Dying to Self (March 31, 2011)

From the Image Bearing Marriage Journal
It has been a difficult week for me as a husband and a father.  I have struggled with certain texts this week as I have tried to submit to Christ in my responsibilities.  I genuinely want to be the man Christ made me to be.  It's not a matter of feeling obligated or a sense of duty (although, it is a tremendous honor and privilege to be the husband and father of my given family, and I do feel the weight of that responsibility greatly), it is truly wanting to please my Lord and receive the blessings from within my own family that come from "doing it right".  

But sometimes, "doing it right" is the problem in itself.  I really don't know how.  I struggle with the text in Ephesians 4:26, "In your anger, do not sin...", and Luke 7:47, "He who is forgiven little loves little", and Luke 9:23, " If anyone wold follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me."  

There are times when I don't know how to feel love through my hurt and discouragement.

There are times when I don't know how to forgive even though I say "I forgive you" out of obedience to Christ.

There are times when I don't know how to process my anger without sinning.

There are times when I don't know how to deny myself.  Where is the line between sacrificial love and unbiblical emotional and social emasculation?

Again, Christ said to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.  Christ gave himself up for her, but he doesn't roll over and let her do whatever she wants.  His will is still the sovereign order of the day.
But how do I apply this?  I am not Christ.  I do not have a sovereign will.  What do I do when  there is great evidence to me that I am unappreciated, unloved, unwanted, misunderstood, belittled, or emasculated as a real man in my own home?
What do I do when I have no idea how to combat the evil inside of me responding to the evil inside those I love the most?  Marriage does not always feel like love.  Sometimes it feels like quite the opposite.  And yet, we find our way through it and God provides what we are lacking.  Sometimes right away, sometimes, very (and painfully) slow.

I don't have answers to all of these.  These are honest questions.  

I am committed to this truth that marriage is a part of Image Bearing.  So how do I bear the Image in these situations?  I look to Genesis this week and am reminded that it was not good for me to be alone.  Genesis 2:18:
"It is not good that the man should be alone;"

I remember being single.  There were times I desired to have a soulmate (wife) so badly that it ached.  There were times that losing a girlfriend was so devastating to me because I felt like having that one true love was all that much further away from me rather than closer.  I remember praying for a wife, for a love that would be that one earthly manifestation of His complete design for me.  I could feel the designed longing within me.  I ached for it.  
I knew what it was to be alone.  God said it was not good.

And then, when I least expected it, He brought me Elisabeth.  He brought me the one I knew was my one true companion, the one made for me, the one I was designed to love and be one with.  

I remember that God gave Eve to Adam fully, and he sang about it, and God said it was good.  It was then that God said the work was complete.  It was then, that the Image Bearing was at it's zenith.  

But then, at the first sign of trouble, woman betrayed man and man betrayed woman.

And in doing so, they both betrayed the Image of God they could only bear together.

Genesis 3:10 tells us that the motive behind this unexplainable and irrevocable betrayal was - fear.  I'm not talking about the Fall, I'm talking about the betrayal of blame and shame that comes afterwards.

I think to myself, "Is it fear that creates these marital crisis' I feel?"

I think the answer is "yes".  

What do I fear that causes me to not feel like forgiving, not feel like loving, not feel like picking up my cross daily?  What fear drives me to feel that my anger is justified?

I think the answer is that I fear not being enough.  My fear is that I don't measure up to what it is I am supposed to be.  My fear is that if I don't fight for the facade that I do, everyone I love will see that - I don't - and there will be no point in me being around.  

1 John 4:18 says, 
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

I realize my fears are my ways of punishing myself mentally and emotionally for being a failure.

Because - I am a failure.  I am a broken Image Bearer (redeemed, but broken), and I am only half of this Image Bearing marriage of which, the other half is redeemed, but broken as well.  I can't control any of that.

The same passage of Scripture tells me that I can't love of my own.  I can only love out of a spiritual rebirth that comes from Him loving me.  That makes me completely dependent.

I think back to what it felt like to be alone.  I look at the woman I love reading her book on our bed.  OUR bed.

I look over to a picture of three little Image Bearers that God allowed us to produce.  The words, "Perfect love drives out fear" puts a knot in my throat.  

You know what I fear most?  Falling into a pride that pulls me away from the one assurance that I have at keeping all this together.  My dependence on Him.

I don't know how to respond to them when all these emotions come over me Lord, but I do know how I am supposed to respond to You.  Forgive me for my pride.  Forgive me for trying to be a man without my source of strength.  Forgive me for acting like my value is more important than the value of Your Image in us.  

Please show me what to do.  Tell me what to say.  Tell me when to speak.  Show me how to listen.  Make me a steward of Your Image, not mine.

Thank you Lord for Your Grace.

With you for His glory