How I’m Spending My Twenties

Several months ago, I was passing time in a local bookstore scanning through random books. I remember picking up a woman’s memoir or self-help book of some sort, and I caught a quote from the back cover that has stuck with me ever since.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

The words are simple but they sunk in heavy. It encapsulated how I felt for most of my twenties. I still remember my first day at my first job out of college. And all the other jobs after that. Yet I find myself here, at the beginning of June, and I can’t tell you how I got here. The years are short.

Oddly enough, when I’m catching up with old friends, I often find myself muttering the same words. If you were to ask me what’s new in my life, I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m kinda slow in the milestone department. No wife. No kids. No house. “Just work, that’s it.” The days are long.

It’s a weird time in life because I feel like I’m caught in the middle of two worlds. I have friends who have long settled into the next chapter of their lives, married with a kid or two in tow. (These are the ones responsible for half of my book sales–so thank you.) I also have friends who are still hanging onto the vestiges of their youth, playing the same cards until it’s out of their system–whatever that means. Me personally? I’m at a crossroads; I’m ready to board but my train hasn’t yet arrived.

There is a temptation to follow the paths of those who’ve gone before me. I wonder what it would be like to be a husband, to wake up early some mornings and cook her favorite breakfast or write her little notes, or how I’d have to think up something clever to make up for doing something stupid, which would probably be every other day. I also wonder what it would be like to be a father. My closest experience was found caring for my little cousin Justin for his first 13 years. Lord knows I would love to be a father.

But for whatever reason, it’s not now. So, in the meantime, I’m actively waiting.

Waiting…

And waiting.

There is something sublime that happens in this waiting period. For one, waiting puts you back in your place. You can’t always get everything you want, whenever you want. Waiting also benefits you in the end. It will intensify your joy and appreciation of that prized object when it does arrive.

I wrestled with this lesson a few weeks ago. Literally. I was rolling with my friends in jiu jitsu. It was my first time, and I wasn’t on the mat very long, but by the end of the night I was spent. I had exerted so much energy trying to attack, predict and defend against the opponent’s moves, but my friends pinned me easily, breaking little sweat. My friend Josh later pulled me aside. He said the ones who excel are not only sound technically, but also patient. Before they execute their moves, they would wait for opponents to make a mistake or tire themselves out. That’s what separates the good from the best. I thought that was rather poetic. Even in a physical, full-contact sport, there is a time and place for waiting.

The waiting room. It is a hard place to be in, no doubt, when most of my peers are jumping and sprinting to their next stages in career and family. But when I learn to embrace this place, it’s like there comes a serenity that falls upon me, wraps around my mind and holds my soul together.

I don’t know when my train will arrive. Some days I even wonder if. But I stopped looking at my watch. When I take the time to look around me, beyond me, the world opens up. There is so much more beauty than I ever cared to notice.

——

“It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst…and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry…you will someday.” – Lester 

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Germany, Gospel and Last Samurai

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There are some trips you take that help you to recharge, perhaps to break away from normal routine if nothing more. Then there are others that exist to merely entertain and indulge your senses. Still there are a few that seem to mark your life in a significant way, trips from which you take away lessons or impressions that will stay with you long and true for the next leg of your journey.

When I initially flew out to Germany, I didn’t think it would be that kind of trip. After all, the primary reason for the visit was business, and I was spending only a week in town. I figured, if anything, I’d book an extra weekend so that I might actually explore Germany beyond the view from my office window. To be quite frank(furt), I wasn’t expecting much other than to say I did my 40 hours and stuffed myself with brats and bier. But sometimes these things hit you when you least expect it.

I guess it starts with the country terrain. The land alone is beautiful. Lots of trees, mountains, rivers. (I say this knowing fully that I only explored one region [and a half, I suppose, if you count my day in Heidelberg] and that there is so much more to see.) But as Friedrich would show you, the Germans are inseparable from mother nature. Germany is a biker and hiker’s dream. In addition, there is a lot of history contained in the country, as evidenced by several castles, cathedrals, and government buildings. Not to mention, the people are friendly–most of them speak decent English–and the food was wonderful. If the trip consisted only of this, I’d have been plenty satisfied.

