This past week, I found myself in an interesting mind-space. Hoarded with deceit from the enemy and a whooooole lot of insecurities suddenly re-surfacing, I began entertaining the thoughts that I knew were only going to continue to feed those insecurities. And in the middle of that, I began creating some extreme expectations for my fiance. I needed him to love me into a healthier space. I needed him to make me remember who I was. I needed him to change me. Maybe I’m the only one that does this, but if ever I fall into that pit, unfortunately, I tend to put pressure on people around me to help me out of it. “You’re not loving me enough!” or “You’re only thinking about yourself!” or “Why aren’t you doing all that you can to make me feel like I’m not the things I’m believing I am?!?!” I look to man in a way that I ought not to.
(This is by no means saying that we should neglect every opportunity to encourage one another in the faith and never act as agents of love, carriers of the messages that remind each other of our heritage in Christ Jesus. What was happening was something the Lord, and only He, could fix within me.)
It wasn’t until I hit chapter 6 of a book I had picked up, “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, that I realised what had been going on. (And I’m sure this won’t be the only time the good Lord will have to intervene.) I needed God badly, but I had been denying myself time in the word and prayer— precious time with Abba— and instead had been seeking for that type of intimacy in my fiancé, who can’t provide that soul-deep, abundant life type of love. (I think it is necessary for us, by the way, to practice admitting this to ourselves and others often. It truly helps to keep us humble). Whenever he said something in a tone that upset me or felt a little harsh, corrected me, challenged me rightfully, or, man!!!, was straight up being human and responding in the flesh, I’d go to war. This is because I had been starving myself of Jesus and wanted my loved ones to feed me what I needed.
Where Jesus said, “Come to ME(Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30, I turned to man. When Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to ME (Jesus) shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” - John 6:35, I hungered after satisfactory responses to my insecurities, and after affirmation from man. Where God says, “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." - Isaiah 41:13, I forget WHO is the LORD my God, and I forget who it is that can ultimately help me.
Thankfully, God has not closed His hands to me, nor to you if you can relate. Thankfully, He still bids us come, and his call has not grown weary nor hoarse. Thankfully this is a reminder. Thankfully I was reminded.
The reality is that I need to go to Jesus with my wounds of the past. I need to lay my insecurities at His feet and be reminded of my new identity in Him daily. I have to! Or else they, and I, will only become cumbersome. My fiancé is a gift to my life; a partner with whom I can share things and experiences, but he cannot fix me, nor can he heal me. My friends are amazing too, I can be such an open book with them and accountability abounds with them, but I have to go to Jesus to be made whole! My family love me, but not even a mother’s/ father’s love can be compared to the Lover of my soul! To yearn after fullness from those who themselves are in need of a filling will only result in emptiness. To have the expectation that my loved ones can love me into wholeness is an error. It is giving them an impossible mission: be God to me. But only God can be God to me! And only God has ever been and will continue to be God to me! Only He can fill us so that we too can pour out unto others. Only He can help cure us! Really, only He can help us take the focus off ourselves!
If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, praise the LORD for His goodness! He is still very much available! If you, like myself, have recognized the impossible mission you have tasked people around you with, let Go and let God! Seek Him while He may be found! Call on Him while He is near. Relieve your neighbor by clinging to Jesus so that they too may cling to Him! Beware of the sin of idolatry. Beware that you may be forgetting the LORD your God- your helper! And know that He is wanting you to draw near!
We thank You that You care. You care about our well being— mentally, physically, spiritually, entirely! You care so much and You have not left us without remedy: YOURSELF. Lord, help us to look to You— our help in times of storm, our help, our light. Keep us from placing the pressure on those around us to be You to us. May we not erect idols in the likeness of people around us. Help us to be mindful of the expectations we place on people. Remind us of your power, love, truth, righteousness. Remind us every day, hour, minute, second that You and You alone are God. And continue to equip us to do Your work. Thank You that from Your fullness You have filled us!
