Draw the Line Far Away From Adultery

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 5:14

Let me begin by saying that adultery is emblematic of our heart condition above all else. When Jesus said, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he was elevating our understanding of unfaithfulness to our spouse to include the impurity we think and entertain in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28)

This higher standard is needed today more than ever, when marriage between a man and a woman is under attack from all sides. Whether it is a government’s attempt to redefine what marriage is, Internet sites like ashleymadison which blatantly advertise having an affair, the rising addiction to pornography, or the erosion of our own moral consciences due to the lack of healthy role models at home and around us (especially as glorified in the media), the game plan of the evil one is the same…corrupt God’s design for marriage by enticing a husband and wife with sin.

A sin like adultery doesn’t always begin as a bold declaration of defiance against God’s will and purpose for us. Many times we are hooked in ever so gently and deceptively ensnared. James 1:14 – 15 tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” I like how James reveals to us a very important antidote for resisting sin, especially sexual sin…Do not awaken desire.

A few weeks ago, one of my sons was in a hardware store with me. We got to the check-out where a magazine rack displayed all kinds of magazines with covers of skimpily clad and partially nude women. My son was deeply upset. “I can’t believe this!” He said, huffing and puffing. He turned his head away and started to pull off each of the magazines and flip them over! Because he wasn’t looking at them as he did so, it was hard for him to get them back into their slots on the rack.

I watched him, a little bit embarrassed, as it seemed like a rather extreme reaction when he could’ve just turned his eyes away. Did he really have to rearrange the magazines in front of everyone?! But then I realized, this was a good thing. He was acting on a conviction. For him, seeing a picture of a sexy woman makes him vulnerable to thoughts of impurity. So he did what he had to do to protect his eyes and turned all of the covers around.

Of all the sins in the Bible, we are told to FLEE sexual immorality. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:18) Don’t venture near it, don’t hover around it, don’t dip your finger in it. RUN AWAY!

Last Sunday, Edric asked me to share practical tips on how to avoid adultery. Interestingly, someone wrote our church and was very upset, saying that we were imposing OUR values on the congregation which were not biblical and that we were a deeply insecure couple. The other accusation was that we were telling married persons that they cannot have meaningful relationships with the opposite sex.

   
 To the first criticisim, that we were passing on unbiblical values, my response is this: Since the Bible tells us to flee immorality, what is unbiblical about saying we must do whatever it takes to safeguard our marriages? 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The evil one is a crafty opportunist. If we don’t have our guards up, anyone of us is susceptible to infidelity. 

To the second criticism, here’s the reality…elicit relationships very often began as harmless, well-intentioned relationships with the opposite sex. Furthermore, affairs tend to happen in the workplace more so than in any other setting. Since women and men work closely with one another and spend alot of time together, it is unwise to have “meaningful” relationships with the opposite sex as a married person. To clarify, the word meaningful is different from being friendly, courteous, respectful, and kind (which we ought to be to all people). Meaningful connotes a deeper kind of friendship that crosses over to personal.

Dr. Liz Curin writes, “Over the past half century, women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers. In today’s economy, it is almost a luxury for a woman (or a man) to remain full time in the home and raise children. And so women and men have become accustomed to working closely with each other, particularly as the feminist agenda has continued to push for full and equal participation in the workplace. The reality is that many men and women spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their spouses. They engage in more conversation about both work and non-work-related matters. The emotional intensity of workplace demands can contribute to the forging of strong emotional bonds.” (Source:Atlanta Psych)

85% of affairs begin in the workplace. Think about the amount of time you spend with your spouse vs. the amount of time you spend with co-workers. Day after day, maybe 40+ hours a week, you and your colleagues share the ups and downs of work; you bond over projects, successes and difficulties at work. The close interaction, travel, and unavoidable closeness may lead to strong friendships and emotional attachments outside your marriage. The workplace provides opportunity and proximity to people outside your family. Women’s increasing entry into the workforce has correlated with a rise in the number of affairs women are having. It’s no wonder the workplace is the most common place affairs start. (Source:Good Therapy)

No one connives to tear apart their marriage by having an affair unless their conscience has been blackened by years of compromise and sinful choices. Usually a person begins to develop a “meaningful” relationship with someone who isn’t their spouse and a connection and attraction begins to form between them.

This is precisely why Edric asked me to emphasize the need to draw the line in marriage. Draw the line to protect it against adultery way before the choice becomes about sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse.

Our own personal boundaries may have seemed extreme as I shared them with the audience, but they were meant to be examples of how one can avoid adultery rather than personal values we were trying to force upon people. Everyone has to determine what extent is necessary for them to guard against infidelity. As for Edric and me, one thing we have found necessary is to avoid being ALONE with the opposite sex.

When Edric was in the corporate world, he did not have coffee or share a meal with a colleague who was a woman. He wouldn’t ride with a woman colleague in a vehicle to meetings either. If he really couldn’t get out of a situation, he would invite another officemate to join him or call me first to let me know.

Edric also applied being cautious when it came to hiring an secretary or assistant. He would ask me to meet any woman he planned to hire so that I could help him make a discerning choice.

Furthermore, when he designed his current office, he used glass walls so everyone can see what’s going on inside. All his private meetings with any woman who works for him are actually public.

As we began to be more involved in ministry, we also followed the CCF policy of “Do not counsel the opposite sex alone.” For example, when a woman asks for Edric’s advice, whether it is in person, via text, email, or social media, Edric will invite me into the discussion and ask me to be the one to minister to the woman, or we do it as a team. When a man gets in touch with me to ask for advice, I connect him to Edric.

No one is impervious to an affair. In fact, speaker and author, Francis Kong says that if you want to protect yourself, “avoid the ambush of overconfidence.” The devil uses all kinds of avenues to tempt us or make us fall in the area of purity. So Edric and I also draw the line when it comes to Facebook and other forms of social media and digital communication, too.

I used to dream about a certain person from my past, someone I used to have a crush on. I had no more feelings for him but one day he tried to get in touch with me through social media. I remember feeling a twinge of excitement. When I asked Edric if I could respond to him he was like, “No way! Don’t communicate with him at all!”

At first I reacted, but since this person was someone I used to be attracted to, I followed his advice. An article published in Psychology Today reveals that “Social networks are clearly another factor (for extramarital affairs) – if only to expand the pool of possibility. Emotional friendships that turn physical are the traditional point of entry for female affairs. Now, it’s very easy for those friendships to take root online. Some argue that social networks are merely an expediter; and that cheaters will always find a way. Still, if you’ve never quite gotten over your prom date, chances are you can find him.” (Source: psychologytoday.com)

Statistics from illicitencounters.com (yes that’s the name of the site!) and other legal studies show that divorce and Facebook are significantly correlated with increased flirting and illicit online affairs. In a study conducted by a law firm, out of 5,436 divorce cases a total of up to 1,087 cases cited that illicit affairs started with the social networking site Facebook. (Source: facebookcheating.com)

 

Edric and I aren’t paranoid about every person who reaches out to us on social media. We do give them the courtesy of a response. But we are careful about not carrying on casual chats or frequent friendly exchanges with the opposite sex on social media channels.

When Edric started to become a TV personality, he had a lot of women trying to get his attention through social media. One time there was a woman on Facebook who kept flirting with Edric. She would send him random messages to strike up a conversation or dialogue. She was very attractive and young, too. In other words, danger, danger, danger. I praise God that Edric ignored her even when she accused him of being a snob. And when she kept persisting, he finally “unfriended” her so she would get the picture.

Sometimes a person is obvious about their intentions, other times the invitation to dialogue is malice-free. The point is we all need to apply cautiousness, and be transparent with our spouses. Both Edric and I include one another in exchanges with the opposite sex if the conversation involves more than a few back and forth responses. Other couples actually have a shared social media account.

Another challenge surfaced for us when Edric started doing corporate speaking engagements around the country. This began right after I gave birth to my fifth child so I couldn’t go with him. To protect himself, Edric found a way to include Elijah in all his talks. He made it a point not to travel alone. The added blessing is Edric and Elijah have bond together as father and son, and they can maximise the nice hotel rooms by enjoying them together!

Author Ted Haggard writes, “So many times, I’ve seen men and women get into trouble when they travel away from home because they believe that no one will ever know what they do when away. This is a lie, and it will always come back to haunt you. In Genesis 38, the Bible tells the story of Judah, who went on a business trip. When he arrived at a distant town, he saw a prostitute and approached her to sleep with her. But he didn’t have any money to pay her, so he had to give her some personal items as a down payment. Of course, everyone knew those items belonged to him, and soon what he had done in secret, far away from home, was a public matter. And, again, we’re reading about his hypocrisy thousands of years later. His actions have brought shame to his entire family for many generations. It’s just not worth it. I remember an old tent preacher saying, sin will take you further than you want to go; cost you more than you want to pay; and keep you longer than you want to stay. (Source: Letters from Home. p. 20)

The reality is even if Edric and I have all these lines drawn around our marriage there have been instances where we had to deal with “issues.” I remember years and years ago he confessed to me that he was attracted to someone at work. He had to perform with this woman in a corporate show for his company and dance with her, acting like she was the woman he loved. As a result, the feelings spilled over into real life!

