Confessions of a Pastor – I find marriage to be quite a challenge!
Valentine’s Day was this past Tuesday. Maybe you ended up getting your Valentine flowers, chocolate or a card. That card may have been a Shoebox card. Shoebox is a tiny little division of Hallmark. Did you know that only 20% of ideas people submit to Shoebox get accepted?[i] Here’s some of the 80% that didn’t make the cut! I bought your baby a Rottweiler. Just kidding! See, now all those annoying toys I give you later won’t seem as bad! Have a Happy Birthday! If you can... What with all the violence and strife and pollution and gas prices and beef hormones. Now these two cards did make the cut! Before rushing into a face lift (blank) checks out how it looks on the cat. Until death do us part! A couple of times that almost came true! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Do you remember the Temptation Survey Results we unpacked last weekend? We asked this question: Name a temptation which enters your mind most often? I gave you some of the results but not all the results. Someone said this. To leave my incredibly selfish spouse! Today I begin a brand new four week series entitled, Confessions of a Pastor. Last week I gave you my first confession. I am tempted far more than what you think I am! Here’s my second confession. I find marriage to be quite a challenge! Now please hear what I’m saying and what I’m not saying. What I’m NOT saying is that I don’t love my wife. What I am saying is that I love her dearly. That’s why marriage is such a challenge! If I didn’t love her and if I didn’t fear God – I would just leave! Because in my mind, leaving just seems easier. Leaving would create instant happiness. The Bible says that’s not true! Is there anyone else who finds marriage to be a challenge? And why is that? I asked a few people to give me their reasons why marriage is so challenging? Here are a few of their answers! Marriage is challenging because people change over the years. (Abuse, addiction, dysfunction, mental illness – oh will marriage be challenging.) People change emotionally, physically. After examining a woman who had been rushed to the Emergency Room, the doctor took the lady's husband aside and said, "I don't like the looks of your wife." The husband answers, "How rude. I think she looks beautiful.”[ii] Our looks do change. Marriage is challenging because of money or the lack thereof. Bon Jovi sings, “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. Really? We got each other and that’s allot.” I agree but money does help. Marriage is challenging because couples often juggle work schedules making life exhausting. Marriage is challenging because children are challenging. Tricia and I were watching either Jay Leno or David Letterman one night. A comedian was being interviewed and this guy asked, “Do you know what makes parenting difficult? His answer? The other parent! He’s right! Parenting is tough but parenting becomes almost impossible if two people see it only their way! Marriage is challenging because of poor communication. /(Pillsbury flower story[iii])/ Marriage is challenging because we don’t often prioritize relationships. God must be first. When he’s not all of life goes out of whack. I make my marriage challenging…I am often selfish. I have a tendency to put my wants in front of my spouses. (Remote in my purse joke) One person wrote: Marriage is challenging because you have two people with two different personalities, two different sets of interests and talents, two different backgrounds coming together to make one life. Maybe that’s our problem. We need to be reminded that marriage is about TWO becoming ONE! Turn in your Bibles today to Luke 5. DO YOU NEED A BIBLE?
We’ve spent the last five weeks in Luke 4. I just kept reading. I want you to know that Luke 5 has nothing to do with marriage. Luke 5 is about discipleship. Discipleship - what it really means to be a Christ follower. Being a Christ follower changes every relationship, so in reality, Luke 5 has everything to do with marriage. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all describe Jesus calling his first four disciples, but Luke gives us details. Luke also shocks me as bit, because as a doctor you would think he’d like things done in order. Matthew and Mark take Jesus’ life and map it out in the order that it happened. Luke moves stories around to get the biggest bang for his buck. Take Luke 5. Peter has been hanging out with Jesus for nearly 9 months now.[iv] He saw Jesus’ baptism. I bet he heard God speak that day! He saw Jesus cleanse the temple and turn water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. But Jesus decides to go back home to Nazareth so Peter goes back home to Capernaum where he’ll begin to fish again! Let’s read Luke 5: 1-11. Leave life the way we know.
Right here Jesus calls his first four disciples. Two sets of brothers. Peter and Andrew, James and John. Think about this. Luke tells us in Acts 12 that James will be the first Apostle martyred for his faith. John will become Jesus’ closest friend. Tradition tells us he will die a natural death after receiving a supernatural Revelation in AD 95. Peter will preach in Acts 2 and oh do people respond. The first 12 chapters of Acts outline the acts of the HS working in the life of Peter – the one time denier of Jesus! When Luke says they left everything – he means it. But they didn’t leave empty handed. They are full of faith!