Yet what stood out most was the people. The Germans are a very direct people. They will be upfront with you when pressed with something, and when they say something they mean it. My roommate Matt told me not to greet Germans with “How are you?” because over there it is not a trite greeting. “If you ask, expect an answer that is anything but good.” Because they will tell you how they are doing, really. It was refreshing because I didn’t have to second guess their intentions or what they were really trying to say. Their words are measured carefully. (Which reflects heavily upon me as a man. Do I measure my words carefully? Do I mean what I say, do I follow through on my commitments, is my word my bond?)

So, the few people I met there who considered themselves “Christians” really meant it. They lived out their faith. Their words and actions validated their claims. It was none of this going-to-Sunday-church-but-living-godless-Monday-to-Saturday business. When they say they are committed to being a disciple of Christ, they show what it means to have a definitive break from the world. It means they will say yes to doing some hard things, no to some others, and that persecution from family and friends is expected. They understand they will look weird to the world. They have counted the costs and determined that he is worth it.

Throughout my week, outside of work, I felt like I was on a missions trip, with the main difference being that the mission was me. I felt a bit like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, where I was coming into contact with a new culture and people that reflected a way of living I had not known before. I experienced sincere kindness from people who consistently sacrificed time and energy to share their lives with me. On a pizza & movie night, I witnessed how a man devoted himself to loving his wife and four kids. I thought to myself, He’s got it right. I want to be like that one day. The German believers made me reconsider how I was living and approaching life, and the beauty in their lives inevitably led me to rediscover the beauty in mine.

What’s more, I think it made me reconsider my bearings on the gospel. Do I truly believe in what Christ has done for me? Do I believe in his power to change my life? How am I reorienting my life–how does it look different–if I claim to be a disciple? I say I believe in God’s all-sufficient grace, but I’m afraid I still live most days with an identity wrapped around what I achieve and what others think of me.

There is still much to process, but I’m thankful for trips like this. God not only gave me what I wanted, but what I needed. It’s like a kid who expected action figures for Christmas and got a shiny bike instead. He went the extra mile to surprise me. Thanks, God.

Only time will tell where this bike will take me.

jeremie. life after

It was a weird time, if there ever was any, to go on a missions trip. Over a year ago, when I first heard about the opportunity, it sounded good. I sponsored a child in Port-au-Prince and I was intrigued by the chance to visit him in his native land. I was further motivated by the devastation brought upon by the earthquake that struck two years earlier.

But much can change in a year. In that span, I’ve lost friendships and rekindled old ones. I’ve had to deal with my waning passion for church work and reassess my direction and vision. And somewhere in there plans to visit my sponsor child fell through. On top of all this I was tired of traveling–this would be my fifth trip in two months.

This all hit me the night before I prepared to depart. My life was busy, but worse, I possessed a busier heart and mind. I was wrestling with a raging man inside of me who gave little sense of purpose and offered no rest. What was my reason for going? What did I expect to discover? Would I actually do more harm than good?

An unbelievable calm came over me once I got on that plane. If but for a moment, all the questions were settled. Love was the answer. “As I receive and extend loving grace through Christ at home, I look to receive and extend loving grace in Haiti.” That was what I had stated as my mission–now I just had to go out there and do it.

My time in Jeremie, a small town along the western coast of Haiti, would challenge me on this very front. During the week I was there, I spent five days on a medical team working intake (triage) for our physicians. This required recording patient vitals: blood pressure, temperature, pulse, height, weight, and general diagnosis. It was sad to see the extent of their pain. Some were seriously sick, many were sick simply because they were hungry and malnourished.