When he opened up to me about his feelings of attraction, I was hurt but I also realized that he was trying to be honest. Praise God he told me when the feelings were just beginning to bloom. So we talked about it, and by God’s grace, it was as if a spell was broken, as Edric put it. Whatever infatuation he was feeling went away when he brought it to the light.

This became a template for us. Today, we talk openly about purity so that hidden struggles don’t fester or grow into bigger problems in our marriage. But I also realized that it helps to put on the “best friend hat” so we can talk about our struggles without feeling like we will be judged or rejected for our honesty. It’s not easy to lay aside pride to do this! But as issues surface, we work through them and pray to overcome them, only by God’s grace.

I also have to add that meeting each other’s need for sexual intimacy is important for safeguarding against adultery. Edric has told me that it’s very hard for a man to keep his heart and mind pure when he is deprived of sex. We counsel a lot of couples and this is a common problem, even among young couples. As wives, we can have all kinds of excuses – pregnancy, breastfeeding, the kids, I don’t enjoy it, I can live without it, etc…But I will never forget what a pastor’s wife once said from the stage, “Have sex with your husband at least once every three days. Scientifically, that’s as long as they can go without it or they become vulnerable to temptation.” If this number doesn’t work, then perhaps a husband and wife can discuss how often is healthy for them. And be creative. Don’t let your sex life become boring. Talk about how you can better meet each other’s sexual needs and desires.

Sometimes the problem is that our concept of sex has been programmed by wrong role models, past relationships or the media which can have a negative effect on our sexual intimacy. So as added protection, Edric and I avoid movies, tv shows, music, or other forms of media that give us the wrong kinds of sexual appetites. And Edric tries his best to keep himself “porn-free.” (Before we got married this was a big problem in his life, which he openly shared when he spoke last Sunday.) 

In an article published by GQ Magazine, author Scott Christian of the NoFap commnunity site argued that porn can lead to physical addiction, a decline in sexual satisfaction with one’s mate, and decreased sexual performance. This conclusion was based on surveys of 75,000 people committed to quitting porn and masturbation. For those addicted to porn, arousal actually declined with the same mate, while those who regularly found different mates were able to continual their arousal, Christian wrote. It’s known as the Coolidge Effect, or novelty-seeking behavior. Porn, after all, trains the viewer to expect constant newness. (We don’t want this to happen to our marriages!) However, he also pointed out that the survey showed that there is hope for the addicted, with 60% of those who embraced the “nofap” (no masturbation/porn) challenge saying that they saw an increase in their sexual functions…

Since women are wired a little differently, one of the ways that Edric protects me from adultery is he meets my emotional needs. He makes me feel loved, cherished, appreciated, prioritized and important. To do this, we have weekly date nights where we can enjoy each other’s company. And he will ask me, how can I improve as a husband? This keeps my emtional tank full and makes me less likely to seek out the affections or attentions of a man.

God created sex to be a powerful and amazing way to cultivate intimacy between a husband and wife. It’s supposed to be something we want to share with our spouse in marriage. Sexual desires are intended for our spouse. When we experience sex outside the context of marriage it is destructive to us as individuals, to our marriages (or future marriages if you are still single.)

When God gave the command “Do not commit adultery,” he had our best interests at heart. And when Jesus explained what adultery is, he clarified our understanding of this sin so that we will draw the line far away from it. Why? As the next two verses will attest, God is after our greatest good. His commands are meant to bless us…

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:7‬ ‭

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:3‬

So never ever think it is normal to do it (outside of marriage) because everyone else is doing it. Let’s not lower our standards and rob ourselves of the wonderful intimacy God designed for marriage. Normal as God intended is a husband and wife enjoying trust, security, open communication, oneness of purpose and identity in Christ, and sexual pleasure. That’s God’s normal for all of us; that’s what Edric and I pray to have; and that’s why we try to draw the line far away from adultery.

  

 

My Heart Is Turned Towards You 

  
This morning, amidst the flurry of activity I found myself in while preparing for a homeschool playgroup and all-day meetings, Edric very sweetly told me, “You know my heart is turned towards you.” Suddenly, whatever stress I felt dissipated as he calmly smiled at me while finishing his breakfast. 

He said this because I asked him if we could upgrade the tech situation in our homeschool room. The kids rely on my laptop (the only laptop we have at home) so it’s overloaded with files and programs that Elijah experiments with, and it’s a challenge when we both need to use it. I haven’t minded the sharing too much, but this year, with Elijah in high school for our homeschooling, we need at least one other laptop or a desktop computer for writing assignments and research. Plus, Elijah is learning programming too, so he needs a device to work on. 

I don’t know when Edric will actually buy a computer or laptop for our homeschool room because he has a lot going on at present, but the manner in which he heard my request and responded to it with tenderness meant a lot. I have said this before but I will say it again…women are not as complicated as we seem. 

Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel, said that “women are multipliers.” Be sweet to them and they will magnify sweetness in return. Be mean to them and they will give you hell. He actually used the phrase “give you hell” which was kind of surprising for a pastor but he delivered it with humor, trying to emphasize his point — a woman multiplies what she receives from her husband.

When Edric makes me feel like I am important and prioritized, I am an inspired wife! A little gas in my emotional tank goes a long way! My preference is affirmation. For other wives it may be time, affection, gifts, or service. Whatever it is, I think I speak for all women when I say that we bloom when our husbands “speak” our love language, as Dr. Gary Chapman puts it. 

It doesn’t take as much effort as a man might presume to meet the emotional needs of a woman. In fact the effort index is way higher when a man neglects the emotional needs of his wife. For example, yesterday, Edric ignored me when I asked him if I should bring the stroller for Catalina during our family date night. I must have asked for his opinion three times but he said nothing. We were rushing to get into the car and he may have thought it an unimportant question. Even though I shouldn’t have made a big deal out of it, I did. In my irritation I asked, “Why don’t you answer me?” 

He didn’t appreciate my tone or attitude and corrected me by remarking, “This is not an issue.” 

“Yes it is. I really don’t like it when you ignore me. I have said this before. It’s upsetting.” 

Well, that didn’t help. The first part of our family time was a little cold, at least between Edric and me. It took me a while to simmer down and quell my hurt. I started thinking of several other things that Edric did that day which upset me. Over one unanswered question, my mind resurrected three other reasons to fan my ire. Thankfully we resolved the dispute and apologies were exchanged. The point is, I get complicated when I feel slighted by Edric. Of all the people in my life it is his treatment of me that naturally matters the most. 

I am not saying that my reactive-ness is ever Edric’s fault, especially when I choose to be disrespectful or disobedient to him. My responses are still my responsibility. However, what I am saying is Edric’s gentleness and sweetness have a profound effect on me. That one phrase,”You know my heart is turned towards you,” made me think things like, “Wow, he really loves me! He really wants to take care of me! I am important to him!”   

Okay, I know it all sounds cheesy but that’s how simple a woman can be. We respond to tenderness. In whatever sincere form it comes — a kind word, a compliment, a thoughtful gesture, or an affectionate embrace — these little demonstrations make us feel loved. Multiply these actions over years and years and the result will be a woman who looks upon her husband with desire and admiration! Isn’t that what all husbands hope to receive from their wives? 

You don’t have to print this out and hand it to your husband to convict him to change. What you can do is pray for him if he tends to be insensitive or fails to meet your emotional needs. I keep praying for Edric and by God’s grace, he keeps improving. What you and I can do is appreciate and affirm the instances when our husbands do something, ANYTHING, that makes us feel special.

A few years after getting married, I complained that Edric stopped opening the door for me. One date night I said something like, “Wow. Times have changed. You used to open the door for me but now you don’t.” Did that statement motivate him to open my door? Most certainly not! In fact he got very annoyed with me for criticizing him. So one day I modified my approach. When he randomly opened my door during another occasion, I commented, “I really like it when you open the door for me. It makes me feel special, and it makes you very attractive.” With that statement, his eyes lit up and he programmed himself to open my door consistently from then on. Why? Because I appealed to his own heart-felt need to be appreciated. Edric has made opening my door a habit. What used to require effort from him is now automatic.

Similarly, there are many things we want our husbands to do that we wish wouldn’t feel like such chores to them. But rarely will our nagging, complaining, comparing, and criticizing compel them to transform in the areas we hope they will. Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” A man’s heart turns away from a woman who is argumentative, who provokes with her words and distresses him with her actions. He may look okay on the outside as he gives in to the pestering of his wife but the love he feels erodes over time as it is replaced by resentment for her disrespect. 

