6 lessons learned from 6 years of marriage

Sarah & Justin

A lot has happened in 6 years!  We’ve added 3 girls to our quiver, moved to a different country, and have lived half of our marriage in the bush of Africa. Our world is radically different from that day 2,190 days ago in Battle Ground, Indiana.

Marriage is school. It never stops. My subject of study is my wife Sarah (1 Peter 3:7). Here are some lessons I’ve learned the past 6-years with her.

1. My wife gets more beautiful each year.  I have rarely seen Sarah put on make-up.  She doesn’t need it. She is a natural beauty.  This is so mushy, but I simply like looking at her.

2. My wife has become my bestie.  I have had many good good friends, but Sarah is the best best friend I have. She knows my junk.  She is patient and loving with me.  She helps me become a better man.

3. Compliment the food even if it wasn’t a home run.  This has taken me a few years to learn.  My wife is a great cook.  In Chad, she doesn’t have a lot to work with, yet she finds a way to knock most out of the park.

4. It is loving to listen.

5. Praying together grows intimacy. Enough said.

6. It’s worth the wait. I was 29 years old when I married. I would wait another 29 if I knew it would be for a woman like Sarah.

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waiting (a story of a boy and Christmas)

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A real-life story of a boy and Christmas from Ben Houchen, a shepherd and my best bud since middle school.

Waiting.

Nikki took Cynnan to the Surgeon today and had the pre-op consultation. Everything went well with that and the Doc said he would have time to do the surgery tomorrow. This got us excited, but as the day wore on and we got no confirmation of a Tuesday surgery we started to have doubts about our excitement. Sure enough, at around 5pm tonight we got the call to confirm the surgery time. Thi
s Thursday at 5pm.

AAAHHHHHHH, I hate all this waiting. I just hate it. And yet, the reality is, this is the season of waiting.

Advent is a season filled with waiting, with anticipation. And because we so closely associate the Advent season with the Birth of Christ and that picture of a baby in a manger, it is tempting for us to think that the spirit of Advent is a purely joyous one. But think for a moment about the people of Israel, at the time of the Birth of Christ.

Times for these people were not good. Israel was held under Roman occupation, and while this was better than the many exiles Israel had experienced prior to this point, it was by no means a good experience. The Romans knew how to subdue a people, and while they allowed Israel to worship her God, they also demanded taxes (an ancient form of worship) be paid to Creaser, and they subjected the people to many humiliating and dehumanizing practices. The people were waiting, but they had no certain hope of what they waited for, or how long they would have to wait to get it. We see evidence of how hopeless and unresponsive the people of Israel had become in the Gospel of Matthew. Just look at who all notices the birth of the messiah, The Maji and King Herod are the first people of any notoriety to even care that this child had been born. No one in the Jewish Community takes any notice of this boy until he is old enough to amaze them during a visit to the Temple. People were losing, or had lost hope. The waiting, it seems, was just too much for many of them to bear.

Advent is a joyous time for us because we are looking backward on a time of anticipation. We know the ending, we see the story, not as it is unfolding, but as it did. The concept, the spirit of advent then, is not one of purely joyous expectation. Advent includes a spirit of anticipation that is laced with negative emotions as well; fear, worry, even hopelessness, these are all part of the spirit of the Advent season. And it is important to realize that, because our understanding of those portions of the Advent season gives us the grace and peace to handle the Advent’s of our own present lives. I once read that Advent is essentially about learning to wait. It is about not needing to know the precise details of what is coming, only that, whatever it is, it is of the essence of sanctification for us. Every piece of it, some hard, some uplifting, signifies the work of God alive in us. We learn in Advent to stay in the present, knowing that only the present, well lived, can possibly lead us to the fullness of life. You see, as humans, we are not complete, we do not arrive, no, we are becoming as we go. Our lives are not meant to be escaped, or avoided. Life is meant to be perused, to be excavated, We are meant to taste and to touch and feel all that there is in life, the good alongside the bad. All of these things are then meant to culminate in our lives in a way that we come to know that the God who created us is with us still. Unto us a child is born, unto us a hope is given, not a hope of ease and indulgence, but of life, life to the fullest!

