TWO THINGS TO MASTER BEFORE YOU SAY, “I DO!”
Stephen M. Crotts
Hear the words of a love song, a rock and roll classic, called, “Let It Be Me.” “I bless the day I found you, I want to stay around you, And so I beg you, Let it be me. Don’t ever leave me lonely, Tell me you love me only, And that you’ll always, Let it be me. Each time we meet, Love, I find complete love, But without your sweet love, What would my life be? So, don’t take this heaven from me, If you have to cling to someone, Now and forever, Let it be me.” This song was popular when I was a teenager. And you will hear it on the radio today! It seems the song was recently the favorite of a young twosome in high school. “It was their song,” as we say. Their’s had been a two year romance. But now she wanted to break up and he didn’t. When she started seeing other men, he stalked her, wrote endless love letters, showered her with flowers, candy and phone calls. When she still resisted the renewing of their relationship, he walked into senior English class one day, drew a pistol, and shot her and himself dead. That sort of possessive, smothering, desperate love is easy to understand when you realize that the lady had become the boy’s religion. And such warped passion is not rare. One hears it sung about on the radio all the time! Hear the words of “Without the One You Love” as performed by “The Four Tops.” “Baby I need your good loving, Got to have your love right now, Baby! So come and fill my empty arms and Make my life worthwhile. Cause I’m not living, baby, I only exist. I’ll never laugh, I’ll never smile no more I don’t care if I stay like this, Because without the one you love. Life is not worship. Without your love, my dear. I’m like a motherless child. So, come and fill my empty arms. And make my life worthwhile.” Sad to say, but here’s a lot of this walking around out there today, And we need to take a hard look at it from a Biblical perspective.
The Problem of Significance
In the text, Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish builders. In it, two men are trying to make something of their lives, they’re building houses. Obviously they want to marry, to rear children, to be a creative and responsible member of the community. This push to achieve is what we call the search for significance. At an Academy Awards ceremony, actress Cher won an Oscar. And I’ll never forget her acceptance speech. She stepped to the microphone, clutched the trophy to herself and said, “Does this prove I’m somebody now?” I could have wept for her. But isn’t that same desire in all of us? We want to leave our mark on the world, to scratch our name on the walls of history. Beauty pageants, academic achievement, sports records, business honors—these are the things we strive for. And no amount of overtime is too much if we receive recognition, if our peers feed our sense of significance. This is nothing new. When King Saul led Israel into battle and successfully defeated the Amalekites, he returned and “set up a monument for himself.” (1 Samuel 15:12). Saul, the victor! The vanquisher! King Herod the Great was the same. Visit Israel today and you will find his pound architectural monuments from Masada to the Herodium to Caesarea-by-the-Sea. We men are motivated by a desire for respect. We crave feeling significant. Without it, we grow angry. The trouble is, we tend to seek significance in things that do not last. Coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys says, “Fame is a vapor, riches take wing, the crowd that cheers you today will curse you tomorrow.” Isaiah the prophet reminds us, “All flesh is grass. It fades like a flower.” (Isaiah 40:6) There was a Broadway actress, very beautiful, at the peak of her career, who gave the best performance ever. Back stage after the show, she was found weeping. “But you were magnificent!” The director said. “I know,” she said. “It’s just that I’m afraid there won’t be many more nights like this.” What’s the solution for significance? If we can’t find it in career or achievements or in a mate, then where is it? It comes in knowing God and what He thinks of you. Apollo astronauts had gone to the moon and were returning to earth. The leader said he thought he was really somebody now! Then he looked out the window and saw earth the size of a basketball floating I’m black vastness. Suddenly he realized how insignificant he was and over the radio, for all the earth to hear, he began to read Psalm 8. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth!…When I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars…what is man that Thou art mindful of him…” Hear that? The first step in finding significance is to realize that only God is great. The second is to understand that God has made you significant because He fashioned you in His image. To the Marxist a man’s significance is in his value to the sate. An athlete’s value is demeaned b his performance. A materialist’s worth is in what he owns. To an academic, value is in what you now. But in Christ it doesn’t matter what we look like or have or do or who we’re with. We have intrinsic worth. That’s because we’re made in God’s image and loved by Christ. The Bible tells me I’m the only one of my kind, that God wants me to exist, that he sent me into history for such a time as this. He even puts His Holy Spirit within me and sets me to work in an important corner of the world. This is what makes me significant. And this truth, this significance, shall never fade. Robert was a prominent pastor in Florida for over 40 years. When he retired, he suffered a paralyzing stroke. Now he and his wife live in a tiny apartment near the sea. To make ends meet they both work in a sandwich shop. He spreads the mayonnaise with his one good hand. She puts on the meat. A pastor friend of mine who visits them says the Spirit told him, “You know, Robert is more precious to me right now than he’s ever been before!” Significance! If it’s in Jesus, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away!
