Tag Archive | relationships

Love, Acceptance, and Authenticity

Yesterday, I saw the movie “Love, Simon” and it was very convicting to me.

Let me start by answering the obvious question running through your mind, but I will elaborate extensively on this as I continue…. Why would a Christian woman want to see a movie about a teenager coming out as a gay young man?

I was intrigued by the movie when I first saw the preview and knew I would love it because it would be real and about voicing emotional struggles, something I’m not the greatest at.  I chose yesterday because it was the 4th anniversary of the funeral my uncle (who was also my godfather) and I thought it would be a nice way to show respect him because I loved him deeply.

I will digress for a moment to share about my relationship with my uncle.  I found out my uncle was gay when I was in high school and I had a really hard time with accepting that.  It really wasn’t until I was in college and had a gay professor/friend that I was able to love them both for who they were.

For the record, I was not a Christian at the time.  I had grown up as a Catholic, been confirmed, and then walked away from God.  I mention this only to say that my initial concern with homosexuality was not because I felt “holier than thou” or that I was a better person (trust me, I had my own “sexual sin” to contend with), I just didn’t understand it; it was different and different confused me.

And now, over 20 years later, I am a Christian, and honestly, I still don’t understand homosexuality.  But, you know what… it doesn’t matter whether I understand it or not.  God did not place me on this earth to understand other people or their choices.  He created me to seek Him, allow the Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside, and love other people.

Back to my uncle… He was a kind, loving man, and I felt like I could be completely myself around him.  I never felt like I had to wear a mask or try to impress him.  I knew he loved me simply because I was me, not because of what I did for him. When I spoke at his funeral, I shared several stories that described our relationship and ultimately compared the love my uncle showed me to the kind of love that God shows me – the unconditional kind.  I listened to my speech yesterday and cried the whole time.

I cried because I miss the one relationship in my life where I felt I could be truly authentic and not be judged.

I cried because losing my uncle also meant I have lost connection with his friends, who I also care deeply for.

I cried because a family member, who I used to have an amazing relationship with and I know truly loves me and wants the best for me and our family, sent me a very hurtful text over a year later regarding my decision to have a private wedding and threw in a dig about that speech being all about me.

I cried because after the funeral and at the after-party at the bar my uncle previously owned, so many of his friends came up to me and told me what I said meant so much to them.  The crazy part is that it wasn’t just the stories I shared that impacted people, it was the way I talked about God and salvation and even talking about when I shared Christ with my uncle.

I just cried and cried…. and then I went to see Love, Simon and cried some more, on the way home, I cried even more….

I guess it’s about time to get to the original point of this blog…. otherwise, you might think I’m just a cry baby (which I am, so I’m happy to share that as well).

There’s a part in the movie (and it’s the trailer, so this isn’t a spoiler) where a comment is made as to why straight people don’t have to come out.  That got me thinking….

I think they should… I think we all should “come out”, but sadly, many of us never do.  I’m not talking about our sexuality here, I’m talking about something way more intimate – coming out as who we are.

I can imagine that telling your family and friends that you’re gay is incredibly scary, but it’s just as hard to share your authentic self…. the imperfect, crazy, sinful, broken-hearted person that you are; that I am; that we all are.  It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, we are all pretty messed up – and that’s okay.  That’s what we are supposed to be.  That’s actually what drives us to seek God, although we often look for substitutes before we get on the right path (but, that’s a blog for another day).

I understand why people don’t want to share their imperfections – because judgment hurts.  Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, especially if they’re different from you.  I think we need to create a culture where it’s okay to be different and stop trying to be the judge of everyone’s life.  God is the only judge that matters (well, other than our court system, which I am not trying to minimize here).

God will judge us (Revelation 20:11-15), that’s biblical.  And, it’s also biblical for Christians to judge other Christians in a well-defined manner (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).  This type of “discipline” is to be done in love, bathed in prayer, and it’s vitally important to remember to make sure we are looking first to our “logs” before our brother’s “specks” (Matthew 7:1-5).  I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of my own logs to worry about before I start condemning random people for their sins.

