It seems to be after a short 26years of following Jesus I have discovered something basic and profound about my following after Him, which when I look at it should have been pretty obvious.
In the early months and years of my Christian walk the Holy Spirit revealed to me those things in my life which had to be brought in line with what the Bible taught me. There were many things!! By God’s grace and the support of my wife and brothers and sisters with much patience, I was assisted in seeing and surrendering most of those things – I hesitate to say all as I know that the Spirit is still revealing things to me as life continues.
It is not simple to give up habits, friendships etc – however it was necessary for me not to be distracted for what the Lord wanted to do in my life. However what is much tougher – especially in a man – is to reform character!! The roots of our character I believe are deep and complex – DNA, family culture, work culture, friends culture, regional and national culture – and therefore are not easily reformed.
For myself it took me until I was almost 50 before I saw some of the main character flaws in my make-up. I was astounded by this – here was I an intelligent mature (?) man with some amount of wisdom and I was seeing things in my character that had been there all my life – from childhood many of them! Astounding how I was so blind that I could not see. Since then the Spirit has revealed many flaws which He is helping me change or in fact leave behind. The process is not simple but it is necessary to become more like Christ – which of course should be the goal of all followers of Jesus.
However these battles, important as they are to fight and win, are not the main battleground of the Christian life, for most of us, our main battleground is the place where the vast majority of us expect there to be peace and love and harmony. Have you guessed yet??
It’s marriage Stupid!!
Not possible do I hear you say? This is where I get to be loved and get to love and see what beauty is and be complete. As a man I have found my rib and as a woman I have found my ribcage you might say 🙂
At its best marriage is a place where joy and harmony can be at their zenith. We use terms like – soulmate, other half, etc which express how we are not complete in so many senses when we are apart from our spouse………
What is it about marriage that makes it a breeding ground to grow all character flaws and bad habits that had been dormant until after that moment the wedding dust had settled.
I know from personal experience that I have inflicted some of the worst of my character in my marital relationship and that I have also received some of the deepest wounds. It seems that these 2 people whom the Lord brought together in love and harmony have disappeared – got lost – moved house – who knows where??
The enemy of our Christian walk wants to show the world that this bringing together of 2 souls which has the potential to show love at its zenith is fake – can’t last. We come together under the blessing of God believing that He is bringing us together to show His love in a unique way through our relationship. It is not just that I was (and am) madly in love with my wife when stood in the church in front of our families (some of whom probably thought ‘well this won’t last’) – it much more than that. In this relationship under God we have the possibility to learn holiness – yes you heard me correctly – learn holiness!
This would be why the enemy would not want this to succeed – he doesn’t want too many examples of holiness to be in evidence or else people may begin to believe that it is possible. And he can’t have that at all.
This is the battleground – and the warriors are US!! How do we fight the battle – well we seek to give grace when we are wronged, love when we are hurt, forgiveness when we are betrayed, patience when we are provoked and the list of the characteristics of holiness go on – we seek to reflect the image of Christ because He lives in us.
We are in a constant battle and this is the front line of the war! If the marriages of believers can fail then the world will look on and say well – you are no different from us so why should we consider this Lord you talk about. If we walk away from our spouses then we walk away from the best and toughest training ground for holiness and ultimately we say to our God who brought us together – ‘we don’t believe you got this right’
What I should be saying is ‘I know you are trying to train me for glory and eternity but I don’t like the programme so I think I will find another not quite so tough’
I know after writing this that I will be challenged in the very arena I have described and I do not have the power to fight that battle when it comes BUT I do know someone who has and I say with Paul the apostle ‘Praise God for Christ Jesus my Redeemer’