Yet in spite of hardship, the Haitians are a strong and resilient people. They’re no stranger to suffering, and perhaps it is because of it they are able to love and embrace life more openly. More simply. They don’t take for granted the small things. And in many ways, I was envious of what many Christians there possess–a purity and passion to their worship. I won’t over-romanticize it, because they have their own flaws and shortcomings, but when I was around them I didn’t worry about how I dressed or how much money I made. I was reminded of how similar we are, how we all need love, healing, redemption and purpose.

It is hard to admit that I have a very small capacity to love. I thought I loved people, but what I had discovered was that my love was limited: based on my own terms, within my bounds or comfort. When the orphans ran up to me and played with my hair, I was afraid I’d get lice. I wanted to keep them at a distance, at a place where I could love them yet still be safe.

That’s the thing about God that trips me out. I think C.S. Lewis had a great quote about this. “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” To not be safe. As many reasons as God has to not love broken, sinful people, He still does. He reaches out and gets dirty. He does so with no guarantee that love will be returned. His love knows no conditions, no reservations, no bounds.

It seems like God is constantly reminding me to look at the bigger picture, to understand His purposes and live life with a kingdom focus. It is difficult, knowing that inside I am divided in many ways. Pursuits of success, comfort, popularity and other desires. You might think that would change after a trip like this, but really, I don’t think it is that easy. I’m being placed back into the very waters I’ve been swimming all my life. Selfishness is what I breathe.

I don’t know what to do with what I’ve experienced and what I’ve witnessed. I guess things like this aren’t meant to be figured out right away; like they say, it takes time. But I just know that I can no longer come before God and say “I didn’t know.” I hope I figure it out. I hate missing out on a good story, especially the one God is trying to tell through my life.

To all my dear friends, family and fellow bloggers–thanks for reading and thanks for your support. Thoughts of you kept me strong during my time away. I covet your prayers as you so remember. It is a broken place, this world, but let us not be counted among the ones who did nothing to fix it. Godspeed in your journey.

Weighing In on Tebowmania

THREE MINUTES LEFT on the clock. Bears 10, Broncos 0. It’s been a rough three-and-a-half quarters for Denver, but Tebow has just completed his last five passes or something like that. Too little, too late? Fifty-two seconds later, the Broncos find the end-zone on a Tebow pass. No, this can’t be happening again…can it? The Broncos attempt a valiant on-side kick, but the Bears recovered. With no timeouts left, the Broncos are powerless to stop the Bears from simply running out the clock. Sigh, miracle averted…

Wait, did Barber just run out-of-bounds?!

Clock stopped. Another short run and the Bears punt it on fourth down. Broncos receive the ball with a minute left. Cue the bat signal–Tebow’s coming out with his cape. A few quick plays, a few long completions. First, he hits Decker, then it’s Thomas–like all of a sudden these gloves are dipped in super glue. Fourth down with about eight seconds remaining. Enter Matt Prater, the Broncos kicker, to attempt a 59-yarder to tie the game. (Um, that’s one yard short of sixty. That’s really, really long.) And the kick is…good (by about five yards)! You’ve got to be kidding me…are we really heading into overtime?

In extra time, the Bears win the coin-toss and elect to retrieve the ball. The Bears respond resiliently with several clutch plays including an amazing catch by Barber. Bears charge down the field and are in field-goal range. All they need is another down and the kicker has a very makeable three points. (Alas, I guess it’s too good to be true…) Hanie takes one last snap, hands off to Barber. He looks like he’s about to break away–wait, fumble! Scramble on the field, ball recovered by Broncos. UNBELIEVABLE. Now, Denver offense gets a chance to march down the field. And…

I don’t need to tell you the rest of the story. You know how it ends. Even Hollywood couldn’t come up with a script like this. Isn’t this stuff made of legends, things you might find in fairy tales or discover in movies? No, it’s real. I know it because I don’t own Madden 12 and I can’t mistake my TV images for a video game. I know it because I am staying up late on a work night to write an article about it. And I know it because, quite frankly, all of America is talking about it.

