“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
Over the years I've thought a lot about what I hoped my kids were learning from my wife and I. It has often caused me to intentionally start certain practices as a family; often times those practices only lasted for a season, but I hope they had an impact nonetheless. It seems each new stage of life brings different things to mind that I hope my kids learn from my wife and I.
I am not perfect and neither is my wife. To be sure, we have made mistakes as spouses and as parents. I often wonder what my kids will complain about regarding their upbringing in 10 or 15 years. I also wonder what "mistakes" we made will become their own "virtues" when they have kids. Some kids have more to complain about when it comes to their parents than others. I hope we have given them less to complain about than most. However, my kids have let us know about our shortcomings many times. Being the children of a pastor has its own challenges. I have done my level best to protect my kids from the unfair expectations that are often placed on PKs (Pastor's Kids), but undoubtedly they have experienced some of that and more. While I could pontificate about many things I hope my kids have learned from us, today I am thinking about hospitality.
We have had people in our home, often living with us, since we got married. I don't think we have the gift of hospitality, I think we learned how to be hospitable. Our hospitality has allowed to invest in the lives of other people more than almost anything we do. It has taken many forms over the years. Sometimes it was having people live with us, sometimes it was parties, UFC fight nights, Thanksgiving gatherings, Bible studies, or a host of other things. I love it, it also completely wares me out. After several hours of being with people I am often exhausted. I don't mean physically tired, I mean worn down from being with people. I need alone time! I'm a functional extrovert, but being with people wares me down fast. So why do it?
I do it because the rewards of loving others and being loved by others far outweighs the exhaustion. I do it because God tells us to (1 Peter 4:8-9) and obedience is an act of worship towards the God who saved me. I do it because there is great joy in being with people created in the image of God, and I love God's creativity. I do it because there is joy in giving someone a roof over their head, especially if they are in need. I do it because it gives me the opportunity to do ministry alongside my wife. Yep, I've grown to love it!
No matter what my kids do with their lives, I hope they have learned the value of hospitality. I recognize that they may find it annoying at times, but I hope that at some point they recognize the good that comes from simply having people in your home and being generous with what God has given. Our home isn't just a place we sleep, it is a gift given to us by God and like all gifts God gives us, it is meant to be shared.
I have often repeated a joke when officiating a wedding, it goes like this, "There are only two problems with this marriage, (pausing before speaking directly to the bride and groom) you and you!" It may not come through in this format very well, but it usually gets a good laugh. That said, I am sure some people are taken back a little too much to laugh in the moment. While it is a joke, it is also serious. There are no perfect people and there are no perfect brides or grooms. If there are, the likelihood of them being able to find one another and marry are statistically zero. Every person brings faults, bad habits, baggage, and sin into every relationship they enter into. Marriage is two people who have faults, bad habits, baggage, and sin living in close proximity to each other and most of the time they create little humans who have their own sin problems and will take on some of the bad habits of their parents and over time accumulate their own baggage...what could possible go wrong? (laugh here)
Like a new car, the first days of marriage are often filled with bliss. Everything seems to work and the new car smell is oddly amazing, but as the car ages things start to go wrong and the new car smell turns into a variety of other aroma's. The warranty (think easy forgiveness) makes the early breakdowns easier to deal with. As time goes on the warranty expires and the cost for repairs increases (forgiveness gets more difficult). Eventually, the car seems to break down on a more frequent basis. Often times this is because it has been driven somewhat recklessly (like a teenager who doesn't understand the damage they are doing until it is too late and the car has run out of oil and thrown a rod), but sometimes it is just ware and tear. Constant maintenance and repair was necessary all along, but it was too often ignored. Eventually it becomes easier to trade it in for something different or even go without one. This is where the car analogy starts to...well, it breaks down. Unlike cars, spouses aren't so easily replaced...nor should they be.
The truth is that EVERY marriage needs repair and maintenance. That means it needs to be addressed with with some maturity. Like a car, it needs oil changes and that requires resources (time and money). Like a car it may also need to be taken in to have some parts replaced from time to time. If you don't repair it, it will eventually just quit working all together. In marriage this often means setting aside the resources to give your spouse the attention they need, especially when you don't want to.
Selfishness is the biggest marriage killer there is. When your perceived needs outweigh the needs of your spouse, the marriage will begin heading toward failure. If you are unwilling to give something up for the sake of your partner, you are the problem! The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that we are to submit one to another (v. 22). That means the husband sacrifices himself for his bride just as Christ did for the church. That means that you don't "put your foot down." That means you don't demand, control, or anything of the sort. It does mean you serve, set your own desires aside, and work to present your spouse holy before God. It means you pray for your spouse, serve your spouse, love your spouse, and so on. For the wife, that means the act of submission. This doesn't mean submission to an abusive husband nor does it mean not giving an opinion, even a very strong one. It doesn't mean being a wall flower or a door mat, quite the opposite. It does however mean setting aside your own desires in order to uplift, encourage, and support your husband out of respect (vv. 23ff).
A new car becomes an out of warranty car which often becomes a car in need of constant attention, but given enough TLC it will become a classic, a beautiful car that has seen a lot of good and bad days, but rightly cared for or even restored it's a piece of art with a lot of stories to tell. If you want a classic some day, you have to stop driving like an adolescent. You might have to grow up (become more like Christ) give up bad habits, overcome sin, get rid of addiction, seek some help, stop trying to control, be embarrassed by the occasional backfire, and spend A LOT of resources. It will require sacrifice (that's the one step), more than you could imagine, but the payoff is outstanding!!
I got my purple belt in Jiu Jitsu not that long ago, but five days before testing I herniated the C6/C7 disc in my neck. I didn't know that initially, I just knew my arm felt like it was going to fall off. Like a lot of athletes, you get banged up, strain muscles, pull thing, tweak things, pinch nerves, and whatever else...you just push through. I treated this injury like any other, I just tried to push through. Because of my upcoming Purple belt test I was going to give it some rest and see if it would heal up, but as the days went on the pain in my arm got worse. Unfortunately I couldn't get on the mats for my purple belt test, so I watched from outside the cage (our matt is in a cage). I was still given my belt and told I owed a test which I will be thrilled to go through!! It's now been a month and change since that injury took me off the matt and I will likely not be back on the mat until January. An MRI revealed a herniated disc which could end up with surgery, but I am hoping to avoid that. So, now what?
Well, this isn't my first time with an injury that has taken me off the mat, I broke, dislocated, and tore a ligament in my pinky...yes, all at once. It required surgery and took me off the mat for 8 weeks total. I thought that was a long time. I've already been out a month and the chances are I'm looking at two more at a minimum. That's a quarter of a year. I found ways to train then, and I'm finding ways to train now.
I can't get on the mat at all and this time around, I can't really run. Often times when I have an injury I can run to keep in shape if I miss more than a week. This time I cannot, and I can't just muscle through it. So what an I doing?
Being injured stinks, no doubt, but it is also an opportunity. See the opportunities and exploit those. Don't quit, just shift your training and get back to it as soon as possible.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.