The Problem of Security
In the parable, two men begin to build. They’re reaching for significance, trying to make something out of their lives. But, note, too, they’re also groping for security. They want a roof over their heads, shelter form the cold, an abode to stock up for the further. And sure enough, a violent storm comes to test the very foundation of their home. It’s a human need: to nest, to feel secure, to put down roots. And all the while life does its best to unsettle us! A friend of mine is an engineer. For years he lived without Christ, feeling self-secure. In his mid-40’s, however, he became a Christian. Then I inquired as to why, he told me his conversion came soon after he’d completed his biggest bridge. Walking around admiring it, he noticed the rust already beginning. And for the first time in his life he understood how nothing lasts. Buildings fall down, houses rot, humans die. And he began to hear the gospel. If men are motivated by a desire for respect, women are primarily motivated by a desire for security. And just as a man without respect suffers anger, a woman without security experiences fear. All of this comes to a violent boil when a man and a woman marry hoping to find security and significance in each other. And since only God can ultimately fill our void for these things, we are bound to fail. So our marriage begins to boil over in anger and fear. Thus it is that the home is the most violent place in America. 30% of our babies are aborted. Child abuse ranks as the number two killer of children aged birth through five. Add to it wife battering, emotional abuse, and the fact that most murders take place inside the family. And did you know more policemen are killed in the line of duty answering domestic calls than any other sort? Why all of this? We go into marriage with high hopes of feeling significant and secure. But we put our hopes in things that can’t last. And soon our hopes are dashed. And disappointed, we begin to act as only humans can: with fear and anger. So, how do we find our sense of security? In the parable the one house left standing after the flood was built upon the rock of hearing and doing God’s Word. And His Word is that God loves me, so much so that He took my place on the cross. Then He rose from the dead proving that neither sin nor death is stronger than Christ. All of this, and now the Good Lord offers me grace. He simply asks me to turn from my sin and self to Him in childlike faith, to be filled with His Spirit, and live out HIs love in my relationships. And this is not all! While I do this, Jesus is in heaven preparing a home for me. And one day soon He’ll come as a groom and take me as His bride to live with Him forever. Now ask me if I’m secure! Have you seen that television commercial where the house is on fire? A fireman in a special fireproof suit walks into the flames, wraps a crying infant in his arms, and exits right through the flames to place a living, unburned child safely in his mother’s arms. That’s the security we have in Jesus Christ.He gathers us under his protective wings as a hen does her chicks. And His covenant is eternal. “See, I have loved you with an everlasting love,” He says.
How Do We Build Security and Significance?
So, how does one acquire a sense of security and significance in Christ? In the text, the wise builder built his security and significance on the rock. Jesus said he did so by hearing and doing God’s word. And no storm could tear his house down. In Philippians 4:11, the apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” In other words, contentment doesn’t come naturally, it has to be learned. For me, I learned it through suffering. In high school I was sure significance and security came through sports, clothes, cars and having a girlfriend. I learned the hard way how football teams lose and how girl friends break your heart. That shouldn’t happen to anybody many times before he starts looking for his needs to be met in God. I also learned security and significance through loneliness. For me age eighteen was the beginning of a blessed loneliness from which all real freedom begins. I did not know this then. But when I went off to the university I found myself a shy, practicing Christian in the midst of humanist professors, hard drinking and filthy mouthed fraternity types, and a social life built on casual sex. Where were the sincere, the conversationalists, and the kind? I could not find them. And that damp, drizzly November of the soul moved over my life…loneliness… So, with plenty of people around, but no one wanting to relate meaningfully, I discovered…in the midst of isolation…myself. Relishing long walks alone, four hour study stints in the library, and mumbling conversations with myself, I discovered I’m okay, a unique and separate entity not created to be like anyone else. I also discovered God in a deeper way. Jesus became personal and communion with Him, prayer without ceasing, delight in His word, co-ministry with Him became commonplace. And another thing: having gone without friends, I learned to value them highly when I finally found one. Yes, loneliness was a big part of my life. But instead of crippling me, the Lord made it to work for me. And now I thank God for it… …For now it broke the bonds of conformity, forced me to confront myself, accept the companionship of Jesus. Indeed! Loneliness can be the point at which real freedom begins. I also learned security and significance by taking my thoughts captive to obey God’s word. When the world puts me down because I am bald or middle aged or middle class or whatever, I say to myself and to the world, “now wait a minute! That’s not what Jesus says.” And I quote Psalm 139 to myself and agree to believe Jesus and not the world.
Conclusion The ironical thing about good marriages is that the husband and wife don’t need each other all that much. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love my wife. And she loves me. But neither of us has all that much to contribute to the other’s significance or security. God has taken care of those needs quite nicely Himself. I would like to close by quoting an essay that I wrote for my daughter as she went off to college. She hung it on the wall of her dorm room. It reads as a word from God. “Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone, to have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But God to a Christian says, “No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled with being loved by me alone, not until you discover that only in ME is your security and significance to be found. Only then will you be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you. You can never be joyfully united with another until you are united with me exclusive of anyone or anything else, exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, stop wishing and allow me to give you the most thrilling plan existing, one that you cannot even imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you.” “You just wait. That’s all. Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry. Don’t look at all the things you want. Don’t allow your longing for what you don’t have to eat up your enjoyment of today. You just keep looking off and away up to me or you’ll miss what I have to show you.” “And then when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than any you would dream of.” “You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready (I am working even at this moment to have both of you ready at the same time), until you both are satisfied exclusively with Me and the life I have prepared for you, then you cannot possibly be satisfied with each other in marriage.” “I want you to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me. I want you to see in your flesh a picture of my love for you. I want you to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection, and love that I, Jesus, offer you with myself.” “I am your Groom. You are my Bride. Know that I love utterly. Believe it and be satisfied.”
O Jesus, take me to the rock and build my life. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
(Rev. Stephen Crotts, September 21, 1997)