I am getting married for the second time 6 weeks from now. I am pretty excited since I believe that God is giving me a second chance at love. In my first marriage, it ended badly due to my selfishness and my ex-wife’s adultery. Two wrongs do not make something right. I am excited to have a “do over” and see if what I learned in DivorceCare, and from the Lord will work in my second marriage. God is giving me a chance to love as Christ has loved. Just as Christ loves me, I can then love others the way he would want me to love them.
Example of Marriage and Parenting as Illustrations of God’s Love
This goes along with what I have been reading in Bradley Jersak’s book A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel. He writes:
“Take up your cross? Lose your to life to save it? Die to live? Hate your life? Serve? Follow? Jesus’ words rebel against every instinct of self-will and worldly freedom I can imagine! Imagine saying this at a commencement speech for college graduates! And yet Jesus says it. To me. To you. Easier said than done, for sure, but also not totally unfamiliar. Isn’t this the basic principle in a marriage covenant? For marriage to work, partners must repeatedly put love ahead of their own interests. Every time we say no to our own whims and wants for the sake of husband or wife, self-will (my freedom to do as I please) bows to self-giving love. Self-centeredness dies another little death and yet, amazingly, unselfish love causes both spouses to flourish. Love, if primary, leads to the genuine freedom of abundant life together. But when willfulness has its way, partners start pining for what? For ‘freedom,’ especially if they experience their partner as self-centered and loveless. Clearly, healthy marriage occurs where mutual, self-giving love—not self-willing freedom—takes the lead.” (Jersak, pg. 57)
God will use marriage and parenting to reveal how selfish we are, or I am. On the other hand, God gives us opportunities to truly love the way Christ did through the venue of marriage and parenting. The dishes need to be washed, the laundry needs to be put away, the cars need to be serviced, the dogs need to be walked. Even when I am tired and do not feel like it, I love my wife to be enough to sacrifice my own needs and wants for hers. Her love language is quality time. An example of quality time is if she wants me to spend quality time watching a TV show on Netflix that I am really not interested in, but most importantly, putting my smartphone away while we are watching her show.
Concerning parenting, he writes:
“Another example of the primacy of love is parenting. Talk about infringing on freedom! Women willingly go through great agony for the sake of childbirth. Parents learn that love makes great sacrifices. We sacrifice sleep, time, hobbies and even careers for the sake of our children. Love changes mountains of diapers, tidies up thousands of messes, supervises years of homework and sits through endless practices and performances. Love trades in the convertible for the mini-van and makes countless taxi runs! Freedom can ‘make babies,’ but only love raises them! On the other hand, love is meant to define the relationship and sexual intimacy of ‘making babies,’ just as it leads to the great sacrifices involved in birthing and then raising children. In fact, only two things can cause parents to forsake a child: the necessity of love for the child’s sake or the demands of freedom for the parents’ own sake.” (Jersak, pgs. 57-58)
Just as Jersak says above, parenting is the best example of God’s sacrificial love for us. Many of us were raised in homes where we didn’t receive the proper love and care from our parents. The loved us the best they could (Heb. 12:6) and is poor reflection of the perfect love that we can receive from our Heavenly Father.
Our Daddy’s Love for Us
I believe the beginning of love is being able to receive the father’s love. Jesus tells his disciples during the Olivet Discourse to “abide in his love, just as he abides in his Father’s love” (John 15:9). It is very difficult for people to love who have never been loved, or it is difficult for people to love who cannot receive love. Jersak writes:
“A growing number of ‘prayer ministries’* are learning to help wounded people reconnect with God. One of their approaches is to ask God, “Would you show us the moment when this disconnect happened? Would you bring to mind a time when this person came to feel like an orphan?” As they pause in silent prayer, a specific memory or series of memories may bubble up. It could be a critical moment of abandonment or one example of many. The person receiving prayer is invited to express honestly what happened and how it felt. They may express hurt and anger, fear or grief, whatever. And then we (prayer ministers) simply ask God to come into that moment with His healing love. We ask God to draw close so the one receiving prayer can see, hear and feel the love he has for them. In essence, we pray Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians: 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 17 …And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19) I’m overjoyed to say that for almost twenty-five years, I’ve seen God faithfully answer this prayer, whether in an instant or through a process, for all who are willing to open themselves to God’s love. They come to know God as a continually present, intimately close Parent—neither silent nor distant, regardless of their performance.” (Jersak, pgs. 38-40)
I believe the key to healing and recovery first starts with God’s love. At the church I have been attending, they have been teaching that walking with God first starts with being intimate with God which then leads to dependency with God which results in obedience. People who try to recover from life of addiction, childhood trauma, PTSD, depression or anything else cannot recover in their own strength. As they build their relationship with God based upon his intimacy, their defenses are let go, and they become dependent upon Him and his grace to be able to repent from their habits, hurts, and hang-ups. They are then free to love the way Jesus loved. The truth of their relationship with Jesus sets them free (John 8:32). They finally can taste and see the goodness of God as God becomes their refuge and safe place (Ps. 34:8).
I remember when my daughter was born, as I looked at her in the delivery room for the first time, I was overwhelmed at how much love I had for this precious child. I still feel that way today. God used that image to show me how much he loves me as his son. I finally understood through the incarnate gift of my daughter, how much God loves me. Keith Giles writes about it as well here.
(Lily and I at the House of Flavors in Ludington, Michigan)
The beginning of walking with Jesus and growing in Christ is learning how to receive and walk in his love. Our vision and image of God is shaped by our reception of God’s love. God wants to heal the distorted images of God that we have received either from our environment, our culture, and churches. Next week, I will look at some of those distorted images that Brad discusses in his book. I will also compare a God who is free that is expressed in the Calvinistic God compared to the God that is love that is personified in the “Cruciform God”. Both images are biblical and found in scripture. One image leads to religion where the other image leads to relationship.
(Lily and our family dog – Sadie)