So, on the one hand this post is meant to applaud husbands who fulfill the call in Ephesians 5 to nourish and cherish their wives. What a blessing these men are! John Piper wrote, “When a man joyfully bears the primary God-given responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership and provision and protection in the home—for the spiritual well-being of the family, for the discipline and education of the children, for the stewardship of money, for the holding of a steady job, for the healing of discord—I have never met a wife who is sorry she married such a man. Because when God designs a thing (like marriage), he designs it for his glory and our good.” 

On the other hand, this entry is meant to encourage wives to continue hoping in God to work in the hearts of our husbands, praying for them, and appreciating the effort they display. If there is anyone who can reorient the hearts of our husbands, it is the Lord. “May the Lord direct your hearts (our husbands’) into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:5)‬ ‭

Furthermore, our greater comfort ought to be that God’s heart is turned towards you and me when our hearts are turned to Him!  “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness,” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭33:18‬)
  

Fourteen Is Better Than Thirteen

I sat across from Edric at a cafe this morning, studying his face like I hadn’t seen it a million times. Has it really been 14 years since we were standing at the altar, speaking our vows? Are we really parents to five amazing kids?

 Apart from the peppering of his hair and the smile lines at the edges of his eyes, he doesn’t look much older than he did in college. I actually think he is a more handsome version of his younger self. I like the way he is aging. It’s attractive to me.

The cafe was an unplanned departure from our original schedule. He should have been at the office and I should have been with the kids. But our vehicle needed a battery-change, so there we were, making the most of the opportunity to share breakfast and talk.

“Is this what you imagined?,” He asked me. “Is this what you imagined marriage would be like?”

It was an unexpected question but the moment called for it. We were tucked away in the corner of the cafe, and it was the day after our anniversary. Our overnight date at the Marco Polo hotel was coming to a close. So I said, “I didn’t think this far when I was single, but I knew that you were the person I loved and wanted to share my life with.” 

“It’s better than I imagined,” he added, like he meant to answer his own question. “I used to be afraid that our relationship would change as we got older, as we aged, when our bodies were no longer in their prime. How would this affect the way we perceived one another? But then I realized that marriage has stages to it. During the early years, the physical aspect seemed to be a large part of our intimacy. Yet as the years went by, I discovered a depth beyond the physical…like this, right now, being here with you and enjoying it. We are stuck here because of a car battery problem, but it’s totally fine because we are together. There’s no other person I would rather be with, raise children with, and serve the Lord with.”

I smiled as he took my hand, possibly in between chewing my tuna melt sandwich. (I was graceful about it, trying not to ruin the moment.) 

Fourteen years may be few compared to couples who are celebrating their silver anniversaries, but for us it feels like a lot of history. We have weathered many seasons together. It dawned on me, as I was reminiscing and recalling the early years of our marriage, that this history matters. The longer we stay married and honor the commitment we vowed to, the more palpable the oneness feels. 

When the Bible says that two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), I started thinking about the word ‘shall.’ While oneness is symbolized by the event of sexual union between a husband and wife, oneness is also a process. Oneness happens over time, memories, pain, and joy. The person I am today feels so intensely entwined into the person Edric is. 

   
 From two separate threads as single people, we became a tightly wound chord of three – the Lord, Edric and me. I may not have imagined what fourteen years of marriage would be like, but I know for sure that I can’t imagine life without Edric. Not now. Not after fourteen years of oneness. 

How does a relationship become like this? Where two people can be vulnerable and honest and naked and unashamed…and you can say “I love you no matter what, even if I know all your imperfections”…and you laugh at things that no one else finds funny…or signal mysterious codes across a room full of people and get each other’s message because an eyebrow was raised, or a mouth twitched, or a wink was sent your way…and you can lie in the stillness and quiet, closing your eyes to the events of the day, the good and the bad, and feel safe because the arms that are embracing you are familiar, and you fit so comfortably in each other’s spaces…and, yes, you also have three boys and two girls who act and speak like little versions of yourselves, but are way cuter, who need you both as dad and mom and need you to stay together because you are a family…and you navigate through the storms in your relationship and outside of it, hand in hand, looking to Christ to walk you through them, to heal the wounds that hurt like heck but make you stronger…and you may fight and disagree and really NOT like each other sometimes but you know that this is forever and you will commit to work it out because this is the person whom you chose to love and will continue to love in spite of, just because, and most certainly till you are old and wrinkled and maybe even toothless. 

As Edric and I live out the vows we once made to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer til death do us part, my desire to be his and his desire to be mine increases all the more. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3a) 

It’s hard to explain this when so many people quit on their marriages emotionally or legally soon after the difficulties confront them. And I know why they do. There’s always a reason that pushes them to do so. I’ve wrestled with some of these reasons myself. But from this vantage point, and not as one who professes to be an expert at mouthing out advice on relationships, but as one who has chosen to stay married for fourteen years (so far), my observation is this: fourteen years of marriage was way better than the first thirteen, and by God’s grace, I think fifteen will be better than fourteen. And by faith I believe that the best is yet to come, not next year or the next, but decades down the road! 

Why? Because this is the beautiful mystery of oneness – God’s design for a husband and wife – to journey together into the endless, vastless and unfathomable depths of love, His love. After all, it is not our exhaustible human love that binds us to one another. I love Edric because God first loved me. Edric loves me because God first loved him. As 1 John 4:19 put it, “We love because He first loved us.” It is the strand of God’s eternal love in our relationship that keeps us from unraveling, that strengthens our resolve to remain committed to each other through each passing year, that pulls us forward when we struggle to go on. 

As I end this entry, I want to say, stay. Don’t go. Stay through the seasons that are difficult, that feel unending, when human love has lost its feeling, and promises have been broken. Stay and see how God can renew and rebuild what is damaged in us and in our marriages, and meet our unmet longings with His amazing love. God is the author of marriage and His love is its keeper and healer. 

And to my husband, Edric, I thank you for staying with me. I love you more today than ever. Happy Anniversary!
“(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)

   
 
 

Have Fun With Your Spouse

Our Thursday night group is on the third session of Craig and Amy Groeschel’s DVD marriage series entitled “From This Day Forward.” The most recent topic was especially relevant and practical as the Groeschel’s shared about how to have fun as a couple.

They suggested three simple concepts that are well-worth applying to ignite or reignite passion in marriage:

1. Face to Face Fun. Do you and your spouse set aside a date night during the week when you can speak face to face, heart to heart, and connect intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

When Edric and I were newly married, we enjoyed long, drawn out conversations as we sought to get to know one another. Real effort was made to discover what he liked, what I liked, what our dreams, passions and peculiarities were. As the years passed, pragmatism defined our interactions. Busy-ness overtook quality time. To remedy this, we religiously safeguarded an evening in the week to have that face to face fun time. No cellphones to interrupt or distract us, no children clamoring for our help or attention, and no business-talk as much as possible. We asked one another how our marriage was, what we felt like we could improve on independently and as a couple.

It is rare that we miss our date night during the week. But there were a couple of instances in the last few months when our schedule made it difficult to go out of the house for dinner. So Edric called our househelp and asked them to set up a table and chairs on the balcony so we could have a private dinner. The kids were not allowed to disturb us. Catalina was more challenging since she kept pressing her face against the glass doors and managed to come out several times. Finally, she was carried downstairs by one of her siblings, crying all the way down to the kitchen. Although tempted to rescue her, Edric insisted that we continue with our plans to talk. She survived just fine without me.

The point is connecting as a couple is important. It needs to be prioritized. I once read that couples naturally grow apart through the years and not closer. Without effort invested to get to know one’s spouse and connect with them regularly, feelings of love fade. Therefore speaking face to face must become a habit. We must intentionally seek to know what is going on in one another’s hearts to cultivate intimacy.
Here are some face to face questions we can ask our spouse…

– how can I pray for you?

– what’s been on your heart lately?

– what was the highlight of your day/ week?

– is there anything I can do to make you feel more loved and special?

– how can I improve as a spouse?

IMG_7946

Please note that once a week face to face fun time may not be enough if that’s the only opportunity we have to be with our spouses. It’s like starving ourselves during the week and eating a buffet once to make up for the deprivation! A marriage can’t stay healthy if a husband and wife have zero relationship in the week and expect the face to face fun time during date nights to work. The Grosechels encourage on-going conversation. And here’s the reality…”men like headlines but women like details,” so let’s remember that this habit of communicating may take some getting used to because of our God-designed differences but the benefits will outweigh the cost of adjustment. (Wait till the end to understand what this means.)


2. Side to side fun.
The next principle is about sharing activities together. Guys, for instance, are more likely to open up in the context of activity. I remember this about my dad and brothers. They would always bond with one another during sports.

One of the wives in our Thursday bible study group took up golf because she realized she was becoming a “golf widow.” So she purposefully played golf to engage in her husband’s world and her husband really appreciated it.

When our husbands are participating in an activity they thoroughly enjoy, they are relaxed and stress-free. A lot of times this is when they are willing to be more detailed and communicative, too. Craig Groeschel actually said there are two occasions when a husband is more inclined to share what’s on his mind and heart — in the context of activity and after sex! (True or false?)

