only in that kind of committed relationships is that hole in our soul filled.

The promise is what makes marriage, marriage. It is what is missing in lesser relationships, like living together. And without that commitment, we can never find the intimacy our souls are created for—because that kind of intimacy can only happen in a safe environment, one where we know we are accepted for who we are and therefore can take the risk of truly being ourselves.

It’s like this past Easter weekend. That’s a big weekend, and I went back and forth on what to wear. This is embarrassing to talk about, and I may have to hand in my man card, but I tried on several things. First, I had to figure out if I was going to wear jeans like normal, or dress up a little more. I decided to dress up a little more. Then I had to decide whether to tuck or untuck. On Sunday I decided to tuck. I brought two shirts because I couldn’t decide which one. So, is my man card revoked? Why did I do all that? I wanted to be acceptable, so I was doing all this work to project a certain image. Some of that is okay, keeps pastors from wearing speedos, but what our souls are created for is the kind of intimacy with someone where we need no image management. We just are who we are, and we find love and acceptance. I’m not saying we shouldn’t grow in character maturity and ability to love the other person well, but I am saying that the marriage commitment, where we realize we are in this thing for the long haul, is designed to give the secure environment to reveal who we really are, to be truly us.

Close your eyes a moment and imagine a mate who loves you like that old Billy Joel song we heard earlier, who loves you just the way you are. Doesn’t try to change you. Constantly looking for ways to understand you better, to love you more. Wouldn’t be a bad deal, would it? Intimacy demands openness, and openness requires a safe environment, one where you aren’t posturing, aren’t proving yourself, one where you know the basis of commitment that provides security is there.

A few years ago I shared this in a wedding service, doing a wedding for one of my favorite people on the planet, Christy’s youngest sister, Corrie. It was a destination wedding in Costa Rica, and a little over 100 of their friends from around the country came. This was a great group of people, but not a churchy group of people. My brother in law is an extreme skier and works in the ski industry, so many of these people were professional skiers, extreme skiers, and they were down there for the wedding but also for the surfing. They were all adrenaline junkies, so a fun crowd to say the least. But they were definitely trying to figure me out, a pastor. Didn’t know quite what to do with that. And they were definitely in the why marriage crowd.

In the wedding service, I talked about the promise. How the promise that they were making that day is the foundation of the kind of relationship we are created for, how that promise gives the secure environment for intimacy to flourish. I talked about how this couple was stepping up to the plate, and making the commitment. They weren’t just going to mess around. They were making the commitment, to build a family around this promise, and to commit to learn how to love each other for the rest of their lives.

I didn’t really mean to make a slogan out of “the commitment,” but for that evening after the wedding, and all the next day, I bet I heard that a hundred times from various people who were there. People came up and said, “Wow. They did it. They made “the commitment.” They stepped up, and that’s really cool.” That night during the toasts, where some of the toasters were a little toasted, I remember one guy saying, “Hey, you guys stepped up to the plate! You made “the commitment!” I think that’s awesome.” I heard that all evening. It was this new concept, but of course as old as humans are. We were created to be in that kind of committed relationship. We can try to shut it down, but unless God gives us special grace to be single, which the Bible does talk about, we were created for this kind of relationship, one centered around a promise.

For many of you, you are in a relationship that has reached an advanced level. Maybe you are living together even. What is keeping you from making the commitment? From a biblical perspective, you have a choice to make. You can take a step backward or take a step forward toward marriage, but biblically you can’t stay on the fence. You’ve got to make a decision.

In addition to a priority and promise the other element of God’s design for marriage is Purpose.

Slide: ___________________  )

·        Purpose

The idea isn’t that we are to be committed to each other whether we like it or not. We just stay committed even though it may be miserable. God’s idea of marriage is far more dynamic than that.

Probably the way most people think about marriage, and how it works out for most people maybe could be diagrammed like this: (draw diagram). Two people who love each other so much that they want to spend the rest of their lives together, and it starts out so great. In love, googly-eyed. But then, the two begin to separate, and after a while, realize they have nothing in common…can hardly remember what drew them together in the first place. Or, you might be realistic enough to know that at the start you have wonderful feelings for each other, but you aren’t exactly “one.” You are two very different people, and for many marriage might look like this: (draw diagram). In this case, two people just co-exist. They stay married and live with each other, but stay separate, more like roommates than lovers.  May be roommates with benefits, but they aren’t really growing in a deepening soul connection.

Neither of these is the purpose of marriage as God designed it. Remember our passage from Genesis 2. Why do these two people leave their homes and other allegiances to form a new union? So that they will become “one flesh.” That’s they way the passage describes it. One flesh, one person. One person out of two.

The goal of marriage is oneness out of two-ness. You start with two-ness and over time you move to oneness. So, to diagram this, {draw}, you wouldn’t start with two-ness and end with two-ness. You start with two-ness and over time move toward oneness. You grow together, you become one.