Indeed, I am just one of the latest and many to be swept away by Tebowmania.

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey! What is going on here?”

For those of you who haven’t been following this, you might be sounding a bit like Mr. Belding. Even if you haven’t been participating in Tebowmania directly (watching his games), you have probably been involved indirectly (engaged in conversations, news articles, or blogs). Chances are, if you are living in America and have any sort of access to the Internet and media, you have heard something having to do with a guy whose name rhymes with Lim Lebow.

So, what’s the big deal? Here’s the skinny: he’s a second-year QB out of Florida–a program that he helped lead to two national championships–with supposedly bad mechanics and lack of skill who is leading his team to a 7-1 resurgence after a dismal 1-4 start. And he’s doing it in dramatic fashion, with three wins in overtime and another three victories by a touchdown or less.

Oh, and by the way, he sure loves his Jesus. You might have heard it here or seen it there. All of which has sparked several debates on sports radio and TV stations across the country about sports, society, religion, and well, the intermingling of all three.

Whoa, blow the whistle–beeeeeeep! Timeout. All that sounds pretty heavy. I think we’ll need to break down the X’s and O’s and tackle each topic one by one.

Tebow the PLAYER

For starters, let’s talk about what we know about Tebow as a football player. He is a consummate winner. He’s done it all throughout his life–before all the national fanfare, before his Heisman award and two college championships, before his current string of wins in Denver. He did it when he was younger and he is doing it now. And he’s always been doing it in spite of criticism, when players and coaches would consistently deride him for playing out of position or not having the required skill sets to excel at the next level. It can be argued that Tebow’s ability to win is extra impressive because he is doing so in the constant face of adversity.

Tebow is a naturally fiery competitor. You don’t have to tell him to work hard, to put his body on the line for every play, to make decisions that would best lead his team to a W. He holds himself accountable for every completion, every miss, every play. He is a leader, not just by words but by actions. When his Florida Gators team faced a shocking loss to Ole Miss in 2008, he said: “You have never seen any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season.” Tebow would go on propel his team to another national championship later that year.

The talking heads all say that he hasn’t developed the tools to do the job right. By their accounts he shouldn’t be as successful as he has been. Tebow would be the first to tell you that he still has a lot to learn. I am by no means a football expert, but I do know enough basic math to differentiate between the winning and losing teams on a scoreboard. However you want to slice it, you can always count on Tebow to give nothing less than his one-hundred and figure out some sort of plan to eek out victories–even if they aren’t the prettiest.

Tebow the TEAMMATE

One of the things that could easily be lost in this whole “Mile High Messiah” talk is how much credit his entire team deserves. It would be easy to dismiss their contributions and efforts, if not for Tebow himself, who is always the first to deflect praise heaped on him and redirect it toward his fellow coaches and teammates. He’d say things like “My teammates and the coaching staff make me look better than I actually am.” It’s one thing to say it, but I think he truly believes that.

Let’s face it: when you are playing in a team sport, you cannot win a game single-handed. This is especially true in football, where every position is interconnected and affects the performance of the other. If receivers can’t catch, QBs don’t get the completion. If the O-line doesn’t block, the QB won’t have time to throw and the RBs won’t have holes to break through. Yet there exist many players who apparently didn’t get the memo. The NFL is filled with many prima donna stars who brag and boast of their contributions when they win and blame others when they lose.

You would never hear that from Tebow. By his leadership through words and action, he inspires his team to play harder and better–the Broncos love playing with Tebow. His athletic ability, along with his intangibles (personality and leadership), has changed the culture in the locker room. The Broncos might not field the most talent (see Packers, Patriots), but they believe they can and will win every game. And the entire team, from the head coach down to the waterboy, has bought into it. It is simply infectious.