God commands me to love… (Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13; etc, etc – lots of this in the Bible).  Love means accepting people who are different than you.  Let me phrase that a little differently… Love means accepting people who sin differently than you.  Love means seeking to understand the emotions and feelings that are beneath other people’s choices and truly getting to the heart of the matter.  And, if we are completely honest, the “heart of the matter” is often a scarred, beat up, abused, terrible mess.  I know mine is!

Love means being vulnerable with those closest to you and accepting their vulnerability when they share it with you.  And while you may not agree with who they are or the choices they make, showing them grace and mercy rather than condemnation.  We also should commend their bravery for sharing intimate details of their life because that’s never easy, and again, I am talking about more than just sexuality.

Shame and guilt are from the devil.  While we should not be proud of our sins, we shouldn’t feel ashamed to share who we are, sin and all.  We are all sinful people.  It’s nothing to be afraid of.  We live in a broken world; horrible things happen; it’s heartbreaking.  That all started with Adam and Eve and it’s only going to get worse before it ultimately gets better when Jesus comes back for eternity.

Why add to the world’s problems by shaming and condemning others for who they are or what they choose?  We all have tons of our own problems to work on, so there’s no reason to add to our list of sins by being critical of others.

And when the person we are shaming doesn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all that happens is they get pushed farther away from desiring to know God.  I feel like if we, as believers, show compassion to everyone, regardless of how they sin differently, we would present Christianity in a much better light.  Sometimes I feel that unbelievers do a better job of showing love and mercy than we Christians do, and that makes me sad.

I look forward to living in a world where we see our similarities, not our differences; where we can respectfully agree to disagree when we don’t see things the same; where we seek out to better understand why we disagree without it becoming an argument.

I had a very open conversation with a Muslim while in Senegal and it was amazing.  I see our differences, but I also see where we are the same.  I didn’t feel led to argue about right and wrong.  I simply told him what I believed and he told me what he believed.  I shared my perspective and I listened to his perspective.  It was simply beautiful.  I want this in all areas of life.

I need to do my part in this.  I want to share more openly how I feel, and I want to listen better to how others feel.  I don’t want to start debates of what is “right” and what is “wrong”.  If you ask me for my beliefs and opinions, I want to be honest with you, even if it’s not what you want to hear, but I don’t want it to turn into an argument.  We can agree to disagree, but it’s important that we share our authentic selves and not wear a mask.  I do this pretty well with a couple of my long-time friends because after all these years they “get” me, but I want to be like this with everyone and not feel like I have to dance around my feelings so as not to offend.  My motivation is never to offend… I just want to hear and be heard.

I used to be better at this than I am now.  I guess it’s easier when you’re young, single, and carefree.  But, now, I have more intimate grown-up relationships, where I want everyone to feel free to be honest about what they truly believe without it turning into something ugly.  I’ve experienced enough “ugly” to last a lifetime, so I’m ready for things to change.

I mentioned crying after seeing Love, Simon….the whole way home…. Now, I am going to be vulnerable and tell you why.

I cried because despite having a blog called “Authentic Believer”, I hardly write blogs of any real significance anymore.  Why?  I guess it’s because I am struggling with intimacy in my marriage and if I can’t share my true self with my husband, how can I share my authentic feelings publicly?

I cried because just yesterday morning, I had an assignment in this marriage book and workbook I am working through (it’s called “How We Love”) that told my avoider self to ask people for help even if I don’t think I need it.  It even says that this will be difficult and to ask God to help you first recognize and acknowledge your needs.  I did that, but I still didn’t recognize or acknowledge my need.  I needed to invite my husband to see Love, Simon with me.  I needed him to understand why it was important for me to see it.  But, instead, I encouraged him to go hang out with his youngest son because he just returned from visiting his mother during spring break.

I couldn’t invite him to see the movie because I was afraid he wouldn’t want to go or wouldn’t appreciate it the same way as me.  I couldn’t even talk to him about the movie, other than to say it was good.  I am crying as I type this because it’s terrible I am so afraid of our differences that it’s easier to post my feelings for the whole world to see than to just tell my husband how I feel.  I’ve always been a better writer than talker; I guess that’s part of it.

