Prepare for Marriage: Faithfulness

Like anything else I get into, I’m approaching marriage with the same meticulous work ethic. I haven’t lived a life conducive to successful relationships but I’m determined to make sure Yasmin and I have a strong marriage. This means having to undo and unlearn many wrong things, but more importantly, it means developing a new set of beautiful skills. I’ve realized that a lot of these skills, these attitudes, and these lifestyles could have and should have been developed early on. I used to think there were special “marriage skills”, and maybe there are, but I’ve come to realize that the essentials, life-laying love, faithfulness, generosity, forgiveness, humility, grace, among others, are traits we can cultivate even before the idea of marriage enters our minds.

In the story of Ruth, there’s a part there where Naomi (her mother in law), urges her not to follow her back to Israel but to return to Moab, where she’s from. Here are the verses found in Ruth 1:15:

And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. 

Ruth displayed the faithfulness required for a successful marriage to Naomi in a time of mourning and instability. It made more sense for her to go back to the familiarity of Moab, where her previous community and previous belief systems lay. But Ruth would display the idea of “leaving and cleaving”, basically saying, “I have a new life with you now. Wherever that is, whoever that’s with, whatever that means, I’m with you.” This is also the first time we see the idea of “’till death do us part”. We sometimes see faithfulness as the trait of someone who just sticks around no matter what, but faithfulness is much more than that. One is not a passive victim nor a stubborn fool in being faithful. Faithfulness is the determined effort to be where your loved one is.

If I could turn back time, I would have cultivated the practice of faithfulness more effectively by being faithful to the relationships, whether family, friends, , that I already had better by doing the following:

  • Committing to that which God has placed around me even when circumstances are difficult.
  • Leave Moab, meaning leave the things, the ideas, the practices that are not in line with the ones I do love.

In the process of limiting our options to that which God has given us and being determined to develop these relationships, we will not only see amazing results from sticking to things, but also grow in the incredibly necessary discipline of faithfulness.

The One Love Language

Love languages
Strength finders
And a personality test

We’ve taken them all
As popularly advised
Yet we’re still not our best

Book after book
Blog after blog
Attending talk after talk

We have majored in opinion
Have minored in practice
And have gone nowhere in our walk

So Many Tests
“I want you to take this test.” Yasmin told me. I knew it must be serious because she normally asks “Can you do this?” This time it was almost a command.

“What is it?” I asked her.

“It’s an anger assessment test.” She said. “It was developed by the people who wrote .”

“I don’t need to take that test. I’ve done a good job controlling my anger.” I replied defensively. “I rarely shout at anyone anymore.”

“Yeah. You just stew now. That’s still not a good way of handling anger. Take it. Here. I loaded the page already. It’s only 4 questions.”

So I took it. After what was more like 20 questions (how does someone mistake 20 questions for 4???) the results came out. I forgot the original term they used but basically it said that I handled my anger sufficiently well.

With arms outstretched in victory I rejoiced, “I knew it! I have mastered my anger!”

Yasmin, looked at me in disbelief. “Did you answer honestly?”

“Yup!” I said.

“There must be something wrong. You must have not filled it out right. Or the test must be wrong. That can’t be right.” she struggled with the result.

“Haha!” I kept laughing at my shallow but satisfying victory.

“I don’t believe that test.” She said.

“It was developed by the people who wrote .” I said, throwing her words back at her. “Does this mean I don’t need to improve in loving you with Words of Affirmation?”

“It means you still need to work on your anger!”

The One Love Language
Despite my victory with the test, I proved, once more, to be my own worst enemy. Not long after that, I was sitting in my bean bag one early morning, still stewing from an argument Yasmin and I had the night before, I was reading my Bible when I thought of the words, “Consider Jesus.”

So I did what any millennial would do when faced with a set of words he wants to understand better, I googled it, and was led to this verse:

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
– Hebrews 12:3

I realized that this was something I had not been doing. I had been searching for principle, searching for understanding, searching for strategy, for wisdom, I was being thankful to God, praying, writing poems, but I was not doing this simple yet profoundly enriching practice of considering Jesus, and considering the price He paid to love sinners, sinners like me.

