Growing up in Pakistan I got very used to having someone watch out for me. It was not really culturally appropriate for me to go out alone as a young girl and usually, whenever I went to the market, either my dad or my brothers would be my “body guards” and it made me feel completely at ease. I trusted them and felt loved and safe. It never bothered me to take one of my brothers with me, I enjoyed their company and it was nice to know I could rely on them. Moving to Germany ten years ago I knew in my head that things would be different – I knew that I didn’t really need anyone to go with me anymore and I would be ok on my own. But I found that I did miss my dad and brothers sometimes. Knowing someone’s got my back. In our time of feminism and gender equality I sometimes got strange responses from guy friends if I asked them to be my “body guard” for an occasion and step in the place of dad, brother or husband. Some would be happy to oblige, others thought it weird and told me to just look out for myself instead of “relying on a man”. It was funny because being single didn’t bother me that much – not having “brothers” did. But then I also realised something – in the end, no matter where I am, I am never alone because God is with me. I experienced that a lot of times over the years – in Pakistan, in Thailand, in Germany, Spain, Mexico – God is with me. Jesus stands behind me and says “Don’t worry, I got your back.” And even if it is nice to sometimes have someone with me on a journey, I know that I am also totally ok on my own. Now, living in Pakistan again, this topic is once more on my mind. When I first arrived my dad and little brother were still in the country, but we weren’t always together and two months ago they moved back to Germany. I am slowly getting used to moving around by myself. Driving on my own. Doing grocery shopping on my own. It is different…but I realise it is also part of growing up. Moving around on my own would never have bothered me in Germany and is something I have to learn here in Pakistan. Thankfully, I am not really alone. Once again it is true that God is with me always, here too.
Two simple words that can be used in so many different situations to mean many different things:
I do like strawberry ice cream
– just prefer chocolate.
I don’t know what to do.
I do love a good prank.
But said together, just the two words, the picture that comes to mind is a wedding scene: the wedding vows. Will you, Mr. Charming take this woman, Ms. Beautiful to be your lawfully wedded wife? To love and to cherish her, honour and keep her…for as long as you both shall live? Such a beautiful moment. I was recently at a wedding and kind of touched by the personalised vows the couple had written for each other. Especially the husband expressing his heart was so beautiful and somehow surprising to witness. He really really seemed to mean it. He was truly in love. I felt so happy for my friend.
But what do these two words mean?
I do. I do promise to love and to cherish this other person.
This Mr. Charming – who will undoubtedly not always be charming.
This Ms. Beautiful – who will not always look or act beautifully.
I do. I do promise to be there for him, for her – in the good times and the bad. Until death do us part.
I do. I am not taking this step lightly, I am trusting in God to help us both and want HIS perfect love and forgiveness to be the foundation of our relationship and marriage.
In German the phrase goes: Ja, mit Gottes Hilfe.
Yes, with the Lord’s help. With God’s help.
Can we not love without assistance? Why does God need to play a role in our marriage? Isn’t He like a third wheel? An intruder? A cause for strife and jealousy? Why include God?
Because He is the author of marriage – and the creator of both the husband and the wife.
And HE is the first love. The first Husband.
In my post Unfaithful love I already wrote about how in the Bible, God’s relationship to us is compared to the relationship of husband and wife – and how often there is unfaithfulness on our side. On my side. But what does it mean that God is my husband? Why does God use that comparison? Why is marriage such a perfect and beautiful illustration for God’s perfect love?
Because God’s love is a love that seeks the good of the other person. A love willing to sacrifice. A love like the love described in 1. Corinthians 13: patient, kind, humble, not envious, not proud, not self-seeking. Keeps no record of wrongs. Does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Always protects, always hopes, always perseveres. God’s love never fails. That is how GOD loves. And that is HIS DESIGN for marriage. He longs for us to love each other with the same pure, joyful, selfless and generous love that HE has for us. Imagine if all marriages had that kind of love? There would be no room for pride, for manipulation, for unforgiveness and bitterness. It would be a truly joyful and love-filled marriage. That is God’s heart for ALL marriages. He wants us to first experience HIS love – to understand what the love of a husband means for God. HIS heart. To really feel that love that is unconditional. And to take that love into our marriage. To let the unconditional love of God empower us to love our spouse unconditionally too. To love in the good times and the bad. To forgive and ask for forgiveness, even if it is humbling. To admit mistakes. To encourage and build up. To seek the best for the other person. To keep no record of wrongs. To always hope and trust and persevere. So that our love never fails and our marriage becomes strong.