This intimacy part is blog lagniappe; I didn’t even intend to go here at all, but I needed to to be authentic… and just for the record, the feelings I shared above are not about my husband. He is a wonderful man, he loves me for me, and he’s incredibly compassionate and great with emotions (unlike me).  This intimacy problem is all me, my husband tries so hard, but it’s my issue.  I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that.

I am going to try and blog more and let everyone know who I really am; if I am going to be an authentic believer, I need to be authentic.  I think some people think they know me better than I know myself.  But, that’s not true, I know myself really well; I just don’t always share it very well.  I hope that will change.

I always like to end my blogs with a verse, but I didn’t know the right one until attending church. I’m including it here:

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

#thxsimon

Relationships and God

It’s been a while since I have written on my blog, partly because I haven’t been spending much time alone, but also because the writing I have done has been deeply personal (even for me) and is not something I feel I should share publicly, as it affects more than just me.  However, today, I had a conversation with a friend that made me want to try and explain what God has been teaching me and where I am in my spiritual walk.  I’m not sure this will end up blog worthy, but it’s a step up from simply writing in my journal, so let’s see what happens.

A friend of mine, who has also never been married and is not currently interested in dating, was telling me about her friend’s engagement and the conversation soon turned to our experiences in relationships.  It has been a very long time since I have been in a relationship, for good reason, as I have never been too successful in that department.  My last attempt was a complete disaster, and the ones when I was younger were not much better.  I have blogged about all of this before, although I took down one of my more insightful blogs written in December 2011 because I was hesitant about portraying anyone in a negative light.  However, while it’s easy to blame other people for your problems, the reality is that my struggles in the relationship department have more to do with my relationship with God than my experiences in life.

I think that’s why I want to publicly share my thoughts on this topic, because when I was talking to my friend about everything, she told me it is good that my current relationship is based on God, as she doesn’t even think of God when she considers dating.  I said this is a relatively new feeling for me, and explained how looking at love and marriage through the lens of God is the only way I could ever envision it working out for me. 

I have always said that it’s good I never married as I would have ended up getting divorced or being miserable, and that’s a very true statement.  Part of this is that I was a huge perfectionist, and wanted this perfect prince to sweep me off my feet, so we could live happily ever after.  But, I had a very negative self-image and never really felt worthy of such a prince, and thus didn’t looked for the right men in the right places, nor did I give them much reason to respect me.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture… Bottom line, God was not remotely involved in my desires, much less the center of my world.

All of this began to change in 2007 when I became a Christian, but my relationship dysfunction was still very prevalent when I wrote that blog in December 2011.  God has definitely been getting through to me ever since that time, and while He still has a long way to go, I am beginning to see everything differently.  It has been and will continue to be a struggle, but it’s definitely drawing me closer to God, and that tells me it’s a good thing.

Studying God’s covenant with us and realizing that marriage is a model for Christ’s relationship with the Church has really opened my eyes to how everything is supposed to work. Even at our recent women’s retreat, the speaker made a great comment about marriage. She said that marriage is being faithful in spite of how the other person is behaving, which is how God has always been faithful to the Church.

I am far from perfect and I disappoint God every day, often because I choose to. Yet, God still upholds His end of the bargain, every day, despite my many failures. I do not deserve His love, yet He lavishes it on me completely. For the first time in my life, I see that a marriage isn’t supposed to be about me, but rather about glorifying God and putting an imperfect person ahead of myself. I fully want to share the grace that God has given me.

If God can love me selflessly, why would I not strive to love my husband in this manner?

If God forgives me every time I stumble, why would I not want to show my husband the same grace and mercy?

If God’s way is always shown to be better than mine, why wouldn’t I consider letting go of my control and following His plan completely, including His model for marriage?

I honestly don’t see how a marriage could ever work without God being the center of both people’s lives. I assume most people are just as flawed as I am and not only mess up with God, but mess up with each other frequently! If I was married, I know I would constantly let my husband down trying to live in my own strength. I think this could easily lead to anger and resentment in the absence of God. Even with God as the basis for the relationship, the potential is still there because we live in a fallen world and people tend to be quite selfish. I am realistic enough to admit that simply seeing God’s way as the answer does not make it easier to get everything right. There are currently many ways I *want* to glorify God and I am falling short, so I know my desires are not enough on their own. Marriage would be a daily struggle with the flesh, just like everything else in life. But, anyone who has known me for a while realizes that even getting to this place emotionally and spiritually is huge for me.