The word consider means to “observe closely”. I like another definition I saw, “to dwell upon”. So I started thinking about the challenges Jesus faced (at least the ones I could remember in my head) and how He responded to them. I thought about the poor, the sick, the hungry, the Pharisees, the tax collectors, and even His followers, and over and over, He loved them. I don’t mean He loved them according to their love language but He loved them according to their deepest need. He looked beyond the superficial need of the moment. He saw beyond the request. He knew that the blind needed more than sight. They needed to see the Son. The lame needed more than legs. They needed to walk in the Way, the Truth, and the Light. He knew the Pharisees needed more than an answer to their questions. They needed a heart check. Jesus responded to everyone by loving them in such a way that brought them closer to Himself, even if it meant NOT giving them what they thought they wanted because sometimes what they wanted would have driven them further from Him.

When we consider how Jesus death with people, not merely try to distill the rule, we find that Jesus elevates what it means to love others.

To love others the way Jesus did, means to love others in such a way that addresses the cries of others not by merely giving them what they want (soft love), nor by not giving them what they want (tough love), but by giving them what they need in such a way that it brought them closer to Himself, because He understood that ultimately, what people need, WHO people need, is God, and not just an intellectual knowledge of His existence, but an acceptance of His love.

People don’t get closer to God by getting everything they want. These people usually become brats.

Neither do people get closer to God getting nothing. These people will never taste and see God’s goodness.

We need a dynamic kind of love, not a formulaic set of practices, but one that is prudent and responsive with the priority of bringing us closer to God and one another. We need a love that isn’t dependent on what people say they want but one that journeys to know another well that we may meet their greatest needs, especially through bringing Christ’s love to these points of great need.

Maybe this is why, despite all that we know about love and marriage, all the books written, all the research done, all the shared experience, and technology involved, the stats on marriage aren’t good. In fact, they seem worse than ever. Maybe there’s been too much emphasis on getting our marital technique right and too little emphasis on the simplicity and beauty of how Jesus loved. He didn’t care so much about love languages or date nights. He didn’t bother Himself too much with gender differences. Not that any of these things are wrong or useless. They’re actually interesting. But they aren’t essential. What was essential to Jesus, the One love language He used was love itself, a pure love that had the single purpose of bringing people to Him.

This is the One Love Language I need to get better at, that in all my interactions, I need to ask: Did I bring this person closer to God’s love in the situation?

As I ask myself these questions, I find how I fail so badly doing this.

So my partner forgot Valentines, so what? Do I fight him? Do I reinforce the feelings of rejection? Do I shame him in front of others? Or do I bring God’s love into the situation by praying for him, knowing that my prayers in secret to a powerful God are more effective than my badgering? Do I make myself a victim to his forgetfulness or lack of sensitivity? Or do I make the best of a bad situation? (By the way, this isn’t about Yasmin. Yasmin and I aren’t big on Valentines. She doesn’t like flowers that will die the next day.)

So my partner was disrespectful, what do I do now? Do I respond with disrespect? Do I give her the cold treatment? Do I reinforce that she’s always disresecpful

A couple is not more loving when each partner gets what they want. A couple is more loving when they love at all times as each partner draws closer even when not getting what they want.

So my partner hasn’t been available for date night for a while, do I fight him? So my partner did something wrong? Do I respond like a Pharisee? Or do I respond like Jesus with the adulterous woman? So my partner does something that bothers me over and over, do I keep a record of her wrongs? Or do I choose be like Jesus, not treating me as my sins deserve, but with more kindness.

The essential practice here is to get so close to God that we take His heart, which is the heart of a loving Father, NOT a walking set of expectations that is hyper sensitive to his or her feelings, NOT a vigilant cop looking for criminals who broke the law, and surely not a Pharisee who are so good at techniques but can’t seem to just focus on the simple idea of: It’s the plank in our own eyes that cause our problems NOT the speck in another.

It is not Yasmin’s comments that triggers irritability. It is my impatience that makes me irritable. It was just waiting for an excuse to rear its ugly head. I need to respond in a way that brings her closer to God and to myself.

It’s not because our love banks are empty that we fight. It’s because our hearts of full of pride and unforgiveness. If we did not keep records of wrongs then we would never say things like, “I’m tired of this!” or “I’m sick of your antics!” or “You’re always doing this.” The very idea of a love bank that we can deposit and withdraw from may seem practical, but in my opinion, is not Biblical love. The bible doesn’t tell us to respond to people based on the status of their accounts in our love bank. The Bible tells us to consider Christ. Did Jesus love me based on the status of my deposits with Him? Nope. He did the opposite. He paid my debt. Why then do we think it’s right to hold our loved ones to a standard that Jesus Himself did not hold us to?

