Saturday, April 15, 2006

LBY - Week Three

When I looked back over my notes from this week, I realized that the biggest day-o-impact for me was Monday, when I watched the first few segments of the video. Now the rest of the week was great, of course - I had several "ah-ha" moments about what it means to give and receive true agape love - but Beth said something in the video that I keep going back to, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head all week. She said, "we have to understand that things [in life] are not as concrete as things we see in Scripture," and the infiltrating power of the Holy Spirit helps us "to deal with the gray." [emphasis mine]

You should know that I am not, in general, a big fan of "the gray."

Because, you see, one of the ongoing struggles in my life is discernment. For a long time I thought my discernment struggles were because of my personality...I tend to see the good in everyone, tend to like people right away, tend to be very trusting right off the bat. So I figured that because I didn't expect the worst in a situation (quite the opposite, in fact), discernment wasn't really even necessary for me because I assumed that, one way or another, things would turn out just fine. In other words, I'm going to go ahead and jump in that icy cold river, because I'm certain that I'll find a way out. Really! Nothing bad will happen! Everything always turns out fine!

For a long time I confused discernment with my "gut feeling," not recognizing that a gut feeling is based on emotion, while discernment is based on wisdom that can only come from the Holy Spirit (see? I had no discernment about discernment itself. I was in a bad way). :-) But over the last eight or nine years God has taught me so much about discernment, and He has done almost all of that teaching through "the gray." That fact never occurred to me until I watched the video this past Monday.

Here's an example to illustrate my point. I'll only bore you with one example. Promise. And I'll try to stop overusing the word "discernment." It's starting to look funny when I type it.

About five years ago, D. and I went through what you might call "a rough patch." I felt like I didn't understand him, he felt like I was overly emotional about some stuff we were dealing with, and because he was just starting his business, we saw each other for approximately 7 minutes a day. That may be a slight exaggeration on my part. But the combination of no time together plus tension when we were together felt a little overwhelming. And if you've ever been at that place in your own marriage, you know that when you start to question the state of your relationship, you inevitably start to question if you'll be able to really and truly work through your problems or if you're stuck in one of those hollow marriages like you see in made-for-tv-movies (with titles like, "Close Together, Worlds Apart" or "One House, Two Lives," starring Valerie Bertinelli or Meredith Baxter-Birney).

So one night, when I got in the bed and David was still in his office working, I started to pray. It was one of the few times when I can remember feeling like I was right on the verge of screaming at God, but I felt lonely and confused and I just POURED IT ALL OUT. Every single concern...every single thing that was bothering me...every single fear that I had. And about 15 minutes into my "therapy session," I felt something deep down in my heart as one single, sustaining phrase echoed in my mind: "A marriage doesn't have to be perfect. Just pleasing to Me."

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had given me clear instruction about how to move forward. Because here's the thing. Since David and I weren't living up to my self-imposed standard of perfection (that's the key to the trouble right was my standard, not God's standard), I was letting discouragement overtake me, certain that the "failure" to be perfect meant we would never, ever make it. But in that one moment, God cut straight through "the gray" and totally shifted my perspective of what my marriage should - and could - be.

It would tie up all the loose ends real pretty-like if I could say that David and I worked everything out that night and haven't had a moment's struggle since. But that's not real life. The working it out part took a little while...and God was faithful, as He always is. We learned, slowly but surely, that if we focused on pleasing Him in our marriage, the day-to-day strains sort of melted away. It's an ongoing process, and we're committed to it. We've learned to speak the truth in love, not in anger. Accepting and trusting that one prompting from the Holy Spirit - that my marriage should be pleasing to God but didn't have to be perfect - changed my life. And it changed my marriage. Only God could do that.

I love this passage from I Corinthians 2:10-13: "The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words."

Because of that assurance, we can do more that just get through "the gray." We can move past it, beyond it, with full confidence that God is the One guiding us every step of the way.

Happy Easter, everybody.

JannaFlipflop Robin
This is a list of the women participating in the study and the links to their blogs. New postings on the study will be published for the next ten weeks, between Friday 8pm - Saturday 8am. Please feel free to visit each of us and comment. Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion as we seek to live beyond ourselves. May God bless you richly from the hearing of His word.


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