Saturday, December 29, 2012

Be Imitators of Christ.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a wonderful young woman who I have always looked to as a role model growing up. She graduated high school six years before me, but our brothers were and still are best friends to this day, so we spent quite a bit of time together.

She was such a beautiful bride and the two of them are perfect for each other... It is so encouraging to see these two newly weds truly living in a relationship that honors God. I hope that one day, I can find this same God glorifying relationship, if it is God's will for me.

At the wedding, the minister gave a brief message focusing on Ephesians 5:22-33. In it, Paul instructs wives to submit, in all things, to their husbands, just as the church submits to the Lord. But Paul instructs husbands to the far more challenging task of loving their wives just as Christ loves the church.

Christ sacrificed himself through the most humiliating death imaginable for the church--to save all of us. How easy is it, in light of that, for wives to simply submit? But yet, this world is broken to the point of husbands abusing their wives and wives not submitting and honoring their husbands. Paul really sums this up in 5:33, where he writes:

Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

Look at our world, at the broken mess that it has become. Is a man loving his wife as himself when he drinks himself into a rage? Is he loving his wife when he is gone all week and cannot even manage a simple phone call home? Is he loving his wife when he has not bothered to take her out on a date in years? And is a wife respecting her husband when she bad mouths him in front of others? Is she submitting to him when she openly disagrees with him in front of their children?

I think, however, the more important question is, are a husband and wife who live in this type of relationship and see no issue with this type of relationship, are they honoring God with their relationship?

Twice, leading up to this passage, Paul instructs his readers to, "Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us," (5:1) and to "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21). And then he goes on to compare the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and the church. I am not sure how much clearer that Paul could have made it for Christians:

As husband and wife, we are to live in a way that imitates Christ, therefore bringing honor to God.

But so often, even in "Christian" homes, this is not the way that a husband and wife live. And this life, that does not bring honor to God, does not set forth a good example for children to live their lives as imitators of Christ. It leads to more broken relationships, between fathers and daughters, daughters and mothers, brothers and sisters. 

Psychologically, the brokenness between a father and a mother can cause so much damage within the hearts of their children. It can lead to depression, eating disorders, anxiety, inability to have healthy relationships with others, inappropriate sexual conduct, and so many other issues. 

Paul knows this. In fact, Paul instructs fathers to "bring them [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (6:4). How can fathers do this when they are not living a life in imitation of Christ? By telling their children what to do, going to church on Sundays, and then returning home to not love their wife as Christ loved the church? 

No. In fact, in 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks to this idea. He tells the church in Corinth, yes, all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial to the community (6:12-20, 10:23-24). He specifically says that as Christians, we should only do that which builds up our brothers and sisters, or in this case, our children. And once again he commands that we be imitators of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). 

Luckily, I had a wonderful example of how to live as an imitator of Christ shown to me by this beautiful bride and her family. I have wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping me to transcend these hurts that have so deeply wounded my heart. And I have a God, who continually shows me his love and mercy and reminds me of his promise: 

"If my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will take me in." (Psalm 27:10)

I have to continually ask my Heavenly, Perfect Father for forgiveness because I am not yet strong enough to forgive my earthly parents. I have to lean on Him for the strength to honor and respect my parents simply because God commands it from me. And I pray that I may become more like Christ, so that one day, I will be able to submit to my husband, as the church submits to Christ, just as my newly wed friend can submit to her husband. 

I urge you, fathers and mothers, live in a relationship that honors God because it greatly impacts the hearts of your children and their relationship with their Heavenly Father. Wives, submit to and respect your husbands. And husbands, love your wives as you love yourself. As fathers, you have the greatest impact on your family--you are the head of the household. Use this in a way that brings honor to God. 