But God first. God is wooing for my heart. God is lavishing his love and attention on me. God’s heart is like that of an expectant bridegroom – eagerly awaiting his bride!
He is so proud, so happy, so thrilled to see me walk towards him!
The king is enthralled by my beauty!
And he asks me – will you say ‘I do’?
Will you commit to this journey with me?
Will you commit to trusting me?
Will you commit to loving me?
Will you commit to getting to know me more every day?
Will you commit to protecting our relationship
and putting it above all else?
Will you commit to being faithful to me?
Will you commit to opening your heart to me?
Will you commit to letting me into your life?
Will you commit to not hiding anything from me?
Will you commit to not trying to cheat me?
Will you commit to staying, even when doubts arise?
Will you commit to fighting for us, for this relationship?
Will you commit to letting me help you?
Will you commit to letting me protect you?
Will you commit to letting me love you?
And with my heart beating faster than normal and my eyes moist and a joyous smile on my face I realise, wow, he really really loves me. And without hesitation I say ‘I do’.
Yes God, I say yes to you.
Whether you are married or single, God wants to be the first love in your life.
As a married person, if both husband and wife love God first – it is the best thing you can do to grow in your love as a couple, because God would never separate you. He loves marriage. Honestly. Get this: God LOVES marriage. He LOVES when husband and wife become ONE. He LOVES when husband and wife do daily life together. Cook. Eat. Work. Sleep together. Make love. Dance around. Sing off tune. Argue and work it out. Build marriage. Because marriage HONOURS God.
If the husband puts GOD FIRST: He will love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. He will love his neighbour as himself. He will love his WIFE like Jesus loved the church – by dying for her, giving everything for her!
If the wife puts GOD FIRST: She will also love the Lord her God with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. She will respect her husband and choose loving submission rather than nagging and strife.
This is not only true for married people.
Yes, God LOVES marriage – but that does not mean being single is second best and you should hope to one day be “promoted” to married. (If you’re interested in this topic I recommend the book “The single issue” by Albert Y. Hsu)
The single person who puts GOD FIRST: Will also love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind soul and strength. He will love his neighbour as himself. And therefore love, respect and serve the people God has put in his life with that same heart of love that God has – because in seeking God first, you begin to discover God’s heart and your heart becomes more like his heart.
God is faithful. God’s love is pure.
God’s love is truth and hope and light and peace and joy that overflows to transform not only your own life, but those around you.
God is waiting at the altar – like an expectant bridegroom – eagerly awaiting his bride!
He is so proud, so happy, so thrilled to see YOU walk towards him!
The king is enthralled by your beauty!
Will you say ‘I do’?
I’ve been thinking about how we show love to people we care about when they are not with us. When you love someone, you tend to smile when you see them, be generous with hugs and kisses (depending on who it is perhaps :D) and try to show in lots of little ways that that person is important to you. Maybe by taking the time to listen, to help out with something, to give advice or just spend time together doing nothing in particular.
What if you’re not together, though? How do you show love then?
I’ve witnessed several friends in long distance relationships and must confess that I found their daily phone calls a bit amusing. Seriously, every day? Is that really necessary? Don’t you run out of things to talk about? Don’t you have lots of other things to do?
But in a way, that is one thing you can do to show love at a distance: take the time to at least talk. Make that phone call a priority. Spend money on the phone bill.
They would also think of creative ways to surprise each other with a special card or a package, which honestly was pretty cute. But then love isn’t really just signs of affection, is it?
How about loving someone by being faithful? Faithful both to the relationship and faithful in the responsibilities you have.
How about loving someone by investing in working on issues you might have that burden the relationship? Becoming more reliable, honest, serving and kind?
