Making it Work

I got engaged about a week ago. It’s still new and delicious, but because life is real and keeps going, and we’re on a tight timeline, the Fiance and I have already planned about 75% of the wedding. (!)

An unexpected side effect of this life change is that, when I explain why I have a beautifully sparkly ring on my left hand, other people are more willing than normal to tell me about their own love lives. It’s been somewhat of a mixed bag. My parents are still together, happily so, and a lot of my friends growing up came from stable homes. But among my social circle from the last week and a half, the trend is overwhelmingly different: married twice, now divorced and single; two kids by first marriage, divorced, with a boyfriend; just married, future uncertain; single, exploring options on Tinder.

The Fiance and I have been reading “The Meaning of Marriage”, by Tim and Kathy Keller. I just finished the chapter on the difference between a consumer relationship and a covenental one. Consumer relationships exist as long as both parties are happy and receiving goods or services (or sex, or emotional fulfillment) that are to their liking; when conditions change and you are no longer pleased with the relationship, it ends, one way or another. As the Kellers point out, this is entirely appropriate in many contexts (did the plumber actually fix the sink? your landlord raised the rent?) but marriage, biblically speaking, is something different.

Marriage, according to the Bible, is a covenant — a solemn vow between two parties that they will keep their word regardless of changing conditions, emotions, or circumstances. When things get tough, or one party isn’t “feeling it” anymore, covenants act as a safeguard for the relationship: you promised to stick it out, so do it. Act loving and married, even if you don’t feel like it. American society still seems to view the parent/child relationship as covenental (you’re stuck with each other, unless one party outright disowns the other) but marriage…that has largely slipped into a consumeristic view, the Kellers argue.

My little poll seems to agree.

And, for myself, on the brink of such a life-changing threshold, watching so many people around me end up breaking their vows is very sobering.

So today, it was a sweet breath of fresh air to hear another person at work say she’d been married for 30 years, that it was hard at times, but you make it work.

It is sweet to see my sister, deeply happy, loving and respecting her husband of (almost three!??) years; sweeter still to see my parents, working hard to know each other better and go deeper in the third decade of their relationship.

And it is sweetest of all, to know Jesus; to know His unchanging, inescapable love. He is the original Covenant-Maker, and the best Covenant-Keeper.

God is still at work, friends. He is sustaining marriages everywhere. And if you’re reading this, and you’ve made marriage vows, and it’s hard, let me encourage you (weird as this may be coming from a starry eyed engaged lady) God can give you the power and the strength to act as if you respected your husband. As if you loved your wife. As if the biggest problem in your marriage was your own selfishness, and not his. God often works best in times like these, where we are weakest and most incapable.

This is not to say divorce is always wrong; there is strong Biblical evidence that sometimes divorce is godly and appropriate.

But if you’re married, and it’s not one of those few “divorce is biblically sanctioned” situations — please. Lean into Jesus. Ask Him for help. Stick it out.

He will not fail you or forsake you.

And by His sustaining grace and power, I believe the Fiance and I will be able to make it work.

 

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City living, day 223

It’s been long enough that some of the honeymoon feelings have worn off. The delicious novelty is gone, and I’ve settled into an easy familiarity, beginning to complain about commutes and distances (starting to sound vaguely like I did as a suburbanite — which is a little alarming!)

We’ve had gunshots, sirens, people smoking substances that maybe shouldn’t be legal in our stairwell.

I’m facing a summer full of road trips and adventures in new places!

But today, I walked to my favorite bakery (three blocks away) and I thought….maybe this is the last time for a while. I’m going to miss the bakery while I’m on the road.

So today, in the face of an impending change, I’m resolved to stop and enjoy each moment I still have in this crazy, wonderful city for exactly what it is, and not waste it.

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Try confessing your sin sometime. You might like it.

We keep doing these corporate confessions at church. They’re so good.

 

Holy and merciful God,

In Your presence we confess our sin and offenses against You.

We have wandered from Your ways. We have wasted Your gifts.

We forget Your love. We prefer ourselves and our ways to You and Your ways.

We have learned to live with un-holiness and see it as normal – even desirable.

Take away our roving eyes, our greedy appetites and our lustful hearts.

Have mercy on us, and wipe away our sin, guilt and shame.

Help us see that all things are shadows, but You are the Substance;

That all things are shifting, but You are the Anchor;

That all things are temporary, but You are Eternal.

Convince us every day that to have You is to have everything.

We ask all of this in the name of Your precious Son, Jesus Christ.

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resolve

I auditioned for a choir this weekend — but rather than me planning on it and preparing for it, I just sort of let it happen. In the audition, I found myself apologizing left and right — discounting my own abilities and acting insecure and bashful. Asking for affirmation and praise from the auditioners (!!) Singing is really hard work, I’m not gonna lie. Getting put on the spot like that is hard.

But it’s super important.

I finally worked up the nerve to listen to the most recent set of voice recordings I’d made. Listening to yourself sing solo is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s so humbling. You get caught up in what you think you sound like, or your perception of what nice (or mean) things other people say about you. And then, you hit ‘play’ and there it is — your plain, unvarnished voice. You.

My voice teachers told me singing is the most vulnerable of the musical instruments, because the instrument is your body. If you’re having a bad performance, you can’t blame shift to the instrument. Talk about vulnerability when performing!

But taking a good, hard look at yourself — a good sober look — is also one of the most productive things you can do.

Because I am an artist. That’s how I’m built. I can’t be otherwise.

Thinking back on how badly I felt during/after the audition; about all the hard things I’ve had to do lately, about all the growth opportunities I’ve had — and now, listening to my own little voice. The recording is slowly shattering my illusions of color, warmth, line, and musicality. I mean, sure it’s pretty, but you can tell I was not committed when I made those tracks.

Because I was afraid.

Because I didn’t want to leap in fully.

Because there were people around listening to me – and I cared too much.

I’ve always loved dancing. I’m not terribly good at it. But, I guess it just goes with expressiveness, and loving music. For years I watched other people dance at weddings, and I wanted to join. More than anything, almost, I wanted to join. But I was afraid — afraid of what my family would think, afraid of looking stupid.

And then one wedding last spring, I decided I just didn’t care, and I still wanted to dance. So I did.

Since then my public dance threshold has been ridiculously low. I haven’t seen video of myself dance and I don’t really care to, since I’m not trying to be epically good. I dance to have fun, and to help celebrate with other people.

Singing is a different matter. I’ve actually had some training and actually want to use my voice where ever it will best serve, and I want it to be ready to do whatever I need it to.

But one of my resolves is to just stop caring about the fact that people are listening. To stop caring about what they’re thinking of me, and to focus on making the best art I can, whether they like it or not.

I think I’ll sing better for it.

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