What if these darkish days of dead winter were the womb of something new? I’d venture to say that our Perfect Papa is in on this whole gig of ‘new year’s resolutions’. He loves any opportunity that His children would take to question where they are and to open their hearts to the idea that there might be a ‘better way’.
He always, ALWAYS has a better way – an upgrade. He is an infinite supply of more freedom, more love, more patience, more breakthrough.
You and I, our hearts kept beating right past midnight December 31. Our lungs kept breathing right on into 2017, and our Maker holds open the door to this New Year with an invitation:
So gym memberships will explode, budgets will be made, diets signed up for.
In so many ways we are natural at this; we place a high value on ‘maintaining’ the ‘newness’ of things. We service our cars, changing their oil and tires and spending hard earned money on maintenance. We give hours to the gym to keep our bodies maintained and strong. Our culture praises it, thinks it wise to eat healthy food, to invest for retirement, to clean our gutters, and IT IS WISE…but year after year we let perhaps our most foundational life choice go untouched. We upgrade our furniture, expand our education, multiply our portfolio options…while one of the most foundational covenants you make in your lifetime – marriage – goes untouched.
25 years into our marriage, my man and I had more ‘check engine lights’ on our dashboard than we cared to admit. Years of fulltime ministry, four sons (3 in college and one in high school!) had stretched our budget of personal time and finances to the breaking point. Both my husband and I were one year into our new respective jobs. We were beyond tired, and as we looked around to see if others were experiencing the same thing, we saw many, many marriages with the same ‘check engine lights’ on. The covenants they had made one year ago or 50 years ago were begging for upgrades, for an oil change at least – and some needed literal engine replacements. Four of our friends marriages ended that year; one check engine light too many and their cars broke down. We watched in tears and ache as all who were in the vehicle of the covenant embraced their reality and struggled through.
Is there ANYWHERE we can go, ANYTHING we can do to get help with these check engine lights?
Somewhere along the way, we started believing a lie that red check engine lights were just part of a marriage. We noticed everything from TV shows to ‘water cooler talk’ was peppered with a hopelessness regarding marriage. Successful marriage was redefined as ‘still together’.
NO ONE enjoys driving their car to the shop to have it looked at. The expense – and to be honest, often the comments – can be overwhelming: “when is the last time you did such-and-such?” brings condemnation. It is so much easier to just keep driving and hope that a date night or two could make the red dashboard lights seem a little less bright.
We heard rumor of a ‘marriage workshop’. Our first response was skepticism. In the past, these things had only given us a list of things we were doing wrong and a list of ways to fix it. We were almost too tired for that.
But the prospect of driving the next 50 years in this vehicle of our marriage with all these lights flashing struck sadness in our hearts. We watched our first son marry his bride and ached to hand them better tools and wisdom on how to maintain their marriage. The pre-marital counseling and a honeymoon seem to be the last pit stop.
For us, we simply could not believe that God’s plan for our lives was to just have a ‘decent marriage’. If you were driving a 25-year-old car, and someone offered you a complete engine overhaul with all the bells and whistles and a maintenance plan for life after that…would you turn it down?
Last year, we pulled our 25-year-old marriage into the “Love After Marriage” workshop. We were so weary from all of our ‘backyard maintenance’, we sat in tears in our small table group as the workshop began to unfold. We watched God transform our tired, limping, wood-paneled-station-wagon of a marriage into something new and beautiful.
This last year, we realized that He did not just overhaul our engine; He upgraded the entire thing. Through the things we learned, we are finding more bells and whistles every day that He installed – and there are no more red dashboard lights that can come on in the future. Instead, the Holy Spirit was ‘installed’ as our 24/7 onboard navigation, troubleshooter, surround sound system. He is better than the best airbag, renders your car theft-proof if you let Him stay in it, and I could take this analogy on forever…
This is an invitation. It is worth the time and effort. It costs a bit, and costs some time….but it is worth it.
Grace Chapel is hosting the “Love After Marriage” workshop February 22-25 this year. Whether you have every check engine light on the dash flashing, or you just drove your new marriage off the lot, it is worth your time to check it out!
Susan Stubbs has been married to Brian for 25 years; they and their four sons (Ben (24) and Katrina, Luke (22) and Delayne, Bryce 20 and Adam 17) have been attending Grace Chapel off and on from the beginning (when they are at home). They have spent the majority of their marriage serving in overseas missions in Indonesia.