How about loving someone by working hard in your job or studies and thereby investing in your future?
How about loving someone by working ahead so that when you do get to spend time together, you’re not stressed and distracted by all that needs to be done.
How about loving someone by praying for them and asking God to work in both your lives and to guide you in the relationship?
I think these things are just as important as a phone call or sending chocolates – and can really have an impact on how a relationship develops. They take discipline and are less “mushy-feely” – more practical and purposeful. But then that’s making love something that lasts and something that is seen and felt, even at a distance.
Thinking about love at a distance also made me think about my mom and dad. I went to boarding school for eight years – and my parents got really good at figuring out how to love at a distance. I didn’t always get it at the time, but looking back now I am overwhelmed by the effort my parents put in to love on us kids and show us that each one of us is important and precious to them. Not just through phone calls or E-mails – but also by making sure that the time we did spend together was real quality time. My mom would even prepare meals and bake our favourite cakes beforehand to make sure things were ready when we got home. That way she wouldn’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen. My dad would also organise his work in such a way as to maximise the time he could spend with us. Being on break, we kids would often sleep in while my parents would get up early to do some work and then have fun family time when we got out of bed. I sometimes wonder, would I be that disciplined? I hope so. I hope I would have that same love for my husband and kids to be willing to really make things work and invest in loving on them in every way.
Two days ago, I found a letter in my mailbox. It was a love letter – from my mom and dad and two of my brothers, congratulating me on passing my exams and graduating from University. The ceremony was just a week ago and no one had been able to come. I ended up being sick in bed. Not the ideal scenario – but I was happy, because as cheesy as it sounds, I knew they were with me in my heart. And when I found that letter, it just made me smile and realise how right I was. They told me how happy they are for me. How proud they are of me. They told me to celebrate and that they’re looking forward to seeing me soon. Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks brothers. Thanks family, for being so amazing at showing love at a distance. We’re all spread out all over the world – but I always feel your love and support. You’re amazing and I love you all.
If you have more ideas on how to show love at a distance, feel free to share below 😀
We can all use some inspiration now and again!
One of my favourite books of the Bible, even as a child, was Hosea.
I was fascinated by this story of a man who was told to marry a prostitute and to care for her and love her despite her unfaithfulness. Even when she ran away from him and back to her old life and old lovers, he went after her and brought her back again. Relentless love.
God compares this situation to his relationship with his people, Israel. He shows them love and fights for their freedom, while they betray him again and again by ignoring his commands and following other gods. But God does not give up on them and keeps speaking to them through prophets and then through his son, Jesus. God becomes man in Jesus to reveal his love and to die on the cross for all the sins of the world, to make reconciliation and life with God possible.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve known God for quite a long time and yet again and again I still do exactly the same thing as Hosea’s wife or Israel. I am unfaithful.
I even love telling other people about God and how Jesus changed my life – and yet sometimes I am doing exactly the opposite of what God wants me to, or ignoring him or doubting everything I always believed in. Like a married person encouraging young people to believe in and honour marriage, while at the same time thinking of committing adultery.
How can that be?
How can I be so unfaithful to someone I love so much?
Because love is a decision and love is a verb and growing in love is a process.
God is love and he will never be untrue to his character.
Just like God is truth and justice.
But me? I still have a heart full of rebellion that is slowly being transformed by God.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that Jesus died on the cross for every one of my sins and that I am a new person in Jesus – I am made righteous and justified before God and free from the slavery of sin. But the process of allowing God to really transform my heart and my life and becoming more like Jesus is going to take until I die. That is why love is a decision. I made the decision to accept what Jesus did for me on the cross, but that’s not something I just cross off my list and forget about. Every day I have to decide to let my love for Jesus determine my thoughts and actions. Just like when you’re married and its not just about the wedding day vows – every day you get up and decide to act in love and be patient with each other. To love when the other person does things that annoy you or when you don’t agree on something. Whether its something trivial, but daily, like the right way to put away clothes (in the cupboard, on the floor…) or a big decision that could affect where you move as a family (honey, how do you feel about moving to Mexico or Japan?). And that’s what makes love a verb. That decision of how you act and how you react. I can say “I love you”, but someone wont believe me if my actions don’t back up that statement. If I am not kind or show interest in a person, make an effort to spend time with them and am patient with their shortcomings. In the same way if someone claims to love me, but never does anything to show that he truly cares for me – that makes the words seem pretty meaningless.
