Daily Archives: November 20, 2012

Thirty years ago today …

… we rode in the back seat of a huge old car, to an empty church. My husband’s brother and his wife stood beside us as we exchanged vows on a Saturday morning. There was no music, there were no flowers. The pastor’s wife sat in the back pew and knitted, and my four-year-old son played with a bottle cap he’d picked up from the street. After the ceremony, we ate quiche. I had learned from my mother to roll out the unused piecrust dough, smear it with butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar, and bake it with the pie, so that was our “wedding cake.”

That was thirty years ago, and I have learned a lot from walking beside this amazing man through three decades. For instance,

  1. It really is better to bite your tongue than to give your partner a tongue-lashing (even when I deserve one)
  2. The marriage comes first. Kids grow up and move away, but we promised to be together until death parts us. Invest in that.
  3. Give up the fantasies. There is no such thing as a perfect spouse. I can’t be one, and I’m not married to one. What we have may not always be pretty, but it’s real, and it’s ours.
  4. Decide that this is what you want, and do everything in your power to keep it strong. This decision is closely connected to giving up the fantasy that there is such a thing as a perfect mate. The day I decided to want what I have was the day I knew this marriage would last.
  5. Look for the good stuff. This person by my side has so many amazing qualities. He has integrity. He’s patient. He is utterly dependable. He’s curious. He likes my cooking. He reads. He listens. He is as determined as I am to keep growing. I could go on and on. The truth is, every person on earth has some good in us somewhere. A spouse is the one who keeps reminding us of the good in us, and the one whose goodness we need to keep bringing to light.
  6. Keep the bad stuff in perspective. Yes, he snores, but it’s good to know he’s still breathing in the middle of the night. I find his snoring rather comforting, actually. There was something else… hmm, I can’t think of it right now. (Get my point?)
  7. Make the big decisions together, but trust each other for the small stuff.
  8. Make a budget. Keep it.
  9. One bookkeeper in the house is plenty, but that person needs to know all the data. Don’t hide expenditures from each other, and don’t hide income from each other.
  10. Be honest. Your spouse is not your confessor, but your spouse deserves the truth from you, even when it’s bad news.
  11. If you have children, always be united in your approach to raising them. Do not ever let your children play you against each other. (See number two, above.)
  12. Whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes. Whoever doesn’t cook cleans up the mess.
  13. Someone has to fold the stupid socks. Someone has to clean the stupid toilet. Someone has to take out the trash. Someone has to mow the lawn. Someone has to change the toilet paper roll. Someone has to unload the dishwasher. Someone has to buy groceries. It doesn’t really matter who does it, but it has to get done …
  14.    … Do not keep score.
  15. Find a way to talk through your disagreements. If you are too angry to talk reasonably, go for a walk to get yourself reasonable, then talk.
  16. Listen, listen, listen. With your heart as much as your ears and brain.
  17. Remember that you promised to uphold this person no matter what, so uphold this person no matter what.
  18. Pray for your spouse every day. Give thanks to God for the person who shares your life.
  19. Do something spontaneous every once in a while, just to prove to yourselves that you still can.
  20. Be dependable.
  21. Your spouse is not a mind-reader; ask for what you need. Be specific.
  22. Read aloud to each other.
  23. Spend time together doing nothing, saying nothing. Just be together.
  24. Take turns being the leader, the bread-winner, the main parent.
  25. Discover anew the person who first attracted you all those years ago.
  26. Hold each other every day.
  27. Say, “I love you” every day.
  28. Laugh together every day.
  29. Pray together every day.
  30. Love one another.

Hoarding God

We used a prayer of confession yesterday in worship that comes straight out of The Covenant Hymnal. I should probably mention that we do not, as a rule, include a prayer of confession in the order of worship. Confession might be part of the monthly Communion liturgy, or a regular feature of Lent, but it isn’t a weekly element of worship in our church. Sometimes I wish we did, but we don’t.

We added it this week, because the preaching text was Isaiah 6:1-8, in which the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in his temple, and Isaiah’s reaction to this experience is to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips…” A seraph touches Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar, and the passage concludes with God asking “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here am I! Send me!” Pastor Ryan wanted to draw a parallel between our order of worship and Isaiah’s worship vision, which moves from praise/adoration to confession, then forgiveness, and finally commissioning. It was good worship, and many people commented on how well it flowed, how meaningful it was to them, and how all the elements worked together.

But there was one line in that prayer, #909 in the hymnal, that stuck with me through both services, and I’m still grappling with it as I prepare an early Thanksgiving feast for my son (who will not be with us on Thursday, when we travel to his grandmother’s house).

Consider this:

“O Lord, we have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted, and we have wasted the bounty of your universe as though its resources were imperishable.”

We have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted. Conserved, saved, put away in a dark cupboard like jam and jelly … hoarded. And I realized, to my dismay, that this was true. I have been trying to hoard God.

Just like those folks wandering in the desert who thought they’d better collect a little extra manna “just in case, you know, we run out or something,” I try to save a little extra experience of God’s love for some time when I don’t feel so loved. And just like those folks wandering in the desert, I find that whatever I thought I was saving cannot be held in reserve. God isn’t something you save for a rainy day. God is here and now.

When the Apostle Paul was feeling sorry for himself, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  There is no need to hoard that grace. It is sufficient.

How do you hoard God? What will it take to let go, and depend on that all-sufficient grace he so willingly offers?