This article (which I proudly present) is the message given by my son-in-law, Peter Robbins, as he officiated at the wedding of his son, Jordan, to his bride, Lauren.
Today you both go back to school again, the school of marriage, the university of love. Allow me to offer your first lesson:
One of the greatest obstacles of a great marriage is selfishness. The problem is that most people do not know how to be truly selfish. They just play at it. They don’t go all out. Jordan, I want to teach you how to be truly selfish…to be selfish with reckless abandonment. To do what will be in your best interest. In fact, Jordan, there really isn’t anything that could improve on what I’m about to share with you. It isn’t new, but it is radical. In fact, its a lesson that the Apostle Paul shared in Ephesians 5:23:
“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage. No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body.” (Msg)
Another version says it this way: “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
There’s really only one thing that a woman wants from a man. And that is to know that she is number one in her man’s life. That she competes with no one and nothing…no hobbies, no career, no friends, nor relatives, nor, God willing, even children. She must be absolutely number one in your life. It will be the most selfish thing you’ll ever do and it will be the best thing you can do for your marriage. And Lauren, Jordan wants the same thing. In fact, Jesus himself calls us to lose ourselves, first on behalf of Himself, and second, on behalf of our spouse.
Jesus shares in Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
And if I could paraphrase a bit here, I would add: “He who loses himself for the sake of his marriage, will find himself.”
If you want to have a great marriage that will go the distance, then lose yourselves in each other.
There is another thing that each of you wants. In fact, everyone wants this. It is probably the most important phrase anyone would ever tell us. But, unfortunately you can’t give it to each other. Lauren, Jordan needs to hear from you that you will never leave him nor forsake him, that you will be with him ALWAYS. This, Lauren, you can not promise Jordan. In fact, Lauren, in just a moment you will promise Jordan your commitment and your faithfulness, but only “as long as you both shall live.” As much as you love each other, you can not promise the one thing that we all need to be promised. Marriage was never intended for this kind of promise. Only Jesus can make and keep this promise.
In Matthew 28:20b, Jesus states: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Actually, it’s a relief to realize that you cannot be each other’s “everything.” I can not be your mother’s everything, nor can she be mine. Once we stop trying to be everything to each other we can put our trust in the One who can.
This knowledge allows you to not try to build your marriage on your love for each other alone, which will, at times, fail you, but to build your oneness on a foundation that is much more reliable, a much more secure foundation. Jesus will be your solid rock foundation. Be sure to build your marriage on this Rock.
Finally, Jordan and Lauren, you are both human and you bring with you to your marriage normal human weaknesses. You will discover weaknesses in the other which you do not now know. This will be an opportunity to love each other, heal each other, forgive each other. There will be times when, like at the wedding at Cana, it will seem as if the wine really has run out, times when you will need to forgive each other and make a fresh start. The scriptures admonish us to “bear with one another; forgive each other” as soon as a quarrel begins. And, like the marriage at Cana, the wine is renewed by Jesus, in the context of community.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to build your marriage in isolation. Surround yourselves with others who are striving to build their marriage on that same Rock. Challenges will come in your marriage as in every marriage; and when they do, it will be much easier to get through them in the midst of those who want your marriage to go the distance. Remember, marriage is also a school of forgiveness in the context of community.
I am also proud to present two moving poems by pastor friends of mine. Bill Welsh has appeared on Servant Quarters pages before and serves in Huntington Beach, California. Ken Graves, a frequent conference speaker, serves in Bangor, Maine.
by Bill Welsh
Poetry . . .you must agree
Is more than words in symmetry
And yes! much more than clever rhyme
And oft is guilty of the crime
Of saying zip while saying much
While words become a clumsy crutch
To hide the fact that thoughts are thin
While poet prates and dulls with din
He makes us think he's found the trail
But hidden there behind his veil
An empty head and starving heart
Lies gasping neath his weary art
His cluttered canvas makes me ask
Just why he took this labored task
There must be days he looks within
And wonders, though the checks come in
How long he’ll play this fine charade
And squeeze out words like lemonade
That never really hit the mark
And leave his sad soul stuck in park
While folk who ain’t learned how to talk
Live lives that sing like blessed Bach
And he as Wagner thunders through
His stormy life and envies you
Who revel in simplicity
And find the time to simply see
That words are never quite enough
Compared with life – the real stuff
To write of peace and speak of love
And heaven’s promise up above
Is beggarly compared with those
Who walk with God with muddy toes
For words, though wonderful they be
Were meant to bring us to the tree
Where life is found in fruit that drips
Where heaven’s juices touch our lips
And guilty poets hear such grace
That slakes their thirst and dries their face
And then at last their proud hearts nod
And speechless writers rest in God
© Bill Welsh – November, 2003
by Ken Graves
We really thought we knew Him.
We answered His call and we followed.
A mis-matched band of men we were
Sailing off into tomorrow.
I never knew a man to work so hard
And spend himself like Him.
At last I saw Him finally lay down
While His old light was growing dim.
Darkness came as did the wind.
That lake became a beast
That howled and roared and reached for us
Thirteen mortals for its feast.
All that I believed now seemed a lie
And nothing made any sense.
Waves of terror washed over my soul.
Each one more intense.
I felt my way to the back of the boat
To where I’d seen Him lay.
So human was He, that in His fatigue,
Despite those pounding waves,
Like a man unaware of any reason to fear.