Would you like to enter into that full life with me? Then please, pull up a chair, wait with me a while.

We will become as we go.

You can read more about Cynnan’s story and how God is using a son to draw his parents nearer to Him.

dating, courting, or waiting?

Dating is a big business—the Internet is littered with dating sights giving any kind of advice under the sun. Google “dating” and you will retrieve over 500 million hits. Dating is a hot topic. When it comes to being a Christian and dating you are in a pickle because the Bible does not talk about dating. This is lack of information has caused Christians to settle for the modern standard of dating, which has some obvious deficiencies that contradict God’s perspective of relationships. Can today’s way of dating be redeemed? Is there a better way to finding the “one”?

Thus far we have discussed three of God’s standards for relationships. First, both partners must be faithful follower committed to Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 6:14-16]. Second, marriage is a picture of a divine and permanent relationship [Ephesians 5:25-28]. Third, sexual intimacy is for the marriage bed only. Today we will discover from the Scripture that every relationship with the opposite sex must be viewed as sacred.

Statistics show Christian daters mimic non-Christians daters in terms of sex outside of marriage, living together before marriage, and adultery and divorce after marriage. The church and the world are mirrored images when it comes to relationships. This is a dishonor to Christ and the glory of His Bride—the church. In my opinion, the modern dating has a lot to do with this.

What are the Deficiencies of Modern Dating?[1]

First, dating often skips the friendship stage of the relationship. Second, dating often mistakes the physical relationship for love. The dating game assumes several test-drive relationships. Infatuation is not a true measure intimacy. Nor does sex equal love or commitment. Dating often fails to adhere to physical and emotional guardrails or purpose to run from temptation.

Third, dating often isolates you from other vital accountable relationships [friends, parents, teachers, pastors, etc.] making the one you are dating an idol. The idea of the man seeking the approval of the father has become a way of the past [Numbers 30:3-16]. Fourth, dating can distract you from preparing for the future. The biblical perspective of all relationships is for mutual encouragement to help one another become God’s kind of man or woman and preparing yourself for marriage.

Fifth, dating can discourage you from God’s gift of singleness [1 Corinthians 7]. As you become older you might think settling for any relationship is best because your biological clock is ticking. Maybe you think a relationship will cure your loneliness and make all your dreams come true. Human relationships are wonderful and helpful, however, no person can fill a relational void or loneliness quite like God. Your primary relationship will always be God. Therefore, waiting in singleness is not a waste of time; rather it is in moments of waiting that God’s infuses you with His courage and strength. Before meeting my wife, Sarah, I was a single man for many years. There were many moments when it was hard to wait, but God used my time of waiting to mature my faith and grow my faithfulness.

Sixth, dating can create an artificial environment to evaluate one another’s character [i.e. today dating is viewed as recreational—for the fun of it!]. Daters will ask, “Is there chemistry between us? Are they good looking enough? Are they fun?” This is the most important question you must ask, “Do I see myself committing to this person for life?” Finally, dating becomes an end in itself.

Is there a better alternative to dating?

Yes, I would propose courtship. Now many can argue that the Bible has nothing to say about courtship too. They are correct. Both dating and courtship were not part of the pattern of society in biblical times. Courtship and dating did not appear on the relational radar screen until the Victorian Era and WWII Baby Boomer Generation. Why choose courtship over dating? Courtship chooses: solid friendship before marriage, purity, and seeks wise counsel of parents, mentors, and mature Christians friends. Courtship does not pursue a romantic relationship until you are ready for long lasting love. Courtship prepares you for the permanent relationship of marriage, and it is content with singleness in times of waiting [Philippians 4:11-12].

The motives are often different between dating and courtship. Courtship focuses on being the right person, while dating focuses on finding the right person [cf. Matthew 24:38; Luke 20:34-35]. Courtship is the best move towards a marriage relationship today because it adheres to the most biblical relationship standard.

How do I come to this conclusion?