I am so grateful that God brought an amazing man into my life, one who has his own set of challenges.  I love how everything has happened, not necessarily in the way I have “wanted”, but in a way that provides incredible opportunities for me to grow personally and learn to trust God for everything. I honestly find the struggles to be more meaningful than if everything went the way I envisioned. I am slowly letting go of my need to control everything related to my life. I love how God keeps bringing transparent people into my life who are dealing with issues that seem to perfectly tie into what I am experiencing.  I can see God’s hand in everything I do and that is such an incredible comfort and blessing. I am truly enjoying the journey more than any other time in my life and it’s all because of God…

Heart Purification

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8, ESV).

I posted on Facebook earlier that the K-Love verse of the day was Matthew 5:8, and that today’s lesson from my Aunt’s Max Lucado “Experiencing the Heart of Jesus” Bible study was on the Beatitudes. 

“Coincidences” like this tend to get me thinking….and the following paragraph from Lucado really got my brain going this morning:  “And though your heart isn’t perfect, it isn’t rotten.  And though you aren’t invincible, at least you’re plugged in.  And you can bet that he who made you knows just how to purify you – from the inside out.”

God knows how to purify you from the inside out… Why, yes, He does, even when you’re not looking for Him to!  In fact, God started working on my heart years before I was saved.   I believe this was necessary for me to fully embrace His love for me.

When I look back to the relationships and other experiences I had during college and graduate school, it was clear that my heart was non-existent.  I was closed to receiving love from others and tended to push people away when they tried to get too close.  The rational behind this could be a dissertation in itself, so I will spare you the details, but basically, I kept my heart safe, so no one could hurt me.  Instead of opening my heart to the possibility of things I didn’t understand, I hardened my heart, refusing to let anyone in.

Luckily, God slowly began softening my heart and planting seeds that would one day allow me to realize His love.

The major chisel to my hardened heart was the birth of my son.  I have learned so much about how to love by becoming a mother than from anything I have ever experienced.  Most people try to teach their children to love as they do; but, I can honestly say that my ability to love has resulted from my son teaching me!  I wish I could say that I learned the first time I held him in my arms, but like everything, it’s been a process.  Early on, I failed more often than I succeeded, but God gave me a wonderful boy, who always loved me in spite of my many imperfections as a mother.  I am grateful that my son and I are finally to a place where we can both learn from one another!

The next major chisel to my heart problem was the realization that my life was not where I wanted it to be.  I was still not a Christian, so I cannot really cite this verse as the basis for my change, but looking back, it makes perfect sense:   Get rid of the sins you have done, and get for yourselves a new heart and a new way of thinking (Ezekiel 18:31, NCV).

I knew some things in my life had to change, even before I knew I needed God.   Again, this is backwards thinking!   We should realize we need God, and allow Him to change us, but that’s not how it initially worked, likely because I did not have an understanding of God’s grace from my Catholic upbringing.  But, even though I was not seeking God, He was always chasing after me!

Slowly, my heart began to change, and I became open to loving other people and letting them into my heart.  However, as with anything new, it wasn’t a smooth process.  I ended up being manipulated and found myself in a dangerous situation.  But, despite the pain that resulted from my naïve heart, God used this experience to bring me to church, and by this point, my heart was ready to know Him.  Even though some people may not understand my feelings, I have absolutely no regrets, as this led me to learn about God’s amazing grace, Jesus’ unfailing love, and ultimately gave me eternal life!

To me, the most surprising thing is that afterwards, I did not go back to the “safety” of my hardened heart, as I would have expected, but rather I learned to trust God with my heart.  And, while the road has not always been smooth, and my humanness tends to complicate matters, I know I am headed in the direction that He desires for me. 

I’m being purified from the inside out, and as this is happening, I am able to see God more clearly.  Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).”

A Fool and Her Mouth – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 ESV).”