With my love for God, I can also express that love through action. Its not about doing good works to get brownie points in heaven – its about expressing my love for God by showing trust and obedience in what I do. I read his word, the Bible and let it guide me. I talk to God and ask him for wisdom. I look at how Jesus lived and strive to follow his example – loving and serving other people and teaching them about God. Some days I really feel like doing these things, because I feel that I’m in love with Jesus and it just comes naturally to me to do what is on his heart. Other days maybe less or not at all. But again, just like in any relationship – you don’t just walk out the door when you don’t feel those butterflies or you’re having a bad day. That would be ridiculous. You keep trusting and keep acting in love, no matter what you feel. And you go through ups and downs that actually end up making both your love and your trust grow stronger.
And the most amazing part of it all is that God is never unfaithful.
In a love relationship between two people, both parties make mistakes and have to forgive each other and show grace, be patient, give each other second chances. With God, He never fails me. I may not always understand him (happens a lot) or understand why something happened (that happens quite often too) I might get frustrated by things I pray for not happening immediately (also happened) but he never fails me and his love never changes.
And despite my many failures, he always forgives me. Just like with Hosea and his wife – when I go off track, God calls me back. He doesn’t like the stuff I do wrong, but his love is greater than all my mistakes.
And that’s what makes me want to go back to him always. To say I’m sorry and to ask him to change my heart. I want to be more like him. I want to be faithful and love unconditionally.
Got a ways to go yet!
maybe its too early to say I love you
maybe its too soon to know what that really means
maybe its premature to allow such strong emotion
maybe its a mixture of reality and dreams
maybe this wont last and there’ll be no forever
maybe we’ll just talk and then go seperate ways
maybe there is no “us” and we will never be together
maybe this is just a moment, just a phase
maybe you and I will just be friends, be brothers
maybe thats all we were ever meant to be
maybe we will not be one as lovers
maybe, but its an end I can’t yet see
maybe we will never marry
at least not me you or you me
maybe, but there really is no hurry
we’ll figure it out eventually
so let’s just take
one step at a time
go for a walk together
get to know each other
listen to silence
let’s find out where we each of us is at
and where we’re both heading
see if the other understands
and then decide, but all in good time,
if we want to combine both our life plans.
Here’s a topic for my girlfriends out there.
Maybe this doesn’t apply to you, maybe it does.
Just a hint – its about guys and waiting for “the right one”.
Now I’m twenty-five years old and the only date (besides high school formal) I’ve ever been on was with one of my best friends as a kid to watch Mulan in the cinema and eat a burger at McDonalds afterwards. His mom took us =)
It was fun and I sure liked him a lot – though I had already decided not to marry him. He was planning on becoming an attorney and I found that rather dull. Don’t ask me why. The firm opinion of an eight-year old. If I had known that women tend to make lists to summarize the vital qualities any possible future-husband must possess, I guess “no attorney” would have been on mine. Along with “must like animals” and “better know how to climb trees”.
What about now? Growing up with strong Christian values and having long embraced those values and the Christian faith as my own, I find myself living in stark contrast to the values and practices of the society I live in. It seems to me that when it comes to relationships, the top two priorities in society are “open, fun, flirtatious”, and “ready for fun here and now with no thoughts about tomorrow”. Marriage? Maybe after we’ve lived together for like…three years. Or better seven. Just so we can find out if we’re really compatible.
With the education system in various German states contemplating a serious change to puberty education – or whatever you want to call it – I wonder how much that will affect society even further and force kids to skip the even now hardly innocent childhood and be confronted with questions concerning the opposite gender (can I even say that?) at an ever earlier age. I am sad because the kids don’t even have a choice. Knowledge is hard to undo. Will handing out contraceptives and encouraging them to act on their emotions and impulses really teach them to be responsible adults that can build strong, healthy relationships? Will introducing them to the variety of lifestyles that exist among adults in the 21st century really help them find their place and not unnecessarily confuse them and make them insecure with a lack of guidance and role models? Will it really just encourage tolerance and broaden their world view without adding to the issues of identity and self-perception they already struggle with during their teenage years?
