Guys, do you remember those courting days, when you and your wife-to-be couldn’t get enough time together? Remember when saying “I love you” to your sweetheart was as normal a part of your life as waking up each morning? Remember when she could do no wrong and everything about her was new, wonderful, and invigorating? Remember the laughter, the fun, and even the silliness of those days when a note, a call, or a text absolutely made your day?
And do you remember that special day, when you stood before a crowd of friends and family, and made this pledge:
“I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”
Well, if you’ve been married any amount of time since those days, it’s possible, if not likely, that the routine, burdens and grind of life has served to distort and distract all those initial thoughts, feelings and beliefs. You may have even forgotten the words you enthusiastically recited as you began your new life together.
Lori and I have been married for nearly 37 years and, while we have had our share of disagreements, and things have not always been rosy, I thank God that our love and commitment remains strong and unwavering. Yet, over the years, I’ve had a number of close friends confide in me that their marriages were struggling and that the “D” word was even coming up in conversations with their spouse. Many guys I’ve known have expressed their discontent, anger, frustration and second thoughts about the lady who they felt 180-degrees differently about just a few years earlier.
So what changed? How is it that something that was so hot became so cold; something that was meant “till death do us part” could now so readily be concluded?
There are a myriad of reasons and explanations for each one of these marital challenges. But one thing that might be missing in most, is the choice to love. And that choice to love is illustrated beautifully in these verses in Ephesians 5:25-29:
“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”
Note that inherent in Christ’s love of the church is a choice that He made: to give up His life and to care for His church. No one could doubt Christ’s commitment to love. But as great as that commitment was and is, what is even more astounding is the object of Christ’s love, the church. Consider that the church is full of broken, sinful men and women, who routinely fail their Savior and turn their backs on Him. Yet, Christ’s love remains constant and immoveable, in spite of our frail and ugly selves.
Now, using the illustration of Christ’s love for the church, we husbands are commanded to “love our wives.” Period. That command has no qualifier, other than we are to love her as our own bodies. Furthermore, because of the illustration of Christ giving up His life for the church, we can also conclude that a husband should exhibit an unwavering commitment to sacrifice on behalf of his wife, even unto death if it were required. But since it’s unlikely most of us will be called to actually die for our wife, perhaps we should just strive to love her when she might act unloveable, which might be possible. (Of course, what’s more likely is that we husbands might be even more unloveable than her.)
Now this may be an odd sort of article coming from a guy who loves to write about politics, government, culture and philosophy. But if you believe, as I do, that as the family goes, so goes the nation, then there is no more important topic than marriage and the family.
My heart often grieves for the state in which we find our nation, cities and culture. Sadly though, I believe that we are reaping the severe consequences of what we have sown via our rejection of God and His founding values upon which our nation was built. And certainly there is no more important value than marriage.
So if you are a guy who is struggling in your marriage, and if you seemed to have lost the love and commitment that you once had for your wife, I encourage you to reconsider, recommit and begin to evaluate the kind of love that Christ showed for you. If you will do this, and then find someone you respect to walk alongside you as you seek to restore your marriage to what it was always meant to be, then there is hope. And where there is hope, there is potential that, with God’s help, and your willingness to follow His leading, your marriage can be healed.
So keep keeping on. Do right until the stars fall. Love your wife. And look to the ultimate example of love. Christ chose to love you, even while you were unloveable.
“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 27:12 NLT
It was April 14, 1912, day 4 of Margaret Fuller’s virgin voyage on board the Titanic. Things could not be better. Her bid to open the only gift shop on the new mega-ship had been accepted three months earlier. She had operated other shops on several ocean liners during the past decade. As a result, she had achieved some degree of success and affluence from those years of hard work, sacrifice and optimism.
But none of those other shops had begun with such a burst of passenger excitement, which directly translated to record setting sales. In the first three days of the voyage, her shop’s revenue had already surpassed the sales of the last two transatlantic voyages combined. Margaret could not be more pleased.
As she rose early to head up for a quick breakfast before opening her shop, Margaret walked by one of the twenty lifeboats that were stowed securely on the boat’s deck. For a brief moment her mind flashed back to some reports she had read prior to their departure. Some had expressed concern that there were more passengers on board than the lifeboats could carry. But Margaret quickly pushed the thought from her mind, fully confident that a ship the size of the Titanic, with all its safety systems, was completely secure. It was certainly too big to falter along the 3000 mile journey.
Sales were strong again on that fourth day of the voyage. The passengers seemed eager to spend. Their excitement and mood could not be more upbeat. There were other small business owners and entrepreneurs on board who all seemed to be experiencing the same results that Margaret was realizing.
That evening, Margaret sat down to write down her thoughts in her journal, as she had been doing for several years now:
Day 4: Life is great. Another record day. Sales are phenomenal. People are happy. The only concern I have is whether I will run out of inventory on our return trip to England. Not that such a problem would be bad. Who would have ever imagined I would sell out my entire inventory? This new venture on board one of the greatest sea-going vessels of our time is something I could have never imagined. And the likelihood that anything could go wrong at this point is beyond my wildest imagination. Well, I better get some sleep. Tomorrow will be another busy day, no doubt. Good night diary…
Margaret readied herself for bed, said a quick prayer, and was soon in a deep sleep.