These verses have intimidated me for a few weeks now, but it’s finally time to tackle them. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly where this blog is going to go… You see, I’m going through a period in my life right now where I’m trying to become more peaceful regarding who I am. I have become more open about myself to people who might not understand; I have shared my writing with my Facebook friends; I’m working to be completely confident in my thoughts, feelings, and actions. As a result, which I’m sure won’t come as too much of a shock to anyone who knows me well… I am being constantly reminded that I use a lot of words!

“Therefore let your words be few…a fool’s voice (comes) with many words; when…words grow many, there is vanity.” Oh boy… Am I a fool, or what? Thankfully, the commentary and the context of these verses make me feel a little better. The fool here is one who provides “lip-service” for the sake of looking spiritual, when in reality, their heart is far from God. The commentary says, “Sincerity, by contrast, is to be the mark of the Christian.” Phew! I’m sincere, so that makes me feel better….

One important takeaway from this passage is that our words and actions should be consistent. We should strive to always do what we say we’re going to do, and never promise something we have no business making, or worse yet, no intention of fulfilling. We have been studying the book of Judges in church, and a couple of weeks ago, our sermon was about how Jephthah made a vow with God that wasn’t particularly well thought out (Judges 11). Being unfamiliar with this story prior to hearing it, I must admit that I struggled with this sermon, and still do not completely understand everything. However, one thing is perfectly clear – it is of vital importance to clearly think through the promises we make to the Lord!

The commentary makes some other excellent points regarding when to speak and when to listen. The Bible says “Hear, O Israel” rather than “Speak, O Israel”. Jesus also says “He who has ears, let him here” rather than “She who has a mouth, let her speak.” There are many contemporary expressions that go along with this… My personal favorite is “Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver.”

I am comfortable joking about the fact that I am verbose, but I do strive to use my words wisely for building relationships and encouraging others, rather than for tearing people down and being hateful. I pray that my words, while sometimes plentiful, serve to show my love for God and for others. As Ecclesiastes 3:7 mentioned, there is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

But, sometimes I speak too much… I know this; I don’t always want to take it seriously, but it’s an ever present reality. It’s definitely a societal ailment to embrace noise over silence. But, there is a time for silence…

I have a verse on the wall above the television in my living room. It says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).” In the ESV, the latter part is translated “you have only to be silent”. I need reminder of this truth….every day, every second, which is why this was the first scripture to adorn my walls.

I strive to be a Christian who revers God and remains in constant awe of His power and mercy. I pray that I am not found guilty of turning God into a false god, a construct of my selfishness, which seeks to promote my own will, rather than His amazing plans for my life. In order to live the life He desires for me, I must keep His greatness (of which I fall incredibly short) at the forefront of my worship, and that requires me to be silenced and humbled by His presence. It also requires me to be patient with His plan, as I am His work in progress, and will not be perfected overnight.

Love God, love people, daily surrender, completely trusting in His plan…. Yeah, that’s what it’s all about!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)”

The Only Perfect Relationship (May 6, 2009)

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that my Prince Charming would come, sweep me off my feet, and carry me away on his white horse.  I developed a strong liking for romantic comedies and bizarre love stories, imagining myself in the lead role, desperately wanting a similar story to happen to me.  I’ve met some potential princes (as well as some eternal frogs) over the years, but have never found the lifelong connection I’ve always dreamed of.  Most of my long-time friends and even my younger cousins have married, but yet I remain – always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  Poor me, I thought – there must be something wrong with me.  Perhaps I’m not thin enough, feminine enough, or loving enough.  Maybe if I work on these characteristics, I’ll finally meet my destiny…

I was right to look inward to better understand my difficulty with relationships.  You see, my struggles were not only about dating – even my relationships with girlfriends and family were never as strong as I thought they should be.  The problem turned out to be that I had expectations for people that they could not possibly achieve.  I looked to them to make up for my weaknesses, solve all of my problems, and tried to ‘better’ them in return, thus not developing healthy boundaries.  I demanded perfection from others, as I often do myself, not remembering that we’re all fallen humans, destined to make mistakes.  Academically, I knew that only God was perfect, but in reality, I was looking to other humans to meet my personal needs and was trying to meet their needs, when, instead, everyone should been turning to God.

