Friday, January 24, 2014

Love at Second Sight

This January has been a family emphasis in our congregation as we’ve launched a new generational ministry initiative.  This past Sunday we devoted our attention to marriage.  I preached a sermon for those who have been married awhile called Love at Second Sight.  (I’ll put a link below if you want to check it out.)  The gist of the sermon encouraged couples to keep plugging away at marriage and provided some ways to do it.  It’s a sad, sad thing when a marriage loses its fire for a season and husband or wife decide they should just chuck their marriage for a stab at it with someone else.  Isn’t it wiser not to look so much for the right person to marry as it is to work to become the right person once you are married?  We talked about stuff like that in the sermon.

But like all sermons, I have to leave some things out that could have been helpful.  In my preparation process I came across a poem by Ella Wheeler Cox that describes so vividly the way a marriage dies, particularly the way a husband drifts apart from his wife.  It’s called "An Unfaithful Wife to Her Husband."  It’s powerful.  It’s emotional.  It’s too often the truth.  Read at your own risk:

Branded and blackened by my own misdeeds
I stand before you; not as one who pleads
For mercy or forgiveness, but as one,
After a wrong is done,
Who seeks the why and wherefore.

                                                          Go with me,
Back to those early years of love, and see
Just where our paths diverged.  You must recall
Your wild pursuit of me, outstripping all
Competitors and rivals, till at last
You bound me sure and fast
With vow and ring.
I was the central thing
In all the Universe for you just then.
Just then for me, there were no other men.
I cared
Only for tasks and pleasures that you shared.
Such happy, happy days.  You wearied first.
I will not say you wearied, but a thirst
For conquest and achievement in man's realm
Left love's barque with no pilot at the helm.
The money madness, and the keen desire
To outstrip others, set your heart on fire.
Into the growing conflagration went
Romance and sentiment.
Abroad you were a man of parts and power—
Your double dower
Of brawn and brains gave you a leader's place;
At home you were dull, tired, and commonplace.
You housed me, fed me, clothed me; you were kind;
But oh, so blind, so blind.
You could not, would not, see my woman's need
Of small attentions; and you gave no heed
When I complained of loneliness; you said
"A man must think about his daily bread
And not waste time in empty social life—
He leaves that sort of duty to his wife
And pays her bills, and lets her have her way,
And feels she should be satisfied."

                                                                             Each day.
Our lives that had been one life at the start,
Farther and farther seemed to drift apart.
Dead was the old romance of man and maid.
Your talk was all of politics or trade.
Your work, your club, the mad pursuit of gold
Absorbed your thoughts.  Your duty kiss fell cold
Upon my lips.  Life lost its zest, its thrill,

One fateful day when earth seemed very dull
It suddenly grew bright and beautiful.
I spoke a little, and he listened much;
There was attention in his eyes, and such
A note of comradeship in his low tone,
I felt no more alone.
There was a kindly interest in his air;
He spoke about the way I dressed my hair.
And praised the gown I wore.
It seemed a thousand, thousand years and more
Since I had been noticed.  Had mine ear
Been used to compliments year after year,
If I had heard you speak
As this man spoke, I had not been so weak.
The innocent beginning
Of all my sinning
Was just the woman's craving to be brought
Into the inner shrine of some man's thought.
You held me there, as sweetheart and as bride;
And then as your wife, you left me far outside.
So far, so far, you could not hear me call;
You might, you should, have saved me from my fall.
I was not bad, just lonely, that was all.

A man should offer something to replace
The sweet adventure of the lover's chase
Which ends in marriage.  Love's neglected laws
                   Pave pathways for the "Statutory Cause."  

If this strikes too close to home, someone in your marriage needs to raise a hand, call time, and focus on getting that thing back together.  It will be worth it.  I can tell from more than 36 years of experience that love at second sight is even better than the first time around.

Link to manuscript:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Only Resolution That Really Matters

World War II began in September of 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland.  Because of an alliance agreement with Poland, England was drawn in to the conflict immediately.  Would England be able to withstand the eventual onslaught of Nazis?  No one knew.  In his broadcast to the nation on Christmas, 1939, King George IV quoted Minnie Louise Haskin’s poem: 

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the new year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into  
     the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!”

Not a bad poem for a new year, huh?  While we make our plans and set our goals, not a one of us knows with certainty what the year will hold.  Like most years, it will likely be a mixed-bag of blessing and trouble. 

So how about this?  Instead of making a handful of resolutions most of us will abandon before January rolls into February, let’s make one resolution only: to walk with God in 2014.  Other than goals about weight loss and exercise programs, doesn’t this resolution cover most everything else?

  • Walking with God will take us to places of forgiveness and restoration in our broken relationships.
  • Walking with God will take us into places of service to those in need.
  • Walking with God will carry us to church, to worship and fellowship with the people of God.
  • Walking with God will help us join Jesus in His mission on this earth.
  • Walking with God will take us deeper into His word.
  • Walking with God will enable us to face our trials with the confidence that God is with us, God is for us, and nothing can separate us from His love.
  • Walking with God means that even when I sin there is grace and forgiveness and the joy of another chance.
  • Walking with God means my failures won't be final because God will continue the work He's begun in me until Jesus comes again.
  • And walking with God will open us up to receive with wonder those serendipitous blessings God will drop in our laps along the way—blessings we never saw coming and might have missed if we were in too much of a hurry to accomplish our many goals.
 So I’m making one resolution this year: walk with God in 2014.  Minnie Haskins got it right.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the new year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into  
     the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!”

Yes it shall!