When it comes to marriage, let’s leave behind everything culture tells us marriage is. We think marriage is a fairy tale. Prince Charming meets Cinderella. He’s her knight in shining armor. He sweeps her off her feet. He becomes her one true love and they live happily ever after. Here’s another Hallmark card. (Name, you’re the one I love. I love you cos you’re special. I love you cos you’re sweet. I love you cos you came along and made my life complete![v]) Please, that’s just not true. Only God can do that! Culture puts so much pressure on marriage. My happiness comes from you. My self esteem comes from you. I’m bored! Spice up my life! You are getting old. Your habits are annoying so I’m going to look for a new model because the world says to have a new marriage I need a new spouse.[vi] You don’t need a new spouse to have a new marriage. WE just need a read and apply the words of Jesus. Is your Bible a red letter edition? Inotherwords, Jesus’ words are in red. In 11 verses in Luke 5, Jesus makes two red letter statements. The first is in verse 4! If you want your marriage to be great! Go deep! “Greg, what on earth are you talking about – go deep?” Don’t settle for the superficial. Long for more. Make an effort. Keep making an effort. Sacrifice. I confess to you – marriage is a challenge, but I don’t believe all challenges are bad or impossible! Right now you might start bristling a bit. Peter did. Find verse 5. That’s what Peter said out loud. I wonder what he was thinking in his head? “Jesus, I’m tired. I’ve worked all night and have nothing to show for it. Truth is, Mr. Jesus, I’ve followed you for the last 9 months and I have bills to pay. Jesus, what nerve you have! I’m the expert. I know fish! I know fishing. You don’t fish in the daylight. You fish at night. You don’t fish in deep water, you fish off the shore. Jesus, I don’t want to call you stupid, but you’re stupid! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Can you relate to Peter? Are you peeved like Peter? “Jesus, I’m tired. I’m tired of my spouse. I’m tired of the lack of affection and attention. I’m tired of harsh words and poor decisions. I’m tired of the lack of money. I’m tired of my kids. I’m tired of the lack of sex. I’m tired of being tired! You want me to go deep. You don’t know what you’re talking about. My marriage is impossible. The only thing I can think about is getting out!” Isn’t marriage a blast? Who wouldn’t want to be married? When the HS of God laid this series on my heart I called my wife. I can’t say anything about marriage without implying her. I asked her to write to you her thoughts. She wrote this!
“When I first heard Greg say this, I was offended. I thought he was saying that I am hard to live with. With that thought I became defensive. I reasoned that I wouldn’t be hard to live with if he would just fill in the blank (it changes often). Our marriage wouldn’t be hard if only he would be different-which really means-if he would do and be what I want. What I learned from choosing to be offended and defensive is that it never made me feel better. In fact, I became more frustrated and apathetic about our relationship. I was tired. I began asking myself, “Is this all there is? Is it worth hanging in there? How many more years of this? Is this what God intended for marriage?” This last question became a turning point for me. What was her last question? Is this what God intended for marriage? What does God intend for marriage? (Gen-SS-Jesus-Ephesians-1 Peter) If you want your marriage to be great! Go deep! If you want your marriage to be great! Serve God together! Find verse 10! These four used to be fishers of fish. Now their going to become fishers of men/of people. What do you do with a fish once there caught? What do you do with people once their caught? You set them free by helping them see, accept and trust God’s son! My wife Tricia has decided to be free when it comes to being married. She said: I realized that I had been doing marriage according to the way the world tells me to. Look out for #1. Scripture, I believe, would call this selfish. As I continue to read scripture, I am beginning to understand that God calls me to deny myself, that God calls me to forgive, that God calls me to love. What God isn’t calling me to do is to make sure that Greg is denying himself, that Greg is forgiving, that Greg is loving. Since, I no longer carry the burden of his choices, I have gained great freedom. I focus on my responsibility to be obedient and trust God to work in Greg’s heart and mind for his obedience. Is marriage still hard? Before it was easy to just say yes and do whatever I wanted but the results were hard to live with. Now, it is harder to stop, think and act on what God says, but the results are much easier to live with.” Do you want to see astonishing results? Go back to verse 5. (Read 5 & 6) Why did Peter and his partners get the blessing of the fish? Because Peter did what Jesus said! Why should I keep going in this marriage? Why should I go deep? Because Jesus said so! The Bible tells us that if we do what Jesus said, I don’t know when and I don’t know how – it may be in this life or the next, but we will be blessed! I want that! Do you?
[ii] Good, Clean Funnies Email List, February 15, 2012
[iii] Good Clean Funnies.com Marriage Funnies, July 10, 2006
[iv] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 121
[vi] Mark & Grace Driscoll, Real Marriage, 3