Initial Thoughts on Marriage

I know that I haven’t been married all that long and that I probably don’t have the right to starting writing about marriage until after I’ve been married for more than a month. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and if you prefer, you can wait for my 20 year anniversary in 2031 to begin believing me. All of that aside, I think it’s important to capture some initial thoughts in these first few weeks.

Marriage is, in just one word, incredible. It’s not at all about butterflies and rainbows, or even the “oneness” experience that many people described it to us as, nor is it the extremely difficult transition that the other half of couples described. So far it’s quite ordinary and normal in the sense that we already know each other so well that there have been only nominal disagreements and surprises. That’s not to say that eventually disagreements and surprises won’t come, but there’s definitely the sense that because we have been such good friends for such a long time, we already know one another’s pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and preferences.

That’s not to say that loving him is without difficulty. He tends to not hear me when he’s reading Twitter or watching Sports Center and he also annoyingly tends to leave dishes in the sink instead of putting them straight into the dishwasher. But I step on the shower mat soaking wet instead of dripping off in the shower, so I guess I probably annoy him too.

I think what we discovered during our honeymoon was that the oneness described by all of our counselors and friends isn’t something that wedding vows or living together automatically create; instead, those things merely lay the foundation and create the atmosphere in which oneness can grow. We’ve decided that oneness is likely the result of 20 years of marriage, several kids, and years of struggles, ministry, commingled finances, and lots of prayer.

All of that said, it’s great! We love it. It’s really awesome to wake up next to your best friend every morning and go to sleep with them at night. But it also takes work. I’m learning that to be successful in marriage one must be extremely intentional. Without intentionality, a couple could go through life and merely live together.

Before I was married, I never realized how easy it would be to just cohabitate  or to serve my husband merely just to get things done, without ensuring that the love and glory of Christ is the catalyst of such service.

It would be so easy to do a poor job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church, merely because I lack love. I’ve realized how important it is that the love and glory of Christ be my motivation in every area of life, and especially in my marriage.

Love is such an interesting word. I’m realizing that I’ve only ever scratched the surface. It’s a word that, like the word “oneness,” is likely going to take me a lifestyle shift and an entire lifetime to figure out in its entirety. And if I’m going to live my life by Scripture, this season of life requires me to turn again to Scripture to ask “what is love?” I know in my head and in my heart that it is defined as God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, but practically, how am I going to live that out? How do I lay down my life for Josh?

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13’s description of love – “love is patient and kind; love does not enjoy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (vs. 4-7).” And also, like forgiving someone 70 x 7, “love never ends” (vs. 8), which means that I need a limitless reservoir of love for Josh.

But not just love for Josh or because of Josh. Not because he’s amazing or I love him, but because of God – because all I do and all we are is meant to project the love of Christ’s love for the Church to the world. All I do is worthless without love. I could be the best wife, but if I’m not operating out of an overflow of love for Christ, it is all worthless. I’ve been extended limitless grace and I can only extend it in return. Furthermore, every single thing I do, whether its organizing the pantry, making dinner, or unloading the dishwasher – if I do it with any hesitation or without love, I negate it and I do not do it as unto the Lord.

It seems silly to me that this is so revolutionary to my heart today, but it was an amazing revelation and it makes Josh even easier to love well and live with. God is so good and so faithful to sanctify me in this time and use marriage to do so.

the meaning of life

I discovered the meaning of life on February 12, 1999.

I’ve resolved to remember and reflect on the Gospel constantly and some of the best ways I’ve found to do that is to remember who and what I was before I clearly understood the Gospel and to remember what it was like for the Gospel to come alive in my heart. I was only thirteen years old the day that the Gospel came alive to me and changed the entire direction of my life for over a decade.

I’ll never forget the weekend of February 12. I went to an Acquire the Fire youth conference in Houston, Texas, and I returned home that first night a totally different girl. It was then that I first understood that Christ’s purpose in coming to earth, living a sinless life, dying on the cross, and then being raised from the dead was not just to save me from hell, but to reconcile me to Himself.

