Someone asked me, “If you were to preach a sermon right now what would the topic be?” Without hesitation, I said, “Relationships – Investing In and Cultivating Life.” I am more convinced today than ever that Relationships are not just vital but essential if we are to enjoy the fullness of life and become what God desires.
As many of you know, my angel, my earthly treasure, my wife Bonnie went home to glory 40 days ago. It has been a heart-wrenching journey for me and our family. Some have suggested that because she and we are Christians we should be happy, not sad that she is in heaven. We are happy that she is experiencing the wonders of heaven and the fullness of joy that God has for all who enter those gates. However, to ignore the pain and hurt that is left in our hearts when a loved one departs, and in my case, part of me would be to deny reality.
I appreciate the many efforts to shock me, correct me, help me, or whatever the purpose was in telling me the many things that I should feel, think, or do. Some of them, although well-intentioned opened the door for guilt and brought more pain than comfort. The devil needs no help making us feel ashamed that we are weeping when a saint, such as my wife, received her promotion to glory. My response has been to lay it all before the LORD and follow His directive to CAST ALL MY CARE upon Him and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to my heart. If I am wrong in my sorrow and processing my grief, I trust He will correct me. I do not need religious cliches or formulas, I need the 4th man in the Fire. I need God! He and only He can fill the hole in our hearts!
But, back to what I feel directed to address – RELATIONSHIPS. In the Book of Beginnings, Genesis we read in 2:24 – “Therefore shall a man LEAVE his father and his mother, and shall CLEAVE unto his wife: and they shall become ONE FLESH.” Paul addressed that again in Ephesians 5:31 as he compared the relationship of husband and wife to that of Jesus and the Church. It is a joining that is beyond what most mortals can comprehend or are willing to invest to attain.
Many people get the LEAVING and sometimes never stop leaving things and people. But the second part of that directive CLEAVING is not so easily acquired or attained. The Cleaving is the part that enables the husband and wife to become ONE. They always remain two separate people but, in their hearts, and spirits, they become ONE. That does not happen by osmosis. It does not happen automatically when the wedding vows are recited. It is a process that requires commitment and covenant.
Covenantal Relationships are largely unknown to much of today’s world. We call marriage a Covenant but like much of society, most operate on a Contract mentality rather than a Covenant one. A Contract mentality says, “As long as things are good for me, and do not require me to invest too much, I will maintain the contract.” A Covenant mentality says, “UNTIL DEATH DO US PART.” It commits all of itself to the fulfillment of the Covenant Vows and never views the investment too much or too difficult. That is what Bonnie and I had, A Covenant Relationship. We were 100% committed to each other and our relationship and as we grew into oneness, we enjoyed a marriage beyond anything I could have hoped for.
A person does not become adept at sports without commitment, investment, and work. A person does not become skilled at their occupation without commitment, investment, and work. Few things in life, Just Happen, they require investment and cultivation to produce fruit. Marriage is no different.
When Bonnie and I realized the depth of our love and the willingness of each to commit fully to the relationship we began to work at cultivating something special. She showed me love that I had never experienced and love that I did not think humanly possible. She drew out of me the best and inspired me to press on when it would have been easy to throw in the towel and quit. I hope I did the same for her, I tried.
Before anyone assume that I am saying we never disagreed, we did. However, in disagreement, we remained totally committed to our relationship and the depth of love in our union. During the last year of her battle with cancer, there would be times I would awaken in the night and raise up on one elbow and watch her for long periods of time. My heart overflowing with love and I prayed as I watched her facial movements and breathing. She would awaken and see me and say, “Honey, what are you doing? I’m okay and I’m going to be okay, you can go back to sleep.” I would usually say, “I know, but I love loving you so much, I just enjoy watching you.” We would kiss and often hold hands as we drifted back to sleep.
Relationships, good relationships, covenant relationships, do not just happen! If your marriage is not what I have described, and you are not one in spirit and heart you can be. Love is developed not something you fall into. There was a kinship and drawing the first time we met but we grew to love each other more each year and each day. We viewed the other as ourselves. We shared times that no one knows nor will they ever because of the personal treasure of those moments.
She was an answer to prayer and because God told me she was my angel that I had been praying for, I was determined to make her happy and demonstrate the depth of my love to her. The kisses we shared in the last months were special because we both knew they were from the depth of our hearts. We knew they were the fruit of our years together becoming one.
I fear that I am beginning to ramble and have not adequately addressed Relationships other than to identify their importance. Covenant Relationships are more important than everything else in life. Everything, but God for He is the most important but in earthly relationships, NOTHING is more important, and NOTHING should come close in the investment or cultivation given it.
You do not grow in grace by osmosis, you have to work at it. You make a commitment of heart, study God’s Word, and walk according to the directives of that Word. In marriage, you do not have a marriage made in heaven by living for yourselves and failing to invest all of you in making them the best they can be. If you refer to your wife as your Old Lady or make marriage sound like a war zone you do not understand The Leaving and Cleaving of Genesis. It is as you cleave to so as to become one with that person, you will discover the marriage God designed and desired and it can become like the relationship of Jesus and the Church.
Today, Kalene and I took breakfast to the Oncologist and her staff. We know it was something Bonnie would have desired us do and it was meaningful to us and hopefully to them. It was a small token of our appreciation for the love and care they showed her an us. I miss my Bonnie more than words can express and I rejoice in the memories of our years together. However, sometimes those memories also bring incredible pain to my heart because I know they are not to be experienced again in this life. She was and is the love of my life. She was and is my angel. She was and is me in a very real sense. If you focus on politics but fail to invest in your marriage, you err. If you focus on success in life but fail to invest in your marriage, you err. If you make marriage a war zone, I wonder what you married for? I wonder what you thought marriage was all about. You may consider my remarks unrealistic, but I consider them God’s Norm for Marriage. I had in my marriage with Bonnie something I could not have understood without walking through the development of it. TODAY MORE THAN EVER, I KNOW WHAT Genesis and Ephesians were talking about because I had a Covenant Relationship with a Proverbs 31 woman.
God bless you and hopefully, my words are not so disjointed they are without impact or meaning to you. I pray you experience what we did and that this day and every day will be a fulfilling journey for you!