Now what do these questions have to do with us girls and relationships?
Well, sometimes I’ve talked to other single girls or young women and I’ve felt that, especially in Christian circles, there can be a lot of frustration at times with single life and the seeming scarcity of eligible men. Sometimes it can be rather tempting to just go for the option society offers us – instead of waiting for a man who loves God and reflects Jesus in his character, life and goals. A man who will love us like Jesus loved the church. Whoa – high standard there! Will he ever come? Considering only one’s own life it can sometimes seem so insignificant a compromise – so what if I go out with some random guy just for fun. Everyone does it. Big deal. I would still go to church. I don’t think he’d mind. And maybe he would even come with me!
But its not so much just about whether or not you go to church – its about your heart.
Who does it belong to? Jesus – or that guy?
And then if you look at the big picture – of what kids growing up these days learn as “the norm”, your example of going against the current is actually not so insignificant. It can serve as a real encouragement and challenge to other people, especially kids looking for an alternative to the crazy instant gratification quick fix culture of our time. The best things in life are worth fighting for. Worth going through tough times for. Worth not giving up for. And I would say that an awesome marriage is a pretty good thing. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all make mistakes. And in the end – even if we do marry that man of integrity that loves and serves God with his whole heart – he is still a sinner in need of God’s grace. Just like us. But if we recognize that and deliberately strive for a relationship that is full of grace, humility, forgiveness and selfless, sacrificial love, with God’s help we will have an amazing marriage that shapes us and changes us for the better as we grow in love and trust. And along with us, it can shape people around us. Can show friends or neighbours that healthy families do still exist and are worth fighting for.
Ok, so you’re single and there’s no eligible man in sight?
Relax. Try widening your social circle a little, but don’t get fanatic. Be open to getting to know guys and don’t forget they’re all human, not superhero-knights-in-shining-armour-ever-ready-to-sweep-you-off-your-feet. And a random “hi how are you” or a cup of coffee does not mean he’s gonna propose next week so again, relax a bit. Take off the pressure.
Just keep being faithful in whatever you’re doing and start praying for that husband of yours, that God would prepare you both for each other and allow you to meet.
What are your thoughts and ideas on this topic?
Feel free to comment.
In highschool I loved doing high jump. Now imagine if just before running up to jump I looked at the bar and told myself: “You will never make it! It’s way too high. I don’t think I have seen anyone jump that before. You can’t do it either, it’s just not feasible.” Do you think I would make the jump? Now what if in addition to my own voices the people around me watching were to join in saying, “What are you thinking? You can’t jump that!” If they were to laugh at me for even considering it? Would I be able to make the jump?
I think this is exactly what happens every day if we try to live in this world according to God’s standards. There are a million voices around us, including our own voice and Satan deceiving us, saying it is IMPOSSIBLE. The standard is just WAY too high. God makes his standard clear in the 10 commandments – and just looking at a few of them: (you can find them in Exodus 20 in the Bible)
How could you possibly live without ever lying?
How could you possibly live without ever feeling jealous of anyone?
How could you possibly live loving God above ALL ELSE?
How could you possibly live without committing adultery?
Now you might say – the last one is not that hard to live up to. I believe in being faithful to my girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/significant other. But what does that commandment really mean? It is not only talking about cheating on your partner – in the Septuaginta the Greek word porneia πορνεία actually means fornication, referring to any immoral sexual conduct and including any sex outside of marriage.
Now the voices start to laugh.
But wait – Jesus goes even further saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5, 27-28)
Whoa!? But can there be anyone innocent then? Isn’t that a bit outdated? NOBODY believes that anymore! Its just not normal.