Not every wife may find it realistic to get involved in the same activities her husband enjoys but there can be a fix to this. For example, Edric used to turn to basketball with friends as his recreational outlet. But when he realized that this was something that took him away from me, he decided we should find a sport we could both get into.

Years ago, when badminton was still a fad and clubs were sprouting everywhere, we competed as a team. I never considered badminton a real sport at first. Real sports to me were like basketball and soccer (football). Well I was wrong. Badminton turned out to be a pretty challenging sport. Plus, I burned a ton of calories in the process which helped me loose post-pregnancy weight. Edric and I looked forward to our weekly/bi-weekly badminton games and the talking rides to and from the clubs where we played at.

These days we work out or run together. But we also serve in ministry as a team which adds an even more meaningful dimension to our relationship. Working together towards a goal or ministering along side one another gives us insight into each other’s personalities. Furthermore, the experiences we encounter (both good and bad) provide us with more topics to talk about and connect on.

3. Belly button to belly button fun. Leave it to Craig Groeschel to come up with a phrase like that! He was offering a word picture for sexual intimacy. I want to talk more about sexual intimacy in marriage because it’s definitely essential to a marriage and deserves a future post all of its own. But in the meantime, I am only going to highlight what Craig Groeschel said (paraphrased) which had me laughing till the point of tears…”Men work on your approach — be tender, romantic, bring a gift. Stop making everything sexual! As for the ladies…make an approach! Any approach! Get some lingerie, be romantic, prepare the hot tub, light some candles…”

We know that men and women view sex very differently and need it very differently, too. But it is integral to a marriage. Whenever Edric and I counsel couples one of the questions we ask is how is your sex life? Almost all of the time there is a correlation between poor communication and poor sex. Those who admit that sex in marriage is non-existent or rare have major communication problems between them. And sometimes these communication problems stem from deeper issues such as infidelity, pornography, or unresolved conflicts  that need to be healed first.

Face to face fun, side to side fun and belly button to belly button fun. That is the ideal sequence. Enjoy the first two points and the third follows naturally. And let us always remember that sex in the context of a marriage between husband and wife is God-designed and beautiful! Look at what Proverbs 5:18 says…”Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Now read verse 19 on your own and be pleasantly surprised at how God celebrates sex in marriage! Yes that’s in the Bible!

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Photo credit: Mayad Beginnings

You Cannot Pray and Stay Upset With Your Spouse

I darted out the door for a 10 PM run a few evenings ago after Edric and I had a conflict. The cause of our dissension isn’t worth mentioning because it was, once again, something silly and trivial. It reached a climactic point when I declared in my exasperation while riding in the car beside him, “This is irritating, you are so irritating. Why are you making a big deal out of this?!”

In all my marriage, I have never insulted Edric this way. We teach about expressing frustration with “I feel” statements but I did exactly what we tell couples not to do — I criticized him.

Edric restrained his anger and kept silent. We were nearing the bend that turns into our home but the chilly air between us stretched the time to an eternal minute.

Where did I go wrong? Not too long before this, we were enjoying the company of friends, engaged in lively discussion, and exchanging spiritual insights. What a contrast to the oppressive atmosphere that put miles between us. I looked out the window, consumed by my ugly thoughts, stewing in a toxic mix of rage and apathy.

After writing an article entitled, Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences, there I was thinking, I am tired of this. We just don’t get each other. I need to run this off.

As soon as I got home, I changed, grabbed my running shoes and snuck out the front door. If Edric had seen me, he might have dissuaded me because it was late in the evening. Guiltily, I tiptoed out, leaving the door unlocked so I could slip back in unnoticed. Yes, I know, I was in bad spiritual shape! Criticizing my husband and then sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teen! My, my!

Even if my motivation was to get away from Edric to process my feelings, the run afforded me something better…time to pray. I soon discovered what is consistently true about prayer and conflict. It is impossible to pray and stay mad at your spouse!

As I communed with God, a strong conviction rose in my heart to humble myself. I didn’t want to give in to the prodding but how could I keep praying without recognizing my wretchedness and wrong? In the presence of a holy God, my sinfulness was made obvious.

God reminded me that it didn’t matter that there were actions or words spoken by Edric that hurt me. There was no excuse for my own behavior and response. These things were within my control. He asked me to initiate an apology, to go up to Edric after my run and sincerely ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer has a way of recalibrating my heart and mind so that my attention is drawn towards the Lord and away from my carnal perspective. This is one of the reasons why I am convinced that prayer is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival and a healthy marriage. God reveals to me so many areas I need to change to become more Christ-like when I pray.

On the one hand, there is His Word and the support of friends and family who tell me when I am not living out His principles. But when I pray, God ministers to me in an intimate way.

God showed me once again that my thoughts, words, and actions are emblematic of my theology. When I resist being submissive or respectful to Edric, the real problem is my relationship with God, not Edric. Sure, Edric may have areas of improvement and he would say the same about me for sure. But the bigger issue is I don’t trust that God has my best interests at heart. I start thinking of his principles for marriage as unfair and unrealistic. My focus is no longer following God’s and pleasing Him, but giving in to the dictates of my emotions.

When I got home I found Edric sitting in the family room unwinding in front of his laptop. He didn’t realize I had been gone for the last thirty minutes. I meekly approached him asking, “Will you forgive me for disrespecting you, for saying that I was so irritated, and for being so angry? I am so sorry.”

The next day, Edric also asked for my forgiveness for being selfish and self-focused and all was well between us again.

Very often, I think of how prayer can change circumstances and people around me. But God is teaching me that prayer changes me most of all. Whenever I come before God, he reveals to me a sin I have to confess, a command I have to obey, a word of encouragement, an insight from His truth, the assurance of His presence, or the hope I need to keep pursuing His will. When I don’t pray, I become vulnerable to the schemes of the evil one who darkens my thinking with untruth.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, anticipating his impending death on the cross, the told them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NASB) He knew what challenges lay ahead of them in the days to come, how their faith would be shaken like never before. Clueless, the disciples didn’t listen but fell asleep!

Many times in my own marriage, I know that I am supposed to commit my relationship to Edric to the Lord by praying regularly and vigilantly. However, I’m not as intentional about it as I should be. Sometimes, I fall asleep in the spiritual sense, forgetting that every marriage is under continual threat from the divisive maneuverings of the evil one who wants to destroy marriages and tear spouses apart. The spiritual battle is real.

Last week, our church held a five day prayer and fasting time which did wonders for my relationship with Edric. Being in the spirit of prayer made a huge difference, not just for me but for Edric as we came together to pray each night of our fast.

Prayer put a spiritual shield around our marriage. Edric was especially patient and understanding towards me, and I found myself better able to receive correction and deal with issues between us with a gentle and quiet spirit. MIRACLE! What an affirmation to the power of praying to the Lord!

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Experiencing this victory affirmed why I need to make prayer a habit in my life and marriage.  As authors and speakers Craig and Amy Groeschel put it, “Seek the One with your two.” Translated: Seek God with your spouse by coming together in prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated…pray during meal times, pray about shared concerns, and pray for each other.

I began with the title, “It’s impossible to pray and stay upset at your spouse,” but the more positive perspective is, “It’s possible to keep loving your spouse when you are committed to praying to the Lord about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.”

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Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences

 After fourteen years of marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot change Edric to become like me (you’d think I would’ve figured this out sooner!). It really just hit me recently, that this endless attempt to make him completely understand my personality is a futile preoccupation. First, he is a man and that already makes him Martian to my Venus-ity. Second, the family context and culture in which we were raised was unlike each other’s. Third, I actually appreciate Edric the way he is even if sometimes, the way he isn’t like me can be infuriating. Fourth, the point of marriage is not to become like one another but to become more like Christ and to exalt Him and not us. This aim takes our differences and unifies them under a common purpose and goal.

 Nevertheless, the struggle remains…how to get along and remain faithful to that commitment to love one another. Let me illustrate this…

The other morning I prepared what I thought was a pretty amazing breakfast for Edric — a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of cheese, prunes, and walnuts, toast with honey and butter, scrambled eggs, sliced oranges, and malunggay tea. I giddily arranged everything, expecting him to be amazed and delighted at how beautifully plated his food was. I waited for him to say, “Wow! Thanks hon!” Instead, he sat himself in front of his breakfast and asked rather tersely, “What’s this in my oatmeal? Did you put evaporated milk?”

I took this reaction as a complaint instead of a mere question so I retaliated with a comment that went something like this, “That’s all you have to say after I made all of that?”

Edric didn’t appreciate my interpretation of the situation, especially because I muttered it in front of the kids. I should have been more prudent and more respectful. But I thought his question expressed ungratefulness. Annoyed with me, he corrected my attitude and judgmental spirit on the spot (also in front of kids). “The problem is you had expectations and so you thought my question was negative. I just wanted to know if you put evaporated milk in my oatmeal.”

