Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is my heart good soil for a relationship?

The latest CCEF newsletter linked to part of a new booklet by David Powlison called "Renewing Intimacy in Marriage," and I thought it was so good that I've now read through it several times.

Even the first time I was reading it, I was struck by how appropriate this material is for any marriage, not just a marriage that has grown distant. In fact, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I'd venture to say that this would provide a great outline for a wedding shower devotion, and I'm going to keep that idea in my back pocket in case I ever get asked to do one again.

Or, also, these principles apply to any relationship, as a friend pointed out when I posted a quote on my facebook wall; the basic premise is that rightly-ordered worship produces strong, rightly-ordered relationships.

Here's the basic outline:

1. Distance in marriage is the result of the fall. "When you think about it, you’ll notice that the way you treat your spouse reflects the way you treat God. The same things that cause distance in your relationship with God cause distance in your relationship with your spouse." WOW.

2. If how we receive God and his Word can be described by the parable of the Sower and the four kinds of soil, and if #1 above is true, then those soils as a description of our hearts in relationship to God also applies to our hearts in relationship to others.
  • The hard soil is a hard heart that doesn' t know how to love. "When you have a hard heart, your relationship with God and your spouse is all about getting your own needs met."

  • The rocky soil is a disappointed heart that gives up on love. "When trouble comes to your marriage—your spouse isn’t perfect and your life together isn’t perfect either—your love wilts away. Romance is replaced by disappointment with life and each other. You may think, I just don’t love my spouse anymore. Our culture accepts that at face value, but God doesn’t. He has a different way of looking at your disappointment. God says, 'You’re discovering for the first time that you don’t know how to love. You enjoyed affection and romance, but love is hard and hard-won. Romance is a wonderful gift, but love endures through the hard times; it endures when the heat comes.'" Now isn't THAT quote just worth the price of admission?!?

  • The thorny soil is a distracted heart that is too busy to love. "When worries grab all of your attention, they choke the vitality out of your relationship with God. A preoccupation with material things will also choke your marriage—your life together can become all about managing what you own or getting new stuff."

  • The good soil is a fruitful heart that perseveres in love. "The person with the fruitful heart has an intimate relationship with God, and she relies on that relationship for the power and perseverance she needs to love for the long haul."
3. The "First Things First Principle." Here's the quote that I shared on my facebook and share again now:
If you seek intimacy with your spouse, you’ll always be disappointed. If you seek to love your spouse the way God loves you, you’ll never be disappointed. You will fail. You’ll still be hurt by your spouse’s sins. You’ll still get preoccupied by other desires. But in the long run there will be change. Intimacy will come your way—not always the way you’d like it or at the exact time you’d like it—but learning to love God will change your relationship with your spouse.
4. How does God love us? What BEAUTIFUL truths to be reminded of...
  • You are never out of sight or out of mind to God (Psalm 139:7–10).
  • He creates intimacy with you by the way he treats you (Isaiah 42:3).
  • He notices and cares about everything that happens to you (Luke 12:6–7).
  • He speaks openly about himself (John 15:15).
  • He listens to you (Psalm 6:8–9).
  • He is a refuge in the midst of your sufferings (Psalm 46).
  • He hangs in there over the long haul (Isaiah 49:14–16).
  • He laid down his life for you (John 3:16; Romans 5:6–8).
  • He forgives all of your sins (Psalm 103:1–5).
  • His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:21–24).
The closing reminder: our God "is a God who keeps his promises, a God of kindness, a God who forgives. [These] are also the attributes you need to make your marriage deeply joyous and intimate."

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