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Magical Beginning
The wedding was over. Our lives were now joined as one, before God and before man. For most rom-coms this is where the story ends, but it really served as a beautiful beginning. We were married. For the first time, we lived under the same roof, shared the same room, and no one had to leave at the end of the night. It was everything we wanted, right? The wedding was over and the real marriage had begun.
We were entering into a whole new level of intimacy and it was lovely-ish. There was great sex, lots of snuggles on the couch as we fell asleep and there was sweet conversation over Saturday morning second breakfast. We were enjoying the early days and getting to know each other on a deeper level. But the deep end isn’t always the easiest place to swim. With all the new couple magic there were also new couple challenges. We had to learn how not to be annoyed by every little thing the other did that was “different”. There was also the realization that in our dating life we had become used to being able to “escape” conflict with distance and that this was hindering us in marriage. Little did we know that the magic of the early intimacy would soon become eclipsed by the challenges of it and that there were some hard but necessary lessons that we would have to learn.
It was the attraction that pulled you in, but it is the intimacy that makes you want to stay. However, that very thing that keeps you is actually continuously under attack. You are under attack by a fierce enemy, but sometimes you lose sight of who it is, and before you know it, that enemy begins to look like the person you married. In our near two years of marriage, we struggled in intimacy physically, with communication, transitioning our mindset from two singles to one married couple, and more recently the birth of our wonderful son.
The challenges were strong. Physical intimacy, while initially thriving became more difficult as time went on. The lessons we learned initially about seeking to meet the needs of the other before our own actually had to be applied (shocker!). Words flew but clear communication did not. We were speaking to one another but not truly hearing the heart (or sharing the heart) behind the words.
The transition from being single to married was weightier than we anticipated. We allowed fear, stubbornness and discomfort to keep us from knowing and being known as deeply as we should have. We walked in with expectations of how the other should be, how our lives together would look and we struggled to deal with the reality that was in front of us.
And then there was the baby. Our beautiful, precious, sweet baby boy. Joy of our lives and gracious gift from God. We had heard that a baby would change things but we had no idea. We were somehow both closer and farther apart. We had experienced one of the most intensely personal, painful and beautiful processes together and were the better for it. But we also now had someone else; someone else to focus on, someone else to distract us from each other. Most of our communication became very functional and specific to the daily operation of making sure the kid was ok and not too fussy. And to some degree, we were ok with that. Not in the deep parts of our soul that needed the other to be present, to listen, to know, but in the more shallow places that didn’t want to have to do the hard work of marriage while also doing the hard work of parenting.
Redemption starts at the cross. Redemption in marriage in every facet, especially intimacy, starts with seeing your marriage through the lens of the gospel. Jesus came not be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). His very posture was always oriented towards others, so much so that He died to save His bride. To follow His example, I must daily ask myself, ‘how can live in a way in which I look to serve rather than be served?’ When it comes to intimacy in marriage, we must ask ourselves, ‘how can I serve the other in a way that makes my spouse feel close, feel known, feel loved?’ When we struggled with our physical intimacy due to health, we had to come to a place of humility to desire how to serve each other best in the midst of ongoing health issues.
The growth and sustenance of our intimacy has truly been the work of the Lord in drawing us to Himself. Some of the best moments of experiencing true intimacy have been while praying together, reading the Bible together, and having conversations in and out of small group about things of the Lord. We have found that this has naturally segued to matters of the heart and confession of sin. We have not been able to nail the consistency of being in prayer and the Word together, but we have made significant strides compared to our early days of marriage.
Obviously, in less than two years of marriage, we are still working through and struggling through intimacy, but we are continually finding Jesus to be sufficient for all our needs and the true source of the intimacy we seek.
~ Megan Allison & Tyrome Delano
Read through an old piece of writing this weekend and thought it was worth sharing with you all. In reading I was reminded of this truth: God is the source of true love and “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our best efforts can only go so far. If we want to love well and if true sustainable intimacy is our goal, than we must lean into the One who is love. Be encouraged.
