The Benevolent Scuffle

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“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

“Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).

“I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable.” G.K. Chesterton

My calling as a husband is to be a “Baptizer”; one who “prepares” the heart of my wife and points her to the Lamb of God. Indeed Robyn is invited to do the same toward me. It is our inclination to point elsewhere; often selfishly to ourselves or defensively at one another. But that is not the witness we are summoned to. We can easily point to the sin in one another and reap the consequences of defeat and shame or we can point to the Lamb and harvest the fruit of One who casts the sin of our accusing and defaming words and actions into the depths of the deepest sea.

In marriage we have the privilege of living out the gospel on the stage of our lives. The gospel is best defended when it is expressed in the wilderness of life. When in the midst of misunderstanding and butting up against the irritants of habit and personality, we respond by beholding and pointing to the Lord, the Kingdom of God is in our midst. When we point to the One who “surpassed” us we reveal Him to one another. What was hidden is now seen and made clear.

The Lamb is revealed to “Israel”. Reading this today the Lord reminded me of the story of Jacob receiving his new name, Israel (Genesis 32:22-32). He was renamed Israel as he had “struggled with God and man and overcame”. In marriage we are “Israel” to one another. We are re-named with a new identity. Not only do we reveal the Lamb to each other, we join in the “struggle with God and man” and together “win the day”. We come to the other side of life’s struggle and are the better for it – as with Jacob.

“Struggle”? What an intriguing idea and reality this presents to us in married life. It is not easy for us to think of a loving God coming to us through struggle, much less He being the One with whom we struggle. But it appears to be a Biblical pattern where He often engages His people through a kind of cosmic, yet personal wrestling match. I think of Jacob, Job, David, the Prophets, Jesus, Paul … all the way down to Mark and Robyn. It is a strange gift that through struggle we are formed into His likeness. This gift is increased by the fact that God is not offended when we cry out in the middle of our distress and say, “MY GOD, MY GOD! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME (US)?” In fact it is usually on the other side of such a struggling cry where God is made more manifest and where we overcome the wrenching pain of this benevolent scuffle.

So, in marriage we have been called to love one another in such a way that the Lamb is more fully revealed in each other; to “prepare the way” for the Messiah to be seen more keenly. This “preparation” is often through tension and stress – wrestling with God and each other. Oh joy! I wish it wasn’t so, but can we deny that Jesus does His best sculpting through the chiseling of our “rough edges”? Through this process there is a new fellowship established with Him and each other. What we receive in this fellowship we pass to one another in love – the love of the Lamb. As John pointed to one greater than himself so we must seek to direct one another’s eyes to the Greater One. He is our baptizer. He immerses us in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we point to ourselves and encourage one another to do the same we have committed the most heinous kind of idolatry – and worse, we are left short of the image of union, love and power found in Christ’s marriage.

Lord, cause us to point to You in every circumstance – not to the pain of our sin nor to the harm we have inflicted on one another. You are the One who has eradicated the damage and pain of offenses which have affected our bond. You exchanged the old for the new. You overcame the fractures of our relationship because you were before them. You saw them in eternity passed and “surpassed” them. May our union daily testify to one another and to the world that You are the Overcoming Son of God. Our marriage has seen You and we do solemnly bear witness. Thank you.

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