Sunday, August 9, 2015

Running, Part IV

I’ve been writing about using running a race as a metaphor for life and marriage, drawing from new testament scriptures. I've covered setting short term goals for your relationship, and celebrating milestones, identifying the things that get in the way of a healthy marriage, the "little foxes" as Solomon called them in Song of Songs; being vigilant in watching for them and some practical ways to avoid them so we never feel that we “run our race in vain.

The fourth verse I’ll reference in this series is Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

There are three points here that are worth noting as they apply to marriage.

“Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” It frustrates me when I hear people say “I’m a spiritual person, but I don’t need to go to church” or, “My relationship with God is private.” There are two dozen places in the new testament where commands that include the phrase “one another” are stated. Pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, comfort one another. Forgive one another, love one another. How can one fulfill any of these commands by themselves? Community is essential if we are to be the human beings God calls us to be. In the same way, we can’t do marriage all alone. We need other couples around us to encourage us, to support us, and to hold us accountable. It is critical to have in our circles of friends others who believe in God’s design for marriage - and not just people who claim to be our friends, who will tell us what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear. We need people who will lock arms with us when things are tough, who will preach truth when the world says “Serve yourself” or “cut your losses and start over.” We need people we trust, to go to when we have questions or need Godly advice. As we mature, we need to be those people to younger couples, and give back what we've been given. While a church congregation is important, so too are small groups. It is in these more intimate gatherings where relationships can go deeper, and it becomes easier to talk about marriage issues than it is with casual acquaintances.

The second point in this verse is akin to Solomon warning us about the little foxes. The apostle writes "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that entangles." The key to following this directive is to be aware of your situation. Be present, and mindful. Talk regularly with your spouse to take your relationship temperature. If it is cooler than one or both of you would like, heat it up! You have to pay attention so that any snags are noticed before they cause damage that is irreversible, so that you can both work together as teammates to deal with whatever life is throwing at you. Also, both of you should be seeking God's voice, His will for your life and your union. As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 4:12 "Two are better than one, but a three-fold cord is not easily broken." Three strands; man, woman and God, are what make a marriage stronger than the world, with it's entangling sin and hindering influences.

Lastly, we are exhorted to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us." God has set the course for you and your spouse. He has plans for what you, as a couple, can accomplish if you continue on; you are together for a reason. In a general sense, marriage is a picture of God's love for creation. We who choose to marry carry the responsibility to be that picture to the world, to show people what God's love is like. We are to model Christ's sacrifice and deep, abiding affection for everyone by loving our spouse like that. If you are in a spot where this sounds impossible, if this truth is not being lived out see it as an opportunity to grow. You can choose to act in love even if you don't feel it. In the garden, Christ wasn't feeling it. As he prayed, sweating blood, he asked that the cup be taken from him - but concluded his prayer with "your will be done, Father, not mine."

In Romans 8:28 we are told that God works all things for good, for those who believe. Regardless of what you are going through, know that God can work good from it. If we are called according to his purpose. If we persevere.