One day this summer while I was in Chicago I was walkin and talkin with Jesus. I was telling him how crazy it is that he lavishes his love upon me so much without expecting anything in return. His response to me was " I want you to know what real love is so that you don't fall for the counterfeit". He was, He is, loving me in such a way that anything subpar would be rejected/thrown out. This is what I wrote later that day in my journal:
Real love calls me beautiful. Real love fights. Real love works to heal. Real love challenges and endures. Real love resists attacks and fads and pressure to fail. Real love recognizes real love. Real love takes work, lots of work, but real love is also real, real good. :)
I need to believe that people can do that. That there are people that are so in love with Jesus that they can love like that. I need to believe that there are people that can love me like that.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevers. Love never fails.
2 Corinthians 13:7-8
Megan Allison Turner
Okay, this will be quick! I just need to petty rant for a second.
I was being nosey one day when a friend’s phone rang. It was her husband. And I know it was him because I saw his full first and last government name come across her screen. Girl, what?! I’m not judging, but… okay, yes I am. In my humble opinion, that is just so impersonal. I mean, is this your husband or is this your co-worker? Okay, let me stop before I make someone insecure. Thank you for letting me petty rant.
So, why is this important? The reason why it struck me was because I realized that I don’t think my husband’s full name has been his name in my phone since before we became a couple. Once we became official, cheesy enough, he became “Boyfriend” in my phone. As things became more serious, he became “My Only Squeeze” (even more cheesy). Now I’m “My Rib” in his phone, and he’s “Partner-in-Crime [heart] [heart eyes] [kisses]” in my phone. Now he’s contemplating changing it to “Dream Come True” LOL.
This has been a small way that we have built intimacy in our relationship. We intentional pick something that fits where we are and how we feel about each other in that season. There was about a couple weeks when he was actually “Mr Annoying” in my phone because, well, self-explanatory. I quickly changed that though because we want it to reflect something positive about each other and our relationship. It causes us to think about why we love each other. This may seem like a small thing, but honestly, sometimes it’s the small things that can make or break a relationship. I’m not saying that if you don’t change your SO’s name in your phone then you’re headed for a break up. I’m just saying, we can get caught up with living our mundane lives, take for granted the short moments we have with one another, and miss out on opportunity to grow with each other.
Building intimacy in small ways can give us freedom from other little things that may sabotage our marriage or other distractions that may want space in our hearts. Don’t let the enemy get a footstool or, in other words, don’t leave the door to your heart cracked open.
The beauty that comes with the freedom of building a solid, intimate relationship is that the more you focus on it, the more you get to experience the depths of the best things in this life. For example, more joy, more peace, or love, kindness, faithful.. You get the picture. :)
Maybe for your and your spouse, the phone name change is not enough, or it’s just not for you. That’s okay. Find something else that works for you all. Find many things! It could be as simple as hugging or kissing 5 seconds longer on your way out of the door or when you come home from work everyday, or sending each other love songs or poems via text, or just surprise gifts or acts of kindness. Whatever you do, have fun with it and know that it all works together to build a strong, intimate relationship.
P.S. Yes. Yes, I do think this helps make sex even better as well.
Change isn’t always fun, and for the past few weeks I have been experiencing much of that mundane, anxiety-filled change. Not the “I dyed my hair blue” change, or the “I just upgraded my iPhone” change. I’m talking about I moved from a space of comfort, one that I felt was completely mine although it wasn’t, to a less private and less familiar space all for the sake of saving some dimes for my own wedding.(Although I am grateful for the Lord’s provision.) I’ve been traveling back and forth, missing out on time with my community, attending wedding showers, moving, working and this type of change has not been entirely fun. More often than not, I’ve found myself in a space of anxiety and worry and feeling lonely. And right about the time it began to hit me that I was feeling lonely, it hit me that my own friends had their own share of change and experiences and instead of love and empathy taking room in my heart, I was beginning to feel angry and sad.