It’s not because we’re neglected that we cheat. It’s because our pride needs comforting. I love reading history. And one of the things I love most about historical figures are the letters they would write, particularly the letters they wrote their loved ones. It’s amazing how couples remained most ardent despite being years apart, despite having no email, having to wait for months to get updates, and being under a lot of pressure in their environment. Today, a late response is enough to make us feel like we’re not prioritized, a like on someone else’s photo is enough to make us feel inferior, and a comment is enough to make us feel insecure. How easy it is for people who get things faster than ever, who are more networked than ever, who are supposedly closer than ever, to feel more neglected than ever.

It’s not our partner’s lack of technique that makes us dissatisfied. It’s our failure to apply the essential One Love Language: love others the way Jesus did, primarily motivated to bring others to God and to Himself.

Simple Questions for Myself
People don’t choose ugly things over beautiful things. We do many times choose vain things over beautiful things. Vain things are seemingly beautiful but ultimately empty things. Beautiful things are substantiated things of value.

I don’t think we traded great marriages for broken ones. We traded loving marriages with idealized marriages. We traded life-laying love for romantic love. We traded dying to oneself for love banks, and date nights, and compatibility. None of these are wrong or bad, but they are vain, empty, if they are not built on a foundation of love the way Jesus taught it: lives laid down.

It’s symptomatic of the times, and it’s not just the millennials who are at fault. We’re a highly shallow generation because we were taught to be. When the emphasis of our societies and communities are the things we should be doing and NOT the person we should become, we will become shallow. For marriage, the question isn’t whether society will add a #husbandoftheyear next to my name but whether I’m more loving. Is what I did loving? Is how I spoke loving? Is the way I managed my time loving? Is the way I corrected my partner loving? Is the way I responded loving? Is the way I apologized loving? Is the way I forgave loving? And if I’m really spending a significant time with God, the One who sees all of rotten me, yet responds lovingly, how then can I defend an entitled response to when my expectations aren’t met as I am prone to? It’s because I have forgotten that I’m the one that needed and needs a ton of forgiving, and I have been forgiven. I need to remember this and go back to being loving.

Here’s what I’m trying, and don’t think I’m an expert. I’ve never been married and my track record with relationships is fun at best and “bad for mankind” at worst as someone once put it. But instead of trying to live up to a laundry list of shoulds and shouldn’t notes, I’m going to ask myself the following key questions when it comes to Yasmin:

1. Did I grow closer to God today? (Answerable by a Yes or No, if no, repent)
2. Did I bring Yasmin closer to God today? (Answerable by a Yes or No, if no,) apologize to Yasmin)
3. Did I bring Yasmin closer to me today? (Answerable by a Yes or No), if no, apologize to Yasmin)
4. What can I do tomorrow to bring her closer to God? (Answerable by a scheduled action to be completed the next day)
5. What can I do tomorrow to bring her closer to me? (Answerable by a scheduled action to be completed the next day)

You’ll notice that not one question has to do with how Yasmin treats me. I’ve found that with everything I need to work on, I don’t have time for that. I need to prioritize. And I’m convinced I get more bang for buck when I focus on changing myself instead of waiting for others to change for me. I hope no one takes this list and expects their partner or marriage to ask these questions. If you think they’re useful, use them on yourself.

I just asked myself these questions last night.

I have a lot of apologizing to do.

Quick Thoughts on EDSA

Getting asked whether I think life was better during Marcos’s time than it is today. I personally think this is a useless question. I’ve said this before, but I don’t know why we’re putting more thought into the legacies of dead and dying men when our own lives need more attention. The message of EDSA isn’t one about a better lifestyle, but about basic humanity: Man has dignity and no dignified man should be ok with living with injustice. The two lessons I draw from EDSA are: 1. When we a large enough group of people unite, seemingly impossible institutions of injustice are toppled. 2. It’s not enough to tear things down. We need to get great at building. It’s easy to destroy things. It’s hard to develop things. It’s easy to criticize, to comment. It’s hard to cultivate. Finally, the hope I draw from EDSA is this: Someday a large enough group will unite to fight injustice daily, particularly the small injustices we are all guilty of, and to focus more on building the future than debating what was and complaining about what is. ‪

Nationalism has less to do who with who we cheer for, more to do with what we stand for, and a lot to do with what we lays our lives for. 

#‎db‬ ‪#‎EDSA‬