I’m not one to dole out marriage advice, as I often feel like I am still navigating the do’s and don’t’s of a healthy and God-honoring marriage. I’m just shy of 11 years old in marriage years, and really, I don’t know if anyone is ever ‘done’ with that kind of learning. If we’re being honest, we all make many mistakes–some repeatedly–before hopefully going, “Yeah ok, that really isn’t serving my marriage, and it certainly isn’t honoring God.” Ricky and I have a long list of these mistakes, and a good God to thank for His grace and patience in allowing us to continue journeying together through all the times when we haven’t exactly been the picture of wedded bliss.
If I could offer some advice, it would be to younger non-married people–as I often do with my two young boys, my most captive audience these days–and it would be something along the lines of what follows:
When we come to know God, we begin to understand that the world’s definition of ‘love’ is all wrong, as it is based solely on feelings and personal preference. It tends to be very self-oriented and contingent upon the pleasure one can derive from a relationship. But the love that can grow inside a marriage is the most rewarding kind, though it is still second to the love we experience directly from God. (This debunks the myth that marriage is the pinnacle or crown of the Christian life, my beloved single people). Just as we are to grow in our relationship with the Lord, He expects us to grow in our relationship with our spouse as we walk through this life with them. Just as we are to unite ourselves to the Lord and His suffering, we are to grow as one with our spouse, so that anything that befalls him/her is just as if it were happening to us…
“This is now bone of my bonesGenesis 2:23-24
And flesh of my flesh…”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Hence the vows: in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse. When we take the correct approach God intended, we begin to realize how off and short-sighted our concept of love has been. Prayer with our spouse, about our spouse and for our spouse is key not just to a healthy marriage, but to a growing one. Our personal relationship with God must be paramount, or we simply cannot learn how to love anyone well.
When I first met Ricky, he was a young Christian. He told me that one of his favorite movies was The Notebook. Yes. The Notebook. <Womp, womp.>
His favorite parts of the movie weren’t the sappy parts about Noah and Allie’s young romance. It was the parts with old Noah and Allie that really got him. He would get emotional in the part where the wife would forget her husband again because of her advanced dementia. Ricky was moved by the notion that even though Noah knew Allie would forget him, he would still visit her regularly and each time, he would tell her the story of their love. We witnessed a similar instance in person several years ago while serving in a nursing home. We met a man who would walk and take the bus to visit his wife at the home everyday and spoon feed her lunch to her. They had been married 60 years and he told us she no longer remembered him. But there he was beside her. Everyday. Meeting her needs. I’ll give you a moment…
How often do we forget God? I can’t count the times in my life when it would it have been right with God to not visit me anymore because of my spiritual ‘dementia.’ Yet He would continue to visit me, telling me the story of His love every time I bowed to pray or opened His Word.
I recently overheard someone having a conversation with a professing Christian that was very heated. The non-believing person said, “Oh, and the [biblical] story of Noah?! Where God destroyed the whole earth and all human life except for one man and his family…THAT’S inspired by God?! That’s not a LOVING God! That is a TYRANT!”
It’s absolutely understandable that someone would see it this way if they don’t know the complete story of God’s love. This habit of taking Bible accounts out of context (a common practice that plagues Sunday school and even Sunday services) can similarly cause quite a bit of confusion. It can lead to a misinterpretation of the entire Word, and a devastating misunderstanding of the love of the Father inside the very homes that churches are meant to serve and advocate for. Just think: When your child innocently asks you to read them a beautifully illustrated storybook about Noah’s Ark, are you supposed to just gloss over the part where God destroys all life on earth? Without any context? The individual mentioned above has likely had a similar experience, and he was obviously angry about it.
It just so happens that this individual is the head of a twice-broken family with a young son that he cannot control under any circumstance whatsoever. We have been privy to several clashes between father and young son, and even once heard the child scream, “I hate you! You are the worst father in the world!” because he wanted to play Nintendo instead of finishing his school work. This is the result of the many times the father has let the child rule the roost so that when the time comes to lay down the law, the son accuses him of being an unloving father. The misunderstanding of the Almighty Father’s love is unknowingly being passed down to this young child by the false notion that love means giving someone everything they want, rather than giving them what they need. I should add that the heated conversation about God’s ‘tyranny’ was had in full hearing of the child in question.
So, what does this all have to with marriage? As Ricky and I have learned ourselves what things we need to lay down to serve one another, we talk to our boys about what a God-honoring union looks like and what it will require of them if/when it comes time to marry. There are so many examples of poorly matched marriages, contentious wives and unloving husbands in God’s Word to teach us what not to do. In such cases, selfishness is king and each person is serving their own ends. Then there are the marriages in which husband and wife are of the same heart and mind; where both understand their given role as integral to the larger picture of God’s plan while not viewing themselves as of the utmost importance. They recognize that their lifestyle and their choices have lasting consequences for those around them, and for those that come after them. They hold each other accountable and instruct their children to do the same. They understand they are part of a larger story, of which Christ is the central figure.
As iron sharpens iron,Proverbs 27:17
so one person sharpens another.
