Monday, February 15, 2010

The devotion for Hannah's bridal shower

Someone asked me to put the talk I gave at my friend's bridal shower this weekend on my blog...for those of you who are interested, here it is (at least this is what I took with me...I always ad lib a bit):

Hannah,
     Thank you for giving me the privilege of sharing a few words at your shower.  What an exciting time this is in your life!  Proverbs 14:1 tells us “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”  Building a house is no easy undertaking, but it is what you are signing up to do.  With such a statement concerning a woman’s power to wisely build or foolishly destroy, it shouldn’t surprise us that there is a great deal that could be said to encourage you as you begin your marriage; so many different directions this talk could go.  As I’ve prayed about what to share, a few main ideas kept returning to my mind so I will focus our time today on those.
     You and Zack plan to marry soon.  You’ll begin to walk through this life in the context of a covenant relationship you’ve never experienced before.  There will continue to be many voices bombarding you with ideas of what that should look like, what your experience should be, and how you should be feeling.  My first word of encouragement would be for you to lend your ear with loyalty to the voice of God’s word and the leading of your own husband.  Your friends, neighbors and extended family may offer all kinds of bits of wisdom for you, well intended and very often worthy of your consideration.  BUT if you want unity and contentment in your relationship with Zack (which I am confident you do), make it your practice to run other people’s input by him, maintaining a heart that desires to follow your own husband’s leadership, keeping the truths of God’s Word your united anchor.   Godly people have opinions about everything: budgeting, communication, date nights, family size, diet, and every other topic under the sun; and those opinions are not all the same.  If God adds children to your family, the list of topics begin to include discussions of whether to immunize or not, schooling options, and all kinds of other things you may not even have imagined could be controversial yet (even within your own circle of friends).  It is pretty amazing how quickly you can find yourself drowning in a sea of confusion, and at such times you need to remind yourself that your Father is heaven has told us that He is not the Author of confusion.  He makes it clear that you are to follow Him and to submit yourself to your own husband.  You and Zack together will face many decisions and once you have unity on a matter, and it is in accord with God’s word, walk it out with confidence and in dependence upon God whose grace is always sufficient.  My mom used to say that “every couple needs to learn how to dance with each other.”  I think that’s right.  We serve an amazingly creative God who has filled the earth with variety that pleases Him.  One couple’s dance may be like a God-honoring Waltz while another couple may dance the Christ-exalting Tango together.  That’s part of the fun...enjoy the variety of godly couples you build relationships with.  And learn from them.  But seek your unity with Zack and let your marriage shine for Christ in the dance He’s ordained for you. 
     The next encouragement I would give you comes from the passage 1 Tim 6:6-10 which says: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  Money itself isn’t the problem.  Ecclesiastes teaches that money answers everything (10:19).  Greed is the issue, and the remedy for it is repentance and the exercise of godliness with contentment.  Chew on this, especially as a young married woman who will be living in the context of American fog that screams from every nook and cranny: “get it now; you deserve it.”  Remember your Father is the One who gives and withholds, all for your good.  We’re in an impatient McDonald’s culture that wants what it wants immediately and wants it their own way.  So be countercultural for the glory of God.  Practice patience and contentment and live each day with a love for God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Watson in his book All Things for Good...it is: “If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good.”  This quote, along with the Timothy text, has helped me often to receive what God, in His wisdom, has given with thanksgiving, without throwing what looks very much like a two year olds fit over not getting something I want when I want it.  This is a wonderful way to bless your husband who wants to give you good things, but does not always have the means to give you everything you may want (like a home with acreage right away, and maybe never)...to see you trusting God’s timing and provision, and being content with what you have, can encourage him to do the same, and together this will help transform the sphere of influence God places you in.  God will give you what you need to accomplish all He is calling you to do.  Michael Card sings a song titled “Things we leave behind”...its chorus reminds us that:
Every heart needs to be set free
From possessions that hold it so tight
‘Cause freedom’s not found in the things that we own
It’s the power to do what is right
With Jesus, our only possession
Then giving becomes our delight
And we can’t imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind.