It was unusual for him to correct me with the kids present because we tend to take up our issues with one another in private. With the kids spectating, I felt just cause to add, “Are you going to do this with the kids here?” Well, he corrected me even more! So I stopped, afraid that our interchange wouldn’t benefit the kids. I didn’t want to put our conflict on display. Plus, Edric was getting more and more frustrated with me for challenging him. I apologized to our kids, but inside I was a volcanic mess.

When we were finally alone, Edric and I got to talk. He called out my tendency to hyperbolize any sort of negativity from him — whether it be a comment, an expression, or his tone of voice — if it looks or sounds like the opposite of positive, my defenses kick in and I retaliate. Admittedly, I am overly sensitive when it comes to Edric’s opinions and assessments of my duties and responsibilities as a wife. When he communicates his displeasure, I feel deeply discouraged. My problem is I am allergic to even the most subtle portrayals of irritation from him. Instead of looking past his method to the intent of the correction, for my good, I fight back. Sigh.

I attempted to explain that this response is due to my upbringing, because my home was a positive, cheery environment. Think sunshine and sparkles. People appreciated one another and applied grace towards imperfections. Initially, Edric took this to mean that I was making a comparison to our present family culture. But I assured him that my past merely provided a reference for how we ought to relate to one another. I praise God that after several turbulent exchanges where our emotions began to escalate, we were able to sort through the hurtful comments properly. Edric led us to good conclusions.

  1. I need to be more humble when correction comes my way (no matter how it is delivered).
  1. Edric will make a conscious effort to apply gentleness of tone when he corrects me.

He also called our children into the kitchen and sat them around us. “Kids, will you forgive me for the way I talked to your mom? I was trying to correct her but I should have said it in a sweeter way.”

“You weren’t so nice,” Edan observed. (I wanted to clap but I didn’t!)

“Yes, you are right and I want you all to know that I shouldn’t talk to your mom that way. And you shouldn’t either. If you see something that she needs to change, you need to say it in a polite way.”

Edric explained to them that they had to respect me and speak to me in a manner that honored my position as their mother. The kids understood and returned to their play. I really appreciated this. Edric didn’t have to emphasize his own error but he did, and very humbly, too. This restored our family to authentic oneness.

We have been at this point many times as husband and wife. Our disagreements often feel like marital dejavú! We still wrestle with similar issues that irked us about each other at the beginning. They can even be called irreconcilable personality differences.

Thankfully, God has protected our marriage from some of the major problems that many relationships have to work through, such as infidelity, addictions, abuse, etc. I am not saying that it isn’t vulnerable to the same things. Yet by God’s grace, our conflicts revolve around personality differences rather than conviction-based ones.

Even so, if we weren’t committed to resolving our conflicts, small issues would most definitely distance us. They would pile up and make it easier for greater hurts to infect our marriage. For example, if Edric and I didn’t address our differences constructively, we might resort to quiet tolerance. Neither of us would be able to express genuine feelings. Untouchable subjects would naturally cause our communication to suffer. And then we might be less inclined to connect sexually because we don’t feel that spiritual or emotional oneness that ought to precede healthy intimacy. As we continue to drift apart, having made this manner of relating to one another a habit, we would seek out people or activities to satisfy unmet longings. This vulnerable state would put us in a position to make choices that could really harm or destroy our marriage.

The point is that Edric and I must continue to pursue oneness in Christ, accepting that there are aspects we cannot change about one another. That’s what commitment is…applying God’s grace and forgiveness when those differences sting, and going back to the ONE who holds us together. We both want to honor and obey Him. We want to glorify Him in our marriage. We want to live out His principles and not insist on the personal preferences that polarize us.

Is it hard? Is it challenging? Is it maddening at times? Yes, yes, yes. Yet after each conflict that is resolved we find ourselves saying that we love one another still. The even more amazing thing is, when we work through our issues by pursuing oneness in Christ, we discover that love can be better, bigger, and deeper than the love we knew in the year that passed.

My encouragement to young married couples is don’t let your irreconcilable personality differences pull you apart so you become two separate people over the years. Let those differences draw you closer to the Lord. The best parts of being married are yet to come. Don’t bail out emotionally and spiritually when conflict arises.

About two weeks ago I was visiting with my dad in his study room, where I have enjoyed many one-on-one conversations with him about life. He told me something that changed the way I think about the differences Edric and I have. He said, “Differences don’t really go away. Take for instance your mom and me. The same things that bothered us about each other at the beginning continue to be there. But we have learned to grow in grace.” 

He said it so beautifully I wanted to cry. Okay, I’m crying a little bit now. The truth is no marriage can survive without God’s grace and every marriage blooms with it. So if you are feeling discouraged today, receive God’s grace in your life and choose to give it to your spouse!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭24‬ NASB)

 

Invest In Your Marriage


It’s been sometime since Edric and I have been able to talk about our relationship and reminisce about its beginnings. We maintain our weekly date night, but sometimes the few hours together aren’t enough to get into a deep dialogue about how we are doing emotionally and spiritually. Last night, we spent a good amount of time sitting around the kitchen island recounting the way we met and laughing about our awkward moments.

“So what did you like about me?” Edric asked, fishing for a compliment. “Well, let me see…I really appreciated your unpretentiousness, that I could trust you, that you loved God and were a good guy.” I meant all of this, too. One of the most outstanding aspects about Edric’s personality when I first met him was his amazing ability to make me feel at ease and safe.

I asked him the same question and he used words like “intrigued and captivated.” I liked that! It was a little vague but it sounded compelling!

We lingered into the evening, which was unusual because I didn’t rush off to feed Catalina or attend to the kids. Edric had tucked the kids into their beds earlier and so there we were, just the two of us. Hmm…this is different, I thought to myself. Since giving birth to my fifth child, Catalina, I usually excuse myself from the dinner table or put her to bed almost immediately after because she still breastfeeds. She’s almost 2 years old but she keeps nursing, at least twice a day. I am a total breastfeeding advocate and I will keep going for as long as I can. The only downside is I have to leave Edric alone in the early mornings to go to the girls’ bedroom and be absent before we go to bed in the evenings. Sometimes, when I go to bed, Edric is already asleep.

Last night was different. Edric asked me NOT to feed Catalina who was already sleeping, so I skipped her nighttime feed. At first, I was anxious. As much as possible, I don’t do this. But I acceded to his request and God blessed our time together.

This got me to think about how important it is to put effort into enjoying moments of togetherness. Date nights are one thing, but making it a point to meet each other’s heart-felt needs is about exhibiting a much higher level of effort to work on our marriage.

Truthfully, a lot of times I expect Edric to cater to my needs. I want him to be sensitive to me and attentive to my needs. But I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t very often consider what I can do for him, how I can make him feel special.

Interestingly, when I exert more effort into doing so, it’s not so much the appreciation from Edric that I receive from him which matters. My investment in serving him, giving him more affection and meeting his needs for intimacy, as well as spending time with him (without the kids clamoring for my attention), creates a new kind of love in me. The Word of God is so accurate when it says, where your heart is, there your treasure shall be. (Matthew 6:21)

For example, why does my heart have so much space in it for my children? Why do I treasure them so much? On the one hand, it’s because they are, by God’s grace, pretty adorable! And I know that they are God’s gifts to me. But these are not the main reasons. I believe it’s because I invest in my relationship with them. I am very intentional about meeting their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual needs, as most mothers tend to be. Prioritizing my kids by teaching, training, and caring for them makes me love the more. The more I give of myself to my children, the more the love in me grows and expands towards them.

I suppose this is why it feels like a big deal when I’m not around the kids. As a mother, I feel their absence more deeply than Edric probably does. I don’t have grown up kids yet, but I can imagine the future heartache of letting  them go, too.

Some years ago, Edric and I took our first lengthy trip to the Holy Land away from our kids. I was a wreck during the first few days, bawling in the airport and crying at the mere thought of the kids. We took two other long trips since then without our tiddlywinks and it was still hard. But they survived! They missed us, but they were fine. 

We left them under the loving care of my parents-in-law. I did outline an entire schedule for them and I wrote the kids letters for every single day that we were away during each of those trips. (My mother-in-law, one of the sweetest women I know, was a good sport about it and she actually followed the proposed schedule, which included homeschooling them, too! I love her!)

Some months ago, when we traveled to Cebu without the kids Edric reminded me, “when the kids are gone, it will just be the two of us, okay?” He said this when I began to mention that I felt badly because the kids weren’t with us. He wanted me to focus on enjoying his company. The statement was a valid one. It was sobering, too. I have to remember that my world can’t revolve around my kids. As much as possible, I avoid child-centric parenting because I know it’s unhealthy for my children and myself. But being a mother necessitates that I do invest a great amount of time and effort into meeting my children’s needs, and this naturally turns my heart towards them. If I can do this with my children, I can certainly do the same and even better with Edric who ought to be my number one priority, next to the Lord.