Ok, I understand that you might think that way – it is what we are taught from childhood through books, magazines, movies and the example of the society we live in, the people around us. But what if we ignored all of these voices for a moment and just focused on that high jump bar before us to ask ourselves two questions:
1. Are there any good reasons to try to jump that bar?
2. Is it really impossible?
The first question – WHY even try?
A) Out of obedience to God’s command. God is the one who invented relationships and sex and HE meant for it to be something intimate between one man and one woman within marriage. Usually makes sense to follow the instructions of the designer – he surely had a reason for giving that rule! Now you might say – where does God ever mention marriage? Marriage traditions change and are also different in every country. Its not so much about the form – its about recognizing that marriage is a decision you make, a promise before God, before your partner and usually before family and friends to stick together, to be a team, be there for eachother in love and respect until death. In Genesis 2,24 it says “For this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh” And Jesus says when asked about divorce, “Haven’t you read,” that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19,6) So you might say that you plan to get married at some point – but it still makes sense to wait for the contract before living it. You probably wouldn’t dream of living in a house for two years before signing the contract and paying for it. The one comes after the other.
B) Out of love and respect for eachother: your partner is worth waiting for! You value eachother and your long-term happiness more than desires of the moment. There is a freedom to enjoy sex within marriage which is especially important for the woman. She feels secure to give herself away. It is also healthy to practice self control. Or what happens if you are ever apart when married – because of a business trip etc.? Of course sexual intimacy is an important part of a relationship – but its not the most important and certainly not the foundation! The foundation should be a healthy friendship and you can invest in that rather than in caressing in the time before marriage. It makes sense to build a firm foundation.
C) Less partners = more intimacy. A lot of people say they have to find out before marrying if they are physically compatible, but really that is nonsense. Just like you get to know and learn about eachothers personalities you can also get to know eachother physically. Takes time. Takes patience. Most couples say that it wasn’t all that incredible in the bedroom from the start, but statistics say that couples that have been faithfully married for many years are actually happier with their sex life. And those who had several partners before settling down with one admit that their previous relationships are not so easily erased from their memory and can lead to problems such as making comparisons or finding it hard to trust in your partner’s love and faithfulness.
D) Ready for a family? It is said that sex may lead to pregnancy. Have you ever asked yourself if you would you be prepared to care for a child if you were to become pregnant? Would you not prefer for your son or daughter to enjoy growing up within a stable family situation that welcomes his/her arrival rather than seeing it as an unpleasant surprise or inconvenient accident?
Second question – Is it really impossible?
No. Easy answer. I admit it may not be easy to follow through – especially with all those voices telling us that we can’t and are foolish to even try – but there are millions of couples who have waited for marriage and many still do today. It is a decision a couple should make together and they can then help eachother uphold it by going slow on physical affection and not necessarily putting themselves in situations where the temptation to go “too far” could arise. There is no golden rule book on how many kisses are allowed – you know yourself best and should weigh up what is sensible for you. Just keep in mind that if you’ve decided to jump – it isn’t wise to load up with extra weight. You can see physical boundaries as a restriction that deprives you of your freedom – or as a trampoline that helps you make the jump!
And most importantly we can also admit that it is normal to be physically attracted towards someone and to find it hard to meet God’s standards! But the great thing is that the one who gave us this standard is also the one who enables us to meet it! We do not have to rely on our own willpower and self-discipline but can ask God to help us – to give us both the desire and the ability to uphold his command. The apostle Paul says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phillippians 4,13 NIV) And he also reminds us that “if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10,12-13)
What if you say you tried to jump but didn’t make it? I encourage you still not to give up! Just try again. God gives us his standard to live by – yes. But he is also forgiving and merciful and always willing to let us start afresh.
So now just imagine – you’re hesitating to jump with all the negative voices around you – but in the midsts of the mocking you suddenly hear someone shout:
“Go for it! You can do it! C’mon Johnny/Sally/Your name! Don’t listen to the others, I know you’ll make it!”
What effect would that voice have on you? Sometimes a bit of encouragement is all we need. Just SOMEONE to believe in us! Well guess what – there’s at least two that are rooting for you: the allmighty God, creator of heaven and earth! And me! I dare you to jump!