The Gospel took on an entirely new light. Church wasn’t just something to do. God wasn’t just someone to worship. The Church was something I was part of… and God was someone to worship and to love.

I realized I was saved from an existence without Him… I was no longer a sinner in need of salvation; my new identity was that I am saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9), adopted into His family (Eph. 1:4-6), transformed (2 Cor. 5:17), redeemed (Gal. 3:12-13, reconciled into right standing with God (2 Cor. 5:18-19) and a coheir with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). And there was more! I was called to be a part of His mission (Mark 16:15).

That’s something that changes you forever.

What a beginning. I spent the weekend on my knees, so totally humbled by this revelation that I didn’t even desire to stand. It was an all-encompassing feeling, one that I’ll never forget but that if I’m not careful I can quickly relegate to the back of my mind. In just a single moment, the Holy Spirit illuminated my own heart and gave me a glimpse of the darkness abiding there –  and the knowledge that I was not in love with Christ, despite the fact that I was a “good kid,” in church and serving daily, obedient to my parents, and a memorizer of Scripture. I realized that even though I had served Christ and recognized my need for a Savior all of my life, I had never really known His heart or that He desired a relationship with me. I had never connected the “why” with the “what” and “how.” I knew we were saved by grace through Christ’s death, but I had never known why He wanted to save me.

That weekend transformed my life to from being Whitney-centered, to being focused on a pursuit of God and the people He loves. I desperately desired that my heart become His heart. I wanted to share His love with anyone and everyone that I met. I saved every penny to head to South Africa that summer to share the Gospel with people who had never heard. I was transformed from the inside out. I had finally figured out that life wasn’t meant to revolve around me. Life is all meant to be all about Christ – showcasing His love and the Gospel to everyone I come in contact with.

Purposeful Evangelism

If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you’ll probably remember my post from November ’09 entitled “Maroon 5 and College Ministry.” I talked about how even though I’m around college students multiple times a week, the ones I know and spend my time with are ones who already mostly know Jesus. And it’s amazing – I’m getting to be an incredible part of the process of their becoming more like Christ and it’s definitely the thing I most love to do.

We all play lots of roles, you know. We’re sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, husbands, friends, coworkers, teammates. But the one I find that brings the most contentment in my life is the role of leader/mentor/teacher. The Gathering; however, no longer feels like something I just do or a role that I play – instead, it’s more of who I am. And increasingly I want evangelism to feel like such a part of my heart that I can’t separate it from who I am.

I went to the SHAPE workshop at Frontline Tysons last fall and while most of the things we covered were things I had already known, I did learn something significant about myself – one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of evangelism.

I had absolutely no idea and wouldn’t have ever guessed that about myself. I definitely questioned it for several weeks following the workshop. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys street evangelism, which is what I first think of when I think of evangelism (although I love overseas missions and have done a lot of street evangelism in that setting). I’ve participated in youth group discipleship trips where we were challenged to go share the Gospel in Panera, the mall, and local boutiques. I did it. I could do it again… but it’s definitely not something I feel comfortable doing.

So, ever since October I’ve been asking myself how I can begin to really utilize this gift of evangelism. I want to wield it well – the last thing I want is to be like one of servants that Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 – they squander their talents and end up losing everything they were given.

Todd’s recent message to Frontline on January 24th really helped a lot – everyone in the congregation was given a bookmark and encouraged to identify “ten points of impact” – ten people in their lives that they want to influence and pray for and witness to. I was immediately able to list 12, but God asked me to do something bigger. The more I read the New Testament, study the early church, and explore different philosophies of ministry, the more I realize that we’re ALL called to evangelism – not just those of us who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. Our lives are meant to be lived constantly in pursuit of God and the people He loves… and we have to be intentional.

I started praying and asking God for ideas and new ways that I could purposefully pursue the lost… especially college students since so much of my heart is tied up in leading them to Christ. And as I started looking for ways to get to know and serve people outside my sphere of influence, God gave me several incredible ideas!
I challenge you to do the same – expand your sphere of influence! Pray and begin to look for ways to open your life up to people who aren’t believers… establish relationships and begin to plant seeds! After all, Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).

We’ve been given so much.