Monday, August 6, 2012

Choosing a church with my wife

As I've written about on my personal blog, Intellectual Christian Geek, my new wife and I have had a difficult time finding a church that works for both of us.  The short version of the story is that I moved to the city where she lived after we got married.  She was already established in a church--a church that I don't really care for.

Part of the "deal" we made was that if I was going to give up my life, church, and career when we got married, I would at least get to pick the church we went to.  So, we tried a few churches.  I found one that I really liked and felt comfortable in (which is very challenging for me).  After the service my wife raced out to the car and started sobbing.  So much for my getting to choose the church that I wanted...

So the church search continues.  Last Sunday she was visiting her mom out of town, so I had the opportunity to go back to the church where I felt comfortable.  The sermon was really convicting.  It was actually a tangent in the sermon.  The pastor somehow veered from Hebrews 11 passage to talking about submission in marriage.

First of all, let me recognize the obvious.  This is a controversial topic.  Perhaps it's my "aspieness", but I don't care.  The following are my views and you can take them as that.

Here is the passage in question from Ephesians 5 (New English Translation):
5:22 Wives, submit 32  to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. 5:24 But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 5:25 Husbands, love your 33  wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her 34  with the washing of the water by the word, 5:27 so that he 35  may present the church to himself as glorious – not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 36  5:28 In the same way 37  husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body 38  but he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, 5:30 for we are members of his body. 39  5:31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become 40  one flesh. 41  5:32 This mystery is great – but I am actually 42  speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 5:33 Nevertheless, 43  each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, 44  and the wife must 45  respect 46  her husband.
 Yes, I take this passage seriously.  I do believe wives have a duty to submit to their husbands (although my definition of "submit" is probably different from what most English-speakers think). But I also take seriously the husband's duty to sacrificially love his wife.  I also believe the submission thing becomes a lot more palitable if the husband faithfully fulfills his duty.

So, how does this apply to the current church saga my wife and I are facing?  Well, primarily, it means that I should be the one making the sacrifice.  I'll be going to her church.

Even if one ignores the submission and sacrifice language, it does make sense in our case when you step back to think about it.  First of all, I've been a Christian a lot longer than my wife and have significantly greater understanding of Scripture (although you may not be able to tell from this blog so far).  She needs to be in a church where she can flourish more than I do.

Second, outside of church, my wife doesn't really have Christian friends she would see on a regular basis.  While the same is true of me, it is significantly different since the majority of my strong Christian support lives far away from me anyway (literally scattered around the world).  While it is true that most of my friends in any given city were church friends,  that isn't as much of a need for me as it is my wife.

Third, although I don't particularly like the people, the teaching, or the liturgy at my wife's church, there is nothing really wrong with the church.  It takes the Bible seriously.  There are a number of solid Christians there, even if they aren't people I would choose to hang out with. Nothing about it causes an incompatibility with my "aspieness" (such as loud music). There is nothing at the church itself that deserves a veto on my part.  It just doesn't fit my personal tastes  I can live with that. 

Essentially, my wife needs to be in a church where she is comfortable a lot more than I do.  I have developed the coping mechanisms over the years to deal with a lack of comfort in my surroundings.  She hasn't.

It appears that wisdom matches with my (admittedly conservative) interpretation of Ephesians 5 here.  I just needed to get over myself and my own emotional baggage to make the small sacrifice involved.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

God is God and I am Not

This morning at church, before corporate prayer time (it's a small church, so it broke up into small groups) we were prompted to pray for corporate humility on behalf of that local congregation, the community, the Church (as in the universal church), and the nation.  As we broke up into small groups, I was reminded of something I wrote 17 years ago when I was in college.  It was an essay entitled "God is God and I am Not".  (By the way, Steven Curtis Chapman apparently has a song by the same title.  I came up with it first.  Of course, I probably got the idea from someone else, so...)

I'd dig up the old essay, except that I am still in the process of unpacking, so I'm not sure where it is.  I'm also not sure it was all that good, so we'll just try to wing it here in this blog post and see what comes.

The gist of the essay is that we humans are not God although we try to fool ourselves into thinking we are.  We try to fool ourselves into thinking we know what's best for us.  We try to fool ourselves into thinking "I am the most important person here."  We may not be that explicit in words, but our actions too often portray our deepest inner feelings.

As a newly-wed, I've been thinking a lot about this type of thing.  Before the wedding, I was reading a book by Mike Mason called The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle.  As a 37-year-old getting married for the first time, I could resonate a lot with Mason's perspective.  If I'm remembering correctly, he used to be a monk.  He spoke about how marriage really opened his eyes to just how selfish he is; how the selfishness penetrated areas he never even thought about.  This perspective really opened his eyes to Paul's message about understanding the sacrifice Christ made for the Church.  Marriage is a true giving up of yourself.  It is placing the needs of your spouse above your own wants.

In fact, as I am writing this, I keep getting interrupted by texts from my wife, who is out of town visiting her family.  This is after finishing a 45 minute phone call from my mother where she didn't really want to talk about anything.  (I am NOT a phone person, so long phone conversations are painful for me.)  I wanted to start writing this post at 9pm and it's now 10:45pm.  My human nature wants to scream at people for them to stop interrupting me.  After all, I'm trying to serve God through this blog post here!

Oh, wait.   God wants me to serve my wife and my mother.  It's not like I couldn't set this aside and finish it tomorrow.  It's my pride getting in the way of performing the service God placed in this stage of my life.  God knows how I need to serve Him better than I do.  God is God and I am not.  I just need to keep reminding myself of that.