Friday, June 8th , my husband and I remembered the vows we exchanged in a sweet church ceremony 39 years ago.
The foundation of Ron’s and my marriage was one built on strong friendship. When I met my husband-to-be, I was reeling emotionally from a devastating divorce. I wasn’t looking for another husband, but immediately, I liked the tall, lanky guy with a bushy reddish beard and mellow baritone voice. I was drawn to kind and wise words he spoke.
I wasn’t in a very trusting mood at that phase of my journey, but in retrospect, I realize I knew instinctively Ron was a trustworthy man. For over two years, we forged an enduring friendship. Before romance dawned—while love grew gently—we learned to appreciate shared values.
Ron had never married, and I knew he was ready to settle down and create a family. Because he was my friend, and because true friends want what’s best for a cherished acquaintance, I prayed God would give him a good wife. Seriously, I kept my eyes open for such a woman, but no one ever seemed ‘good enough!’
One day, quite unexpectedly on my commute to work, I sensed a deep knowing. My life was about to change, and I felt certain Ron would be part of that change. I decided I’d try to nudge our friendship ‘up a notch.’ My nudging worked, and within a short time, we realized we’d fallen in love and wanted to make the plunge into marriage.
I’d be lying if I said our marriage has always been smooth sailing. We have in fact weathered a variety of storms. Yet, thirty-nine years after saying, “I do,” my husband remains my dearest friend and oh, so much more! I cherish the idea of growing old with my man!
Friendships, I believe, are God’s good idea, flowing out of divine love. The New Testament was written originally in Greek, and sometimes the English translation misses subtle differences of the original language. Take the word “love” for example. The Greek differentiates types of love, including:
- Phileo love involves a strong liking or friendship
- Eros love is romantic love
- Agape love is a deep, deliberate love rooted in God’s love
The journey of love Ron and I have traveled began as phileo. Eventually, it transitioned into eros. The covering over both—the so much more—has been agape.
1 Corinthians 13 is called the “Love Chapter.” Portions of this scripture are often used at weddings and paint a clear picture of God’s design for true love. Every ‘love’ reference is translated accurately as agape, so this description of love reaches far beyond the newlywed.
Here’s how the writer describes agape love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT):
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and
it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but
rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful, and
endures through every circumstance.
Today’s post is a celebration of friendship, romance and the so much more of deep, deliberate agape love…
May your day be filled with many agape moments!
The last Listening on the Journey… post was entitled Link by Link, and I mentioned I was currently facilitating a Boundaries group at a local community center. While working on that post, I also worked on the next Boundaries lesson—Ten Laws of Boundaries.
I recommend the book, Boundaries. Even though I was exposed to the concept of boundaries in previous professional training, I’ve benefited greatly from clear, scripturally sound and God-honoring approaches Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend introduce. Their most powerful reasoning to me is that in developing healthy boundaries, I am freed up to love in more Christ-like ways.
I long to reflect the character of Jesus and to love in more God-honoring, life-giving ways. With my longing comes the realization I must be diligent about ways in which I allocate my energy.
Living with unhealthy boundaries takes a lot of emotional energy.
Law #8 in Boundaries is The Law of Envy. While considering this law, I realized envy is often the underlying cause of many links in the chains wrapped around our souls, links such as:
These links were often formed by incidents experienced and messages absorbed during life’s most formative years. While the feelings are real, and their roots run deep, nevertheless, there comes a point in life when—if I’m going to walk in grown-up faith—I must put into perspective childhood wrongs.
I believe first we must identify connections between what ‘was’ and what ‘is.’
I knew a nice, wealthy older lady several years ago. When going to lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, she surreptitiously stuffed food items into a large purse—enough for her evening meal.
This dear woman had lived through the Great Depression when food was scarce. She couldn’t rise above what ‘was’— a hungry childhood tummy. Instead, she acted in a way incongruent with ‘what is’—ample food in her refrigerator, a hefty bank balance that allowed her to buy plenty of groceries, and behavior that was actually ‘stealing’ since signs in the buffet stated clearly ‘to-go’ food wasn’t permitted.
Many of us play childhood messages over and over. We replay comments spoken by a parent, teacher or another kid. Their words, whether unwise, flippant or even downright mean, implanted deep seeds into our souls.
