Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Marriage, a Means or an End?

What are some key ingredients in the recipe for "losing your passion"?
  • Make sure you see all your relationships as ways to get what you want.
  • Never ask the "Why?" question when deciding how to spend your free-time.
  • Look at your job as mainly a means to get money.
  • View money as the end, rather than a means to more important things.
Ultimately, we lose passion for living and we lose perspective in our day-to-day lives when we neglect, forget, or never look into how it all begins.  Why do I have all these relationships?  What is the best use of my free time?  Why does the company exist that I work for and what is my role?  Why does money drive so many people and does it really fulfill its promises?

Marriage is no different, for if marriage is the goal, then we can define it how we want and we can determine our (and others') worth based on it.  We get into the marriage and, sometimes sooner and sometimes later, we ask ourselves, "Is this all there is?"  It's not a commentary on our spouse, but rather on our false expectations of marriage.  Even the most important person in our earthly life was never intended to fill our void (no matter how great the movie line is, Jerry Maguire).

Why does the nagging inner voice keep asking, "Is this all there is?"  Because the most important relationship we could ever hope of having has been tainted forever.  You and I have something in common - it's our need for complete communion with our Creator.  We fill this void with money, people, success, power, pleasure, etc.  We experience short term satisfaction and enjoyment but we know, at the heart of it all, that it just didn't cut it for us.

Back to marriage.  Because marriage, then, was never meant to fill the void or "complete" anyone, what is it for?  It is a means (and a very important one according to Genesis 3:24 and Ephesians 5:22-33) to showing someone what love looks like and that Jesus is the ultimate lover, dying for our sins, in our place.  If God is our most important relationship, and Jesus is the means to reconciling with our God, then selfless, heterosexual, only-one-spouse marriage is the only definition of marriage that can help us get back to God.

Yes, many heterosexual marriages are selfish.  In fact, one could argue that, on any scale that a person could invent, many homosexual marriages have more redeemable qualities than many heterosexual marriages.  But this is no reason to redefine marriage.  After all, who am I to doubt the true love of a teacher for her 16-year old boyfriend/student?  Without some sort of guidelines and standards of what's appropriate and what isn't, we are all reduced to our own definitions (and we all know what wins when our feelings have war with our self-imposed standards).

Who should define marriage then?  Allow the Inventor of marriage to define it, run with that definition, and enjoy marriage for the means to see God that it was meant to be.  Or, define marriage the way you see fit, see it as an end in itself, and constantly come up against a dead end on the road of a life that is truly full of life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Winning at all costs?

As we approach another National Football League season, we are coming off a Super Bowl that showcased a clash of coaching cultures.  We had John Fox vs. Pete Carroll.  Old School NFL vs. New Thang College.  Keep your shirts tucked in vs. Let all your emotion show.  Even the teams themselves reflect the coaches, especially regarding old guard and new guard.

I see another difference;  maybe it's my age or maybe it's actually a different philosophy of football.  It seems that football, on all levels, is turning into, more and more a "look at me" sport.  Ex-college coaches have been successful for many reasons, including their ability to relate to and harness young passion and our youth culture.  Without delving into a sociological study, I think it's safe to say that, in general, this generation of players in the NFL talks more, celebrates more after a simple tackle or a first down catch, and thrives more on swagger than steadiness.

Even the Conference Championship games had a different feel between them last January.  The two AFC coaches rarely showed emotion, while the two NFC coaches rarely don't (see Jim Harbaugh going nuts after a failed reply challenge).  Coaches set the tone.  As we found out, Old School Calm and Cool lost the Super Bowl to New Thang Emotions On The Sleeve.  At the same time, we were reminded that a great defense usually beats a great offense.

This year, the same six teams are expected to be right back in the mix again at the end of the season.  No matter what style you are in favor of, my guess is that it's the TEAM you'll be rooting for, not the style.  Who cares how you do it, right?  Just get the job done, right?  What's the most important question at the end of the year?  "Whose holding the Lombardi Trophy"?  I don't think so!  I know this, because all anyone will care about tomorrow when Seattle opens up it's season against Green Bay, is who will win that game, not who won 7 months ago.

Rather, the most important question at the end of the season will be, "How did you go about your business?"  Obviously, this is the question for anybody, no matter their job, their like (or dislike) for sports, or where they live.  What matters most to everybody that played in that Super Bowl has nothing to do with the result of that Super Bowl, but with how they celebrated, recovered from, or mourned the outcome.

I am a pastor.  If I had a knee-jerk response every time something bad happened or when it didn't go my way, I would be out of a job.  Not, necessarily, because the congregation would boot me out, but because I would clearly not be qualified to lead them anymore.  So why does it seem to not matter whether a football coach loses it?  Because results matter more than personal growth in the NFL.  The irony is, though, that without a commitment to personal growth, the results will mean less and less anyway.

Life is a marathon, sports is a sprint, let's not confuse the two.