Philippians 3:8, 18-21
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ… many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Being engaged is amazing. There are so many things to talk about, prepare for, plan, figure out… and everything seems to be ahead of you. As a guy, my thoughts are often straying towards making sure I’ll have enough money to take care of and prepare for Ashton. I want to be able to settle into my “real job” and excel. I want to move into our first living place and be proud of the life I am beginning. I want to provide security. I want Ash to feel that and be happy. I want her to spend these next months dreaming and laughing and planning and getting excited about her big day and the months to follow. And I bet there are few people who wouldn’t read all this and (after perhaps getting over their annoyance at the mush) think it was all cute and well begun.
However I am also conflicted.
Ash brought something up tonight that had been challenging her. What did she want more: Her wedding and married life, or God’s glory/work/plan/ “advancement of his kingdom” (if I may)? If I were to ask the same question of myself (and be honest) I would be ashamed of my answer. Because if I were to find out in some impossible way that Jesus was coming back next month, I am not sure that my reaction would be complete unashamed joy. “No you don’t!” “I’m getting married in a few months! And I want to enjoy the first few years and set up my life and…” the list could go on. The fact is I want my life, more than I want God’s glorious goal.Now us Americans are all very familiar with the American Dream materialism and have all been convicted from time to time. But this phase of my life is bringing out perspectives and sides to this I’ve never experienced before. How can I keep my mind off of earthly things and press towards the goal, forgetting what is behind, considering it all loss… when those things are my wedding, wife, providing, and beginning my own life!? More succinctly: how does a young man trying to plan and provide for his future (1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 5:28) also be completely heavenly in his perspective? How do I eagerly await my Savior as a citizen of heaven and still get married June 11th, 2011? And how in the world do I plan a wedding, honeymoon, and first years of my life in a way that encourages myself, wife, and others to maintain this perspective!?
This is exactly the situation Paul references when he “wishes all were as I myself am” (1 Corinthians 7:22, 29-35); namely, totally focused on God’s work. And certainly, anyone who is single must weigh heavily the possibility that they might simply focus all their assets and concerns on advancing the cause of the gospel of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 7:29-35 Paul says “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has brown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as if they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” The message could not be clearer. It is the captain of a team calming his squad after taking the lead: “alright guys, stop celebrating, we still have a game to play.” It’s the man selling everything he has (financial insanity) to buy the field for the treasure. It is “undivided devotion to the Lord” (v. 35).
I get the impression that what most people who are in my phase of life do is plan their wedding/honeymoon/life with full attention to those details alone. What would an engagement or wedding look like if the bride and groom were “undividedly devoted to the Lord?” While I am open to the idea that, from the outside, it does not look any different than what I am planning, it can’t be what I’ve been making it; because I have been pretty earthly minded.
I asked a close friend and mentor of mine, Professor Ted Boykin, for advice on the subject. He pointed out that, according to Ephesians 5, the way in which I love my wife (and then by extension family) is a picture of Christ’s love for the church before the world. So certainly, loving them well, providing for them well, enjoying them well… these must all be a part of my life from this point onward. The distinction here is that I must always love the giver more than the gifts, my eternal lover more than my temporary lover. So in this new entity, this family that I am now close to beginning, I must self-sacrificially love them well; all the while maintaining the knowledge that what I am doing here on earth is meaningless unless it is done for eternal purposes: reflecting Jesus’ love for us, discipling my families hearts towards godliness, and all done for God’s glory.
Love God first, and I will better be able to love Ashton. Seek the kingdom first, and I will better be able to provide and nurture my family as I should.
While I cannot spell out exactly what this will look like (for lack of space and further need for God to flesh out all the idolatry that clings to my desires), I will instead end with another passage which helps direct my thinking.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away form the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each hone may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10