Serving together has taught Ricky and me to have a much clearer perspective on our union than we would otherwise have, of which the most important lesson is that our marriage is most certainly not about us. Anyone who spent time with us or served with us before we went into full-time ministry might remember the bickering and unhealthy competition evident in our interactions. But over the years, God has shown us that we are not meant to be against one another; we are to be for Him. And the fruit of that focus has forged a kind of bond that we never imagined we’d have during the earlier years. We have been in some demoralizing and even scary situations throughout our years in ministry and today we trust one another wholeheartedly, knowing that the other has our back at all times, no matter what. This didn’t come without work, and it didn’t come without first learning the humbling lesson of how to lay down our arms in order that the story of God’s love may move forward.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,2 Corinthians 10:4-5
But this is God’s design for marriage: that He may be glorified. Not that either of us wins the most arguments; not that we be the most romantic couple in church, or the cutest on Instagram. It is not His design that our marriage be put on display for others to envy. It is that His kingdom may be advanced in and through our life as we raise our children in Him and teach others about Him. Those who are single are not exempt from this same responsibility to seek Him and His purpose for their lives.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.Matthew 6:33
Asking God to show you His view of love is a prayer worth praying daily. As I have prayed this, the Lord has shown me that He sent me Ricky to constantly remind me of the story of His everlasting love for me. I’ve seen this through my husband’s selfless love in action daily for the last 11 years. God’s love is not at all selfish or inconsistent. It is the kind of love that pours out oneself for the sake of another. It is steadfast and enduring, even when we forget Him. God’s love doesn’t need an audience to shine forth…He died alone on that cross. God sent His only Son to physically pour Himself out for me and for Ricky…and for you. It is the least we can do to pour ourselves out for one another, leaving behind our individual hopes and dreams, and uniting in the one thing that really matters: bringing glory to the name of Christ.
If you are married, my prayer is that you can see God telling you the story of His love through your spouse as you seek Him together. If you are single, I pray that He may show you the story of His love by people who love you enough to hold you accountable with biblical principles. May we all be blessed on this side of heaven with at least one like-hearted soul with whom we can share our joys and tears. Married or single, our years on this earth give us the chance to experience a deepening love that comes from the Father above and is designed by Him alone, not just for when we are healthy, rich and at our best, but also when we are sick, poor and at our worst.
feel the beat!
Since our last post, we had the opportunity to bring the message of God’s love to a very receptive congregation in our corner of the island. Our boys have been learning and practicing their music daily, and it is really nice to present what we’ve been working on at home as an offering to the Lord. People are encouraged by seeing us working together as a family, and one woman told me her husband leaned over when we were playing and pointed to Eugenio, saying, “¡Ese nene tiene swing!” (That kid’s got swing!) It’s funny because we recently told him he could loosen up a bit when we play at churches, and he’d said he was worried about not showing reverence during worship. We told him it’s ok to tap his foot and move to the beat. Now, he be-bops for the Lord. Below are some photos of our evening with this lovely congregation.
WORSHIP, THE WORD AND LAUGHTER
The above heading is a concise description of what makes up our ministry in Puerto Rico and online as we reach more and more people with our YouTube videos. Below, a summary of the videos posted to our channel since our last post…
- EL GRAN YO SOY (Spanish cover of ‘Great I Am’ by Phillips, Craig and Dean)
- Concept: One of my all-time favorite worship songs is also very popular in Spanish. I have had the opportunity to lead congregations in worshipping the Lord through this song, and was happy to be able to record a cover of it along with a music video for our channel.
- Teaching/Bible Verse: Exodus 3:14
- Views: 7,251 as of this posting
Click HERE to watch the video on YouTube
- EXPLICACIÓN DE JUAN 14:6 (Explanation of John 14:6)
- Concept: Ricky breaks down what Jesus means when He refers to Himself as the way, the truth and the life. He also breaks down how important it is to understand that no one comes to Christ unless the Father brings us to the Son.
- Teaching/Bible Verse: John 14:6 and many more
- Views: 3,401 as of this posting
Click HERE to watch this video on YouTube
- CUANDO SE LES METE UN PILLO (OTRA VEZ) (When a Thief Breaks in (Again))
- Concept: Another one in our “When the Grandparents…” series, this just-for-fun video finds Abuela Jenny showing her brand of hospitality to the neighborhood cat burglar…again. She presents the burglar with a wonderful opportunity for free room and board and her enthusiastic guest is all ears. She neglects to mention she is referring to the big house…the clink…you know, the local brig. That’s right, the local jail!
- Teaching/Bible Verse: Exodus 20:15 (as is always the case when the burglar character appears.)
- Views: 869 as of this posting
Click HERE to watch this video on YouTube
- A MI BATITA NO LE QUEDA TELA (My House Dress is Out of Fabric)
- Concept: And now it’s time for Silly Songs with Jenny. The part of the show where Jenny comes out and sings a silly song. It makes no sense. We can’t explain it. Maybe it’s cabin fever from the pandemic. Whatever the reason, everyone could use a good laugh these days, so we put it together, then headed down to the beach to film an equally wacky video in which we all appear fully enthused to be singing this song that means… absolutely nothing.
- Teaching/Bible Verse: None. None at all.
- Views: 732 as of this posting
Click HERE to watch this video on YouTube
his STORY CONTINUES
While our commitment to one another was born out of natural affection, it is ultimately guided by what God showed us before our wedding day when we included the following scripture at the bottom of our wedding invitation:
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.Joshua 24:15
Of course, only God knows all the parts of this story, and we believe He is just getting started. We remain grateful and humbled to be chosen to play a role in this, the story of His love.
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Thank you for reading, and may God bless you richly!