     There is great truth in those words.  Don’t allow yourself to become consumed about “stuff”...be about loving and enjoying Zack and serving the Lord together with him.  Remember Whose you are, that Jesus purchased you with His own blood, that He’s promised to never leave you nor forsake you, that He does not withhold anything that is good for you, and that you have exactly what you need to live a life honoring to Him alongside your husband with joy.  These are good things to think about when discontentment attempts to work itself into your heart. 
     In Titus 2:4-5, part of the sound doctrine Paul tells Titus to speak directs older women to teach “the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”  What a joy it is for me to be married to a man who understands His God-given role of protecting and providing and nurturing what God has given him...I’m so thankful that Zack seeks to be such a man for you.   And you get the joy of loving him and making a home for him (and any children God may add to your family) in a way that honors God.  That sounds so happy and easy, doesn’t it?  In many ways it is, but sin and circumstances will provide challenges along the way.  Hannah, I know from my own relationship with you that you’ve already made friends with at least this semi-older woman.  I encourage you to continue to cultivate relationships with godly women older than yourself, whose lives you note as worthy of imitation, because they can be a great aid to you in this journey of love.  Take initiative to involve yourself in their lives and learn from them how to better love your husband, to love children, to manage the affairs of your home, to make your home (in unity with your husband) a base of ministering life and hope in Christ to as many as God brings across your path.   I’m 44 and still learning from the experience and wisdom of friends older than me...these friendships are gifts from God, but they often require initiative to open them up and enjoy them.  Cultivate such friendships...be teachable, humble, observe, ask questions, offer your help when opportunities present themselves as a way of interacting and serving the body of Christ...then discuss what you glean along the way with Zack, like I mentioned earlier, so the two of you can decide what is useful to graft into your own practices.  
     A few days ago, on my Face-book status, I asked the question: “What one thing would you say to a soon-to-be bride to encourage her to start her marriage well?”  There were quite a few responses; here are some of them (paraphrased):
§         Encourage him
§         Extend grace
§         Always make time to welcome him home from work
§         Tell him how much you appreciate him
§         To remember you are held by the love of God through the good times and the more challenging
§         Don’t go to bed angry at each other
§         Leave thank you notes or appreciation notes for him to find
§         Pray often for yourself and family...the Lord knows better than we do what is needed and in His way He reveals it.
§         Take care of yourself and your home so your husband can dwell in a place of peace, beauty and rest...enjoy your job
§         Laugh together
§         Do not take everything personally...realize that when he is upset, it does not mean he is upset with you.  Listen, and be willing to work it through until the real issue comes to light rather than reacting or automatically getting defensive.
§         Be his cheerleader
§         Try to always think the best of him
§         Keep your bed made (but not when you’re in it)
§         “say I do”
     Most of those could be elaborated on, along with scores of other encouragements, and they will be in the course of your life as each one takes on fuller significance for you via experience.  Theory will very soon become practice for you.  And God will be with you every day.  He will be with you as you set goals with Zack and make plans for working towards those goals.  He will be with you when conflicts arise, giving you both the tools to use to work things through for His glory and your increased joy.  He will be with you in your laughter.  He will be with you in your pain.  He is giving Zack to you and you to Zack.  Enjoy each other in His presence with thankful hearts... enjoy unity and intimacy unlike any you have ever known as a gift from His hand.  Seek the joy of the Lord to be your strength. 
     I asked my kids what they thought I should say to you in this talk, and I’ll end with this... Rebekah answered that I should tell you to love Zack.  Then, I asked her how she thought you could best love him, to which she replied “by loving God most.”  I smiled and told her that is EXACTLY one of the notes I had already written down to share with you.   It’s simple, but important.  One of our common temptations is to love God’s gifts more than God Himself, but when we do we forfeit the joy intended and rob God of the glory He deserves.  Rebekah didn’t pull that idea from thin air...she has heard me say over the years that I love her best by loving God most and she simply connected the dots that the same would be true for you and Zack.   I believe that wholeheartedly.  Hannah, love Zack and love him best by loving God most.  If that, or anything else I’ve said, needs clarifying, you can ask me about it when you come see me before your wedding.
     I love you Hannah, and I love Zack.  I thank God for your friendship, and I look forward to seeing what God will work in and through you two together over the years.  God bless you both! 

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