Tebow the MAN and “Witness”

This is where the conversation really gets interesting. Religion has long been a divisive topic in America. Having a high-profile public figure who is very outward and expressive about his faith only propels the issue to the forefront. However, Tebow’s openness about his Christian faith and concurrent success have opened up the floodgates for dialogue between believers and non-believers alike.

For far too long, religion has been used as a tool by wayward politicians and crooked men to push their agendas. But with Tebow I never feel like he is trying to sell me anything or that he is anything other than what he’s expressing. He doesn’t come off as the super-perfect and “holier-than-thou” type. His humility and candor with which he addresses the public makes him rather likeable. He has been nothing short of gracious, even with his naysayers. If nothing else, I’d be willing to listen to his message simply because of his approach, even if I didn’t agree with it.

Look, I don’t know Tebow personally. I’ve never met him or spent a day with him. I do know that he does a lot of charity work, including overseeing his own foundation and building hospitals out in the Philippines. By many accounts, the man you see in the press conferences is the same man off the field and away from the spotlight. I don’t know what he is like behind closed doors, but I really hope this is true. (Read part of his amazing life story here.)

But you can’t tell me that Tebow doesn’t love God. And you cannot not respect him for his faith, even if you disagree with it. He is just someone who is sickly in love with Jesus. To watch someone love something that much…it’s inspiring. It’s like watching him reminds me how to love something or somebody the right way. Have I ever loved God in that way?

We always knock people for being hypocrites, for preaching moralism when their lips couldn’t be further from their lives. Why are we knocking the one guy who seems to be living what he preaches?

The Impact of Tebow on American Christianity

With all this being said, there are still many misconceptions that could arise. Here’s one that comes to the forefront of my mind.

Planking? That's so pre-Tebow 2011

In my 11 or so years of practicing the faith, I have only discovered how deep is the rabbit hole that leads to my own brokenness. The more I understand the Bible and fellowship with Jesus, the more I realize how I don’t think, talk, feel or act like Jesus. One would think that I’d have more answers by now, that my life would be more prosperous or successful or charming. If anything, it’s been more trials and difficulties. The more I read things like “he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” and “whoever wants to save his life will lose it” the more I come to see that the Bible has a lot of hard sayings. Jesus didn’t mince words. He cuts to the core and exposes my pride and inner rebellion against God. It is easy to believe that this “Tebow-inspired” brand of Christianity means that once you convert you will become a winner (or that you are only qualified to be a Christian if you are a winner). After all, Tebow sure looks like he’s invincible, doesn’t he? The opposite could not be more true.

The fact of the matter is, Christianity is for losers. Some people say it’s a crutch, and it’s true. But the difference between the atheist and the believer is that the believer understands the reality and his need for a crutch, whereas the atheist denies it. Jesus is for people who are willing to admit that they don’t have it all together. As Don Miller says, “A beggar’s kingdom is better than a proud man’s delusion.”

Consider this my warning (and sermon). Jesus came to heal and love the lame, the prostitutes, the tax-collectors and sinners. And he ultimately died to pay the consequence of our mistakes, rising again on the third day to prove that he has power over death and sin. But he is not a genie. And he is NOT who the media has made him out to be: white, middle-class, Republican Jesus. Jesus is who he claims to be, even if his followers aren’t.

If you decide to follow him, life might just get a bit tougher. But everyone who ever became a Christian eventually had to ask themselves, is Jesus worth it?

The Test of Tim(e)

“It is unbelievably believable.” These words delivered from Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III could be just as fitting for Tim Tebow at this moment. Are we witnessing a modern-day David vs. Goliath story? He’s not supposed to be doing this, he’s not supposed to be winning, and yet it somehow miraculously happens week after week.

But there will come a time when the Tim Tebow magic runs out. When he fails, when he stops winning games. Certainly, I only wish him the best, but in some ways I am curious as to when that day arrives. Why?

A true test of character is not in how someone deals with victory, but in how he handles defeat. Leo Tolstoy once wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I often like to extrapolate the principle underlying this quote. Everybody celebrates in a similar fashion when they are victorious, but how do they cope with the sting of loss? Do they handle it with dignity and grace? Or do they reveal themselves to be a fool? Each person reacts differently.

