As I had shared in my last post, my husband and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary this year. It was a momentous occasion, which we celebrated with a belated trip to Maui this fall. During our time there, we enjoyed a little sightseeing and eating out (without kids!). But one of our greatest highlights was being able to have the uninterrupted time we needed to pray about and consider where God has been taking us over the past twenty years.
From the beginning of our married lives, we knew that we were to be on mission together. Around 2006, Dan and I began thinking and dreaming about a discipleship and retreat ministry. Over the past twenty years, we have found our greatest joy in utilizing our teaching gifts, our love for small groups, and/or using our home to minister to others. We have been watching and waiting for the Lord to guide us and as He has presented opportunities we would take them. Some things would have to wait until later, but we knew that there were plenty of places He could start honing our skills, growing our hearts, and developing our vision today.
With the addition of Anah, we have realized that life is never going to be exactly as we envisioned it.We don’t know what God is up to, but we know that He wants to do something with us together that will be more than what we could do if we were still single. Of course, this doesn’t mean that He can’t use unmarried people, nor should we interpret Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7 to suggest that only single people could serve Him effectively. The God who thought it was “not good” for Adam to be alone is also the creator of marriage, and their union brought satisfaction to His heart. We know that our relationship was something that God has blessed us with; how can we then bless Him with our marriage?
Francis Chan’s latest book, You and Me Forever, was co-written with his wife, Lisa. I enjoyed his first book, Crazy Love, when we were overseas in China awaiting the arrival of Anah and was definitely challenged by some of his radical suggestions. (Well, I don't think they were his original ideas, but Jesus', which are still as counter-cultural today as they were when He first shared them.) This book is similar, looking at marriage through the lens of the Gospel. It is not a book on marriage per se, but it does examine the ramifications of the Gospel in our marriages.
A few years ago, I taught a marriage class to women and one of the topics that seemed to capture many of us was the idea of being on mission together as husband and wife--something beyond being good parents or loyal church members. I had many comment that they wanted to serve the Lord with their husbands—and some of them have followed through with that desire in different ways. It has been exciting to see God helping couples explore the idea of living missionally as a couple and not just being content to build a nice little home, raise good kids, and saving up for a comfy retirement.
For the next couple of months, I will be taking this one topic and exploring it more in depth in an adult Sunday school class at our church, using You and Me Forever as a guide. One of the things that I really appreciated about this book was its emphasis on the Gospel and how it will impact how we view our everyday lives, our parenting (if we have or desire to have children), our values and priorities, our stewardship, and much more. It is definitely not for the faint of heart who want nice, easy, comfortable topics. At some points, you may even wonder, “Who even does this?”
Well, evidently, the Chans do seek to live out what they write about. Instead of going to Maui for their twentieth anniversary, they went on a mission to serve the poor in Africa. (You can see their 5-minute video about it on the homepage of the book’s website at http://www.youandmeforever.org .) For a moment, I felt a bit worldly for the five days we spent in Hawaii, but I don’t think that is the point. Their goal is not to shame us but to challenge us to dream even bigger. (And yes, there is something even bigger than Maui awaiting us!)
My two favorite chapters were chapters 4 and 6, and their thoughts totally resonated with my heart. I needed the reminder that we are in a battlefield, not a resort, and that our enemy is not our spouse, but the deceiver of our souls. I have been challenged to take the hard road of Christ, challenged to take risks for Him, challenged to surrender control of my life so that He could be more greatly magnified in and through me. This book will force each of us to personally consider our own walk with God, how it impacts our relationship with one another, and how it can be used to reflect the Good News of Jesus to the world around us, starting with our children. As we read the book together as a group, I know that God will continue to challenge me in these areas and deepen my vision for marriage and family so that it more closely resembles His.
As the Chans share, our marriages can give people a reason to praise God—or it can cause them to doubt His existence. I hope that our marriage will point others to Christ, and that it will depict the ultimate Marriage that is yet to come, with Christ as our Bridegroom and the church as His bride. To think that He allows those of us who are married to experience that is a privilege indeed and a foretaste of the glory that awaits us.