The people I felt like I had most needed couldn’t cater to my needs the way I had felt like I needed them to and I was left feeling abandoned and not cared for. And even more than that, I found myself frustrated because I found that I was being asked to care for them when I felt like I was the one that needed the care!
It was then that the Lord checked my heart. He brought back to remembrance a simple statement my counselor had shared with me some time aback: “You cannot love what you need.”
Y’all don’t even know the depth of that statement, LOL!!!
During my time in counseling, a very simple yet profound fact was stated to me: We are innately selfish. And because of this, we cannot love what we need. If we need love, or affirmation, or care, or identity from someone it is impossible for us to actually love, affirm or care for them in the way that we are actually called to. The focus is so much on ourselves! But even bigger than that is the poisonous idea that we need them!
Now let me make this disclaimer: To a degree we need people. No man is an island. But the deeper question is, to what end do we truly need community?
In this case, I had felt so deeply that I needed my friends to cater to me so badly, that not only have I been rendered incapable of loving them well in their own seasons, but I’ve put them in the place of God! I had turned a very true thing, namely ‘that I needed care and love,’ into an absurd lie, namely ‘that these people are the source of my care and love and if they withhold that from me then I am unloved and I am losing my friends.’ And, in turn, I didn’t know how to pray for them or talk to them in the middle of their own heat. I wasn’t allowing the only One who is enough to care for my soul and replenish it and give me the love I needed to go on and love my own community.
My community was not enough, and I was left with the question: Then Who Is? My family isn’t near me. My single friends have either busied themselves or are experiencing their own tough seasons and fiancé cannot possibly fill me the way that I desire to be filled! So then who? Who is enough for me?
And then the Lord sweetly reminded me, “I Am Enough.”
You see, community is a gift given by God, and, indeed, by it we experience the love of God and the care that He desires for us. He works through His body to care for His own and there is no wickedness in saying, “hey, I felt unloved by this or that,” but before we get to that place, there has to be some soul searching. Before you call something a sin, there are the questions, “What is my expectation?” “Why am I so offended?” “Am I looking for these people to do something that only God alone can do?” It was that final question that really did it for me. My overwhelm in this wedding planning process, my frustrations with the change my own friends were experiencing, my anger that had led to gracelessness at their own lack of noticing my needs, at the heart of it has been that God has not been enough for me because I have not been allowing Him to be. He has been asking me to let Him love me and remind me of His truth, but I have been looking for fullness and truth from people before Him. I have been talking to people before I talk to God. I have been seeking provision from man and not trusting the great God who owns every cattle on the hills. Somewhere in the change, I lost my awe for and trust in God and I tried to find it in others.
In the midst of this, I’ve also failed to love my fellow body members. In stepping outside of God’s pool of love and overflow for me, I lost the source I needed to fill me with what all it would take to keep caring for my friends and for their spiritual, mental and physical well-being. I had concaved into myself and really put myself above others. I had really begun to believe the subtle lies that this season was about me and only about me, since it was my wedding. But the reality is that I’m never living for myself with myself. We are made for community. But community has one unique lane laid out by its founder, ordained for proper usage and that is always important to remember. God created community. Community is not God.
My challenge to you today is that if you find yourself drowning in the overwhelm of change and life:
Mother’s Day is beautiful. A chance to celebrate the women who have given us life, physically and spiritually. To rejoice in the good gift of mothers who encourage, challenge and support us.
Mother’s Day is hard. For those who have lost, for those who never had, for those who want to be, for those with relationships strained.
Mother’s Day is an opportunity. To celebrate women, any woman, who daily brings pieces of God’s character into a lost and broken world. It is an opportunity to be present, to love those who anxiously wait for the pain of the day to be over. It is an opportunity to be the women we celebrate- to give life and speak life into those we’ve been given.
