This past August, my husband Joshua and I were blessed to celebrate 20 years of marriage. With friends and family gathered near on a warm summer evening, we sat together, side by side, holding hands and listening to our loves ones recount their own love stories-the pleasant and joyous things, the humbling and embarrassing moments and the times of difficulty which refined them and, ultimately brought them closer together. Among the most important and influential voices at the gathering that night were the voices of our parents, who have been living examples of the vows that they, and we exchanged so many years ago. For us, and for so many of our friends, they have been shining examples of what it means to live and love “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…” And although our parents have been married to one another for over a century combined, they were yet humble enough to admit that they hand much to learn about marriage and about one another after all of these years. Silliness and melancholy turned to seriousness as our parents looked at the both of us intently as they admonished us to protect and serve one another, to not rush through our days, but to linger in one another’s presence, to cultivate our love and friendship, to learn to listen, to know when to speak and when to hold our peace. They went on to encourage us to, “Forgive often, to never take the other for granted and to serve one another willingly.” The evening was unforgettable and their advice, as the Master Card commercial so aptly states about moments that matter was, “priceless.”
When I think about our parent’s advice, it reminds me of the importance of tending my relationship with Christ, the first Love of my life and the one who makes it possible for me to live my vows daily to my husband. Without honoring and obeying the Lord, being committed to live in His presence and love Him sacrificially, I run the risk of being carnal and religious, but not faithful and joyful in submission. Without acknowledging that it is Christ who loved me first and gave Himself for me (1 John 4:19), how would I know how to love my husband, my children or any other person with any kind of selflessness?
Relationships-be they marital, familial or otherwise, take time and tending if they are to be lasting, honoring and fulfilling. From an evangelism standpoint, we need to take a similar kind of care in sharing Christ with people. If our focus is getting someone to “say the prayer” rather than to lead them in love and by the spirit of truth, we can wound them and turn them away from Jesus rather than to him. In sharing Christ with people over many years, I have learned to slow way down, take my time, nurture, cultivate and care for people as a part of my desire to share Christ with them. When possible I have learned the value spending time with them, serving them by listening to their stories, caring for them in their brokenness, and allowing them to be seen and valued as beloved of God. When they, like I, feel valued, and when they know that they are loved despite their sin, receiving the gift of Jesus is a much more promising, enticing prospect. Take your time with people. Be kind, gentle, thoughtful and nurturing. Show them the God of love and then give them the God of love. Their lives will forever be changed, and so will yours.