This past weekend Nathan and I attended this marriage conference.  We have only ever been to a seminar before, and 10 years into it we still know we need to know!  I don’t know if I’ll get to share all that was noted and learned as some series of posts, but I do expect some of what I write will be sweetened with what I pray is “much fruit”.

There is a main lesson we walked away with, though, and it will be the center of every other change, alteration, or improvement – our lives together are to paint a portrait of Christ!

23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church.  Ephesians 5 NLT

Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the LORD delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Isaiah 62:4 NLT

22“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. John 17 NLT

People marry for many reasons.  Love.  Attraction.  Happiness.  Security.  Loneliness.  Children.  These reasons start many relationships, but they finish none – not really.  A marriage may last a lifetime and never fulfill its purpose.  Marriage was meant to have more than 2 people in it, and I don’t mean the children.  Christ is the glue that helps us cleave to one another.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24 KJV

Marriage was also meant to “look” a certain way.  I’m not talking about details of personality, raising children, occupation(s), or such matters.  Our marriages, as Believers in Christ, are supposed to be a reflection of Christ (The Bridegroom) and The Church (His Bride).

We are encouraged to share our testimonies and to go on mission trips and to be a witness for Jesus Christ. We are taught to surrender all and to pour out our lives for others.  We are reminded that we are called and that the Bible teaches us to seek the good of others before ourselves.  I think of ways all the time that I could be out there doing that!  I forget…

Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. I Peter 5:2 NLT

I forget that I have the holy, God-crafted ministry to my husband and children.  It gets watered down in my thinking because of the way I see my dailies…mundane.  It’s worth gets stolen because I devalue it in my perspective.  Yes, I forget, and God taught and retaught me last weekend.  He reminded me that no matter what I or anyone else is doing, it is all supposed to look the same…it is all supposed to look like Christ.  So, no matter if the act is sweeping floors or sitting on dirt ones, preparing the WalMart bought food or the outside-market food, teaching my children how to have a relationship with Christ or someone else in a different country…

7 whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3 NLT

Marriage – this ONENESS with my husband – is supposed to be a Living Gospel!  The way Nathan leads, to mirror the way Christ leads His Church…loving, gentle, patient, toward godliness.  The way I help, to mirror how The Church is to walk in-step with Christ, willing to do whatever for the Man she loves.  The way we each lay down our lives for one another, to mirror Christ giving His life and The Church taking up her cross daily.  The way we are to do nothing out of selfish ambition but for the better of the other and the glory of God to mirror Him who left the riches of heaven and laid my sin – and all of humanities’ –  on Himself and died so that we could be with Him forever.  All to show God’s great love for us.  My actions, reactions, words in peace and in stress – they are all choices to glorify Him.  The times I choose quiet over a harsh word, peace over strife, a kind word over an angry outburst, patience over frustration, a loving action over a rightful reaction…all of those brush strokes will not paint the appropriate picture of me.

No, not me.

The end result will be better than a Kinkade or Van Gogh, better than any istock or photoshop production.  It will be worth everything…

44“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

45“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.46When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!  Matthew 13 NLT

When it is all done, finished – when all the hard choices to love instead of have my own way have been made – what the world will behold, will be everything they ever wanted…

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you…He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me…10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory…

20“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.21I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.23I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

John 17 NLT

When we choose love over selfishness, we show Love Himself.

…for God is love. 1 John 4:8 NLT

Father, I lay all down, I let it all go; I cleave to only all that will reflect You.  If it be an angry word, a frustrated tone, a change in plans, a hard day, a misunderstanding, a right, a want, a desire…if it be anything that would paint a self-portrait, I choose to trade.  I trade it for a kind word, a gentle answer, flexibility, a hard eucharisteo (thanksgiving), time spent understanding, his needs, wants, and desires.  For Nathan is Your gift to me, and I will not carelessly cast him aside, nor will I put him on a shelf to collect dust.  I will enjoy this gift day after day – showing You just how much I love You!  Every day I will return to the canvas of this life, lay myself down again, pick up the cross that leads to Calvary, and paint…brush stroke after careful brush stroke.  Every night, as I lay the brush and the paints down for a rest, I will hope to present a gift back to You, my Father…Your greatest Joy…Your Only Begotten Son.  I pray with everything in me, that my life will be a walking Gospel bearing the image of Jesus Christ.  That the world may know that You love them!

May our marriage tell the Tale well.  This Great Account of a Beloved and His Bride.