What did you say?

I was reading in the living room when I heard my wife from the kitchen excitedly saying, “The whisk is one of my favorite kitchen tools.”

I put my book down and asked her to repeat what she had said, just to make sure I heard her correctly.

Yep.

So now I am sitting there, book in my lap, pondering, “People have favorite kitchen tools?”

And after a minute or so I am thinking, “My wife has a favorite kitchen tool, and it’s the whisk?”

And finally, “It took me nearly 40 years of sharing life with this woman to learn this about her?”

This weekend we celebrate 40 years of marriage and I gotta tell you, I love it everytime I learn something new about her.

Being Intentional with our Thoughts

My friend Jon Anderson says, “When you dwell on what you don’t like about your mate, you like them less. When you relish what you do like about your mate, you like them more.” When going through a difficult patch in marriage, don’t stay fixated on things you don’t like. Remember those things you like. Remember the good times you have shared. Remember how much God loves you!

Love in the Details

Lourene and I settled into a booth at a Denver restaurant eager to relax, converse, and check out yet another find from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. By the way, if you are looking for a good restaurant to try, take a look at the places Fieri’s show has been. But enough of that, let’s get back to the booth.

I have learned that I am easily distracted when at a restaurant. I love people-watching, so if I want to be fully present with my wife it is helpful if I sit where I will have the fewest people in my line of sight. I also enjoy sports-highlight watching, so I try to sit where the television is least likely to distract me.

From past experience it seemed I had chosen a perfect seat to allow me to be focused on my sweet wife. I carefully chose a seat where my back was to the television. In front of me was a perfect view of a wall, the whole wall, and nothing but the wall. Hey, I even left my smart phone in the car to eliminate distractions.

So I slid into the booth that night pretty confident that I was going to get the attentive husband award. But even before the server had brought us our water, I became distracted by the conversation coming from the booth behind me. Yes, I heard them talking. Yes, I was listening.

Now let me try to make myself look a little better by saying that I did not intend to listen. It just happened. The two men in the booth behind me were having a very animated discussion about baseball. In fact, I would dare say this was the most detailed conversation about a baseball game I have ever heard. One of the guys was getting more excited and louder with every pitch he described. When I say, “every pitch,” I mean he was going pitch by pitch through inning after inning in his recollections of this ballgame.

For a minute I got pretty excited about who this mystery baseball commentator might be. Was it some baseball play-by-play announcer or color-commentator? Was it an active or retired major league player recalling a memorable playoff game or maybe even a game from the World Series? The conversation went on and on. Strike two. Ball four. Line-drive. Pop-up. Stolen base. Double play. Wicked curveball. Pitch in the dirt. Tagged out at the plate. Pick-off attempt. Ground-rule double. Balk. Terrible call by the umpire. Questionable strategy by the manager. Pinch hitter. Relief pitcher. Extra innings. Walk-off single. Mobbed at the plate.

Just when I was trying to figure out how I was going to get the autograph of the baseball star sitting behind me his words revealed that the entire conversation was about a little league game that his son had played. Then I realized the entire conversation had been from the perspective of a father sitting in bleachers behind the backstop to watch his son’s game.

The conversation had come alive with details because that father had been fully present at his son’s game. He wasn’t people watching or checking messages on his phone. He was glued to the game — every single pitch of the game — because it meant so much to his son.

And that’s when I looked across the table into the forgiving eyes of my wife.

Men, Women, and Marriage, part 3

“Wives, in the same way be submissive…” (1 Peter 3:1).

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate…” (1 Peter 3:7).

The context of mutual submission in which Paul teaches about marriage in Ephesians 5 plays a big role in understanding the role of both husband and wife. Similarly, Peter’s teaching about marriage in 1 Peter 3 is presented within a larger context about Jesus and submission (1 Peter 2:13-3:23).

Jesus is held up as the model for Christian behavior, whatever one’s place in life. Christians are to be followers of Christ.

Peter uses the words “in the same way” when addressing both wives (verse 1) and husbands (verse 7). A look at the larger context reveals that these words point back to the previous chapter’s discussion of Jesus. Peter reminds his readers: Jesus suffered unjustly, committed no sin, did not retaliate when insulted, made no threats, entrusted himself to God, and was killed on the cross for the benefit of others (1 Peter 2:21-25).

If you want to learn how to be a wife, look at Jesus. If you want to know how to be a husband, look at Jesus. Jesus was more concerned with giving of himself than he was with taking. Jesus was submissive and deferential. Jesus laid down his life for others. Jesus’s submission is the model for Christian husbands and wives. Christian wives are reminded of submissive women like Sarah who were loyal to their husbands (and we should not forget there were times when God reminded the men to listen to their wives, such as Genesis 21:12).

Wives are to be followers of the submissive Jesus who are not only submissive, but more interested in inner beauty and purity than outward adornment.  Wives are to have a gravitas about them because of their Christ-like behavior.  Husbands are to be followers of the submissive Jesus who are considerate, respectful, and gentle as they relate to their wives.