As Margaret slept, she began dreaming that she was hearing sirens going off. The more she tried to ignore the sirens, the louder they seemed to get. Soon the sirens were accompanied by a jolting and lurching and she then realized: This isn’t a dream! The sirens were really going off. The articles on her dresser had just been thrown across the room onto the floor. She heard glass breaking in her bathroom as the mirror fell off the wall. Down the hall, outside her door, she could hear people screaming.
Margaret was now wide awake. This was no dream. Rather, it was a real nightmare. As she grabbed her housecoat, and dashed out her cabin door, Margaret’s mind flashed back to the lifeboat she had walked by the day before. She tried to control a panicked and sinking feeling as she considered the fact that if the lifeboats were needed, she might not make it onto one of them.
As she shot up the stairs to the main deck, her panic suddenly turned to terror. Crew members were yelling to everyone to head for the lifeboats, screaming to them that the ship had struck an object of some sort. There was little time before the unthinkable would happen, they were warning. It was clear the unsinkable ship was going down, and only those who were fortunate enough to scramble onto one of the lifeboats would survive.
As she ran towards one of the lifeboats, the ship suddenly lurched violently, and Margaret was thrown several yards into the air before she slammed back down onto the deck. She was dazed and shaken. Her entire body ached. But she had enough presence of mind to realize she had to make it to a lifeboat.
Margaret half crawled and half ran to the nearest lifeboat and began to fight her way through the others who were all trying to board it. She was ashamed of her actions as she clawed her way past other screaming and terrorized passengers. But Margaret knew that if she were courteous, she would not make it. As the lifeboat began to swing over the side and above the freezing dark waters below, Margaret lunged for it, barely grasping the edge of the small boat, as a strong arm dragged her aboard. And then, everything grew pitch black as they descended into the ocean below.
Margaret could hear screams from above. It was sheer terror and no doubt they were the last sounds that many who were still on board would make. She was told that the lifeboat they were on was the last one. There were no more. Those left behind were no doubt destined for a horrendous fate.
Briefly, Margaret thought about her gift shop, her livelihood, her fortune and her dreams. They were all going down with the ship. Just hours earlier she couldn’t have been more upbeat, more optimistic, more confident of the profitable future that was in store for her. Now, it all seemed so meaningless, so short-sighted, and so mundane. She hauntingly remembered the warnings some had made prior to the Titanic’s departure about the inadequate number of lifeboats. She thought about the hundreds of poor souls who were even then sinking to the depths of the Atlantic. And then she realized the truth.
The Titanic was not too big to falter. It was not too big too fail. And yet, it took a catastrophic loss of life for that reality to set in.
It was 130 years earlier, during the Revolutionary War, that George Washington commented, in strong disapproval, about how many of our early countrymen put private gain before “the essential rights and liberties of the present generation, and of millions yet unborn.” Our first President was concerned that a short-sighted focus by citizens could lead to a long-term loss of our most sacred values: Life, Liberty and more.
Like Margaret on board the Titanic, in my fictional story, today’s entrepreneurs, corporate executives and managers are busy about the business of making money, turning a profit and increasing their own personal fortunes. Obviously, in and of itself, this is not a bad thing. But as our first President noted, we can often pursue our own private gain at the expense of our “essential rights and liberties.” Sadly, because of this tendency by too many today, our nation is bearing down on its own iceberg.
In our hearts we all know this. The sirens are going off. The warnings are everywhere.
$150 trillion in debt
a collapsing political system
extreme societal polarization and division
rampant corruption in Washington and our state houses
greed has infected our populace
unrest and violence is growing
ethics and morals have all but disintegrated
religion has little influence in our society
terrorism is rising
And there are innumerable more warning signs. And yet, it appears that so many of us are so disengaged. We ignore the obvious. We are more focused on seeking the profit of our “gift shops” than heeding the perilous warnings.
But unless we wake up before it’s too late, there will be a catastrophic event that will make that last sale, that last promotion, that last quarter’s results, seem so mundane, so futile, so meaningless.
Have we reached the point of no return? I do not know.
I pray that we can avert the iceberg that appears to be directly in our path. But you and I will determine whether or not we do. Will we prioritize our private gain? Or will we, like our founding fathers, prioritize the “essential rights and liberties of the present generation and of the millions yet unborn?” Our actions today and tomorrow will reveal our priorities, and the destiny of America.
Next week, in Part 2, we’ll explore some practical steps that we can take to avert the iceberg, or, if the worst should happen, what we can do to prepare for such a disastrous event. But I’d love to hear your thought before then as well so shoot me an email and post a comment and let me know what you’re thinking. Until then…
“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.” Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)
This week I am witnessing first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I’ve been observing the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continues to pop up again and again, is Make America Great Again. Of course, that being the Trump campaign motto, it should come as no surprise. From t-shirts to ball caps, street vendors to banners, the motto is everywhere I look, here in Cleveland.
