made to be friends

Created for relationships

Relationships are a really important part of my life. Chapter 4 of The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is titled “The Mission of Marriage” and Keller starts by looking back to the first marriage in Genesis. Being created in God’s image means that we were designed for two relationships – vertical with God and horizontal, with one another. And so, God created Eve to be Adam’s ‘ezer, his ‘helper-companion,’ his friend.

I think it’s so good that our triune God wanted us to be in relationship too. Keller says “there are two features of real friendship – constancy and transparency.” (p.112), both of which are key to marriage also. Friendship is…

the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. (Craik, A Life for a Life, p.169 in Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.112)

This is such a beautiful picture. I thank my Heavenly Father for the blessing of a husband who has shown me grace like this time and time again, and for friends about whom I can confidently say – this describes you too.

Something more

Adam and Nai old school. I think there's always been that something more...

Keller looks to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and C S Lewis – who both said that even with constancy and transparency, a true friendship can’t just be about the two people involved.  It has to be about something. A common purpose, vision, passion. Perhaps like a mother’s group where the babies were all born within weeks of each other – brought together by the “me too” moments as they experience motherhood week to week month to month.

For any two Christians, faith unites us. A few nights ago we met a couple who are old friends of our housemates for the first time. As soon as we learned of our common faith, the small talk wasn’t so small – and it was a privilege to hear how God has been at work in their lives and humbling to be warmly embraced and encouraged ourselves.  Faith can make new friends like old ones. We’re all journeying forward to the ‘high and far’ horizon of the day when Jesus returns.

Friendship is a deep oneness that develops as two people, speaking the truth in love to each other, journey together to the same horizon. (p.116)

Not speaking nice appeasing words to avoid a fight, but the truth in love. Another blogger recently suggested “Five ways to fight your way through to a loving marriage.”  Intriguing idea, but the old adage ‘the truth hurts,’ is… true. In the short term words of truth spoken in love can sting the ears and heart. Conflict can be necessary. But as we travel the journey of marriage in joyful servanthood not self-centredness, the sure hope of Christ appearing again must keep us focused on helping our spouse to be growing into the man/woman God wants them to be in the long term.

The bigger picture

My anxieties and concerns with the smaller things have often caused major blind spots to seeing the bigger picture of what God has planned for my husband and the man God is shaping. Self-centredness can be destructive to the true friendship God desires for marriage.

Adam and I talk about the bigger picture more and more these days. We wonder what God’s plans are for him this year and for the years to come and we yearn to understand what God is teaching us through this time of uncertainty.

Keller says,

The goal is to see something absolutely ravishing that God is making of the beloved. You see even now flashes of glory. You want to help your spouse become the person God wants him or her to be. (p.123)

Yes! That is what we journey towards. An ultimate cause which unites.  From the menial to the magnificent, each day together as man and wife, we get to play a part in helping our best friend to be more like our creator God as we look forward to the day of Christ Jesus. God is at work in our spouse and sometimes he may use us, his humble vessels, to do this work.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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So what about me? (Part 1)

Which ones today? Thanks husb. Fun, beautiful gift!

What should I wear out tonight? I need more sleep. I really feel like a smoothie. I hope Adam comes home soon. I wonder if anyone has liked my Facebook status?

me. me. me.

I don’t know about you, but I think a lot about myself and all the things that (have the potential to) affect me. I worry, wonder, ponder, think, ruminate. And I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Sure, self-preservation is probably just part of being human, but I know deep down that me, me, me, is not the way I was intended to spend my days.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my self-centredness as I’ve been reading The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller and I’m only a few chapters in. So far it’s authentic and a very interesting examination of marriage – firstly from society’s point of view and then digging into the meaning of marriage according to the Bible.

There can be no doubt that marriage exposes our sinfulness, our selfishness, who we really are. Married friends counselled us with this advice before we got married and we nodded and smiled. How right they were. The ups and downs on the marriage journey have brought to light ugly parts of my character that I barely knew existed.

The book has put words on a page for my own struggles with self-centredness (guess that’s almost ironic) and the ways that this has brought difficulty to us.

Self-centredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended and angered by that of others. (p.57)

Yes. Blind. How many times have I thought “He’s being selfish…Why doesn’t he think of me?” It’s almost ironic.

Every day offers opportunities to pursue our own gain or that of others. One Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I had my usual to-do list – baking washing and grocery shopping, and probably other wishful ideas in my head. But Adam needed me to help him make his music video.

I’m not going to lie, I said yes to helping because on some level I knew it was right but for the first half an hour or so I wrestled with anxiety about not doing my things. By the end of the session, I knew I had made the right call. We struggled to understand each other at times, but it was lots of fun and we had this rare opportunity to get outside and wander around our area and create a story together. The fruit of that afternoon (and a few others) will be public in the not too distant future, we hope! Keller writes (p 60),

Fulfilment is on the far side of sustained unselfish service, not the near side.

I’m pretty sure that joyful unselfish service is the key to authentic love. In the famous Bible passage about love, Paul explains to the Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

After four and a half years of marriage God continues to reveal my selfishness on at least a daily basis. Apparently, it goes to a whole new level when you have kids, so I’m glad to trust in God’s perfect timing for this and look forward to the ways it may refine and grow me anew!

This is how we are to love – by being others focused and it is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the ultimate picture of what this truly means.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

So what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about God. Stay tuned for Part 2…