May Mother’s Day, may every day, be a chance to honor, remember, hope and heal. Because “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)
I once heard it said that the difference between the relationships you choose and the ones you make at church is, the ones we choose are the ones that make us the most comfortable.
That couldn’t be more true for me personally. I like who I like and if I don’t like you I’m good. It’s very sad and honestly something I still struggle with even in doing life with the Body of Christ (church family). However, I cannot deny that the relationships I have allowed God to mold around me since coming to the faith have been extremely influential. Even the relationships that made me extremely uncomfortable. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Relationships can be a reflection of yourself.
Whether it’s now or later you will meet someone that you share a lot of like qualities with. Some of those people you meet will share qualities with you that you don’t like about yourself. You will know who they are when you examine how critical you are of them. In my walk, in different seasons, I have met people that share some of my most annoying and frustrating attributes, such as, my tongue of fire. In my first ministry job, I met someone who was just as harsh and brash as me when it came to giving feedback. This was a real eye opening moment because I had just left a job where I was running the show, literally, a local news show. I was always so critical of my anchors after shows to the point where I never said anything good about what they did even when the show went great. My harsh tongue was really discouraging and I was supposed to be the light of Christ. So when I got to my next job the Lord gave me a taste of my own medicine. I was working with a young lady who was also new to the job, she had no clue about what I do or the circumstances of which I was doing it in. I was new to my position and didn’t know anything about planning a conference; I produced the news. Day by day I was learning, but it is difficult to work with someone who is learning when your job is to produce results. So in a meeting I was having with her she flat out asked me if I was stupid. In so many words, in her mind I should have just been making decisions, but honestly that is not how my manager was allowing me to work. She didn’t know that my manager wanted to have a say before I could just approve things, so she didn’t understand why I was so unprepared when it came to requesting items I needed from her team. All of this happened in front of another co-worker, and being that I worked at a ministry I had so much to consider. Do I retaliate with my tongue? Do I defend myself by throwing blame? I just kept silent and walked away in tears. I had gotten hit with my own venom and it hurt. I wish I could say that it has completely changed the way I speak to people at all times. It has not, but it has, however, made it easier for me to accept when someone confronts me on how my words made them feel. That acceptance makes it easier for me to apologize and consider more carefully how I phrase things in the future.
2. Relationships help you see a reflection of the world around you.
Now let’s take a step outside of church. Have you heard about what’s going on with Kanye? Or, Beyoncé’s Coachella performance? Have you watched the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy? I’m not advocating for any of these things or even suggesting it is important you know about them, however I do suggest it is important you know people who do. The world around us is vastly changing and some may argue it’s not anything we haven’t seen before, but I say it is something that the Church in this age needs to be aware of. You can’t live under a rock and think you will effectively be able to advance the Kingdom. You won’t be working with a full deck of cards. It’s not that the Word of God doesn’t have answers for today’s issues it’s that too many Christians are so far removed. We make the mistake of being so focused on the symptoms that we completely overlook the root cause or the influences. Knowing people that talk, act and think different than you helps you to broaden your perspective. A wider perspective helps increase your compassion and helps you to always be ready to give an answer for what you believe (Scripture Reference). Being in relationship with people does not mean you have to do what they do or find yourself somewhere you shouldn’t be. It does mean that you care for them, that you show an interest for the affairs of their lives and you look to share in life with them in ways that you are comfortable and that still honor God. Most of all it means that you love them and that they know you do!