My mom was counseling a lady once who complained that she was bored with her marriage, with her husband. In response, my mom very bluntly (but lovingly) told her, if you are bored, then you are boring. Her message to this woman was put effort into your own relationship. In other words, When was the last time you did something meaningful for your husband?

It’s a good question for us, as wives, to think about. Sure, it’s great when our husbands plan romantic get-aways, take us out on dates, give us a shopping budget, serve us, compliment us, or give us their undivided attention. But what are we doing to strengthen our marriage? A healthy marriage requires investment, which often entails sacrifice. We can’t give our left over time and energy and expect that our relationship will bloom and grow under those paltry conditions. Furthermore, we can’t leave the romancing to our husbands. 

Do we demonstrate our own commitment to the marriage? Do we attempt to satisfy their longings for respect and appreciation? Do we initiate sexual intimacy and show interest when they look for it? (I have been trying to improve in this area!) Do we seek to meet their language of love? Do they know they have priority over the kids? Are we praying regularly for our husband and our marriage?

A quote from the Unveiled Wife site goes like this, “Ignite passion in your marriage by investing into your husband joyfully.”

“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭12‬ NASB)
  

 

 

How A Patient Husband Can Inspire His Wife

IMG_3268.JPGIt’s high time I wrote an entry about how wonderfully Spirit-filled my husband, Edric, has been as of late. Sometimes my posts about our marriage have something to do with his intensely spirited personality and my not too commendable reactions towards him. So I wanted to acknowledge the recent change I have seen in him, especially in the area of patience.

He would call it “being Spirit-filled.” This has been the phrase he has recited to himself repeatedly over the past week as he has met with unfavorable or challenging circumstances, sometimes in the form of yours truly!

But what does it mean to be Spirit-filled? Galatians explains it for us by affording a contrast between the flesh (our human nature) and the fruit of the Spirit.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭19-25‬ NASB)

A person who is flesh-filled thinks, speaks, and acts in a manner that is carnal and selfish. In contrast, a Spirit-filled person exhibits Christlike character traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. A true follower of Jesus ought to produce this kind of fruit.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

It’s not surprising that marriage is the perfect petri dish to test for evidence of the Spirit-filled life. Any honest married person would attest to the fact that a husband-and-wife-relationship can get fiery at times, which can bring out fleshy behaviors like agitation, impatience, anger, etc. Therefore I really appreciated the manner in which Edric exemplified control over his emotions this past week, particularly two Thursday mornings ago.

On that morning, I came down to the kitchen with feelings of frustration while our children and Edric chatted around the breakfast table. Normally, I enjoy mornings and I am the one greeting every child that comes bounding down the stairs. But that day, I opened my drawer and pulled out two halves of one brassiere. Yes. My bra looked like it had been torn in two by an animal.

I suspected that someone stuck it in the washing machine against my orders. So I took the two ridiculous looking halves and plopped them on the kitchen counter, calling out the name of the person responsible for this destruction. It was our sincere but sincerely wrong househelp who will remain unnamed.

In the meantime, Edric and the kids were trying to get my attention while laughing and playfully interacting around the breakfast table. Edric chirpily addressed me with a good morning but I was in the middle of correcting the mistake made by our househelp, reminding her that my under garments should be hand-washed only. She offered an apology which I really appreciated but there was no way to repair my damaged bra so I chucked the two halves into the trash and joined Edric and the kids for breakfast.

This is when Edric took it upon himself to enlighten me about the affairs of the morning, “I ordered pandesal because all we had to eat for breakfast was watered down oatmeal.” He offered this information very pleasantly, smiling at me. My disposition changed. Edric took the initiative to order pandesal instead of griping about the awful breakfast?! It was weird but oh so nice!

He aded that his bible reading for the day was about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not so coincidentally, our water heater broke down that morning, too. Uh oh! So he stood in the shower with cold water running down his back as he chanted and breathed in deeply, “Be filled with the Spirit!” He was still smiling at me!

I began to laugh because Edric’s default mode is to at least make some sort of constructive comment about how to run the home better when things like this happen. First there was the watered-down oatmeal, and then the cold shower. And still, his countenance remained pleasant and his temper was even and controlled. I was very impressed.

He went off to the work and instructed the driver to inform me that he had to be picked up from the office by 11:30 am to be at ABS-CBN for the taping of his show at 12 noon. For some reason I absent-mindedly thought he meant that he needed the driver by 12 noon. Edric didn’t get picked up until 12:15 due to traffic. He called me a little bit upset (but not angry) when the driver was late. This was a problem because he had 7 shows to tape that afternoon with VIPs. 7 shows!

Arriving at the studio at the time he committed to was imperative. Because of me, he didn’t make it to the studio at the hour he told his producer he would. Still, he texted me, “I am sorry for not being filled with the Spirit. Will you forgive me? I love you.” (He said this because he felt like the way he spoke to me on the phone was agitated.)

Wow! Who was this amazing man that exhibited such patience with me?! I told Edric how blessed I was at his responses that day. And his attractive factor was bumped up several notches higher in my estimation!

 I know my role as a wife shouldn’t be contingent on the way Edric treats me as my husband. However, there’s a divine principle in effect when he is a Spirit-filled husband. His love toward me, manifested in the grace and kindness he applies when I make mistakes or fall short in areas where I should not, inspires that feeling of respect towards him that he also looks to receive from me as a wife.

In Ephesians 6, this principle is revealed. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless…Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27, 33‬ NASB)

The manner in which Edric embraces his role as Christ to the church (me), where he loves me the way Christ does, encourages me and motivates me towards holiness. In this particular instance, his demonstration of this love was the act of patience and self-control.

It’s really a simple formula for couples although the challenges are undeniably present. Afterall, who likes to respond with happiness to watered-down oatmeal, a cold shower, and being made late to 7 tapings for a TV show?

It’s not easy and it takes being Spirit-filled versus flesh-filled. But the blessing is this…When a husband is the Spirit-filled leader of a marriage and home, God uses his example and headship to till the “soil” and make it fertile for the spiritual growth of the entire family. And this is the point I want to highlight. Yes, I can choose to be a submissive and respectful wife by focusing on the Lord and not Edric’s role as a husband, but how much more delightful and joyous it is to fulfill my role in the context of a marriage where my husband chooses to be the husband God calls him to be.

Because Edric’s attitude and actions conjured up feelings of romance too, I tried my best to serve him with better breakfast meals (still healthy). Tadah!

Five Things My Mom Taught Me About Being A Wife

Of all the lessons my mom passed on to me, I am most grateful for the example and principles she taught me that prepared me to be a wife…

 1. Be Spirit-filled

Growing up I hardly ever saw my mom lose her temper or get angry. She chose to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The benefit to us as children was we had a happy, peaceful home. No shouting between our parents and no shouting directed towards us.

  

I am so thankful to the Lord for a mom who wasn’t temperamental or easily unsettled. Her example of grace under stress gave me a mental peg of how I ought to respond to Edric and my kids when I am upset. This doesn’t mean that I do so perfectly, but through her, I learned that gentleness and quietness of spirit is more powerful to communicate a message and point rather than yelling or shouting at others.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭16, 22-23‬ NASB)

  

 Being spirit-filled for my mom wasn’t merely about keeping her anger under control. She was predictably joyful, especially towards my dad. He came home to a wife who welcomed him each day with a smile. My dad didn’t have to guess what kind of mood my mom was in when he stepped into our house. He would excitedly call out, “Deonna!” and her response was one of delight as she received him.

  
2. Appreciate/Affirm More Than Criticize.

Every woman believes she marries the man of her dreams when she stands at the altar, but then she takes a list full of expectations into her marriage…all the ways her husband should love her, lead her, and provide for her. When he falls short of these expectations, she becomes disappointed, demanding, and then annoying!

When I am tempted to become like this, a good way to arrest the process  is remembering what my mom says so often, “lower expectation and raise appreciation.” It’s the expectations that trip me up a lot of times, but focusing on Edric’s many amazing traits causes me to be grateful. After all, I am married to a wonderful, godly man.

The principle of lowering expectations is not thinking less of Edric and saying, “Fine, I am not going to expect anything because you fail me.” Instead, it is choosing to emphasize and acknowledge the positive in him which results in the bonus effect of encouraging Edric to love, lead, and provide for me!

3. Follow Your Husband.

Even though my mom’s country of origin is the United States, she left it completely when she married my dad. At first, she traveled to the Philippines as a missionary. But marriage sealed the deal for her permanently. The Philippines became her new home.

My mom embraced my dad’s Chinese background and family. She intentionally made friends with Filipinos instead of hanging out with Americans from the expat or missionary community. It might have seemed like she was giving up her identity and culture when she married my father but she didn’t see it that way. She considered it a privilege to serve the Lord along side him in the Philippines and be his strong supporter.

