As our family has enjoyed exploring the classical music world over the last several years, I really enjoy making time to listen to different recordings of classical music on youtube, and I also read various musicians' blogs as I come across new musicians. One blog I enjoy reading occasionally gives lots of interesting insights into many things musicians must learn to deal with, like memorizing, performing, travel; and the author of this particular blog plays the cello and is an exceptional musician himself.
In one of his more recent posts, in addition to his usual details and insights related to his performances and travels, he also included some details about his recent divorce. He spoke of it in a mature way, and it sounded like they tried everything they could to save the marriage. In the end, though, after 15 years, they concluded it was too late. He also added that he had found a new love and was going to try to do things differently this time by keeping his new love more of a priority in his busy life. Although I don't know this person at all, and I only occasionally look at his blog, still, hearing the news made me choke up inside. Why? Why do I hurt for his wife, for his son, and for him too, when they all seem to be handling it just fine and the whole thing is really none of my business anyway? Well, part of it is probably because on his blog he had spoken about his wife and son in earlier posts in a positive light. They seemed to be a sweet little family, and I guess I am an idealist with a "happily ever after" dream for every marriage.
Sarah and I took her cousin with us on our last trip to hear our favorite violinist. We discovered that her perspective on relationships is very similar to Sarah's. It was fun to talk and spend time with her on the long drive.
But I think maybe also I hurt for them because of how their decision represents the modern mindset in our culture, the tendency to move on, find something new and more exciting when the old wears thin. Having been married almost 30 years, I know the sweetness and depth of persevering love. What Bernie and I have learned and how we have grown equals a depth of love that can not be matched without the ingredient and test of time! Relationships are never easy, but the reward of giving in, and giving up at times, learning to give and not just be about your own self, learning to love and forgive as well as being loved and forgiven adds up to a relationship deeper and richer than can ever happen if a couple gives up at a difficult time, or allows themselves to trade an aging relationship for some seemingly sweeter, newer, but much more shallow romance. This couple that is now 'moving on,' will never realize that, and unfortunately, once you end things once, you are actually more likely to end them again when you hit the same walls. People tend to be attracted to people that are the similar at their core, even if it doesn't seem that way initially, that is part of what is attractive about them. But these people, like all of us, have weaknesses. In the beginning of a relationship, the weaknesses are not seen as clearly, and sometimes even what is attractive at first, becomes the challenge in the relationship later. And at that point is the test, will you forgive? Will you continue to love even if you are not getting what you want from the other person? Will you make the choice to focus on the good things that brought you together? Part of the problem often seems to be, when things start to fail, the 'work' on things seems to often be one sided, one person wants to work on the relationship for a while, the other has given up; then eventually the person who originally wanted to work on things gives up, and suddenly the other wants to work on things. And in the midst of this, bitterness and unforgiveness are building up on both sides, eventually becoming a wall that seems too high and painful to tear down. There is emotional protection in walls. But there is not emotional healing. So people keep their walls high, move on and try again with someone else, the new relationship becomes at least in part an attempt at a balm to heal the old hurts. How much better to tear down those walls, and allow the 'balm of Gilead' to heal our hearts and make us whole, so we can be what we need to be for the other person.
Walking a Different Path
Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways
and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls."
~ Jeremiah 6:16
I think that is why Aaron and Sarah have been inclined to not be involved with the traditional dating mindset. That mindset thinks like this: "This person is interesting and I want to enter into a casual or even exclusive romantic relationship for a while and have some fun; and whether it leads to a longer term commitment or not is really irrelevant." Although it may start with a friendship, they have been waiting for someone to enter their lives, who God makes clear is much more than a friend, but rather someone to spend a lifetime with. The dating/break-up mindset is really what leads to the marriage/divorce mindset; in peoples' journey they just decide to make a current romance something more 'permanent,' but in actuality, because of the patterns laid down before it, it is probably doomed to the same fate as the other failed relationships. In lieu of dating and serial romantic relationships, Aaron and Sarah have friends and have tried to keep away from anything romantic or exclusive, and also enjoy doing things with groups of people. In the meantime, they are keeping busy with what the Lord has before them.
'Why bother?' one might say. 'Why not just have fun and enjoy the moment and live for today?'
True Love = Commitment
Almost 30 years together. Yeah!!!