3. Last, but not least. Relationships are a reflection of Christ.
This is the pinnacle truth of faith building relationships. It’s all in how you love people and how they love you, or don’t. This reflection of our Lord and Savior is most easily spotted in the relationships closest to you. I recently became a Mother (Whoa, that’s weird to say) and it is such a joy. Immediately after giving birth to my son I became overwhelmed, obsessed even, with the need to protect him. I just kept thinking about all the bad things that happened to me from childhood to now and I just couldn’t figure out how I would possibly be able to protect him from it all. The thoughts plagued me because I loved my son and I did not want to see him hurt. So one day I called my Mom and I shared with her my feelings and I asked her did she also love me that much. She said of course, but that is still not nearly as much as God. What? God loves me more than this. More than I love my son, when I can’t even imagine loving anyone more than I love him. Can you guys believe that? The creator of the universe, our God, the Holy Trinity, loves each and everyone one of us more than we can even imagine. His love is unchanging and never failing. He wants to protect us from all the pain and the hurt in the world, so much so that he sent a Savior to die for us and redeem us. He gave us his word to guide us and give us wisdom to avoid things that will lead us away from Him. He gave us himself to be our counselor and convict us when we are turning the wrong way. This is just one relationship, one glimpse of Christ. It would be way too much to write about them all, but what I will end with is that this is the MOST important role relationships play in our life. How we love, live and forgive all hinges on our Christ likeness and we are made more like Christ by the sharpening and shaping we receive from the people around us. All people.
So here are 3 things you can do to make sure you are allowing your relationships to build your faith:
1. Look for Christ in your everyday relationships.
2. Ask yourself how you can be made more like him through those relationships.
3. Pray God use every relationship to get the job done.
I dedicate this piece to the realest ones I know. What we have is so rare <3
My husband is my best friend. We do everything together. There haven’t been many times since we’ve been married that we’ve spent more than two days apart. We often try to be the first person the other shares news with (or dreams - we both have ideas for days). Eating, showering, sleeping, etc. happens together regularly. All of this can be healthy and necessary for a marriage, but there are definitely times when we need community outside of just each other. I’m sure you and your spouse have been there too. You know, those times when you’ve been so isolated, that when something difficult happens or an argument rages for days, you tend to think no one else understands or cares. No one else is going through this. This problem is unique to us because everyone (on Facebook) has great relationships… *insert side eye*... Lies, girl, lies.
Let’s talk about that a little more, plus, a few other benefits to inviting community into your relationship.
Anyone who’s been married for 5 days knows that the enemy does not care. All of a sudden, exes show up congratulating you on your new marriage. If you go to the beach for your honeymoon, can you safely say that neither one of you will have wandering eyes? And it gets increasingly more difficult after you pass the honeymoon stage peak (about two years in). Maybe you or your spouse has been addicted to pornography. There are all kinds of things, big and (seemingly) small that can threaten our marriages constantly. But things could be easier when we have trusted people in our lives that we can confide in, ask for prayer, and kinda keep us in check. I believe choosing your bridal party is very serious. In my opinion, these are the people who you have chosen and whom have agreed to be the closest people to your marriage. In a sense, as a bridesmaid, I feel a level of responsibility to help encourage you and help you uphold your covenant as a married couple. So think of those few people that can be there for you when you’re tempted to give up.
2. You’re not always right; neither is your spouse
1 Corinthians says that we are members of the same Body. So let’s think of marriage as hand-eye coordination. As the hand and as the eye, you both have very separate and unique functions. Together you have a certain purpose that takes practice to master. That process can be frustrating. When the hand and eye aren’t unified, there’s a tendency to blame the other member. If the eye would just do things my way… if the hand would just see things how I see them… The eye can’t be mad at the hand for not being an eye. And vice versa. As individuals, as men and women, etc., there are things we each do very well. But we’re not always right, and our spouse won’t always see things our way. And that’s fine! Sometimes we need a reminder of that from a different member of the Body. Even with hand-eye coordination, there are other parts of the body that are supporting members to that function (the arm, the head, neck, etc.). So we need others to help us keep a right perspective, celebrate our differences and continue going forward with a unified purpose.
3. We tend to believe lies, often
I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have discussed situations we’ve gone through with our spouses that were a result of lies we were believing. Whether it be lies about their character, lies about our worth as wives, or lies that tell us that this relationship isn’t going to work out. The enemy will use anything he can to steal our joy, kill our hope and destroy our identity. My husband and I are both thankful that we have friends we could go to in those times of insecurity or doubt. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a sister to my friends when they go through it as well. It’s such a blessing to have people who will lead you back to Truth.
