Friday, March 18, 2011

Date Night

A few nights ago, my wife and I had the privilege of eating dinner out while a friend kindly watched our infant son.  Although this was not our first time leaving him with someone else, it was our first time doing so for the purpose of a night out.  We had been cautioned by numerous experts not to neglect ourselves amidst the joyous obsession of caring for a new baby; so with friends and family lining up to babysit, we decided it was time to relax and reconnect. 

Upon leaving the house, however, we instantly settled into an awkward silence.  Despite our best efforts, we struggled to maintain any conversation for the entire drive to the restaurant.  Once we were settled in our booth, silence continued its stifling reign.  Then, about halfway through the meal, we suddenly came alive, drinking one another in and conversing intimately.  We simply needed the time and space to get reacquainted and rediscover the joy of being in one another’s presence.

As resilient as we are, humans are fragile beings, and if I may suggest so, marriage is even more vulnerable.  Marriage requires proactive maintenance if its optimum potential is to be achieved.  In an effort to keep our relationship from deteriorating, my wife and I have strived to maintain a routine date night.  This habit always appealed to our common sense, yet we had no inkling of its vital importance prior to becoming parents. 

Dinner out, without friends or agenda, was suddenly so foreign, even though we had done it a hundred times before.  It was truly startling how quickly we forgot how to enjoy each other as a couple.  Thankfully, we learned this lesson early.  After all, it is no secret that marital relationships become frighteningly brittle when neglected.  The subtle threat is that our attention is often courted by equally noble causes.  Therefore, it would behoove spouses everywhere to establish their priorities early and remain alert and guarded against the forces that tempt.  As for my wife and I, we will continue to make date night a priority, warding off the distractions of life that would make us strangers; for when the kids are grown and gone, we desperately hope to still be best friends and lovers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lacking Inspiration

Well, it’s Friday, and I am feeling considerably uninspired today.  It’s a day of earthquakes, tsunamis and historic devastation, and I’m still lacking the motivation to write a simple blog.  Pathetic, right?  I suppose we all feel this way at one time or another.  On any given day, we face assignments or responsibilities that reveal themselves to be mismatched with our motivation.  The task that lies before us fails to stimulate the drive necessary to accomplish it, and we view this as excuse enough to push the burden aside.  The reality of being a responsible adult, however, is that we don’t get to play hooky from our responsibilities.  This principle certainly holds true in the spiritual arena.  The Apostle Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:14, 15 – NLT).  In essence, he was saying, “Because you know better, be better.”  A popular commercial slogan boils it down to a single brutal charge - Just Do It!  The message is clear: push through; get the job done; no excuses.  So here I am, writing in spite of myself, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.  And I can’t help but wonder how different the world would be if we all did more of what we were supposed to do and not quite so much of what we felt like doing.  It’s something to think about.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Like Palo Verdes

As I am staring out at the desert this morning, a strong wind is cleansing the Valley of the Sun.  The tumbleweeds are wandering aimlessly, the Palo Verde trees dance as they strain the air that rushes through their reach, and I’m reminded of a verse I’ve always found hauntingly beautiful.  John 3:8 (NIV) says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

Moving mysteriously across the earth, wind is a powerful, invisible force, capable of both benefit and destruction.  We struggle to comprehend or predict it, yet history testifies to its characteristics and capabilities.  Wind shapes the rocky crags of majestic mountains and it brushes the downy tuft of an infant’s hair.  It enrages the calm surface of vast oceans and it bounces brittle leaves carelessly across the ground.  It is the embodiment of gentility and rage.

And if I understand the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit moves us Christ-followers in much the same way.  It molds and crushes; it mystifies and inspires.  There is unpredictability and intrigue about a life controlled by the Spirit of God.  Consistent with the blustery metaphor, the Spirit-moved believer shows no prejudice, affecting every life in his or her path.  And joy is found simply in the being what one was created to be.

Lately, I’m not so sure my dance has arrested the curiosity of many by-standers, for I have nurtured a tendency to remain unresponsive to the Spirit within.  So, if only for myself, there remains a lesson to be learned from the wind in the trees.  I could stand to be a bit more like the Palo Verdes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Father's Worry

My son is nearly seven weeks old, and during his moments of quiet slumber, my eyes pour over every square inch of his tiny frame.  He has soft skin, a strong grip and a beautiful smile.  He is chubby in all the right places, and his eyes are innocent and curious. 

He does not have any judgment on his face.  His mind has not known evil, and his body does not bear any scars.  Life has yet to wound him, and this terrifies me.  I dread the idea that he won’t always be unscathed.  The more this thought festers, the more I panic.  What can I do to protect him?  How do I shelter him from the outside world?  How do I restrain him from doing all the questionable things I did?

Then I think of all the things I’m going to have to teach him.  Things like how to tie his shoes and ride a bike.  Someday I’ll have to talk to him about sex and drugs and alcohol.  He’ll need to know how to treat a woman and how to respect his elders.  And sooner or later, he’ll need to know how to hold his head up after his first taste of defeat.

All these thoughts hit me at once as I watch my boy dream.  Then I think of God’s Word, and a couple passages come to mind.  Referring to his commands, God tells parents to “repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NLT)  Also, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, NLT)

All God requires of us, as parents, is to pass on the principles he has established.  Anything more reeks of pure desperation.  One day I will have to let my boy walk on his own, and he will probably fall a few times.  Despite my best efforts, he will break, bruise and bleed like every little boy before him.  However, I’m reminded that even Jesus has scars; and if God the Father hadn’t allowed his Son to suffer, then humanity would never have known things like forgiveness and redemption. 

So for now I will hold my son as he sleeps.  I will tell him that I love him and will always be there for him.  And I will pray that the wounds he suffers in life will drive him straight into the arms of his Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Wrong

I really don’t like to be wrong.  A roommate and I once bet an entire month’s rent that the earth was so many miles away from the sun.  Now, I didn’t have a job at the time, but I was just that confident that I was right.  To paint the scene in a worse light, the apartment was my first, and I didn’t yet grasp the concept of living within my means.  So when I say we bet the entire month’s rent, I mean it was really dumb to agree to such high stakes.  In my defense, however, my roommate failed to comprehend the years I had gone to sleep fanatically memorizing the facts on a poster of the solar system that adorned my bedroom wall.  I was certain this qualified me as an expert; I knew what I was talking about.  Unfortunately, I also underestimated my opponent and his uncanny ability to recall utterly useless information.  My rent doubled that month.

I share that story because last night I was wrong again.  Not so much about a particular bit of trivia, but rather in my actions.  And my wife called me on it.  It didn’t sting so much because she was right but because I was wrong.  Most people would agree that it is never exactly pleasant to be wrong about anything, but I strongly believe that owning up to a bad choice is a vital characteristic.  Undoubtedly, it’s one of the strengths of our marriage.  Because I love my wife (and I want her to still love me in thirty years), I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.  I’m willing to accept when I do something that she hates.  And I’m willing to change my behavior, even when I don’t understand exactly why she hates it.  I’m willing to do this because our marriage is worth a lot more than a month’s rent.