From what I’ve seen so far of Tim Tebow, I have a feeling that the score at the end of the game won’t change him. After all, the most amazing thing about this story is not how he keeps winning, but rather how he’s stayed so cool about it through it all.

Here’s to you, Tim Tebow. GB^2

Navigating the Story

I’ve always known that life is messy. It’s a concept that’s addressed through countless books and film and reinforced through personal experience. It’s a known fact. Yet, what I’m starting to wonder is how much of this inkblot is due to my own making. Let me explain.

As a writer and student of literature, I have always been taught to look for subtext. “Not everything is as it seems.” It is always more than meets the eye, deeper meanings hidden behind people and places and stories. Connotations. It’s the subtle nuances behind words and the contexts in which they are placed that allow us to arrive at the same destination and come to different conclusions. When I apply this sort of thinking beyond books and into the realm of life, I tend to look at my life as a story. The idea itself isn’t much of a stretch–after all, our lives are punctuated by the very conflicts, climaxes and resolutions from which our art is derived. Nor is it a wrong to think in this manner–in fact, more of us need to be aware of our place in the bigger picture.

Rather, what I am mainly addressing here is the problem that arises when one is not only aware his life is a story but begins to force elements into the story that do not belong. In other words, you begin to imagine the progression of your life and determine proudly to construct a conclusion by which it is the only way your story can end. For instance, if I believe I am supposed to find love like it is found in fairy tales, then I will sit at the coffee shop and wait for the “love at first sight” moment. In this case, I will not allow love to happen, perhaps more practically and less “romantically”, through online dating, set-ups, or the like–though it could very well be that is where you were meant to find it.

The chief issue is this–you want to be in control of your own story. You demand the pen. You want to write it. You want to shape your own plot, be the captain of your own ship. Thoreau novelized it with his beat of my own drummer ideology. Granted, who does not desire this sort of freedom? I do. In fact, I live most of my days as though this is true.

The problem is we are not capable of the task. You and I are no more capable of writing our own stories than a puppet is in creating his own speech. There are many things that fall out of my jurisdiction. I cannot control the stock market, my health, or even the people with whom I’m living. There are so many factors that are connected to life, why things do and do not happen. (How much of my life is reactionary as opposed to initialized?) It is nice to think that I have some semblance of freedom, of self-determinism, but in the end, as Shakespeare so tenderly puts it, “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players.”

If so, then maybe the goal in life isn’t so much about trying to break rank as it is about discovering what our roles are in this grand play. Am I Horatio trying to play the part of Hamlet? Or have I been cast merely in the background? Our confusion and failures lie in the possibility that we have denied who we were meant to be, what we were meant to do, with the talents and passions uniquely gifted to us, and rather tried to indulge in fantasies shaped by comfort and safety. The issue is not that we are too ambitious but that we are not truly aware of our role and our purpose.

I once thought that being the captain was divine until I realized that I had no clue as to where I was going or how I’d get there. I was shipwrecked, before being found by a greater Captain, one who knows the way to True North and brought me on board to join his grand adventure.

Yes, I’m merely a sailor. It sounds less exciting than captain, more dutiful than daring. But I rather be a sailor on a ship towards paradise than command my own boat to wreckage. In the end, I trust that the beauty which I will have experienced in the journey and destination will prove my rightful surrender.

My Addiction

I’ve been having a hard time getting over my addiction. I’ve been fighting this ever since I was born. Some days I just feel like I won’t ever kick this, no matter how hard I try. I just can’t shake it. Recognizing it is half the battle, right? At least that’s what I tell myself.