4. Sometimes things get boring
I mentioned that Matt and I do just about everything together. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. We need space sometimes though. Sometimes we need to see our friends. Sometimes we need to have people over or go on a double date. Isolation is very dangerous; even for two people who are supposed to be one. I asked an officiant friend of mine once what he thought was important to remember when you’re going into marriage. He said that something he will say to the bride and groom is that, in a few days, after the excitement of the wedding has died down, you may not notice your ring on your finger anymore; it just fades to the background. He encourages the soon to be newlyweds to not let that happen to the actual marriage. Being together everyday, doing the mundane things of life, we can easily go through the motions. Having a flow is not a bad thing, but we can find ourselves in patterns sometimes that lead us into places where we feel less connected or disinterested or even feel like you’ve reached the peak of the relationship and there’s no more you can learn from or about each other. Lies. Maybe you all just need a remember that the world has so much depth. God has so much depth and he put that inside of every one of us. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be afraid to go deeper and allow others to help you get there.
5. Opportunities for Growth
Iron sharpens iron. Facts. I’ve learned so much from others’ experiences in marriage. Also, I don’t know much about the iron sharpening process, but what I assume is that when those iron pieces collide, it’s not exactly music to anyone’s ears. I’m sure carving through layers of iron to get the desired outcome doesn’t come easy either. Such is life in community. Sometimes my friends and I have to say things to each other that are hard to hear and even harder to put into practice. It’s so needed though. Having people in your corner who want to see you succeed and grow in your marriage is such a blessing.
It’s hard to share our business, I know. I’ve been there and tempted to go back, often. I’m not saying you and your spouse shouldn’t have anything that’s just intimately between you two. I’m just saying, there is so many beauty and growth that takes place in your marriage when you invite others to help you learn to do it well.
I want to leave you with these two charges that I hope encourage you and help you see the benefit to having healthy, loving community support your marriage.
13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the LORD forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Oh I said I'd been away, and he knew
Oh he knew the depths I was meanin'
And it felt so good to see his face
All the comfort invested in my soul
Oh to feel the warmth, of his smile
When he said, 'I'm happy to have you home.'
Oh oh-oh, I'm happy to have you home
Oh yeah, keep your head up, keep your heart strong”
Almost every year since I graduated from college, I get together with the same group of women. We all met my freshmen year of college and connected over Scripture, Applebee’s and road trips. We maintained our friendship over the years despite relocations, marriages and children (many children). I love these women because, despite the many seasons, I know them and they know me. And I don’t mean the superficial “know” in which we remember the same past. It’s the knowledge of who we are at our core, the things that break our hearts and the things that make our hearts sing. When I am with these women, I am reminded that there are safe places for me and that I am not alone.
The Ben Howard song , “Keep Your Head Up”, talks about the comfort of seeing an old friend who knows who you are and is happy to welcome you home. There is such immeasurable value in having friendships that rich. It’s oftentimes easy to forego depth for perceived safety but ultimately that leads to isolation. King David knew what it meant to be known and loved even when real safety was at stake. His dear friend Jonathan stood by him despite his father’s hatred towards David, loving him even in the midst of some of David’s darkest times (1 Samuel 20). Later, years after Jonathan's death, David remembered Jonathan’s kindness to him and extended similar kindness to Jonathan’s remaining son (2 Samuel 9). David knew the gift of being welcomed, encouraged, protected and loved.
I too have known this gift and because of it, have been moved to extend it to others. I am so much the woman I am today, the friend I am today, because of how I was befriended, encouraged, challenged and loved all those years ago. May we be this type of friend to others as we long for it ourselves. May we speak words of life that encourage, exhort and heal. May we let one another know, you are not alone.
