A handful of friends and I have been working on a study together every other week, and we've been doing Carolyn Mahaney's "Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother." The title sounds a little shmaltzy and mildly idealistic, but it's kicking our butts.
It's slowly dawning on me that the commands and teachings we find in the Bible that everyone can recite - even if they're not really all that familiar with the Bible - are really a lot easier said than done. Love your neighbor as yourself. Turn the other cheek. Love your wife. Respect your husband. Be self-controlled. And on and on. They sound so obvious and even cliche'. Why even bother commanding them...aren't they just common sense?
Well, no, they're not just common sense. They go completely against what our hearts and minds tell us to do. I'm becoming keenly aware that if it's commanded in God's Word, He HAD to command it because He's all too aware that it's not all that easy for us to do. Love my neighbor las much I love myself? Are you kidding me? Do you KNOW how much I love myself? Oh yeah, You do. That why You qualified it the way You did.
Marriage vows are another one of those things that are easier said than done. Of COURSE I want to cherish and be there in sickness and in health for better or for worse...whenI'm gazing in the eyes of my dearly betrothed, standing in a sparky white dress holding a stunning bouquet. It's so romantic. Holy cow!! Is there a parallel universe where any of us actually realize what's going on here? Do we even begin to wrap our mind around the fact that the reason God wants us to speak these promises aloud, in front of Him and a whole boatload of people, is perhaps because there will come times when the only thing keeping you from running screaming down the street IS that vow?? There are many, many times when it goes against Matt's and my very nature to love and/or respect each other. And I'm figuring out that that's why God placed said commands in His Word...written reminders to die to self every day and serve Him by serving someone else.
I'm currently realizing my great struggle with self-control - particularly concerning my thought life. I am very harsh and critical with myself. I'll beat myself up on a moment's notice. Matt detests this and has repeatedly said that he simply can't live with this person who beats up on his wife. It has by far caused more frustration in our marriage than any other issue. I take blame I don't need to take, I pull shame on myself that I don't need to bear, I speak words against myself I don't need to speak. I can be a very sarcastic, self-depricating person...and I'm working on this. But I had no idea how contrary to my nature it is to demonstrate self-control in how I think. I've been asking God to dig this ugliness out of my heart and expose it for what it is...and then I'm astonished at how MUCH of it is in there. It's like tending a garden: the more I weed, the more I realize I need to weed. Argh. He tells me to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Yikes. I have a LOT of thoughts to run through THAT filter.
And therefore my dependence upon Him grows. This is a long and uphill battle for me. It's like a reverse form of pride where I think I can play some part in every little thing that goes wrong. Whether this is a learned behavior or whatever is beside the point; it does not glorify God and spits on what He created, and has to change. One thing my friends have taught me in our study is to employ a five-second rule: I get a thought in my head, and I have exactly five seconds to halt it and change it. And I need to stop LISTENING to myself and start SPEAKING TRUTH to myself. Rather than listen to the same old garbage that I tell me about myself, it's time to remind myself what God says about me. Which requires me to keep digging into His Word for truths (that I then need to memorize and tuck into my heart, rather than cherishing lies about myself). Rather than taking refuge in my beating-up-on-me mind, I need to seek refuge in the shadow of His wings. Hmmm...flogging vs. sitting in the shade of my Creator...why WOULDN'T I choose the latter?
So much easier said than done...