The fact is, I am addicted to me. I am addicted to the idea that everything on this planet and every little incident that occurs must have something to do with me. (And if it doesn’t, then it’s probably not very important.) Did you know that there are 6.7 billion people on this planet? In fact, I hear we’re about to hit 7 billion soon. Yet I don’t live as though they matter or even exist. I spend most of my days focusing on things like what movie is next on my Netflix or what I would like for dinner. I say I care, that I lend myself to good causes, but every minute 15 children are dying around the world. Some from issues correlated with poverty like disease and hunger, some things we could possibly prevent.

As of this moment, I am doing nothing to help them. Is there something wrong here or is it just ME?

ME is a monster. It’s very subtle at first, in fact, he really begins to rear his ugly head only when you’ve become aware. But when you allow this monster to grow and take hold of you he can make you think things and do things that are not very noble. Even in the good I attempt, like feeding the poor or mentoring kids, this monster wants to steal from it and make it about me. Look at how virtuous you are, he whispers, you deserve a pat on the back. But I like to hear that, don’t I? That’s the hard part in fighting this addiction. One hand is ready to slay the monster while the other hand continues to feed him.

The solution is not to stop thinking about yourself. When I try to tell myself to do that–well, that’s called irony. Rather I’ve been praying lately that God the Father would give me his heart. I’m asking for a vision or passion that is much greater than my own glory or fame or comfort. Maybe something that will allow me to die to that monster so I can truly live. I am asking for a life that would impact people around me, to give to them, to help them make a difference in this generation for now and unto eternity.

I ask this from a desperate place and I hope it is granted. For this monster is greedy–it’s never satisfied. There is no removing him, only replacing him with something better. And it has to be Christ–there’s no other way. He’s my only out.

Like Horse & Carriage

I made a trip up to Central and Northern California this past weekend to observe two marriages. One actually becoming official “before God and these witnesses” at a small chapel in Fresno; the other fresh and exciting after a couple weeks spent honeymooning in Europe. Both reminded me of the beauty found in marriage.

Ricky and Jessie came together in a simple yet meaningful ceremony. Pastor Jon officiated the wedding and delivered a memorable sermon. Nothing too long or heavy, but it was full of honest and practical wisdom. I remember one quote in particular in which he said (paraphrased): “In marriage, one half plus one half does not equal one. In this equation, rarely does each person ever give their full share of the fifty. Sometimes you might feel you are giving more, sometimes less. But if you are putting the other person’s cares above your own and you are running toward the other person to meet their needs, then rest assured you two are bound to meet each other somewhere in the middle.” It reminded me of the whole concept of giving, not taking, in marriage. Knowing the kind of man that Ricky is, I have full confidence that he will cherish, protect and provide for her with every ounce of God-enabled strength.

After the reception, Jeremy and I headed on the road to Oakland. The next day, we met up with my dear friend Deborah. We were introduced to her husband Jerry. We spent the entire afternoon and early evening together, going from church service to brunch to J-town to the piers over at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a lot of activity, running into fobs at J-town and dodging fat birds, but through it all I got to see how Jerry served and loved his wife. They had that sort of chemistry that spoke of deep trust and understanding. I recount how at one Japanese novelty store, Jerry asked the cashier if they had a Domo ear-set to complete her full-body Domo costume. They didn’t have it, but Jerry was obviously looking out for her best interests. (Sarcasm intended.) I became a big fan of Jerry and I am glad that she is well taken care of. (It also doesn’t hurt that his hair reminds me of a cross between Beatles Paul McCartney and Super Saiyan 3 Goku.)

As I reflect on these two stories, I begin to see how they tie together. I think about the Bible and all its talk about marriage being a symbol of Christ and His church. How Christ in all his glory came not to be served, but to serve and make lovely His bride. How even when we fail or falter, Jesus is pursuing us with a passionate and furious love. He is fully committed. And He will not rest until He has us, wholly and completely devoted to Him.

This is what makes marriage special. This is what makes it divine. The world looks in to see what we have. It discovers, as a matter of fact, that it is a love triangle. Indeed, Christians are the most scandalous lovers of all.