Possible scenarios are many. I have several of my own. On one occasion, I remember the ‘still, small’ voice of the Spirit speaking to my spirit, reminding me of words from scripture that counteracted words from my youth. This short sentence has helped me often sort through debris left over from past perceptions:
Identifying childhood wounds isn’t intended for ‘blame.’ I’m convinced most people, including parents, teachers and religious leaders, do the best they know how to do. Some people are intentionally cruel and predatory, but most are simply mis-informed or clueless. It’s important to recognize what ‘was’ so I can understand connections from my past and make corrections in my present.
What steps might I take
when I resist becoming the person my heart tells me I was meant to be?
when I fail to do what I believe God designed me to do?
when I don’t reach for what I dream of having or doing?
While never an easy process, here are some suggestions:
- Figure out (I may need the help of a counselor or trusted friend):
- why I’m not who I want to be?
- why I’m discontented with or dislike my unique God-design?
- why I don’t have what I’d like to have or do what I dream of doing?
- Develop a plan and determine action steps. At some point, I must stop dreaming and start doing!
- When I begin this process, beware of “Yes, BUT’s…”
- If I am to be successful, I must be willing to say and do, “Yes, WHAT…”
- Sometimes, I may need to grieve what I cannot have or who I cannot be and discover ways to be content with what I have and who I am.
- I may never enjoy a loving, happy marriage, and the loss of that dream is huge, but my singleness or unfulfilling marriage doesn’t mean I’m not loveable and sentenced to a lifetime of unhappiness.
- My child may never choose to stop making destructive life choices, and that breaks my heart, but it doesn’t mean I must disown or stop loving my child or that I cannot be a positive influence to a “daughter or son of the heart.”
- I may never live in my dream house, and that makes me feel sad, but doesn’t mean I cannot make wherever I live a safe, welcoming place for all who enter.
- I may never have the close relationship I’d love to have with a family member or friend, but that doesn’t mean I cannot enjoy deep, meaningful, supportive and treasured friendships.
- My prayer may never be answered in the way I desire, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love me or that divine grace will not be enough to keep me going despite life’s disappointments.
I hope and pray these heartfelt insights have been meaningful in some small way to you today…
“I wear the chain I forged…”
~Jacob Marley, A Christmas Carol
In A Christmas Carol,the classic tale of redemption by Charles Dickens, Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased business partner, appeared to Scrooge on Christmas Eve as a ghost.
Shackled in “ponderous chains,” Marley told Scrooge, “I wear the chain I forged in life,”…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will…”
You may recall the story. Throughout that night, three ghosts appeared to Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Ebenezer how painful childhood events played a formative role in the chain that held him.
The Ghost of Christmas Present showed him how his current everyday “bah-humbug” behavior was regarded and how it impacted those whose lives were touched by his.
The Ghost of Christmas Future revealed what would most surely lead him to a future much like Jacob Marley’s.
Ebenezer Scrooge made a dramatic turnaround. Overnight, he turned from being a miserly, hard-hearted businessman into a jovial, generous philanthropist.
Although a work of fiction, A Christmas Carol is a good picture for words from Psalms about prisoners who cried out to God for help,
He [God] brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains. (Psalms 107:140)
Many hearts are bound in destructive chains, and like Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge, those chains were formed link by link.
Links formed in childhood by harshness, abuse, neglect, or conditional approval.
Links of anger, guilt, unforgiveness, intolerance or shame.
Links of comparison, criticism, distrust, stinginess, or jealousy.
Links of manipulation, insecurity, intolerance or worry.
Links of addiction, loneliness and harmful habits.
Links of fear. Oh, yeah, always there seems to be lots of fear.
It’s unlikely you or I will be freed from our chains because of an epiphany following ghostly visitations.
I suppose there’s a remote chance that, like Ebenezer Scrooge, freedom will come overnight. More likely, however, chains binding our souls will be disassembled link by link. As we pray about the specific links, listen to and partner with the Spirit and accept help and encouragement from a caring community, I believe we will begin to feel lightness of spirit as “link by link, yard by yard” chains become less and less ponderous.
The process will be challenging, but with my own eyes, I’ve observed that the very same God the psalmist spoke of still listens to our cries for help.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been facilitating a Boundaries group at a local community center. Many participants in the group have been lugging around heavy chains far too long, but, these folks have resolved to get rid of destructive links. As a result, while they learn and practice holistic wellness, they’re enjoying newfound lightness in their bodies, emotions, thoughts and spirits.
These folks inspire me and challenge me to deal with some of my own burdensome links.
How about you?
What have you been carrying around?
What small change might you make today?
When was the last time you cried out to God for help?
Who might help you eliminate links in the chain bogging down your soul?
I’m praying for God’s blessing in your life as you explore links in your own “ponderous” chain…