God created marriage as a living, breathing portrait laid out before the eyes of the world so that they might see the story of the ages… God gives us marriage to illustrate his heart toward us. It is the deepest and most mythic reality in the world – that love is true, that God pursues us.
John Eldredge, Love and War
We are a few days removed from this past weekend and sitting heavy on a day that will be huge in the forecast ahead, Election Day. Not sure which day is bigger, today at the polls or this past weekend where 20 couples got away to spend time with God and their marriage. Honestly, we vote every day. We cast our wills at each other and for each other. Instead of stickers stating, "I Voted", we could have this embroidered onto our shirts, jackets, and purses because every day all day we exercise our right to choose—we vote.
Last week, I received an email from a good friend who was attempting to share with his friend the mission and objectives of our ministry, Zoweh. It was actually a “fwd” of an email that had previously gone back and forth. My friend did a great job of sharing how God has worked in his life through our team and weekend events—several paragraphs of encouragements and definitions that meant a great deal to me… He voted for US! As I got to the end of his last paragraph, I could see in the window of my email that this email had more. This forward contained a few more back-and-forths from my friend to his friend. I read,
"Dear [John], I have thoroughly looked over the Zoweh website and I must honestly say, I am not impressed."
YIKES! a "NO" Vote, and even worse, a Critical No Vote. In preparing for the couples' weekend, Jesus kept taking me back to that moment; all that came up in me as the shift from, "we like you" to "not impressed" happened as quickly as one scrolls down a page. I was caught off guard, AND then, so very quickly, I was tangled up in anxiety and pain as though I had done something wrong. Like a punch you never saw coming, both fight and flight took over and I was stuck between the two.
Next, Jesus took me to an observation deck of the moment… a place I could see and look over the circumstances and begin to unpack with Him what I was feeling and how I was reacting. The next moments were sweet. Gentle words of comfort from Jesus, "It's going to be ok. You don’t know this person, their story, or their heart." Jesus was after more, "Words matter and I want to show you how careless they can be used and how laced with judgements they can be." It turned into both a warning and an invitation…
A warning against judgements and an invitation to love and forgiveness.
Whoa, that about sums it up. In the book The Heart of a Warrior, there is a quote…
Think back on your life. What moments of bad judgment or split second miscalculations have led to the bruises or wounds of your heart or the hearts of others? I have a history of casualties due to impulsivity, misunderstanding or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
With the wrong words! It is a fine line between observation and judgement, opinions and woundings. THAT we vote is a matter of the heart. Love is offering acceptance, validation, and worth. HOW we vote is often with our words. The kingdom of darkness is absolutely masterful at delivering wounding judgements, no votes, and painful declarations from one heart to another. We are warned and invited about how we vote by the Apostle James…
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell...
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
James 3:5-6,17-18 (MSG)
Paul warns and invites…
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
What if in my marriage and as a father I could slow things down and observe more of the words I say or type before the votes leave my mouth or hands? I wonder how many apologies I would save myself by discerning how things might make another person feel? I am confident it would take more time and likely be less convenient as I struggle to put words to my thoughts, feelings, and observations. But what is the best thing that could happen? I would see this false-self and false-way in me that isn’t me but that wants to pretend to be every moment of every day, using me to hurt others and using others to hurt me. That is the objective of our enemy, and I don’t want to play into their hands or mission any more any time.
Loving is a hard business. Well, at least it is as long as I am still in training and learning how. My marriage may be the greatest training ground of all because it is the place I promised to love most. It makes more sense, now. Intimacy with God and intimacy with my wife is violently opposed, and I get to vote every day all day which candidate I am going to support, which ticket I want and need to win—Jesus and me, or Me and the enemy.
I vote Jesus and me.
Jesus, we vote for you today, and we confess, we all too often don’t vote well. We pray you would awaken our hearts to the moments in each day when our votes, our wills, our words can make a difference in the hearts and lives of others. We want to advance your Kingdom, Love Well, and seeing ourselves get tangled up in the judgements and votes of others is a small life and one we want to claim your provision out.
Holy Spirit, give us an observation deck, and take us there to see and hear what is going on in us and around us. Give us a growing skill to avoid the temptation to be harsh or unkind. Reveal to us, Holy Spirit, the ability to see this false-self, and slow things down so our true selves can show up and fight well for others and for our own hearts.
Father, protect our marriages, and teach us and train us how to guard against critical spirits. Train us up to hear your warnings and invitations, and increase our skills and abilities to discern. Thank you for being active and at work in us, Father. We need your help, we need your love, and we pray for a deeper and wilder experience with you. We pray for the ability to see and hear and engage in the profound restoration of our hearts and lives. Father, teach us about freedom, teach us about love, and deploy us into the Larger Story well equipped with being loved by you so we might love one another.
Jesus, protect the seeds of the Kingdom and the packages of your grace and love given to the couples who attended this past weekend's Rendezvous Weekend. We are so very grateful for the time away, and we pray now for the working in and training up of new ways. All this we pray in your name, Jesus, Our Savior, Shepherd, and King. Amen and AMEN!!!