Archive for the 'Marriage' Category

Tearing Down High Places: Part 2

Recently, I shared how I came to realize that I had, in a very real sense, set myself and our marriage up as a “high place” for my husband. Although I never would have said it, nor probably even thought it, the Holy Spirit showed me that my hurt, angry and bitter response to my husband’s need for God – instead of turning to me – as he wandered through the home-going of his mother unequivocally confirmed that truth in my heart.

God Himself stated that it was not good for the man to be alone – and He made that statement in the perfection of the Garden where God served as Adam’s company and companion. In that perfect moment, a time before sin became a part of the equation, God not only gave Adam (and the rest of us) permission to desire and need human companionship… fellowship… community… with someone who was not God – He ordained it! Yet week after week, we sing beautiful, heart-stirring worship songs about intimacy and relationship with the Lord being our “all in all;” that He’s “more than enough.” How do we reconcile these two?

It must be that the yanking back and forth between two good, God-given, complementary desires came when sin became a part of the equation. One of the consequences of sin was that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. At first, that doesn’t seem to fit with all of the other consequences. I read that and think, “Of course! Her desire should be for her husband. That’s a good thing, right?”

That particular Hebrew word occurs three times in the Bible.  In Genesis 3, it refers to the longing a wife will have for her husband. In Song of Songs 7, it refers to the longing of a man for a woman. What is so sobering is that in Genesis 4, it refers to the craving of a beast to devour its prey.  When I look at that third connotation of the original word, when I see that it is used in the context of a curse -negative consequences resulting from sin… I have to ask myself if the Lord wasn’t telling Eve that part of her continual struggle would be fighting against a longing that, if not confessed and repented from, then submitted to the authority of the Lord and the help and power of the Holy Spirit, could devour both her and the one she has promised to love above all else?

That word devour illicit vivid images… remember Peter’s words about Satan “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?” What about David’s vigilance as a shepherd, necessary to prevent lions and bears from mauling the flocks for which he cared? And then there is, for me, the unforgettable biblical account that I once taught to the ladies in our church’s Bible study. In 2 Kings 17, the King of Assyria sent people to repopulate the area once inhabited by the Israel – and lions were devouring the people. The solution? A Jewish priest was commissioned to teach the people how to fear and worship the Lord – which the nations did. But they also kept their own high places and worshipped their own gods at the same time. In verse 33, it is written, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods,” Later, in verse 41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.”

Sobering words.

On his web page Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby writes:

“Appealing to peoples’ carnal nature, the high places were always popular…” and

“High places are seductive… Such hedonistic religion appealed to peoples’ base senses of greed and sensuality. No wonder God commanded Joshua to obliterate…”

Resulting from that first sin in the Garden, I must recognize this continual temptation of a longing for my husband that distorts the original desire and need God placed within mankind to find joy and fulfillment in the companionship of a spouse or of others like us that complements the worship and adoration of Him as God and Lord. If my husband (…or child, etc.) subtly becomes the focus of my adoration and worship – and I set him up as a “high place,”  I then begin to demand that same sort of attention from him in return – trying to lead him to a high place centered on me. I become jealous, playing the part of jilted lover or forsaken friend when that does not happen. If not arrested, that longing can devour me… and the one who is the object of my longing.

Vigilance is key to stopping high place construction before it starts. I find I must continually present this temptation to the Lord each time the Holy Spirit reveals that I’ve begun… or have already built and begun worshipping once more at that pagan altar. I need to go back to the solution offered in 2 Kings 17. I must relearn a holy fear and reverence of the Lord. Yet I think it is clear from that chapter that a fear of the Lord who allowed devouring lions that terrify is not sufficient. Read of all the kings and rulers who feared and worshipped the Lord, but allowed the high places to remain… with consequences for those around them and for those who followed after them. The rest of the solution requires persistent, nitty-gritty obedience. I usually think of the following words, from Deuteronomy 6, as directed towards parents and leaders – but what if I applied them to all relationships…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates… then watch yourself, and see that you do not forget… You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods… you shall not put the Lord your God to the test… You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes… You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord… So the Lord commanded us to observe al these… to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this, just as He commanded us.”

