Sunday…and more messiness.

i don’t think i have ever been quite as humbled as i was today,  standing in front of our church family and speaking about something so intimate and sacred as marriage and divorce.

the task of speaking into the hearts of friends is crazy difficult for me sometimes…especially when i know the words i use can be painful,  discouraging,  or confrontive.   today was one of those days.

i was deeply aware that i was speaking to four different groups of people:

the first were unmarried people.   men and women whose spouses had died.   teenagers and college students who aren’t even thinking about marriage yet.   long time singles.   the right time…the best time…  to get a handle on what god says about marriage and divorce is long before you ever find yourself considering it.

the second group were happily married people.   i would really like to believe that way more than half of the couples who were part of the service today are happily married.   but i suspect the number was less.   maybe way less.   sustaining a healthy and happy marriage is no task for the timid.   working to grow a solid marriage is a full-time job that demands the best of our attention.   but it’s work that can pay off.   talking about the threats to our marriages and the reality that divorce looms right around the corner is some of the best conversation we can ever have.

the third group were the un-happily married.   look…nobody’s perfect.   and no marriage is perfect,  either.   but there are some in our family whose marriages are at the tipping point…that spot were conflict is constant,  communication has fizzled,  and hearts are growing colder by the day.   some live out their pain in quiet anonymity,  while others have made their conflict more open.   these are folks that need grace and help.   these are people who need to be reminded that god is great.   every day.

the last group were those who have already chosen the path of divorce.   this group is diverse.   their stories are each unique.   some experienced their divorces long before they became followers of christ.   others  had their struggle right in the middle of their journey of discipleship…and something went wrong.   way wrong.   many of these are people who have experienced,  first hand,  the judgment and rejection that the church is so well known for…and have never experienced grace and forgiveness for the death of their marriages.

so the difficult words were not  that marriages struggle.   all of our marriages do,  at times.   some are in deeper trouble that anyone knows anything about.   some have already crossed over the line and are living with the reality of their own divorces.

reminding people of that was not difficult.

saying that the brokenness and struggle in marriage comes from hard hearts was difficult.   really difficult.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”  Matthew 19:8

the hardening of heart is the common problem that all of us deal with.   it is the root of every sin.   a hardened heart is where we lie to ourselves…where we justify doing wrong…where we convince ourselves that we know what is best.

a hard heart grows calloused to wisdom and power of god.   our hearts can grow cold to our partners,  but the hardness is to the truth and reality of what god can do…and what he has done.

a hard heart closes the door on god.   it says  “i don’t believe that god can change me…i don’t believe that god can change my partner…i no longer believe god has the power to change my marriage…so i am going to take matters into my own hands.”

a weak and damaged heart says  “i can’t.”   a hard heart says  “god can’t.”

i’m just saying that maybe it’s time we all started trusting god at his word.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.  Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

yes or no…do you believe the prophet ezekiel or not?


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