What the "Trinity" taught me about marriage

Over the years, I've been privileged to gather weekly with Scott, Michael and Lucas. At some point soon after we started gathering, I started to think of these guys in Trinitarian terms. This is a little weird, I know. In our first few weeks of meeting together Scott shared about fatherly concern, Michael shared about struggles as a son, and Lucas shared deeply about his joy in the Holy Spirit. So, I started thinking of them as the "Trinity." I'm a nerd.

Over the years, these men have helped me be a better husband. They've taught me more than I realize about marriage (mostly by example).

Marriage involves union
They taught me that marriage involves union. The Bible speaks of a husband and wife becoming "one flesh". Distinctions blurr in a way, but you also find your strengths and weaknesses standing out in sharper relief.

Scott talked about this a bit on Sunday and often shares about this when we're praying. Susan's illness impacts him deeply, deepest when he is at his husbandly best. He can no more ignore her illness than he can ignore an illness in his own body. The shallow comforts Christians offer to the sick and suffering prove unavailable when one is deeply united to the person in need.

Scott can't ignore Susan's illness, but that's almost immaterial, as that's not his desire. He loves Susan and is united to her and wouldn't change that for all the world. Scott and Michael and Lucas share over and over again that the deep union that we experience in marriage opens a way to a deep joy. Surely it must be with joy that Christ is united to his bride, the church.

Marriage shows your need for a Savior
These men follow Jesus so well: faithfully in the academy, in their families, in their Christian communities. I look up to them (and not just because they're taller). But over the years, they have over and over again shared how their marriages have helped them understand their need for a Savior.

One day, I came to the lunch frustrated with Amy. We had had a fight, she had not done something the way I wanted it done and I was angry. As I complained to my friends, Michael offered this gentle correction: "It's hard to see your strengths manifest themselves as weaknesses in your wife, to catch yourself saying 'I could have done that better' or 'Why doesn't she just do it the way I told her to?' But, when I catch myself saying things like that, I'm probably catching myself being prideful, being arrogant. Where do my strengths come from?"

Now, Michael's an economist-poet, so he probably said that more efficiently and beautifully than I just did, but it connected with me so deeply. Over and over again I catch myself forgetting my need for a Savior. It's so easy for Jesus' saving to slip to the back of my mind, but being married helps with this. How often have we been driven to prayer and to Jesus when our sin manifests itself in our marriages! And how great a Savior!

Marriage calls forth prayer
Week in and week out the "Trinity" gathers for prayer. They pray for their wives, for each other, for each other's wives and for a dozen other things. And I get to join them.

We do more than pray and, to be honest, prayer sometimes gets pushed to the corner of our get-togethers, the last-minute bowing of heads before rushing off into the tyranny of the urgent. But we pray. We pray when we're together and all throughout the week. And no one is more amazing at this than Lucas. He prays for his wife and his kids and his work. He gives thanks for his dog and prays with his vet. Lucas prays with us when we're struggling to love our wives. I'd love to follow him around and see how much time he spends praying. He'd probably say 'Not enough' and the rest of us would chuckle and secretly admire him.

Together, these men have helped me to pray. And I need their help. I'm united to Amy in marriage, but I'm a sinner in need of a Savior. On top of that, Amy - wonderful though she is - is a sinner in need of a Savior. How can this union survive without prayer? How can I pray without help? The deep prayer of married sinners nourishes my union with the Triune God.

Thank God for the "Trinity"!

Humble accountability (pt. 3)

So, by tomorrow...I meant Saturday.

The body-language used in the Bible is both literal and metaphorical. God calls us to love, care for, worship, suffer patiently, and live in our physical bodies. He also calls us to participate in what he calls "The Body of Christ."

Now, what gets called "The Body of Christ" in the Bible also gets called "the fellowship" or "the Church". And one could just substitute in "Church" for many places where the Bible reads "Body of Christ". But this would be to rob the Bible of much of its richness and beauty.

What is God trying to communicate to us when he talks about the church as the body of Christ? AllaboutGod.com has an excellent intro to the idea posted here, but I think a lot can be learned for the dual uses for the word "member". You can be a "member" of a fraternity, sorority, hall, class, club, most-wanted-list. Your body also has "members": arms, legs, appendages, etc...

We are called to be "members" of the body of Christ: to belong and to belong.

And this influences the way we approach accountability.

I am part of the same body as you, therefore I must hold you accountable. What you do influences me too!
I am part of the same body as you, therefore I must approach you with humility. What you do is my doing too!

Isn't that a wonderful, odd concept?

Humble accountability (pt. 2)

So...bodies.

There are two body-knowledges that will help us as we pursue humble accountability. First, there's the knowledge of the broad biblical teaching on our physical bodies. Secondly, there's the oft-used, seldom-thought-about image of the body of Christ. Let's start with the physical.

In Genesis, God gives the man and woman bodies. They can glorify him with these bodies, serving him with hands and minds and stomachs. When the man and woman fall to sin, their bodies continue to be of use, revealing their limitednesss, revealing God. When Abram and Sarai long for a child, they long to see the promises fulfilled through their bodies. When Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert, they hungered and thirsted and sacrificed and worshipped with their bodies.

The biblical religion is an earthy religion, full of dirt and flesh-tones. And this religion hits its climactic stride with what Tom Oden calls "the body language of God." Jesus comes in a body, dies in a body and rises in a new, glorious body: the firstborn from the dead. And he will return, return soon (maranatha) in that same body. And "we will meet him in the air," in bodies.

The Bible claims over and over again that bodies are good: corruptable, dangerous, but good. And if bodies are good, they also matter to God. So, what we do in and with our bodies is significant, connected to God's work in and through us and in and through the world.

We need to be convinced of the goodness and significance of our bodies if we are to engage in humble accountability. If what we do with our bodies is dirty or shameful, then why talk? If what we do with our bodies is unimportant or meaningless, then why talk? Goodness and significance make us care and hope and form a framework for the accountability that will help us be more like Christ in our bodies.

Tomorrow, I'll flesh out the body-of-Christ aspect of humble accountability.

Humble accountability

We have the potential to offer our friends a great deal of help as they follow Jesus. In fact, I would offer that if we don't help each other, many of us will cease to follow Jesus wholeheartedly in the years to come.

Most people would agree with this idea. We need each other.

But for many people, college presents a time of divided and dividing life. We develop pockets of rebellion, closets of darkness, and subterranian caverns of habitual sin. This is especially true when one considers the arena of our sexuality. How many people do you know who are struggling with pornography? How many couples do you know whose private sexual relationships don't reflect their public convictions? How many quiet rationalizations rise up around us during this time?

We need people to de-privatize our lives, to pull us out of the shadows, to remind us that our sin is not truly hidden, not truly private, and not without consequence.

We need what had come to be called accountability. And the key to good accountability in this arena is clear thinking about bodies. I'll blog more on this tomorrow!

Lauren Winner on Sex

My favorite essayist is Lauren Winner. You're heard me refer to her several time, talking about sleep or work. She writes with a great deal of insight and wisdom. Check out this excerpt from her book on sex:
The bottom line is this: God created sex for marriage, and within a Christian moral vocabulary, it is impossible to defend sex outside of marriage. To more liberal readers, schooled on a generation of Christian ethics written in the wake of the sexual revolution, this may sound like old-fashioned hooey, but is the simple, if sometimes difficult, truth.

To read more from her on this topic, go to this excerpt or (even better) buy the book: 'Real Sex'