“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”
(1 Corinthians 13, The Message)
One of my best friends experienced a dream fulfilled last night as she walked down the aisle as a beautiful bride. And I had the distinct privilege of sharing in her special moment as one of her bridesmaids. Such a festive time—luncheons and showers to attend, the rehearsal and dinner, hair appointments, manicures, pedicures! What a week! And although all of this was much fun, it is not what made the wedding itself so glorious. The one thing that I have delighted in and celebrated the most about Karen and Mark’s wedding is the story of their relationship. Over the past two years, I have watched these precious friends work hard to learn to trust steadily in Christ; hope unswervingly in His goodness and faithfulness; and love each other extravagantly by offering much grace, mercy, and forgiveness. They understand something that many do not—we are all messy people living in a messy world and we usually make a mess out of our relationships.
Think about it. Have you ever had a relationship in your life that hasn’t disappointed you? If you answered yes, it’s either a relationship that is very, very young (like only days old!), or you are simply not living in reality. The truth is every relationship has and will disappoint you. The Bible tells us the reason for this. It is because we are living between the already and the not yet. Already, Jesus has lived, died, and risen. The Word has become flesh, and grace has been poured out in abundance. The ultimate sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God has atoned for our sin, now and forevermore. However, we wait anxiously for the not yet—that day when Christ will return for His bride and there will be no more crying and no more pain. All of human crookedness will be straightened out. But for the time being, we live in the middle. And the middle is messy.
Consider this metaphor. It’s as if we live in broken down houses in need of restoration. We don’t leave the house to reside elsewhere while the restoration is taking place. We live in that house. And while one part of the house is under construction, we try to put up thick sheets of plastic in attempts to contain the mess to only that portion of the house. However, you and I both know what happens. The mess cannot be contained. No matter how much plastic or covering is used, the dust seeps out into all other areas of the house—just like in our relationships. Every relationship we have had or will ever have has been conducted in a broken down house. And while we try to keep our own personal “messes” contained, it just doesn’t work. It oozes out.
So what do we do when it oozes? Well, I would venture to say that many of us would choose one of three options—shut down, lash out, or run away. But what if I suggested to you that there is a fourth option and that is to recognize that God has the final word on each of our messy, conflict-laden relationships. He can turn our messes into masterpieces. The truth is we are all sinners and able to do great damage to ourselves and those we love. We struggle with selfishness, pride, unforgiving spirits, irritation, and impatience. Not one of us escapes the effects of the fall on our relationships. Yet we are also God’s children, which means we have great hope. As Christ-followers, our hope rests in the presence of His indwelling Spirit. In Him, our relationships can be characterized by things like humility, gentleness, patience, compassion, love, and forgiveness—even here on earth, between the already and the not yet!
This is what delighted me about watching Karen and Mark grow together in relationship. Each one allowed God and others to confront the reality of sin in their lives. They wrestled with God through their own messiness. And as they clung tightly to Christ, they experienced selfishness being transformed into sacrificial love, pride into humility, and unbelief into a glorious belief that God is in and over and working through the messiness of our broken down houses. I’m so grateful to both of them for their transparency in allowing others to witness the transforming power of Christ in their lives. May God bless their marriage abundantly!