Grant proposed to me on December 13th and I am officially an engaged woman! Wedding planning has me stoked (probably a tad too stressed, as well), and I know that being engaged is supposed to be an exciting, celebratory time. And I am excited and celebrating.
But I’d be lying if I said that Grant and I are having the time of our lives. I pray to God that this is not all there is.
Because relationships are not easy. They are back-breakingly hard.
And if you are dying to be in my shoes, I want you to know that sometimes I’d really like to be in yours.
This is where everyone scolds me for getting engaged. You’re not ready! Are you sure he’s the right one? This is an awful attitude to have when you’re getting married.
But is it so awful? To have the realization NOW that love feels almost impossible sometimes than have that realization AFTER we vow to spend the rest of our lives together?
I’m thankful that my eyes are opened continually to the selfishness of my nature and the selfishness of his. I’m perhaps even glad that we fight and raise our voices and feel hurt from the weight of each other’s weaknesses.
Why? Because when I say “I do” to this man, I’ll know that I really mean it. I’ll know that this commitment I am declaring before God and my loved ones hasn’t been made in blind love. It’s been made through tears and anger and fears and some bitterness, too.
I believe that the decision to marry someone is a commitment that should not be made when you’re happy. It should be made when you’re in your lowest of lows, when you’ve seen some of the tough stuff that this commitment will ask of you and bring into your life.
Although I know marriage is not all there is to life, I do believe God designed it to be a beautiful and life-long demonstration of Christ’s love for us. And in case you are unaware, Christ loves us through EVERYTHING. Our good times, our best behavior, and also our weakest and darkest moments. It doesn’t make sense. And Grant and I want to love each other in this nonsensical way, too.
We must be crazy because we are nowhere near ready to be married. We are young and immature and bad at love. Yet we are ready for marriage in the regard of signing up for this ludicrous idea of lifelong love anyway… because that’s the kind of commitment that I know marriage takes.
After watching married couples struggle and fight and divorce and mourn, I know that the ones who remain committed to each other must be crazy. And not crazy in love. They’re so crazy that they plot murder while somehow not acting on it. They’re wrapped up in a terrifying, almost-ridiculous commitment that watches love walk out the door again and again yet still hopes and still stands firm.
I’ve only begun making this commitment to Grant. It’s something you do with an officiant and some witnesses, but it’s also a decision you continue to make and live with for the rest of your life. And I want to take the next step.
Because I know this is one back-breaking, gut-wrenching commitment that will take me places I didn’t want to go and then carry me to places I never want to leave.
The reality is that relationships and marriages will face opposition and bring you some of the worst pain you’ve ever known all while being one of the greatest adventures you could ever ask to be on.
Because even though it’s far from perfect, it’s with him. And even though you will have thoughts of walking away during tough nights and loud fights, you will realize you wouldn’t want it any other way. Easier, maybe. But not if it means a different man at a different time in a different place. You see the beauty in where you are, the holy ground you both have been standing on.
And you realize that this desire to fight for just one chance with this one man is love.
Faithful, tried and true love with room to grow.
This is where Grant and I are at. I know we have so much left to learn. We’ve hardly even started figuring out this whole dating thing, let alone this permanent doing-life-together thing called marriage.
But we’ve figured out that it has to be done together. Join or die.
Are you in this with me?
Yes, I say.
Are you in this with me?
Yes, he replies.
It somehow becomes enough. When you know that you have a God beside you and going before you, you start to see things in a different way.
Thoughts of giving up become prayers of surrender. Signs of failure become opportunities for growth. A growing faithfulness to each other becomes an increased awareness of God’s faithfulness to us.
I’m sharing these things because I want you to know why I am marrying Grant, but I am also sharing these things because I want you to know what it might be like when you’re engaged. If you’re wishing to be in my shoes because you don’t yet have a ring on your finger, I want to emphasize one thing.
Having a ring on my finger has not made a single thing better. It’s just made things more real.
And I don’t know about you, but I need more of reality. I need to see things as they really are so I can stop standing in one place and wishing for something to magically happen instead of doing the work that I know building a life together requires.
I need constant reminders that love isn’t magic. Love is a beautiful gift from God and of God that we’re still figuring out how to wield. That’s why we need to be on our knees, praying out of desperation for the things only God can do. That’s why we need to be alert, aware of the attacks of satan that have been trying to strangle Grant and I since day one.
When I first got a taste of this reality, I hated love. I hated Grant. I hated the promises I made. I hated this ring. Take it back! I wanted to scream. But after pushing through that hate and that bitterness and that fear and those doubts, I began to figure out that I do love being engaged to this man. Despite the harshness of reality and the lack of magic in this ring, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a conclusion I’ll have to keep coming back to for the rest of my life. That’s marriage.