Like one who knew just where he was going,
And what He was doing here.
Then one angry thought broke through my fear
As my panic reached its peak.
It erupted – a hostile question
I could not help but speak.
We’re going to Die! I cried out loud
To the one who would lead us there.
You said, “Let’s go over”
but we’re going under.
How is it that you don’t care?
At first He said nothing
But seemed to be struggling
With a mind not fully awakened.
Straight from His dream into our nightmare,
Yet He – not the least bit shaken.
Oh, He stood up suddenly and steadied himself.
With one hand he held to the ropes. Like holding
The reins of a stallion he rode
That rising and falling boat.
One hand on the ropes, one hand in the air,
As we cowards hung to the sides.
He confronted that beast that caused us to cry
So frightened and terrified.
The words that He spoke were not a request;
they were not a victim’s plea.
His words were not louder than the howl of the wind
Or the roar of the Galilee.
But his words carried power,
The force of the wind had to flee.
Mightier than the thunder of great waters,
Mightier than breakers of the sea.
He spoke to that wind like it was a dog.
His command muzzled its jaw and it fled
With its tail tucked between its legs.
We huddled in silence and awe.
Everything was quiet on hearing these words –
The water, the earth, and the sky.
Nothing more silent and speechless than we
Who just witnessed this with our eyes.
This man who took lordship over nature,
For whom nature immediately complied,
Now turns His gaze on us little men
Just beginning to slowly arise.
Why were you afraid? His question to us.
How is it that you have no faith?
We had no answer to give him then.
Looking back we could only say
That we were afraid of what was against us,
Because we did not realize
What manner of man He was that we followed
and trusted with our very lives.
We had no answer for His question to us,
But we had many questions of our own.
Someone spoke those words
That still echo in my soul –
What manner of man is He?
Still more than I can know.
We started a college ministry here at our church called The Edge (and I have been so blessed to lead the group) and we used your DVD video series looking at The Jesus Style, first breaking each lesson in half and then discussing it (I remember how blessed I was as a college student not too long ago to read The Jesus Style and how it changed my way of thinking); and it was such a blessing to all the kids. They got a lot out of it and really thought through some things they hadn’t thought about before which is good because they all go to Liberty University (my alma mater too) which is a Christian school. So the Lord continues to use your teachings and so we have been blessed to go through that. We are going to do a study through the book of Philippians and then get back to looking at The Father Style. I've been trying and praying to get the campus pastor who oversees the prayer leaders and spiritual life directors to read The Jesus Style that maybe in turn he’ll have the prayer leaders and SLD’s read that book.
In August our family was blessed to have three weeks of vacation and we headed for the mountains and camped beside a river in God’s beautiful outdoors. As a working wife and mother, I brought along Christian reading material as I eagerly looked forward to having extra time for reading. One of the books I brought was That Reminds Me of Another Story. Around the campfire, I felt compelled to share a few stories aloud with my family and, lo and behold, both of our kids were instantly attracted. In fact, Roger (13) and Mary (8) spent the next several days arguing over who got the book. I had to work out “shifts” for who got possession of the book at certain times and the kids read aloud to each other in the tent at night. I also let them know that we had the first “Story” book at home and as soon as we got home, they both got “custody” of a book, so no more arguing. Roger Sr. and I had to laugh – if kids are going to argue and fight over something, we guess it’s pretty good if it’s a book with such wonderful Christian lessons in it!
Roger, Pam, Roger and Mary Havens
One weekend I showed The Nature Of Jesus tape 1. As usual it was very well received. One of the people there that night has bugged me again and again to see tape 2. That person you know. It was Naomi (age 8). She was really blessed. Normally Naomi doesn’t join the Bible studies I teach on Saturday and she spends time with mommy. She told me last night, “Can’t we watch the Gayle Erwin tape at the Bible study. It’s so boooring when you teach.” I’m sure she meant going back to her bedroom with mommy was boring.
We watched tape 2 this morning and we were all blessed.
I have been greatly instructed and encouraged from your down-to-earth messages. My favorite is the one about how our voices can be recognized individually, like a fingerprint. At least that’s the way I heard it when you spoke of the Great Shepherd in contrast to the cries of the baby seals on the shore. The mother can pick out her baby from its cries, even as our loving Heavenly Father, because of His love for Jesus and our acceptance of His death, receives us. May our gracious Lord allow you to remain to continue to encourage those of us who oftentimes feel we have gone beyond the ears of the Master. Singing through the tears, I am,
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The music of Terry Clark constantly amazes me. In his newest release, The Prize, he is at his best again with a few old and a lot of new songs that will raise him high above the horizon of your awareness. He even takes some new styles and makes them seem as if they were yours all along. It is a “gotta-hear-this-again” CD. You can send $15 to Catalyst Ministries, PO Box 776, San Clemente, CA 92674 or go to catalystpeople.com.
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Servant Quarters, Vol. 25 #1
Available by request by e-mail or by post.
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235
Web site: www.servant.org
If you pay any attention to the publishing information we carry in each issue, you will note that, with this issue, we begin our 25th year of publishing Servant Quarters. The mailing list has grown quite large, but it continues, as from the beginning, to be free. People constantly thank us for the blessing it is to them. For all this, we praise God. We only ask that you pray for us.
– Gayle Erwin