Thursday, May 26, 2011

"I'm your husband, not your boyfriend."

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
[Ephesians 5:31-32 NLT]

Over the years, I've heard God speak to me [John 10:4, 14-16] - not audibly, but clearly and unmistakably, in my spirit.  Sometimes in the quiet morning hours or when I lie down to go to sleep, it's a statement that reveals His heart for me personally, at the deepest level of my need for Him.

For a long time it was this:  "I love you, my daughter."  All through the years of single parenting post-divorce, while I struggled to "do it all" or "do it right" - at home, at work, at church - when I got still, I'd hear that again and again:  "I love you, my daughter."  He knew how much I needed to be secure in His Love for me.

Last year, as I was learning to listen and follow Him more closely, I heard repeatedly, "I want you, my daughter." I understood:  although I'd given my heart & life to Christ in January 1982 - well, sometimes we find ourselves trying to work out issues in ways that aren't fully connected to His heart & life.  God wants all of us, our whole being - spirit, soul and body.  If we are His, we belong to Him completely;  learning to live in this reality involves a growing awareness of how much more we need to yield to Him, day by day.  The "up" side is, He truly wants and desires us - in a world full of rejection, loneliness, error and criticism, that's good news.  :)

More recently, as I processed various uncertainties through the early months of my "health saga" (see 4/12/11 posting), I often heard:  "I am your husband."  As a single woman, I felt God's closeness as never before - alone at home, feeling weak and vulnerable at times, I knew His constant companionship and sensed His embrace and His kindness in significant ways.

Then, a few weeks ago, sort of a "zinger" - it didn't seem harsh or scolding, but it definitely made me stop and pay attention:  "I'm your husband, not your boyfriend."   I had to ask Him what He meant by that.  I had a sense that this statement applied to me, and also in a wider sense to others who say they belong to Jesus Christ.  I think it has very little to do with earthly marital status or gender - singles and married people may face different types of temptation or distraction from their "first love" relationship with God, but all true Christians are described in the Bible as "the Bride of Christ."  Below is some of what I've understood so far...

It's not just a weekend romance.
Of course we're not just Christians on Sundays and holidays.  If God lives in us and we're in Him, that's every day - everywhere - all the time.  Some of us treat God like we're dating - we want a guy who adores us enough to take us places, buy jewelry or win us a big stuffed animal at the county fair, but we aren't fully committed to living and working together "as one" every day.

God spent a long time teaching me to have fun with Him, because I was so schooled in "service" and "sacrifice" I didn't know that side of His Love;  but our relationship isn't just Sunday worship, exciting short-term mission trips and Caribbean cruises.  We eat together,  live together, work and play and dream together.  I talk with Him about my hopes and disappointments, feelings and how my day went.  He speaks, listens, comforts, guides, instructs, and shares His amazing heart with me, too.  There is no part of my life that is "off limits" to God, nothing we cannot discuss, no part of me that doesn't fully belong to Him.  I want to live my life in total harmony and agreement with His perfect Love and wisdom.

In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer...
God is not only our God in the good times, when we're feeling "successful" or strong in faith, or like our lives are lining up with everything the Bible says is His will for us.  Nor is He just there when we desperately feel our need for Him.  Our covenant with Him means faithfulness in every situation - we walk together through every hour and circumstance that may arise.  God didn't "let me down" just because a doctor said there was cancer in my body last January;  He was right there, holding my hand, helping me make decisions, comforting and accompanying me all the way through the treatment process.  I pursue and believe for good health and provision to advance His kingdom - but He doesn't love me any less "in the valley" than He does "on the mountaintop."

It's a deeply committed, lifelong partnership.
There's a passage in the New Testament that compares marriage between a husband and wife to Jesus and His Church - in terms of love and respect, submission and self-sacrifice [Ephesians 5:21-33].  It's a difficult passage for those who perceive "submission" as a dangerous invitation to oppression or abuse.  But I've found that surrendering my whole life in relationship with Jesus actually gives me freedom to fulfill my true identity.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 
[2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV]

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for Me, you will find it."
[Matthew 10:39 NLT]

Loving and serving God isn't oppressive, but this statement ("I'm your husband, not your boyfriend") did challenge me to examine the depth of my yieldedness to God in all things. In a dating relationship, we maintain a measure of independence, or being able to go our own way if things aren't happening to our liking.  Marriage is a union - two becoming one.  Both of us are "all in" 100% "as long as we both shall live" - in this case, that's forever.  :)

God loves, protects, provides and gives all of Himself for me - I can trust Him fully to care for me with perfect wisdom.  Have I really given Him all of my heart and life?  Do I make myself fully available and yield everything to His Spirit on a daily basis?

It's the most intimate love, different from any other.
Our relationship with Christ is primarily a love story.  Although military metaphors and literal battles abound in the Bible, some people talk too much about the Christian life in terms of spiritual warfare.  And "serving God" is something we do willingly, because we love Him - it's not supposed to be a "job" we resent or stoically endure out of fear or necessity.  The story of the Prodigal Son [Luke 15:11-32] reminds us that our relationship with God is family, and the foundation of a strong and healthy family is committed love. 

We confide in our friends - find enjoyment, connection and emotional support in various types of relationships - but marriage involves an exclusive level of intimacy that distinguishes it from any other friendship.  In Christ, a husband and wife come together on every level:  spirit, soul, and body.  Hebrews 13:4 points out the sacredness of this union - it is set apart from and honored above all other relationships.  Are we deeply and faithfully committed in our love for God, or have we somehow set His Love aside while we seek satisfaction and comfort elsewhere? 


No doubt there's a lot more I need to learn about this, but that's to be expected:  a marriage relationship grows and evolves over time.  I just had this sense that many of us (myself included) sometimes lapse into living with a more or less worldly or self-centered way of thinking, brightened by special "moments with God," when He's after a deeper level of commitment and union with Him - which lead us into deeper levels of blessing and fruitfulness as well.  I believe God used this statement to call me closer and to remind me that I am truly and fully His at all times.  Are we really (becoming) "one" with Him?

If this all sounds a little "extreme," consider that the end of this age culminates with "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb," when "the Bride has made herself ready." [Revelation 19:7-9]   Do we see the "moments" of our daily lives in light of this ultimate goal?  A few more reflections on this theme, written by apostles Paul and John - including an invitation by God's Spirit - follow...


For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.  You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
[2 Corinthians 11:2-4 NLT]

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
[Revelation 21:2 NIV]

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!”  Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
[Revelation 22:17 NIV]


Bonus track:  Jason Upton, "You Are The One"  [from his CD, Great River Road]

 (P.S.  I had no idea Keith Green originally wrote this song, until I noticed the comment on YouTube video of Jason's version  :))

& another P.S.  a friend posted the following comment on my Facebook link, what an excellent verse for this posting:

"And it will come about in that day," declares the Lord,"That you will call Me Ishi" - Hosea 2:16 -  Ishi means "my husband."

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