Today’s verse: Matthew 18:3
3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. – New Living Translation (NLT)
Most of us grew up on a playground populated with dangerous pieces of apparatus like swings, monkey bars and the seesaw. And many of us fell off each of those things. Usually to no consequence due to the deep sand on which the playground was constructed. But even deep sand could not soften the blow to our bottoms if your partner fell or jumped off the seesaw when you were on the top position. Marriage is a lot like a seesaw. Only instead of our bottoms, it’s our hearts that get broken when you’re on top and your spouse jumps off the bottom.
Using a seesaw as our metaphor, in a Godly marriage the seesaw is always moving. Somedays your up. Somedays your down.
Now those of us blessed with marriage know the ups and downs. And that’s okay because most of the time the marriage seesaw is level. We’re seeing “eye to eye” and everyone’s happy and smiling. But the seesaw can move unexpectedly if we lose track of how love plays a part in the marriage seesaw.
Think back to your wedding day. Think of the joy, excitement and fear you felt. I don’t remember much of the actual ceremony, but I do remember mindlessly muttering “I Do” to all the questions our pastor was asking.
Frank, as you stand here before God, family and friends, will you love Karen in sickness and health, rich or poor, and the key line – “for better or worse”? Yes, I will. I do. Will you mow the grass in summer and shovel snow in winter? Yes. Will you take out the trash on Wednesday night even if it’s -10 degrees? Absolutley. Will you fix leaky faucets? Yes! Change flat tires? You bet? Give up Monday Night Football? Sure! Uh – wait a minute – what was that last one again ? As I was reciting my vows tears were rolling down my cheeks. Later I thought, were those tears of joy or tears of fears?
Most likely you answered the same way, I did. But man, can the memory of those vows fade quickly. They did for me. However, the memory and meaning of those vows did not fade for God. He expected me to live up to my end of the bargain. The only problem was, I wanted to hold all the power on the marriage seesaw. I wanted Karen to hold me up in shock and awe and do all the work while I ruled the world and our household. Karen would be on the bottom position of the seesaw while I sat in glory over her and all humanity. It was a great plan. Or so I thought. But within weeks – the seesaw started moving.
One day, Karen sprang from her crouched position and the seesaw changed. Now she was on top and I was on the bottom. I didn’t like the view from down there. So I sprang up and our positions reversed again. Those of you who have the pleasure of knowing Karen understand her competitiveness and tenacity. None of which I discovered before our wedding day. Had I done so, I may have not gone to the playground that afternoon. But I did. And vows were hanging over my head. Somedays our seesaw flirted with being level. But level was never really comfortable for me. And one day while sitting on the bottom, I thought I might want to jump off.
Months and years went by. Most of them spent with me on the bottom of the seesaw dreaming of jumping off and letting her come crashing back to earth to hunt for another playground playmate. I was so close, so many times I started to get down on myself for not jumping. “Frank, you hate being on the bottom. And you don’t care much for level either. So just bale! Do it now, she’s not looking.
But those marriage vows would not leave me alone. I tried daily to find a way out. There must be something in those vows a skilled attorney can find fault with. Oh, what the heck – just jump. But just before I did, I had a little talk with God.
There was a lot of yelling on my part. God just sat there taking it all in. I railed on about how Karen wasn’t living up to my expectations. How she had faults I didn’t see during the mindless bliss of courtship. From the seesaw perspective we didn’t see ‘eye to eye” on anything. Especially money. (Sound Familiar?)
Finally, after all my complaining, I came out with what was really bothering me about our marriage. “God, I thought marrying Karen would make my life better. Instead my life is worse. I’m miserable. Now, I know I took those vows and meant it at the time, but given the current circumstances, I think I deserve a mulligan on this one.”
God straightened His position. He had been listening, but was leaning His head on His hand and His arm was resting on the arm of His glorious throne. He cleared His throat and rubbed a little sleep from His eyes and said, “Oh, you thought I put Karen in your life so that your life would be better? Frank, I put you in Karen’s life so that her life would be better. She is to be your #1 ministry. The way a real man becomes head of his household is by ministering to and loving his wife. Not by seesaw intimidation. Not by threatening to jump off. But by seeing her as I do and as you should.”
“When you look at Karen you see a woman. But inside that woman is a beautiful, happy little girl. That’s who you fell in love with. And inside of you is a sweet, kind, thoughtful little boy. That’s who she fell in love with.”
“Remember when I said “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven?” What I mean is you need to see yourself and Karen as I see you. Two innocent little children playing together in a playground.“ Can you picture that scene? If Karen fell from the monkey bars, would you not rush over and help her up and check if there were any scrapes or scratches. If she tumbled from her swing would you not try the catch her?” And would you ever jump off the seesaw and send her crashing to the ground? No, you wouldn’t. That’s why you’re not jumping off the seesaw today or anyday. You made a commitment and I’m holding you to it. I want you to love Karen as I do. From today on – that is your ministry.“
Needless to say I was stunned. That was not the answer I was looking for. I walked around the house for weeks muttering ministry, ministry, ministry. And then I started to minister. I started to see her as the little girl that God created. That God loves as deeply as He loves me. So, I decided to trust and obey God. And you know what? I’m still on the seesaw. Somedays are up. Some days down. And that’s okay. Because most of the time, when I’m in ministry – the seesaw is level and I’m looking into the beautiful eyes of the woman God has chosen for me.
Father – thank you for reminding me that my marriage vows are still as meaningful today as they were nearly 9 years ago. Thank you for showing me what a marriage truly is. Ministry and unconditional love. And 2 little children on a playground – sharing a ride on life’s seesaw.
Todays Song: Dancing In The Mindfields – Andrew Peterson. It’s available on iTunes.
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