"I now believe that God desires for EVERY father to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. But more than just being there providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their father in heaven. A father should love his children, and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them, and teach them about God. He should model how to walk with integrity and treat others with respect, and should call out his children to become responsible men and women, who live their lives for what matters in eternity. Some men will hear this, and mock it. Or ignore it. But I tell you that as a father, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you. You can't fall asleep at the wheel, only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value, but the souls of your children do. Some men will hear this and agree with it, but have no resolve to live it out. Instead, they will live for themselves, and waste the opportunity to leave a godly legacy for the next generation. But there are some men, who regardless of the mistakes we've made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did NOT do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same. And whenever possible to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives, but who desperately need help and direction. And we are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous, to join us in this resolution. In my home, the decision has already been made. You don't have to ask who will guide my family, because by God's grace, I will. You don't have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ, because I will. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? I will. Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family's history? I will. Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? I am their father. I will. I accept this responsibility and it is my privilege to embrace it. I want the favor of God and his blessing on my home. Any good man does. So where are you men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord? It's time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you and to say I will. I will. I will!" (Courageous)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Forgiveness Within Perfect Love.

There's one person and one act that I never thought I would be able to forgive in my entire life. The truth? I can. Forgiveness is something that I can choose to give. 

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim--letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.” (C.R. Strahan)

Forgiveness does not mean that I have to like what he did to me. It does not mean that I was okay with what he did. And it definitely does not remove the pain that he caused. Forgiveness makes nothing go away. 

But see, holding onto un-forgiveness, it takes so much energy, so much time, and so much soul. Every day, another piece of me was consumed by this hatred of this guy who did nothing but hurt me. This guy who never even deserved my attention and my heart in the first place. It got to the point when it was just too exhausting to hate him anymore. 

The Bible, it teaches us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus himself teaches love. And if I am to truly allow Jesus into my heart, allow him to consume my wants and desires, allow him control of my life, holding onto this hatred becomes a fight inside of me. A fight that just drives me further from the only one who can love me perfectly. 

The idea of this separation--it's just simply unbearable. 

Because in this perfect love, God sent His Son to die so that I could spend eternity in perfect love. 
In this perfect love, I am held in the palm of God's hand, comforted by the only one who can heal my heart. 
In this perfect love, God promises justice. 

He doesn't overlook what happened. He sees it. And He loves me perfectly in spite of it. And if the Creator of the universe can love all of us, in our brokenness, and forgive us, then certainly, I can forgive this one person, right? 

No. I can't. 

But because of Jesus, I can. 
Because Jesus gives me the power to forgive. 
He gives me the strength. 

And no, this is not easy for me. 
But I have a Savior who makes all things possible.
And because of Jesus, I can forgive. Because I have already been forgiven. 

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” (C. S. Lewis)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve Musings.

For me, Christmas has always been a time to think and reflect on the past year...the good, the bad, the ugly. It gives me an opportunity to see how I've changed and grown because of it. And this year is no different. It's brought it's changes--senior year, ED treatment, heartbreak, graduation, camp, and Gettysburg. It's definitely lots to process.
I was cleaning my room this past week, and I stumbled upon my old journal. The last time that I wrote in it was Christmas 2011. This is a poem that I wrote on that Christmas Eve:
Emptyness and saddness, 
Lonliness and numbness, 
Christmas Eve. 

No hope, only pain. 
Streams of red from 
Pale white. 

We'll be okay. 
You're eating. 

Craziness exits, 
Just behind you. 
It lives here, 
In my head, 
Haunting me. 

Let me die. 
I read that and my heart just hearts. It breaks for the girl that I used to be, the pain that I used to feel. I cannot help but thank God for all that He has done in my life over the past year. The blessings He's given me, although I never really saw them as blessings at the time. I graduated Lake High School in June 3rd in my class. I am a recovering anorexic who can eat three meals a day and be okay with it. I am no longer suicidal and I can laugh and smile again.
I am alive. 
I cannot help but cry tonight because of this. Because God saw me, a broken, hurting girl, and He cared enough to send His son to die for me. And what's more, He wrapped me in His arms and love and He took His broken daughter and began to heal her. He told me that I am beautiful. That I have value. That I have always been worthy of love.
I still struggle, almost daily, with my past and depression, but tonight, on Christmas Eve, I know that I have hope. I know that I am loved. I know that my life is going to be important to someone.
I am more than my past.
To all of you who have walked beside me in this past year, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am so blessed to know you, for however long I may have.
To all of you who are struggling, always remember that you are never alone. There is hope. There is healing. And you are loved more than you know.
Mostly importantly, to Jesus, my Savior, thank you.
Merry Christmas!