She echoed the commitment of Ruth to Naomi, when Ruth declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (‭Ruth‬ ‭1‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

Before I got married, my mom told me something similar, “Follow your husband. Where he goes, you should go.” Coming from a family with such close ties to one another, this statement carried a lot of weight. She was liberating me to transfer my loyalties to Edric and to direct my commitment to him. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

This passage isn’t just for married couples, it’s for parents, too. Parents need to let their kids leave home physically and emotionally to begin their new life with their spouse. They need to applaud their child’s desire to honor their husband or wife by prioritizing them. As a mother, I can imagine how difficult it must be to release my children in this manner. But that is God’s design. No umbilical attachments to mom. Loyalties and priorities are transferred to one’s spouse.

For example, when my mom calls to invite us to a family dinner, and I say, “Sorry, mom, we can’t make it,” she doesn’t burden me with a guilt-trip. However, since we have a great relationship, I find ways to spend time with her during the week. Maybe we will go shopping together or get our nails done, or chat over lunch. But the point is she respects the boundaries of my relationship to Edric. If we have our own schedules and plans, she understands. She helps to reinforce the biblical principle of following Edric’s decisions and prioritizing him.

  
4. Be Simple.

It still amuses me how my mom, who doesn’t have to worry about money (by God’s grace), shops at tiangges and struggles to pay more than 2k for a bag. I remember one afternoon when we were shopping for a bag for her to bring on her U.S. trip. She was going to be a guest with my dad at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in D.C. So she thought of buying herself an elegant handbag. We must have gone in and out of six or seven stores and still found nothing. The styles weren’t classy for the price point she had in mind. And she felt like she already spent a lot for an outfit and shoes, which actually wasn’t that much in my opinion. (She even used gift checks for the outfit!)

Yet, this is my mom. She is not extravagant or materialistic. But she still tries her best to look put together. In fact our concern as children is that she refuses to wear flats and tends to fall or trip. No matter what we say, she remains a heels-only kind of woman even if she is in her late 60’s!

Going back to my mom’s bag story…When she and my dad got to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, she discovered that bags were not allowed into the venue. So she was thrilled that  God prevented her from finding one to buy! 

My mom remains simple when it comes to material things because she knows that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. ” (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

  She prefers to invest in the lives of people and is generous when it comes to helping others or using money to spread God’s Word. Buying jewelry, bags, shoes, watches…that’s not my mom and I have been blessed by her example of simplicity. To my recollection, she has never asked or pressured my dad for an expensive gift. Ever. He has applauded her for being easy to please. I hope to be the same way as a woman, especially in my marriage. I want Edric to know that he doesn’t have a high maintenance wife.    

  
5.Celebrate Femininity.

I have heard my dad say, “Your mom is such a feminine lady,” and it’s attractive to him. What is femininity anyway? Is it being weak and frail as a female? Of course not.

My mom birthed all of us naturally. When she was young, she transferred schools 18 times because my grandfather was in the navy so she learned to reach out to people and make friends everywhere. As a flight attendant, she traveled the world and warded off the advances of flirty pilots. She left the comforts of America to live in a country that was completely foreign. Marrying cross-culturing was not very common in the 70s. Homeschooling in the 80s wasn’t either. She successfully petitioned for the Department of Education to create a pilot homeschool program when she and my dad started TMA Homeschool. In her sixties, she chased a thief through the mall in high heels when her bag was snatched. And she caught up this thief and shared the gospel to her. I can numerate so many other ways my mom is a fighter and “strong in spirit,” but she is also soft-hearted, sweet, and graceful. She carries herself like a woman in the way she speaks, laughs, sits, stands, and relates to my dad.

  

The best way to describe my mom’s femininity is to highlight her inner tranquility. She is a woman who trusts in God and his plan and will for her life. Therefore she smiles at the future. She doesn’t strive or manipulative circumstances or people to get her way. Nor does she put a spotlight on herself to seek attention or glorify what she has accomplished. People are drawn to her person as they see Christ in her and she blesses them with godly wisdom and encouragement. As a wife, she respects my dad and honors the desires of his heart, seeking to please him and serve him. Therefore, he treasures her and deeply loves her, and he is still very much attracted to her.

  
Edric has told me on several occasions that he is glad I learned to be feminine from my mom. It matters to him that I put effort into embodying the same kindness, gentleness of spirit, and desire to serve him. My mom is much better at this and I continue to look to her as a standard to work towards. 

Thank you, mom, for the life lessons you passed on to me about being a wife. You are an incredible woman of God and I am so blessed to be your daughter and to have you as my example!

  “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.'” (Proverbs 31:25-26,29-29)

  

When a Walk-in Closet Becomes a Boxing Ring

It was not so coincidental that a marital conflict between Edric and me erupted a few hours before the historic Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather fight. This one happened in our walk-in closet, with verbal “punches” in lieu of actual ones.

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PHOTO CREDIT: HBO

It began like this…a few weeks ago, Edric thought of opening up our home to friends and family who wanted to watch the live version of the fight on pay-per-view. It was a great idea and we were very excited about hosting this event. But, let’s fast forward to yesterday morning, when I was getting ready for worship service. Edric came into our walk-in closet while I was dressing up for church and asked me how many families were coming over. The count was at seven families, but equivalent to 39 persons (including kids).

His next query was, “How did you plan to seat everyone in our family room?” As the bohemian between us, my idea involved big pillows on the carpet for people to chill and lounge on. He labeled this an ill-conceived plan as people may not be comfortable about sitting on the floor. My instincts told me otherwise but I challenged him when he included the comment, “So you didn’t think this through. This is a half-baked plan. You are supposed to be the home manager.”

Whoa! Supposed to the home manager? What was he insinuating?

I am ashamed to admit that my first instinct was to react. So I jumped right into that imaginary boxing ring and put my gloves on.

But first, the thought bubble: I coordinated with the other families who were coming, went to the grocery to buy ingredients for tacos, drinks, baking supplies, made the cookies ahead of time, and instructed our househelp, giving them a detailed list of everything they had to get done to serve our guests. Hmph! Who’s the home manager? I am most definitely home managing! Plus, it was his grand idea to have everyone over in the first place so maybe he should have thought through the seating plan, too. It felt like an Adam-blaming-Eve kind of moment and I didn’t appreciate it at all.

None of the above reasons justified the lashing comments that spewed out of my own mouth defending myself and my perspective. I said to Edric in agitation, “YOU came up with this plan to have people over. So instead of blaming me, maybe you should have helped me.” Edric didn’t appreciate my tone and disrespectful attitude. He firmly replied, “Just admit that you were wrong. You didn’t really think this through.”

Does anyone remember when Mayweather pridefully said, “No, no” to Pacquiao during their boxing match yesterday? Well, that was me, at that moment, deep inside. No, no, I’m not the wrong one, you are the wrong one for making a big deal out of this family room issue. Since Edric didn’t relent, and I had to finish putting on my make-up, I chose to exit the conversation by saying, “Fine, I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” (I wasn’t really sorry at all. I just wanted to end an annoying dialogue.)

A few moments later, Edric requested for me to cut his hair and I didn’t feel like it. Sure, I’ve been his designated barber-ella for the last six months and I did say I would do it the day before, but oh, the timing…

Images of hair butchery swam in my head. But I did give my word so I pulled out the clippers from under the bathroom sink, attempting to contain my rage. Knowing me all too well, he remarked, “You can do this right? You are not going to mess up my hair because you are upset with me?”

“Of course not!” Even if I was tempted to botch up his hair I wouldn’t have resorted to a below the belt move like that! Although, hmmm…it was tempting…

Right before I turned on the clippers, we resumed the discussion again, defending our points of view. Edric knew that I wasn’t really sorry. This time he strongly encouraged me to admit that I was wrong, citing my pride as the cause of my unwillingness to do so. In my exasperation once again and knowing deep inside that he was right about my pride, I declared with tears in my eyes, “Alright, I was wrong, I made a mistake. Will you forgive me?”

God looks at the heart and my heart was not looking very good. I may have mouthed out the apology but there was no sincerity in it. So there I was, with clippers in hand, cutting Edric’s hair but grumbling inside. Bitter. That’s how I felt.

Admittedly this wasn’t one of Edric’s better haircuts. The details showed sloppiness on my part as my internal irritation distracted me from doing my best. I didn’t intentionally attempt to mess up behind his ears (which can be such a tricky part!) but I did. Edric knew it too but he wasn’t in the mood to point it out, trying to quell his own aggravation towards me.

It’s amazing how the Sunday message was aptly entitled, “Fight With God’s Power.” My brother, Paul, was the preacher and he paralleled the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites to the spiritual battle we all face. Our enemies are sin, worldliness, and the evil one. How could I sit there in my seat and fail to be impacted by God’s Word?! I knew this message was for me.

When Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the upper hand. When he dropped his arms the Amalekites started winning. With the assistance of two men, Moses kept his arms and staff up until the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. Moses’ staff symbolized God’s presence and power as the Lord used it to perform miracles in Egypt and in the desert on the way to the Promise Land. Holding his arms up portrayed the Israelites dependence on the Lord for victory. (Summary of Exodus 17:8-12)

At the end of the day, it is God’s presence and power that enables us to overcome the spiritual fight against sin, worldliness and the evil one, this was my brother’s point. In Ephesians 6:10 – 13 it says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

This message was exactly what I needed to hear. I saw Edric as my enemy. I wanted to throw the winning punches. I wanted to come out on top by proving that I was better. Sometimes this is what marriage feels like — a duel! Yet the real battle raging inside me was a fight against pride, against the worldly perspective that I would be the loser if I humbled myself and admitted that I could improve. Ultimately, the source of these temptations was the evil one, who took the opportune moment to attack me and I didn’t recognize him. All I saw was Edric as my nemesis. I got into the boxing ring without God’s presence or power and I was “punching” the wrong person.

How do we overcome the Amalekites in our lives, the sinful struggles we have? My brother, Paul, encouraged the audience to strategize, pray, stay in the word of God, record and remember, and give glory to God.

How should this have played out with Edric and me? I should have realized that this fight was an invitation from the evil one and not Edric. The strategy should have been to look past the attack on my person to the good intent of Edric’s comment. He sought to make sure our guests were comfortable. Second, I should’ve prayed about the hurt I felt when he seemed to insinuate that I wasn’t a good home manager. Then, prayed to calm myself down, to give a Spirit-filled response. Next, I should have obeyed the Holy Spirit’s conviction to apply passages like “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6) and “Let a wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). If I had done these things, I would have experienced victory in the real battle, and given glory to God by my words and actions. I could’ve recorded and remembered what God accomplished when I “fought” in His power.

After worship, we rushed home to welcome our guests. Everyone was fine with the seating arrangements and they didn’t complain at all. They were troopers. Yet this wasn’t what really mattered. Edric and I knew we had to resolve our conflict. This wasn’t about being able to say, “See, I told you I was right.”

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Yesterday afternoon I asked for forgiveness and meant it, explaining to Edric my realization about the spiritual battle we are in. “Will you please forgive me for my disrespect and anger? I was wrong. Even if I was hurt by what you said, I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I was convicted that this was a spiritual attack.” I also explained to him all the preparations I made for the day that he didn’t know about and he apologized for implying that I wasn’t a good home manager.

Afterwards, the issue of the family room discussion was resolved and God gave us the opportunity this morning to converse over breakfast. We had other lingering issues to address. I expressed to Edric that lately, performing my role as a wife has felt burdensome and more like a chore. I don’t want it to be this way, but this has been my struggle in the past few weeks. He confessed that he has been a demanding husband so this could have something to do with it. He also assured me by saying, “We just need to rekindle the romance. I will take care of you.” This evening we will take time to be together when we have our date night.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESTKNOTS

Even though I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with Edric tonight, I know that the greater problem is not the romance in our marriage or that a wife’s roles can be burdensome and chore-like. It is the enemies of my heart…the pride, self-centeredness, the obsession with self-preservation, wrong thinking, and the lies of the evil one. Therefore, my life-lesson is this: When a walk-in closet becomes a boxing ring I need to remember that Edric is not my real opponent. And, unlike the battle between Pacquiao and Mayweather which had me on edge and stressed out of my mind, it’s comforting to know that when I fight the enemies of my heart in God’s power, the victory is always His!

I love Edric with all my heart. Why do I make him the enemy? We’re in this spiritual fight against sin, worldliness, and the evil one together, as a team, with God…

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CETAPHIL

Before and After I Do (19th Edition)

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One of our passions (Edric and I) is equipping soon-to-be married couples and young married couples with biblical principles for successful marriages. We’d like to think of this as a preventive approach to the challenges people will face in their marriage. It’s much harder to go the prescriptive route, when couples come to us with major issues in order to heal what is broken.

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These Before and After I Do seminars first began with our friends, John and Monique Ong of ImagineNation Photography who thought of inviting their clients to a marriage preparation event. Having come from broken relationships themselves, they were burdened to help couples start their marriages out with God at the center. Over the years, we have continued to partner together to mount this seminar, and we’ve recruited several of our friends to team-teach with us as well.

Manny and Lisa Manansala, for example, were once upon a time on the verge of giving up on their marriage. But, after applying God’s principles, especially in the area of husband and wife roles, their marriage was revived. Today, they serve in the Family Ministry of our church.
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Edric and I, and our friends, do this because we want to equip couples with bible-based principles for a successful marriage. (None of the fees for the event go to any of us. The amount couples pay for covers lunch, materials, and venue use.) Our collective desire is to see healthy marriages giving birth to healthy families who will impact the world positively for Jesus!

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Marriage can be the most amazing relationship on earth or it can be like, pardon me, but I have to say it, LIKE HELL. The good news is no matter what stage a marriage is at, God is a master rebuilder. What we may describe as “beyond hope” can be pieced back together by Him. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Here’s the even better news…if a marriage has the opportunity to begin the right way, a husband and wife can be spared from the heartaches that so many relationships get shipwrecked by.

The Before and After I Do Workshop is a one day seminar that targets soon-to-be weds and newly married couples. It will be held on April 18 (8 AM to 5 PM) covering four key topics — God’s Design for Marriage, Marriage Roles, Communication, and Forgiveness. Check out more information on this event and other related seminars at CCF’s Family Ministry site and Before I Do’s site. You can also contact Hanna at 0927-614-2582 or 866-9900 loc. 8828.

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Love Beyond Us

It is always a privilege when Edric and I are invited to speak at retreats, give seminars, counsel couples, and lead discipleship groups as a team. Of course it isn’t always easy because we have young children to attend to. But, when God gives us a green light to accept a ministry assignment and we follow through with it, we come away from the experience more in love with Him, and with one another.

Why? Because ministry commits us to a common purpose, one that enriches our marriage and causes us to look outside of it. The ceiling for love feels limitless as we receive God’s love and channel it others.

In contrast, when our attentions and energies are directed MERELY towards our relationship, marriage can start to feel like an ingrown-toenail. Sounds pretty ugly, huh?

There’s no other person I would rather be with than Edric and I know he would say the same about me. Yet we also learned, years ago, that God brought us together for something much more abundant and more fulfilling than the mere enjoyment of one another.

When God brings a man and a woman together, happily ever after is not his main goal. While this is a part of it when we follow his principles, it’s not the chief end. The greater aspect is forming an alliance of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and capabilities to serve him and display the glories of his love through a covenant relationship.

In Genesis 1 we read: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭1‬:‭27-28‬ NASB)

Adam and Eve were given the privilege of bearing God’s image. They were to be His image bearers in fruitfulness and multiplication, as they filled the earth and subdued it, and as they exercised dominion over it. Through Adam and Eve, the world was to reflect the glory of God and be the blessed recipient of it.

Yet we know from Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve did not cooperate with God’s plan. As a result we are all born with the same fallen nature. While we bear the likeness of God in the sense that we can feel, reason, imagine, and create in ways that animals cannot, our spiritual genetics carry the imperfection of man’s first sinful choice. We became a corrupted form of God’s original design, separated from delightful fellowship with Him because of sin.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-21

In His great love for us, God offered himself through His Son as a solution to our sinful orientation. He gave us the opportunity to become His children once again.

But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12-13‬ NASB)

In order to fulfill God’s purpose to be  fruitful, multiply, subdue and rule over the earth as image bearers of His love and glory, a man and a woman must begin their marriage reconciled to God first, as His children. This is the designated starting point, the genesis of purpose.

Years ago, I made an independent decision to repent of my sins and accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior, and I committed to live for Him. Edric did the same.

As a result, we had unity of spirit before unity of flesh. We agreed upon God’s principles for marriage, parenting, and ministry. And then we agreed to pursue these principles together, in a covenant relationship, as husband and wife.

This didn’t meant we were exempt from problems. In fact, our first year of marriage was difficult because of personality clashes. However we were committed to working it out because we knew that God brought us together in marriage. We knew he could fix our relational issues.We knew he had a plan and purpose for us to fulfill.

The Bible tells us that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭18-20‬ NASB)

When I look back on the journey that our marriage has been, our highest highs and greatest joys have been shared in the context of serving the Lord’s purposes as a team. What a privilege to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ; to invite them to be His children so they can bear His image and display His love to the world.

On the way home from one Saturday marriage seminar we spoke at, Edric turned to me in the car and reiterated how much he loves me, how much he enjoys serving the Lord together. The afternoon was coming to a close and we were headed to see our children. He asked me, “Is it possible to love you more?” Although he meant it as a rhetorical question, I will answer it here…

God multiplied whatever love we thought we had for each other when we stood at the altar on the day of our wedding. He multiplies it still. It’s not a love that surfaces or extends from our exhaustible and finite selves. It’s one that comes from Him, a love beyond us, so we can love beyond us.

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