I believe the Bible is completely sufficient to give counsel for all areas of life, including relationships. Although the Bible would be considered ancient literature written in a different culture than ours, I believe the Bible transcends culture and people are just as sinful today as generations past. I believe the Bible is without error, authoritative, and inspired by Holy Spirit, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

So how does the sufficiency of the Bible apply to our relationships? Christians today have bought into the current cultures standard for relationships, while the Bibles standard has become ignored or misunderstood. Even though the Bible says zilch about dating or courtship, it has a lot to say about personal relationships. Here are some key passages that talk about biblical relationships:[2]

  • I Corinthians 6:9-7:19 This is a command to be pure, and an exhortation on the seriousness of sexual sin and instructions regarding marriage. Biblical commitment precedes sexual intimacy.
  • I Thessalonians 4:1-8 It wrong to defraud one another in relationships—by implying a relationship or commitment by your words or conduct that does not actually exist.
  • Song of Solomon 2:7 “Do not awaken love before it pleases.” In other words, before the proper time, which is marriage.
  • Proverbs 6:20-7:27 This is a warning to avoid sexual sin and foolish relationships.
  • James 1:13-15 This shows the slippery slope of giving into temptation.
  • Romans 13:8-14 This is a command to love others, work for their soul’s good; don’t look to please self.
  • Romans 14:1-15:7 It is important to favor others, not self. Value what is good to their souls.
  • I Timothy 5:1-2 This is a command to treat single women as sisters in Christ, with absolute purity.
  • Titus 2:1-8 It is critical for young men and women should focus on self-control and godliness.
  • John 14:15 “If you love Christ, you will obey His commands.” Even above your own desires.

I have counseled couples before and after marriage. A common theme between each conflict within the relationship is not having a high biblical standard of the relationship before marriage. Sin complicates relationships. The Bible says that this kind of relationship can be restored through forgiveness and a commitment to change by following the example of Christ.

In summary, the Bible is our baseline for all relationships—dating, courting or waiting. God’s high standard for relationships is not to flex His divine muscles to crush our hopes and dreams, but to fill us with great Hope of His purposes and plans, which are for our good and His glory. First, the biblical goal of dating or courtship is marriage. Second, the biblical view of dating or courtship is purity and the spiritual growth of one another. Consider your relationship with the opposite sex as your brother and sister in Christ [cf. 1 Timothy 5:1-2]. Third, the biblical practice of dating or courtship is commitment always precedes intimacy. All of your relationships are sacred and an opportunity to shine the gospel to a sinful world.

quick question concerning dating & courtship:

How far is too far when it comes to sexual intimacy in dating or courting? This is not the right question. The right question ought to be, “How far should we keep one another away from temptation?” A counselor I know compares temptation to Niagara Falls. Your goal if swimming in the Niagara River is not how close to the falls before you reach the point-of-no-return. The Bible says the boundary is to do not touch or put each other in tempting situations. For the good of one another and the glory of God keep as far from the point-of-no-return as possible.

Great Resources for Both Men & Women on Relationships:

Great Resources for Both Men & Women on Singleness & Waiting:

Great Resources for Women on Purity:

Great Resources for Men on Purity:


[1] Adapted from I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris [Multnomah Publisher, Sisters, OR. 2003, 38-46]

[2] Adapted from Biblical Dating [Scott Croft]

boundaries

471483304_58772e250b.jpgBoundaries are necessary. Boundaries are practical markers that keep you out or keep you in. A boundary says, “I am not going there. I am not going to step over that line.” During a time of war boundaries are put into place to keep an enemy out or clearly mark the line of defense. Where I live the subdivision has created boundaries between the property lines. This is really only helpful when I am mowing the lawn!? In most all sports there are boundaries to be kept within the rules of the game. Boundaries are necessary.

There are boundaries in other area’s of life. Especially when it comes to relationships. A couple needs to set up boundaries to protect themselves from crossing over into territory that God has not allotted for them until marriage. There are certain boundaries that are not to be crossed: sex before marriage, and immoral touching or talking… these are clear from the Bible. There are other boundaries that are not so clear, but should be decided depending on the temptations and desires of the couple for the purpose of protecting their purity and integrity until that sacred day. So many couples do not even consider boundaries. This is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it not how the relationship is meant to be, but it also spoils the joy of waiting. Boundaries are necessary.