There I was, using about ten minutes already of my thirty minute break (with a trajectory of entirely wasting it), scrolling through their Instagram pages. I had been following three travel-bloggers for some time. They lead absolutely inspiring, and very anomalous, lives. They are attractive, black, boss ladies all living wild and spontaneous- possibly affluent- lives, (or at least that is what their pages display). They’re running after their desires to fill themselves up with as much beauty as the world can offer. And in turn, they offer it to us, the onlookers, glimpses of differing cultures and amazing scenery. And there I was drinking it up for ten minutes, going on 15, by the next five posts dating back to 2016, utterly jealous and low-key despising what, in that moment, became my miserable part-time job. The words that kept swimming through my thoughts were, “THESE ARE LIFE GOALS!!!!”
This was not too long after taking a break from social media because I seem to always find myself in this space. And there I was yet again needing to separate myself from the very tool that the Lord had used in the past to inspire me in the gift of creativity that He has so graciously bestowed to me. But here’s the thing, we can call this a matter of stewarding and walk away and still nothing will change. No matter how many breaks I take, I will keep going back to other creatives’ and travelers’ accounts yearning after their lives crying, “These are life goals.” I sincerely believe that stewarding, in a sense of managing my time online or intake of content, is only an action to Band-Aid the issue, not truly tackle it. At the root is an idol, a dangerous misunderstanding of what man’s true goal is, and a deep dissatisfaction with God and how He has so graciously and mercifully ordained my life thus far.
Before I continue though, here is my disclaimer: I am not saying inspiration is wicked! I have, however, come to realize that sin is a weaver. It is never content with sitting in one area of life. I have been taking a tool and making it ultimate. I have been looking at pictures (not the whole) of someone’s life and have coveted it. I have made it the standard of living and I have despised the work of God in bringing me to where I am. Within those few minutes of lurking and creeping on Instagram pages, I had utterly defamed God in my own life and raised the gift of another person's’ life above the Giver. Whole time I been committin’ idolatry!!!! (read with a Chicago accent)
On man’s true and final goal: We are often confused. We have created a notion around the word ‘goal’ and it has gone viral. Don’t get me wrong, time and place is key. I use it too, but it is so important to check our hearts on this issue. Are we truly making this life and it’s offerings the end goal? Will I truly reach my goal if I shed a couple pounds, enough to wear the bikinis I plan to wear on my travels to every sunny location after I quit my often tiring but steady job, thus fulfilling my life’s “calling”? Is my goal to reach the peak of fame? Is my goal in life to become the coveted? Or is my goal in life nearness to God, no matter what that looks like- suffering or bliss, an Instagram-life, or the very, very human mundane? (And who’s to say these Insta-famous individuals aren’t suffering?) Is my goal to seek first the Kingdom of God and all HIS righteousness as per Matthew 6:33? Is my end goal unto myself and this world, or is it unto the Creator of it? Because depending on the answers to these questions, no amount of stewarding or management will sort the issue out. I’ll just be organizing my way out of relationship with God.
Along with this, all of the hashtags have lead me to a life of discontentment. Not only is living for God, no matter the course it takes, my desire or aim, but I am breeding hate and distaste for the life He has laid before me so far. I have spit in the face of His goodness; I ignore that He has blessed me with an amazingly diverse family, a wondrously God-centered community, a faithful fiancé, a job through which I can serve the community, freedom to live, freedom to love, freedom to practice my faith, freedom to laugh- I forget all of this within ten to fifteen minutes, and just like the children of Israel, deep within my being, I begin to grumble in discontentment.
This may be you today. Maybe, like me, you haven’t been able to find a God-glorifying balance between scrolling and coveting. Maybe you are struggling with social media. I’d like to say a few things:
I write this admitting that I am still working this out with the Lord. By no means do I claim to have arrived, but you and I can see that it's real out here in these streets. But all glory to God ,who according to Ephesians 3:21, “...is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
About the Blog
Instagram - @bloglearningtolove