If some of these things sound like dumb reasons to get married, then I guess we’re getting married for some dumb reasons. But regardless of whether we have the best of reasons or the absolute worst, I know we’ll stay married for beautiful, wise reasons.
Christ is in it for the long haul and so are we.
I started reading “Not A Fan.” by Kyle Idleman and it was quickly evident that he had some serious truths to lay out. Here is an excerpt from the book that may challenge you to consider if you’ve fully committed to following Jesus… or just being a fan. Afterwards, I will add my own comments on it and a few references to Scripture that really solidifies his point.
“If you read through the four Gospels that tell of Christ’s life, you’ll find that Jesus says “Believe in me” about five times. But care to guess how many times Jesus said “Follow me”? About twenty times. Now I’m not saying that following is more important than believing. What I am saying is that the two are firmly connected. They are the heart and lungs of faith. One can’t live without the other. If you try and separate the message of follow from the message of believe, belief does in the process…
Most fans I have talked with have been in church or in Christian communities where their belief in Jesus was constantly being emphasized and strengthened, but what it actually meant to follow Jesus was never made very clear.
For those of you who work out at a gym several times a week, you’ve probably noticed that there are a few ‘gym rats’ who always seem to be there. At the gym you can typically spot them walking aimlessly around the weight room and staring at themselves in the mirror. But I’ve noticed something about these guys. They tend to have huge upper bodies and teeny tiny legs. They spend hours working on their chest, biceps, and triceps, but the calves and the thighs don’t get much attention. As a result they are completely out of balance…
This is what we have done with our approach to discipleship. In teaching people what it means to be a Christian, we spend much of our time and effort bringing them to a point of belief without clearly calling them to follow…
Maybe that’s your story. When you heard the gospel, someone talked at great length and passion about you making a decision to believe, but said little about the fact that this commitment would necessarily change the way you live. I call this ‘selling Jesus.’
…So in case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christian, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”
After reading this, I was reminded of the passage in Luke 14 where Jesus is talking to a large crowd and begins telling them the cost of being a disciple.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes, even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (v. 26-27)
Stop and think about this for a minute. Now the word “hate” in these verses does not mean to literally hate. The original Greek word used here is miseo which means “love less”. Nevertheless, think about the people in your life- the people you love, the people you spend the most time with, the people you’d do anything for. Maybe you’re thinking about your parents or a significant other or best friend. Now imagine if God came to you one day and asked you to leave these people, the people you love most, in order to follow Him. I’m not listing specifics, but let’s say He called you to full-time missionary work overseas and you had to leave your family and friends to pursue this. Or maybe the people in your life are leading you down the wrong path and God is telling you to run the other way to Him no matter the cost. If you’re in a country that is hostile to Christians, these verses for you would probably mean abandoning your culture, your community, and your family’s acceptance entirely. Additionally, you must also “carry your cross” as you follow, whatever that may entail.
Jesus goes on to say: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” (v. 28-30)
I don’t know if you are a believer or not, a follower of Jesus or not. But what I do know is this: if you are thinking about following Jesus or already have begun following Jesus, you need to seriously consider what kind of commitment this means. You cannot begin following and giving your life to Him if you are going to take it back and change your mind. Like a builder, you need to first sit down and estimate the cost. What use is a building that only has a foundation and cannot be finished?
In Revelation, there is a message spoken by Jesus to the church in Laodicea that addresses a common standpoint of “Christians”.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)
Do not be lukewarm.
You cannot partially commit to following Christ. You cannot pick and choose what you want to do for Him, how much you’re willing to surrender to Him. He wants your all. He wants to be your all.
Kyle Idleman says in his book, “… I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Fans who cheer for him when things are going well, but who walk away when it’s a difficult season. Fans who sit safely in the stands cheering, but they know nothing of the sacrifice and pain of the field. Fans of Jesus who know all about him, but they don’t know him. But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, ‘Enthusiastic Admirer’ isn’t an option.”
So which are you?
Lastly, Jesus says in this passage of Luke, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (v. 34-35)
If we say we follow Jesus but end up living the exact same we did before we “committed”, are we truly following? If we say we surrender our lives to Jesus but only give Him what is convenient for us, are we truly surrendering? If we say we believe in Jesus but we ignore these truths that speak so loudly, do we truly believe? What use is this? If salt loses its saltiness, it is thrown out.
This cannot be ignored. Please, if you are not fully following Jesus Christ, sit down and think about committing. He longs for your commitment. He wants you to know His voice and walk with Him, but how many people have said “yes, I want that too!” but then turned away when life threw them a curveball? Be a follower. Don’t settle for watching on the sidelines. Get in the game! The cost is great, but the reward is so much greater! He is your prize and He offers you eternal life with Him. He offers complete forgiveness for your sins. He created you and molded you and has an amazing plan for you.
Don’t neglect this.
Ask yourself, am I follower or just a fan?