Tag Archives: Beauty and The Breach

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Bloody Marriage

Marriage is messy business. So much so that Jesus allowed Himself to get messed up for us. He shed blood to reveal our starting point as spouses: ‘O God, the love I desire to give, I do not!’ Or more accurately, I cannot. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Annette and I just finished leading a round of Beauty and the Breach, an 8-week course in which we invite frustrated couples to discover the Cross together through merciful exchanges of blessing, sin, and need. Each couple bore distinct wounds but faced a common block in offering themselves freely to the other. We placed a big Cross in the middle of our gathering as a reminder that Jesus’ covenant with us—His commitment to the marriage–supersedes our own; we stirred up the faith that somehow His blood could bore through the debris obscuring our true selves from the other. His Cross also reminded us that when it came to expressing hard stuff to the other, or hearing hard stuff, we could pick up our little crosses and endure shame and pain for the joy set before us.

Some of the couples could point to big historic sins as contributors to the current breach. A few had thought ‘marriage’ might cure sexual addiction or same-sex attraction or deep-seated fears; in truth, they realized that a good marriage exposes before it absolves. In a previous group, one woman expressed how her husband’s confession of a litany of sexual sins may have been in his words ‘a resurrection’ but for her, it was the beginning of a slow, long crucifixion. She had to die to what she thought her life would be. A source of security had become a threat; her closest walking partner, a dangerous sinner. How to love? ‘Lord, have mercy on me, sinner…’

I am not being romantic here. All sin is not created equal and certain betrayals require solid boundaries in order to protect the betrayed and provoke genuine repentance on the part of the obvious sinner. But it also invites the offended party to reckon with his or her limited love—the way (s)he loves according to contract, because the other keeps his or her end of the marital deal and thus justifies one’s love. When that contract is broken, one feels justified in breaking vows. But we marry based on covenant, the truth that we invoked the ONE who shed blood to grant us the mercy needed to extend mercy, especially to the sinner we’re sleeping with.

During our last night at Beauty and the Breach, the Spirit directed me to Luke 18: 9-14 where Jesus gives wise counsel to any ‘confident of their own righteousness’ (v.9), namely the Pharisee who thanked God for not making him an adulterer. Next to him at church was such an adulterer who simply cried out for mercy. God saved only the latter (v. 14). My prayer? That the Cross reveal to all spouses our inability to love the other as we should. May mercy come quickly to meet former Pharisees and former prostitutes who marry; may the bloody God be glorified on such broken, level and ultimately beautiful ground.

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Clear to Hear

Clear to Hear

‘I heard birds sing for the first time today.’ So testified a woman from our Mexican Training whose ears had echoed with demonic accusations. As the Father sought after His daughter, members of the leadership team prayerfully spoke a few true words to her about her status as His beloved one. God’s real confirming presence delivered her from torment. One Voice prevailed over many false ones and freed her to listen, to hear in silence God singing over her through a bird.

Not all of us are demonized in that way. But most of us live in the clutter of noisy demands vying for our attention which crowd out His still small Voice. How often do we fail to hear the Word that could be our freedom? Or another’s?

The other day at home, I was listening to something through earphones while cleaning, a familiar scenario in which I attempt to manage my own little universe. Annette tried in vain to get my attention. Exasperated, she cried, ‘We are together in this house, yet alone. That’s just rude!’ Rude, and revealing. What else do I not hear as I immerse myself in an audio world that refuses stillness? The Psalmist declares that ‘the heavens pour forth speech’, but I am not listening. I can and do repel the Spirit’s stirrings (not to mention my wife’s!) with noise.

Yet there are blessed moments when we listen from our hearts. Annette and I are doing ‘Beauty and the Breach’ with our dear friends the Nobregas; together we walk couples-in-conflict through a brief curriculum and listening exercises. Annette and I enter in and ‘exercise’ our own listening skills, especially in hard-to-hear areas. I never cease to be amazed by the healing that comes through Annette’s gracious speech.

Mark my words: we shall never be a ministry that replaces face-to-face encounter with virtual room noise, however noble the blog or video may be! We need to gather together, still our hearts, and listen.

Stillness. Jesus is always calling in the quiet. When I do not start the day in expectant silence, I know I am in trouble. Going to daily Mass helps. Before the Crucified, I am enveloped in everlasting arms, which is why I try to come early and stay late. I need to rest in Him who controls it all through perfect love. Fears and doubts fade away in His Presence. He speaks loudest in silence.

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