(Post by: Richelle)


Tearing Down High Places- Part 1

My mother-in-law died last year, just before Christmas. This year, we’ve walked through the one year anniversary of her promotion to glory. In some ways, it feels surreal. After all, it wasn’t our first time to celebrate the Savior’s birth without her presence. As missionaries serving far from our families, that is actually the norm. But we couldn’t call… or video Skype… and just knowing that Dad was facing a second Christmas without her? …it made my heart ache. It also reminds me of a heart-aching lesson the Lord taught me in that season, a lesson about the cost of gifting sacrificial love.

When we returned to our place of service in July, 2010, we knew my husband’s mother’s health was fragile; we never dreamed she’d see her Savior face to face before that Christmas. Thankfully, Tim was able to make a whirlwind trip back to the States for that Thanksgiving, spending it with his parents, and having the opportunity to say a final earthly goodbye to his mama. I know that time, while heartbreaking for the rest of us who couldn’t go and be with Mom/Grandma, was a treasured and precious time for both my husband and his parents.

While he was gone, I started scheming. Our 16th wedding anniversary was coming up shortly after his return… We hadn’t gone away together, just the two of us, for over 8 years… A friend volunteered to take our kids for the weekend, to let us get away to a lovely-for-West-Africa little resort literally just minutes away from our house for the weekend… Offers like that don’t grow on trees! What’s more? We actually had a bit of surplus in the budget and could afford to retreat, together…

As I said, I started scheming… dreaming… anticipating time… just the two of us… after some very long, difficult and stressful weeks apart. I was excited; friends were excited for me – for us. Raising eight children – the youngest of which was just winding up nursing – busy lives, and a limited budget? That meant that those sorts of opportunities truly were few and far between. Then factor in the reality that even thinking about all the prep work required to leave this family often discourages any desire to do so. But this time? I was more than ready. One night, while chatting on-line, I quietly typed these dreamy ideas to Tim as our littlest one slept on my lap, sweet little hands cupping my face. He seemed as excited about this little get-away as I was… and I couldn’t wait for him to be home.

Literally, just days after he left the States and returned to Niger, his mother’s situation turned critical.  It was not long before the decision was made to remove one of the gentlest, sweetest women I’ve ever known from life support. Tim was devastated… we all were… There’d been unexpected moments of hope- talk of transplants and even some plans for the future. So, while not unexpected, reality still seized us by surprise, accosting our already aching hearts.  We couldn’t afford another trip home that quickly for him to attend her funeral. As Tim grieved, he started talking about wanting to just get away from the city, away from all of the people asking him how he was doing and the well-meaning but sorrowful, sympathetic looks directed his way. He wanted to take our older children to a wild game park/reserve and just camp out for 2 or 3 days, accomplishing in his mind two things: 1) escape and time alone with his big kids who are much better than his wife at living in, enjoying… the present moment and 2) scoping the place out and seeing if it might be a place we could vacation as a family.

If he took this camping trip, however, our just-the-two-of-us-get-away simply wouldn’t… couldn’t… happen. He decided – and it wasn’t the decision I wanted.

I was hurt. Hurt soon turned to anger.

I sullenly nursed anger and wounded pride (After all, what would I say to all those friends with husbands who would never choose something over a weekend away with their gal?) until a still small voice gently confronted me, stopping me in my internal foot-stomping tracks and prolific self-pity party. The Holy Spirit pointed out that my hurt-turned-angry feelings sprang from jealousy more than anything else. I had wanted to be the one Tim turned to in his grief. I wanted him to need me above all else, to choose me as the one upon whom he’d lean. In reality, he was telling me he needed time alone and away with THE Comforter. That truth should have delighted my heart… but it didn’t.

So what do we wives do when the Lord shows us that we’ve tried to set ourselves up as our husband’s idol, expecting our man to have needs met by us when he should be running first to God? In the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to tear down and destroy high places tempting idol worship. (Deuteronomy 12:1-5 is an example.) The word translated tear down is, in other places, also translated “utterly destroy,” “obliterate,” “make perish completely…”  I see no other choice than to choose to die to self and free my husband from this subtly insidious expectation that he worship, adore and run to me first and foremost. To love well, I must obliterate that idolatrous construction of my expectations for what our marriage and our friendship… our relationship… will look like.

It is one thing to recognize that you have “high places” – areas that tempt you to worship someone or something other than God. It is another to realize, as you examine your life, that the Holy Spirit is gently pointing out high places I have constructed for my husband… my children… my friends, etc.?  

Might He be showing you one or two?

If so, how do we go about tearing down those places?

(Post by: Richelle)

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