This one flesh goal is not just a sex thing. Sex is part of the package, and it is a great picture of the overall goal…how two people come together and become one. But we are talking about oneness in all of life, not just a physical union but a soul union.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to read through something I had forgotten about. I was doing some genealogical research to try to establish Indian ancestry for a college scholarship, and while I was doing that, I remembered a journal Christy had given my grandmother about a year before she died. It has all these prompts to get you to write down your life memories, so I pulled it out. It was really cool to read. In that, she talked about how she met my granddad, who had died about 6 or 7 years before she wrote the journal. Here, she talks about how she met him:

Slide: ________________________ )

 “I met your great grandfather in our little park here in Old Hickory. My girlfriends and I were swinging and he walked up and started pushing us. My first impression of him was, “Oh! He is so cute!” He had on white pants, a white dress shirt unbuttoned all the way to his belly button. He was dark skinned with the prettiest white teeth and pretty, healthy hair that was dark brown. I loved his sky blue eyes.“

Pretty cool guy, shirt down to his belly button. If I didn’t care about image management, I might do that right now. Shoot, I will do that right now. It was so fun to read all these entries as she described him, and it was obvious when you read them all that this was a woman who had been married to her husband for well over 50 years, had already grieved his loss when he died a few years earlier, but a woman still very much in love with him, still looking forward to seeing him again. Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was one that fit the right diagram. They had figured out how, by God’s help, to not just endure marriage, but to do marriage in a way where you move closer and closer to the goal. They learned how not just to fall in love but to stay in love.

And that is the goal, and it is possible, as my grandparents illustrate. But it is not automatic, and it isn’t always easy. But it is good when it happens. It is what we were created for. A part of us cannot be whole without it.

The rest of this series will really be about how to live this diagram. Next week, we’ve got Liles Arnold, who is not only a really great speaker but also a marriage counselor, to talk about what love looks like in marriage over time. He’s going to be talking about how not to just fall in love but how to stay in love over time, how to do marriage that leads to increasing oneness, not creeping separateness.

The truth about you is this: You have been created in a way where being alone is not a good thing. You were likely created for this unique relationship called marriage. When marriage works, it is a beautiful thing, because of that hole in our soul that it fills. When it doesn’t work, it is a devastating thing, because of that same hole in our soul that remains unfilled. I know it is easy to give up on the ideal, but God urges us to shoot for that ideal, and will even give his strength, love, and grace to help make it happen.

So, for those of you who are single. You may be a 1 Corinthians 7 person, one like the apostle Paul that God gives extra grace to be single and be single-focused in living out the mission on this planet. Paul says if you can do it, do it. But even he says most people are in another category, those that will likely get married. As you look forward to marriage, or marriage again, be patient with this. Realize God’s design, and don’t settle for a cheap imitation that doesn’t quite fill that place in your soul that only marriage can fill. I know I opened up this hole, and it kind of stinks But here what  ultimately needs met in God himself…that’s true in marriage. That’s why people who’ve been single for a long time often make the best husbands and wives. They’ve learned that, how to . And if you’ve struggled with making relationships last, that’s what we are talking about the rest of this series.

If you are single and living together, I’m going to ask you to make a decision, to either take a step back or take a step forward. Either be willing to step up to the plate and make the commitment or take a step back if you aren’t quite ready for that. God’s design for a home is marriage, based around that commitment. That’s what honors him and is best for us. Living together apart from marriage is counter to God’s plan. Marriage is his plan. (e.g. Mark). If you really care about the relationship, you need to know that by living together you are more than doubling the chances you’ll get divorced later if you do get married. So, take a step to get healthy, either backwards or forwards. By taking a step back, I mean somebody moves out. Occasionally some people will say let’s live together but just not have sex. I’ll give you about 3 days for that no sex thing to work. If Christy and I had lived together before marriage, I would have been all over her. So, someone moves out until you decide you are ready to take a new step in the relationship. And if you decide you’d like to take a step forward toward marriage and you are living together now, I’d like to help you do that. I want you to email me, jjones@chaseoaks.org,

Slide: _____________ ) jjones@chaseoaks.org

and let me know that you’ve prayed about it and would like to take that step. I’ll make sure a pastor interacts with you about it, and if you need help making a wedding happen, then I’ll make sure you get some help to make a wedding happen. Don’t let money for some notion of a perfect wedding ceremony keep you from honoring God and stepping up to the plate and making that promise.

Also for singles, coming up in June is a Single Focus event, designed to help you connect with other Chase Oaks singles.

If you are married, look at the diagrams. Which drawing best fits your marriage right now? Be honest! Marriage is not easy, and working on it never quits. I asked our elders to all interview a couple who have been married a long time whose marriage looks like this third diagram, who are really solid. The most common thing all these couples said in common was that fact—that you can never stop working on your marriage. The minute you do, you start to drift.

So, whoever you are, however healthy your marriage is, let’s commit these next four weeks to making it better. In addition to coming each week of the series and talking about it as a couple, here are some other things going on that are available to you:

First, we invite you to join the discussion, whether single or married.

This is a great time to join a group if you’re not already in one, and there are two ways to do so today:

1)      Fill out the tear-off panel of your booklet, check the box indicating you’d like to get plugged in, and drop that in the basket in the Connection Center outside the auditorium.  We’ll follow up this week to get you connected to a group in your area.

2)      There are also leaders of a couple groups starting in conjunction with this series on hand in that area as well with information regarding their groups.  If you have the time they’d love to meet you and tell you more about their group.”

The Love and Respect Conference is this next Saturday, April 17. You can sign up for that at the info center or online, and you will be very glad you did. It is a one day investment that will pay off for the rest of your life.

In addition, we have a limited number of marriage mentors available. These mentors represent some of the healthiest marriages in our church, but are all couples who are humble, who know how far they still have to go, but they are healthy. You will be matched up with a couple, and again, another incredible investment.

We’ve done everything we can to help us get on this third diagram, and move toward the kind of marriages we were created for. When marriage works, nothing is more beautiful, but it does take some work to make marriage work. So, let’s take these four weeks to devote to just that.

Let’s pray and commit these next three weeks to God, whether single or married.

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