The brilliantly conceived message is one that plays well with disillusioned and disgusted voters, who have experienced the last seven years of an Obama Presidency and grown increasingly skeptical and angry with Washington DC. But to add to that anger, Republican voters have had to endure a party establishment who cares more about power and reelections than they do about upholding the Constitution, and fighting back against Obama’s all out assault on our freedoms, national security and economic revitalization. So Trump stepped into a perfect storm and has been a master at tapping into the base emotions of voters, with a message that sells to the disgruntled masses.
While the overriding theme of the Convention this week is Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign has played brilliantly off that theme to devise a relevant emphasis each day as follows:
Monday: Make America Safe Again
Tuesday: Make America Work Again
Wednesday: Make America First Again
Thursday: Make America One Again
I wouldn’t deny that these are all worthy topics and aspirations, but as I’ve considered Trump’s Make America Great Again theme, I believe the New York billionaire is attempting to place the cart before the horse. It’s as if Trump’s seeking to build one of his skyscrapers before digging the foundation. Sadly, many of the American people have eagerly embraced Donald’s message, believing they can simply don a baseball cap, elect a businessman, and the nation’s course will be reversed, with Great days ahead, absent any personal sacrifice or change.
In order for a business to achieve greatness, it requires a superior product or service, with a comprehensive approach and attention to the way it treats its employees, suppliers, investors and even its community. Similarly, a person will only be truly great, if that person possesses the inner qualities that lead to greatness: humility, service, wisdom, courage, forgiveness, trustworthiness, and more. In years gone by, the word that was often used to describe these qualities was virtue: “behavior showing high moral standards.”
So can a nation be Great, as in “superior in character or quality” without being Good or virtuous? Clearly Trump’s message suggests, by the use of the word “Again,” that America is no longer Great. And if that is accurate, which I believe it is, then what was it that led to America’s greatness in the past? Was it merely the desire or goal of being great, by those before us, that led to America becoming great? Or was it based on some other qualities our forefathers and grandfathers possessed, that led to our nation becoming the greatest nation this world has ever known?
I would suggest that to be great, America cannot simply seek to be great, anymore than wishing to be a great company can cause a business to excel. Greatness results from small, daily routines when others are not watching that flow from conscious decisions that ultimately develop into one’s character. Greatness is not the end goal but rather it is a by-product of other disciplines.
If America is to become great again, it will not be as a result of a mere focus on greatness but it will rather flow from a commitment to the individual attributes that lead to greatness. Those attributes must be developed in our lives, and consciously taught and passed on to the lives of our children. There is a famous quote that we have all heard before: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Sadly, the current destiny of our nation has resulted from the thoughts, actions, habits and character that we have developed individually and collectively as a people. Our fall from greatness will not be restored with mere political victories and cheap cliches that induce warm and fuzzy emotions. Rather, it will require each of us to take serious inventory of our own character to determine how and where we have contributed to the current course of our nation. And as we identify our own flaws and weaknesses, we must then be willing to make the hard changes in our own lives and thus begin the more difficult but absolutely crucial changes to right the course of our nation. Only when we do so can we #MakeAmericaGoodAgain.
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.” Patrick Henry
On this Memorial Day, our collective thoughts as Americans turn to those men and women throughout the history of our nation who gave their all so that we might continue to enjoy the “blessings of liberty.” Whether those unselfish patriots laid down their lives in 1776 as a result of “the shot heard ’round the world” or perhaps more recently as our fellow citizens gave their lives half way around the world, or even here in Chattanooga last July, there is no greater act of love, sacrifice or commitment than the one they demonstrated.
Clearly on this Memorial Day, there is no more fitting act of honor or tribute than for each of us to take some quiet time to reflect on their lives, their heroism and their legacy.
As I’ve reflected about these gone but not forgotten patriots, their acts of sacrifice should cause us to feel a sense of great responsibility and accountability. Should we not then respond in some deliberate manner to acknowledge the worth of their lives and the value they placed on our country?
One life is of immeasurable worth. Exponentially though, over a million lives, sacrificed for our nation over these 240 years, demand our attention and our action. We must go beyond an annual recognition that honors our fallen heroes and make our own “sacrifices.”
While most of us will never be called to lay down our lives for our nation, surely we can lay down a TV remote, or a golf club and at least give back a few hours a month to the nation in which we have been so blessed to live. There are hundreds of ways that you and I can rise up to defend and protect our nation’s future on a daily basis but we must be intentional about doing so. As you do so though, I encourage you to share your commitment and your plans with a friend or family member and then together, step up and give back to this wonderful nation.
Finally, this day of reflection reminds me of another Truth expressed 2,000 years ago by a man whose life exemplifies love, sacrifice and commitment. This God-man we know as Jesus, left the blessings and comforts of heaven and declared this Truth:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
But Jesus did not just speak this Truth. He too sacrificed His life for you and me, so that we could also enjoy the blessings of liberty by embracing Him and His message.
On this special day, as we remember and honor our fallen service men and women, let’s also honor the One to whom we ultimately owe the blessings of liberty: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.