I don’t think I’m alone when it comes to this; I’m sure many of us turn to humans for things that only God can help us with.  Think about it – when you’ve been drained emotionally or upset with someone or something, where do you turn to help in alleviate your frustrations?  Is it your husband, your best friend, or maybe even the first person you run into?  I challenge you to go to God first.  God is always there for us.  He cares for us though all of our struggles.  He is our rock, our foundation, our very best friend!  When we are going through tough times, He wants us to seek him first, putting our complete trust in Him, allowing Him to guide us through the storms of life.  By looking to God first, we save ourselves the disappointment of being let down in our mortal relationships, and can focus completely on His truth and the paths He desires.

As far as Mr. Right, and my other interpersonal issues – I’m not worried anymore.  I know that if I continue to improve my relationship with God, everything else will work out.  I no longer have unattainable expectations for my friends, boyfriends, family members, or even my own reciprocation in relationships.  I don’t expect people to ‘fix’ me, and I’ve stopped trying to ‘fix’ others.  When something needs fixing, I take it directly to the person who can handle it, the only one who can deliver perfection – Jesus Christ!

Psalm 32:8-10 (ESV) “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.  Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.”

Navigating Life – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, KJV)

These are the lyrics of the song “Turn Turn Turn” made famous by the Byrds’. As I mentioned in my introduction to this study, I loved hearing this song performed by a church praise team several years ago. I later learned that the lyrics of the song are identical to the King James translation of this scripture, with the exception of the title phrase and the last line, referring to peace, “I swear it’s not too late”. It’s incredibly cool that a mainstream rock band chose to sing a song straight from the Bible! Even today, I love how contestants on American Idol and other pop-culture musicians have embraced contemporary Christian music. This genre may not be mainstream, but it’s wonderful to see so many younger musicians with a heart for God’s Word.

When I read these eight verses, I see a picture of life. There are fourteen pairs of actions that are polar opposites of each other. The order was discussed briefly in the commentary, but I don’t feel arrangement is the major takeaway, other than the first pair being about life and death; the ultimate extremes of the mortal life. The remaining pairs describe events that may occur in each of our lives on earth. Is the focus of this passage really meant to be on world peace, as the song suggests? I’m not so sure – if anything, I would take it to mean eternal peace, as there will not be peace on earth during our lifetimes.

I was thinking about these verses, in the context of my life, and I couldn’t help but tie it to interpersonal relationships. As I mentioned, to me, these verses paint a picture of our mortal lives. During our time on earth, experiences will take us from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. There will be times when we are enjoying every aspect of life and everything seems to be clicking. Our lives are fruitful; we are full of joy and hope, knowing nothing is impossible with God. However, there will also be times in life when we are questioning God’s plan, as we struggle through periods of darkness and hopelessness. It doesn’t matter who we are or how much control we think we have over our lives, every one of us will experience each of these extremes at some point in our life.

Luckily, the timing of the highs and lows will likely not be the same for everyone. This brings up the importance of authentic relationships! We were not created to live in isolation; we were designed to interact with other people – and these relationships are necessary to help us through the rough patches in our lives. The truth is, we need other people and other people need us! And, this needing is more than a “Hey, how are you?” “I’m fine.” We need to be emotionally invested in the lives of others, and allow others to know who we truly are, without our masks.

It’s pretty safe to say that we are pre-wired to be this way. As a culture, we love to gossip and we seem obsessed with reality television. We are clearly interested in the lives of others, but we sometimes like to do so from an arms-length to (I believe) keep our feelings in check. We enjoy the good parts without allowing ourselves to experience the pain. We can use other people’s experiences to feel better about ourselves without having to show our own ugly parts. However, I believe we were called for more.

The truth is, reality television would be unnecessary if we fully immersed ourselves in the reality of people within our circle of influence. We can help our friends through their difficulties and share their joy in the good times. They can do the same for us. The benefit is that no one needs to feel they are in this alone. Having close relationships is definitely a win-win situation for everyone.

