Sunday, August 07, 2005


"You get out of it...what you put into it."

I'm afraid that's one of my stock sayings, and I'm fairly sure I stole the essence of the message from my brother-in-law Michael...actually all of the brothers-in-law I have whom I've met (my brother's wife has a brother I've never met) are named Michael...I think Amy's family is sort of subconsciously counting on Alzheimer's setting in en masse among most of its members so Michael became the chosen name for husbands, sons, sons-in-law...and I believe I'm proving that point by wandering so far off track already. Anyway, I remember Michael "Wayne" mentioning something akin to that phrase when we were talking about what colleges our kids would go to - you know, working up the right language to convince the kids that going to a cheap school would be fine if they put in the effort.

This also speaks to the influence I had on our children since Lisa is attending the third most expensive college in Texas, Joey graduated from a private art school that cost a fortune, and Tiffany is about to spend a year at Harvard.

Now, what the heck got me talking about this in the first place?

Oh...that's right. Last night Amy and I were speaking with some close friends who are newly married - to each other...they're pretty much pros at marriage in general - who are in a small amount of disagreement about where they will attend church. The husband feels a strong spiritual investment in a church he attended alone when he was in the throes of one of the worst periods of his life, and the wife - who was raised sort of Catholic - isn't sure that's the church for her.

It's a big church...but it's a very good church. Amy and I might have ended up there when we were church shopping years ago had it not been that the church was on other side of town and that - at the time - it was a Church of Christ which doesn't believe in using musical instruments in worship. That was a deal killer for Amy being that music is integral to the way she worships God. Since then the church has become essentially non-denominational, they have services with and without musical instruments and it is a church and a ministry that is thriving.

I was so proud last night that our friends wanted to include us as they honestly discussed their feelings about whether this was the church for them and I was even prouder that Amy and I were able to - for the most part - keep our mouths shut and realize in the end this was something our friends will have to work out on their own.

However I thought today of how symbolic this situation was of Christianity, of our relationship with God and of marriage. Odds are one member of this couple will eventually have to make a sacrifice.

The wife may join a church with which she's not wholeheartedly comfortable, or the husband may forego his spiritual investment in this particular church and find another to appease his spouse. Or maybe they'll simply agree to look around a bit more.

I thought how deeply rooted that premise of contradiction and compromise is within God's track least while his children have been hanging out with Him.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it...?
That statement from Jesus is one of many examples.

God has a plan for us all, but His will is for us to shape our destinies.

God has given us a list of commandments, a code to live by, and yet He knows we will fail to meet His expectations.

God forgives us and accepts us knowing full well we will fail Him...such is grace.
In order to accept God we must accept these seeming contradictions and we must accept ourselves in order to lose ourselves so as to truly know God.

You can get lost in the enigma of it all...or you can try to understand that contradictions are an inherent part of the journey, and it is complex...and it is and should be hard.

This couple's struggle - and I'm confident they'll find a way through it - reminded me once again that the journey is often the most critical aspect of it all - whether seeking a church...building a love...or forging an honest relationship with God.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."