Peter may not quote from Genesis 2, but he tells Christian husbands that their wives are “your equal partner in God’s gift of new life.” It is worth noting that Genesis, Jesus, Paul, and Peter are in agreement on husband and wife being equals.

Men, Women, and Marriage part 2

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

With these words about submission, Paul begins teaching the church at Ephesus about a lifestyle of following Jesus, with a sizeable portion of that teaching focused on marriage. Discussions about submission are often limited to how women are to be submissive to men. Paul teaches something different: all Christians are to be submissive to one another.

Can you imagine what a church looks like when each member seeks to defer to the others? Can you imagine what a marriage looks like when rather than seeking to rule over one another the husband and wife are mutually submissive?

Like Jesus in Matthew 19, when Paul teaches about marriage, he turns to and quotes from Genesis 2. Marriage is characterized not by ruling over, but by being united as one flesh. Man and woman are created under God, over the earth and side-by-side. In marriage they are no longer two, they are one.

A woman who follows Jesus will be submissive, deferring to her husband. Rather than trying to rule or dominate her husband, she submits to him. The husband is the head of the wife, which could be understood as “leader” or “source.” Convincing arguments can be made for both readings. But rather than spending a lot of time arguing over the meaning of the word, we might be better off looking at Paul’s instructions to husbands about how they are to be like Jesus. These instructions help us understand the meaning of “head.”

A husband can demonstrate submission (a concept taken from the topic sentence in verse 21 and continuing throughout this lengthy teaching) by loving his wife like Christ loved the church. This context connects “head” more with sacrifice rather than authority. A husband who follows Jesus will lay down his life for his wife. So however you understand the word “head” in verse 23, a man’s headship is lived out through deferring to his wife, even to the point of laying down his life.

Submission. Love. Sacrifice. Deference. Respect. Unity. Oneness. These are the words that describe a marriage in which the husband and the wife are followers of Jesus.  Genesis, Jesus, and Paul are in agreement on the nature of Christian marriage.

Men, Women, and Marriage

Much can be learned about how God intends for men and women to relate by looking at passages about marriage. Confession: I have found it difficult to read these passages without reading my culture into them. A close and careful reading of some basic passages about marriage has left me surprised and somewhat disturbed that the passages do not say what I have always been told they say. We must be careful not to read our cultural biases into the passages. This is difficult to the point of being almost impossible and is best done in community.

Has scripture or culture been the primary shaper of our view of marriage? Has our idea of what Christian marriage looks like been more heavily influenced by scripture or Leave It To Beaver?

Jesus’s response to the Pharisees’ questions about divorce is formative to my understanding (Matthew 19:1ff). The Pharisees want to talk about divorce. Jesus seems to be more comfortable talking about marriage. And when Jesus talks about marriage, he calls them back to Genesis 1 and 2 as teaching how God intended for marriage to be lived out. We need to remember that Genesis 1 and 2 present the humans, male and female, living: under God, over the earth, and side-by-side in unity with one another. From the beginning God intended for humans to be one-flesh in marriage.

But sin enters the picture in chapter three and everything changes. The humans are no longer living in unity with God and one another as God had intended for them to live. They are bucking God’s authority and battling with God and one another for rule and control. But Jesus reminds us that was not how it was intended to be. We need to remember, as Dallas Willard says, “The Bible doesn’t begin in Genesis 3. The fall of man is not the beginning of history.” In discussing marriage, Jesus calls us back to the beginning, Genesis 1-2 rather than Genesis 3.

In response, the Pharisees raise a good question: If God never intended for there to be divorce, why did the law of Moses include divorce law? Jesus explains that divorce is not God’s plan for humans, divorce is a concession to the hardness of human hearts. God understands humans are hard-hearted and will not always live in the unity that comes through submission to God and one another. So God provides for humans knowing their hard hearts. And so Jesus introduces us to the idea that some things you read about in scripture are not representative of what God wills, but are representative of how hard-hearted and self-willed humans can be.

Jesus holds up Genesis 1-2 as foundational to our understanding of how men and women are to relate in marriage. Firmly bonded. One flesh. Unity. May we not grow hard-hearted. May we remember God joins a husband and wife in marriage. “Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart” (Matthew 19:6 MSG).

Saturday Links for September 4, 2010

Looking for something good to read this Saturday? You might want to check out these links!

Do you remember the old-saying turned bumper-sticker, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together”? Well, seems like there is some substance to the old cliche. The Economist recently published a psychology piece that might interest you. Faith and Faithfulness:  Praying for your partner stops you straying discusses the impact of prayer on staying faithful in marriage.

There has been no shortage of media response to Kenda Creasy Dean’s (minister and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary)  book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our  Teenagers is Telling the American Church. While there’s a bunch of stuff out there, I especially enjoyed reading a CNN report, Author: More teens becoming “fake” Christians by John Blake.