Friday, July 24, 2009

The Gospel Up Close: Marriage and Family

As something of a "skeptical", thinker-type Christian, I (like many Christians)
often find it very difficult to grasp or appreciate most of the typical Christian
dialogue around what our Faith is supposed to look like, sound like, feel like,
etc... Everything for me, literally, begins as Philosophy, starting with the broader
perspective -- the WHY -- and narrowing down to the specific "how" and "what"...

So in order to move beyond a Faith that is largely a "philosophical abstraction"
and closer to a dynamic, experiential Reality, I spend much of my time
listening to and reading great material from those who I believe understand the
Gospel on a very deep level, and who are skilled at helping others see
the practical realities of a Life with Christ...

So ponder this for a bit:
If you REALLY want to enter into a very deep understanding of the true Gospel,
get married and have kids:

I've written on this Blog about the need for "soul-sanding", and how the primary
aim for every Christian is to become a Saint; that is, to finally, someday, once
and for all, be made perfectly complete, shining bits of Gold and Silver in the
crown of God's Glory (and each of us has a unique place there).

But in order to BECOME that, we must be CHANGED, from what we are (in our fallen,
sinful state) into what He has made us to be. This requires a great deal of pain
and suffering, and the spiritual disciplines we participate in are intended to
melt us down, burn away the impurities, mold us, shape us, polish us up, and
produce a Saint.

And there is no "smeltering" process (that I can think of) that is more immediate,
more personal, and more effective than a Marriage relationship: It is here where
we can learn, often through a tremendous amount of pain and frustration and
difficulty, how to be HUMBLE, how to FORGIVE, how to be PATIENT and LONG-SUFFERING;
how to give up Grudges; how to PUT THE OTHER PERSON FIRST; and how to focus on the
BLESSEDNESS of another Human Soul (their Ultimate Good - to become
a Saint, too!), instead of ourselves (primarily). Marriage is God's institution
for LOVE between a Man and a Woman; LOVE is passionate about practicing
Christian Faith, and we cannot claim to love God (the first and greatest
Commandment) if our entire manner of living is not centered around Love.

Marriage is the "crucible" in which this process can occur; and I can't think of
a more realistic, pragmatic, effective scenario than Marriage in which the
work of Sanctification can happen. Marriage enables us to practice
(all of our married lives) both the first AND the second Great Commandments;
indeed, in my opinion, if you want to love God, you love what HE loves:
OTHER PEOPLE! So we love GOD BY loving other people... And who BEST
to begin with than our spouses!

God loves me in precisely the same way I love my kids (only perfectly, infinitely):
I am not always happy with their behavior, and I even have to "punish" them
sometimes; but my LOVE for them never ever changes, not one bit: No matter WHAT
they may do, I love them with a white-hot, passionate, radical love, because
they are my kids, and because it thrills me to do so (it's FUN!), and
because I want to see them grow up into mature adults with God-pleasing Character.

I want to enjoy watching them go out into the world and use their skills and
talents and abilities to be a BLESSING to those around them, and to give God the
glory for it. And of course my highest and deepest desire for them is that they
submit to the work of Sanctification, too, and one day become Saints, themselves...

Is it hard to understand, then, how God views me as HIS kid? Doesn't it make
perfect sense to realize that God loves me in exactly this same way, and doesn't
that realization fill our hearts with Joy and with a longing to finally, someday,
look into His face and hear His voice and experience His pleasure with us?
As C.S. Lewis said, "If the Master is satisfied with the creature, the creature
may be satisfied with itself". Perhaps we need to hear this much more often:
God loves us as His dear Children, the way a Father (and a Mother) loves his kids...

So take some time to mull over these ideas. Doing so has, for me, been a very
meaningful way of moving beyond Philosophy into an on-going splash-fest in
the Water of Life.