God is showing me so many things through the lives of others. Most importantly, he’s teaching me how to love unconditionally. I certainly don’t like to see anyone go through a painful time, so seeing people near their rock-bottom completely breaks my heart. But, it also makes me want to do whatever I can to encourage, help, and share their pain. I also have the amazing privilege of sharing in their victories as God helps them overcome the darkness they are experiencing.

One of my friends has impressed me with her faith and perseverance through a horrible situation. I can clearly see the hand of God in her life, maybe better than she can at this point, and how He’s helping her grow and gain wisdom. It’s a truly amazing thing and such a blessing, hopefully in both of our lives!

I love how God brings people together at the exact moment they need each other. I treasure my friends who are always there for me when I am weak, and I pray that God will continue use me to help others when they are struggling. We really aren’t in this alone; we do need each other! Together, with God’s help, we can persevere and grow, with joy, throughout all of the seasons of our life!

When asked by a scribe what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).”

The god of Football?

Let me say right off the top that I am a football fan – have been ever since my grandmother and I used to watch games together when I was two. We used to bet on the games… a nickel for every game our team played, and a dollar for the Superbowl. We had season tickets to our NFL team when I was an adolescent. I have played Fantasy Football with my old church for the past four years. I know and love the game….but, hopefully my affection for football stays at the “fan” level and doesn’t cross into “follower” or “fanatic”!

It’s playoff season for the NFL, and the bowl games just culminated with Alabama beating LSU in the National Championship last night. I even attended a “lesser” bowl game with some friends this season – my first ever college bowl game! I think that’s why this particular topic has been on my heart lately.

I assure you that I mean no disrespect or condemnation regarding what I’m going to say. I have plenty of my own planks to worry about – but, there is definitely a positive takeaway from my thoughts.

These questions came up on Sunday (and I’m certain it has been asked in seasons before). Does God like football? Is God involved in the game of football? Does He only cheer for Christian players? If Tim Tebow played Drew “Brees-us” in the Superbowl, which team would God pick?

I think part of the fascination is in light of Tim Tebow passing for 316 yards on Sunday, and winning games that he probably shouldn’t (Sunday is an exception, Denver definitely outplayed the Steelers). People have been talking about the “miracles” involving Tebow all season! The same thoughts came about when the Saints won the Superbowl a couple of years ago.

Someone posted on a friend’s Facebook (I can’t find the quote, so this is a paraphrase) that God gave each of us gifts and talents, including the ability to play sports, and He likes when players glorify Him in everything they do. I believe that is true, and I believe you can glorify God in everything you do – whether that be singing praise songs, helping a stranger, or playing football. If true glory is given completely to Him, that is a great thing!

I don’t know much about Tim Tebow or Drew Brees, but I do get the impression they are authentic believers. And, that’s awesome! I think they have a special opportunity to show their love for Christ on a National scale, although it must be hard to not let pride take over and humbly give God all of the glory. I certainly do not envy their status, as the pressure must be immense!

The question remains….does God like football? I cannot really speak for God on this exact topic, but l do know He says “You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3)”. And, that does include the god of football.

Bear with me, here, let me explain…

An idol is anything that takes our focus off of the one true God. An idol does not have to be another being, or a graven image; it can be anything that we love excessively or more than we love God.

We all have idols in our lives, and it’s good to examine them from time to time. One way to look at what idols are influencing you is to see how you spend your time and money. This can be very humbling, but it also is a good depiction of what you value.

From what I’ve seen in the past few months, many people love football… I mean, really….love….football! More than God? Only God knows the true extent of that, but it really got me thinking….

Have you seen the fervor with which some people sing college fight songs? The whole stadium chanting loudly, sometimes with arms around each other, boldly proclaiming their love for their team. Imagine how beautiful it would be for us all to sing praise songs to God with that same enthusiasm!

Have you seen how excited people get about play-off games and bowl games? How amazing would it be to channel that energy into Bible study or church!

Have you noticed how emotionally involved people become while watching games that are nail-biters? It’s a wonder some people don’t have heart attacks! How incredible would it be to be that invested in our relationship with Jesus!

I sincerely believe that God uses football for His glory, but also that Satan can use football to take our focus off of God. How perfect would it be if we could use our love of non-spiritual things, such as football, as a model for how to love God and other people?

That would be a perfect 14-0 season for sure!