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Saturday, September 8, 2012

A certain aptitude and grace....

As a kid, I'd want to do some things which my parents felt I was "not big enough" to do.  I think we all faced this challenge - things appealing to us, being a little risky, but we just weren't "mature enough" to handle them.  How many times did you actually run off and attempt it anyway?  If you were like me, you saw it as a challenge to hear you were not "mature enough" instead of listening to the sage advice of your elders!  How'd that work out for you?  I imagine it may have worked out as well for you as it did for me!  There are just some things we are truly "not mature enough" to handle in life!  

But Jesus said, "Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn't for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you're capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it."  (Matthew 19:11-12 The Message)

One of the things my parents cautioned me against was my entering into marriage at a young age.  Yeah, I was 20 when I married, but I had a whole lot of maturing left to do - a thing I really did not recognize until I was smack-dab in the middle of the tough stuff involved in marriage!  We'd fight over the silliest things, taking offense at the slightest infraction, and generally show our immaturity at the drop of a hat.  I liked the idea of "being married", but I lacked the depth of sacrifice it would require!

I had barely been out on my own (if you can call military life as "being on your own") for about a year and a half.  I took orders everyday, doing the work assigned, without really having to use my own mind to plan out the day.  I went from the protection of my parents' home into the "protection" of a military family.  In retrospect, I can see what I declared to be "independence" was really a far cry from truly being "on my own".

Jesus is being challenged by the religious leaders to give a little insight into the legality of divorce.  He knows the intent of their hearts is to trip him up somehow, showing he does not interpret the Law of Moses well, or that he has his own ideas which are contradictory to the Law.  In return, he answers with a more "telling" truth than many might have realized on the surface.  He painted the picture of the "toughness" of marriage.  In fact, he put it very well when he said, "...if you are capable of GROWING into the LARGENESS of marriage, do it."  

If you were like me, you had to attend some "pre-marital counseling" prior to the pastor being willing to perform the ceremony.  These sessions were designed to give us insight into some of the "growth" opportunities we'd be challenged with inside the boundaries of marriage.  Things like learning how to handle money well, developing solid communication patterns which would bring out the best in each other, etc.  As young adults, being "in love" represented all we needed to make it, didn't it?  We somehow imagined all we needed was each other - no matter the challenge, if we had each other, we'd make it through.

I have to be totally honest with you - I was "in love" without knowing what it was like to actually "love" someone or to receive their love in return.  In retrospect, I realize I responded to the emotion of love (the feelings), not the action of love (the hard work love requires).  It took ten years to teach me just how much about love I really did not understand when I said, "I do".  It has taken another 24 years to allow God's love to become the foundation of my actions and to rule over my emotions.  Yes, if you have read my short bio, then you know my marriage ended in divorce.  But...it was not for the lack of trying!

In fact, I learned more about how to sacrifice for another in those ten years than I ever thought possible.  First, it was my husband - then my two children.  I learned to put down selfishness - giving of myself in ways I never dreamed I'd have to.  I am not proud of the fact my marriage ended in divorce, but it did.  What has transpired in the 24 years since then has revealed many a lesson in grace, forgiveness, letting go, and really learning how to differentiate between "feeling" and "action".  Yep, I am a statistic.  But...I don't live as a statistic!  I live as a woman embraced by the grace of God.

Jesus said it well - it takes a capability beyond our imagining - beyond our capacity.  It takes Christ IN us to really be able to love another as we should. It takes his grace filling us to overflowing in order to expand our capacity!  It is the expansion of our capacity which makes us able to love when the going gets tough.  It is his grace which gives us the capacity to forgive when forgiveness is likely not deserved.  In fact, isn't this the very essence of grace - unmerited favor?  

I don't know, but I think someone might be considering if it is all over - if the choice they made was the right one.  Still others might be considering if they have what it takes to make it through to the other side of this tough time in their relationship.  Others may have fallen into a pit of depression because they have been alone for so long.  I don't know where you are today, but I can say this with certainty - if Christ is in the place of prominence in your life, you will see his grace - it may not be in the ways you imagined, but it will come!  The "capacity" we have we often describe as "maturity".  I have learned it takes more than chronological age to develop maturity - it takes the expansion of our capacity.  

Capacity can be limited by the other "stuff" we allow into the space his grace desires to fill.  When we finally let go of the other "stuff", he has the ability to fill us to capacity  - -  even to expand our capacity!  If you need a little expanding today, maybe the first step should be in getting rid of some of the "stuff" cluttering up the places in your heart and mind which his grace so desperately needs to fill.  Try it!  You might just be surprised what "maturity" looks like!