Monday, January 3, 2011

Usher's Sad Jam....and The Glory of a God-Centered Marriage

I'm ready to sign them papers, papers, papers
I done took all I can take, but you leave me no options, girl 
I can't deny how much I love you, I done gave up everything I had to
              As hard as it is, I'm afraid I gotta say I'm ready to sign them papers, papers, papers
- Papers, Usher

For some reason I find myself listening to the local R & B station Hot 107.3 JAMZ from time to time in the car.  Who doesn't need some Barry White or Al Green for the occasional inspiration to let their woman know they're "never gonna give her up" and they're "so tired of being alone"?

The other night I heard Papers (please listen here!) by Usher and was blown away.  Though the song was an initial shock to my sensibilities, 2 minutes in I was moved by the brutal honesty and pain in the lyrics.  A heart of compassion grew within me as I began to consider that Usher speaks for a generation of spiritually and thus, relationally confused young men and women.  Art imitates life and Usher, regardless of your taste for R&B, is a consummate performer/artist telling the truth about himself through his music.

In Papers the recently divorced Usher speaks of what my friend, Ken Brumley, call the "issues" in marriage.  Brumley says that when the issues in a marriage overshadow the relationship, the individuals within it retreat into a self-protecting (read self-centered) stance and the power of covenant love rapidly begins to break down.  

Conversely when the relationship is fed by the truth of God's unbending, unbreakable love for us and for our marriages, faith grows and issues shrink.  Couples can press selflessly into the relationship with hope as fears are dashed by belief in God's promises (1st John 4:18).

  God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”

 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 
           - Heb. 13:4-9

I remember seeing Kramer vs. Kramer when I was most likely way too young to view such heavy material (thanks HBO 1983 summer morning programing!).  In the movie a NYC couple fights incessantly whilst deciding the particulars of their divorce settlement leaving their little boy to make sense of his parent's fragmented relationship.  

A married father of two children I recently revisited the picture from a totally different perspective.  I was moved on a whole other level.   It was easy to see that the couple in this story was powerless to defend their marriage from the schemes of "the thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy" (John 10:10).

I thank God for my own marriage and it's trans-formative effect on my life.   It's far from easy but no where do I feel the hand of God more at work in my life.   To illustrate....

Most nights Megan and I lie in bed recounting the days events. Getting into agreement about the ways we approached relational situations, conversations, parenting etc. is key for us.   Megan has an uncanny way of helping me make sense of my actions thanking God when they are righteous and praying that I will receive her rebuke when they are tainted by sin.    

I can be impatient at the day's end restless to get some sleep before another day begins, but my precious wife wants us to be on the same page about the preceding days events in the hopes that our understanding will pave the way for my righteous leading of our family in the days to come.

Pride is an issue for me.   I'd rather not hear that I'm anything less than perfect; that I make mistakes.  For this God gave me marriage.  You laugh but I'm serious!    I'm so thankful for a wife who loves God and our family enough to encourage me towards righteousness.   The issues in my marriage cause Megan and I to more deeply depend on the God of all truth who reveals to us the depths of our sickness but then immediately overwhelms us with His healing, curative power.  

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long. - Psalm 25:5

Not long ago George Barna’s research discovered that the divorce rate in so called Christian churches in America was fractionally higher than the national average of 1 in 2.  Interestingly the same article carried an encouraging statistic related by George Gallop, another Christian statistician that couples who pray together four times or more a week, have a divorce rate of 1 in 1052.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  - 1st Peter 5:8

If, as Paul writes in Ephesians, the "one-flesh" reality of  Christian Marriage is a "profound mystery" meant to symbolize God's covenant love to His church in Jesus, consider just how powerless are those couples who enter into the sacrament of marriage without acknowledging Christ as both the designer and sustainer of the very covenant love they are committing to.
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.  
- 1st John 4: 1-6
Because our marriages are constantly assaulted by world-views opposed to the love of God (made manifest by the committed, loving Christian marriages), let us seek to encourage one another towards the facts:  God loves us, God gave us our spouses,  God means to transform lives with the power of The Gospel and He uses our marriages as His megaphones to a broken-hearted, loveless world.  

I'm going to go hug my wife,

I leave you with a  much more Gospel-centered R&B track.  Truly a covenant love message for the ages.....

This Week:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM
   Chapters 11-15 of The Screwtape Letters
   2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm) 

* The Magills - God's Way Church in North Tyler - Sunday at 10:30 AM w/ gospel choir!

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