Well, if we pull back all the distractions in life and are honest with ourselves, we will probably find that we all really desire one person we can trust, and count on; an exclusive relationship that is 'home' to us, a place where we can be ourselves and be loved and accepted, defects and all. Why is this the theme of many stories told through the ages? This is really because of God's design of us. We are all created incomplete, we are all designed to have a 'helper' or compliment for our lack. And we also are designed as a compliment to someone else's lack. Ultimately though, whether single or married, we can be totally whole and complete with Christ supplying whatever we need or lack. Not everyone will marry and that doesn't render them less human or less whole. I am not saying that being single is inferior or wrong. But I am saying that before we can find our perfect compliment, we must find our completion in Christ, that gives us the strength to persevere when the tough times in the relationship inevitably come. Even our perfect compliment is human, and hurts are inevitable! Being able to find completeness ultimately in Christ gives us what we need to forgive and continue to love unconditionally. If this seems like a fairy tale to you, it is not. Aaron and Sarah have both come to this perspective after some false starts in relationships, but those 'failures,' rather than derailing them from their vision, have served to steel them to be even more vigilant in preserving themselves for the right person and the right time. Nothing is perfect, we are not perfect. But amidst our imperfection, God is perfect! As we seek Him, and as He oversees our affairs, we wait and we watch in awe of the redemptive nature of all God's acts, how He can take our ashes and turn them into jewels. We see the tangled mess on the back of the tapestry while He is designing the beautiful work on the other side of it.
Josh & Kerin — celebrating six years, looking forward to many more!
Why are my thoughts so much on relationships? I am not 100% sure but I think it must have something to do with nearing 30 years of marriage to Bernie, as well as having young adult children of marriageable age. So please forgive my excessive ponderings; now a third letter this year related to 'love,' this time sparked by reading a blog of someone I totally don't know. As I ponder though, I think there is no better summary of love than the classic verses in I Corinthians 13. We hope you enjoy the video link we have to Daniel reciting these verses from memory:
Watch Daniel reciting I Corinthians 13.
The Excellence of Love
"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."
~ St. Augustine
- If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
- If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
- And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned,
but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
- Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
- Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
- Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
- Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
- Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
- For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
- But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
- When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child;
when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
- For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part,
but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
- But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our Great Example in Love
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
~ II Peter 3:9
Guess what?! The type of love and commitment I am speaking of for a human 'till death do us part' relationship, the love described in the above verses is the type of love God has for us and demonstrated to us on the cross, the type of love that marriage is to be an example of; Christ and His love for the church. "This mystery is great..." See Ephesians 5:32. God is the perfect perseverer in love towards us; God through Jesus Christ. Our prayer for all who read this letter is that you would be filled up to overflowing with the power of that love, and that it would equip you in your relationships, your marriage and your world to be set apart in your view of love, and also in your persevering actions that issue out of that view. If you are single and reading this, if the Lord leads you, may you also take hold of that vision to wait for that one woman or one man God has designed to be your helpmate, and put off the business of playing around and breaking hearts, and having your own heart broken as well. Even if you have a past, it is never too late to make a decision like this in the present, and move forward in a new way. In so doing, in waiting if you are single or in persevering if you are married, you are getting the opportunity to know, to a small degree, the commitment and level of love God has for us. What He 'puts up with' in us is hugely more than what we will ever have to suffer in dealing with another person. And what He gave up (His life) to restore what we ruined when we ran from Him pales our complaints of suffering and sacrifice in human relationships. This life is a test. We are not here to see how much we can get, or how happy we can make ourselves. We are here to learn about love. True love that stands the test of time. That only comes about with suffering and sacrifice and giving up things at times for the sake of others. Will we pass the test? Only with Christ's example, and the power of His life lived through us in the form of the Holy Spirit.
So it seems quite fitting that as I am speaking of God's unfathomable love for and forgiveness of us, that we have ready a first draft of our new gospel flier that tells the story of God's great love for us, the story of redemption. We hope you enjoy it, and we would love your feedback as we seek to improve and refine it as needed before Aaron makes it look nicer and we go to print! (Click here to read the rough draft.) We hope you enjoy this 'love story,' the story that is an example of love that can be the pattern for every successful marriage. He did not suffer so we don't have to, rather He suffered so we can learn how to give up and suffer for the sake of others ourselves, and ultimately more fully understand God's love for us, partly through choosing to live in forgiveness and unconditional love towards your spouse and others, and also by receiving their unconditional and forgiving love. We always pray for God to use us and all we create and do in spite of all our inadequacies, not because we are so perfect or godly. Please join us in praying for the gospel message in our new flier to be clear to thousands of people who will eventually receive it, and that the Lord uses it to bring people into a relationship with Himself.
Meanwhile, a lot is going on! Please continue to pray for our outreaches and other ministry opportunities. The Lord continues to keep us busy, and we really covet your prayers for us! Please join us in praying for real spiritual fruit that remains from our labors (John 15:16).
Please keep us in your prayers! Thank you!
In the Love of Christ,
The Washington Monument, a beautiful tribute to our Founding Father. A block on the west side near the top cracked during the recent earthquake. Providentially, Bernie had just been up there with families of church leaders from Asia a few days before. As you may know, at the very top on the east side, where the sun rays first illumine D.C. each (sunny) day, is where the words "Laus Deo" are engraved: "Praise be to God."
Bernie speaking to our outreach group at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
Telling stories of our nation's Christian heritage
I couldn't resist including this picture of our three budding violinist granddaughters :)