What can you say about a society that says God is dead and Elvis is alive?
— Irv Kupcinet
Elvis was a whole lot of fun to watch during his younger years. I can be seen occasionally wiggling and singing to any number of his songs when I hear them on the radio or catch one of his movies. His status as a cultural icon —along with our society’s continual fascination with the minute details of his life so long after his death — eludes me, however. God gave him good looks and talent and opportunity. Elvis quickly allowed excess to rule his life. He struggled to manage the fame and money and available women and died tragically drug addicted. Not only were the circumstances of his death pitiful, but they were downright ugly. And may I dare say that it appears he has a former wife, girlfriends, and a daughter who still live with some degree of pain and destruction. What kind of man is this?
Not only are many of the personal facts we know about Elvis unfortunate, but so is the message believed by so many: A couple cannot possibly fall in love, marry, build a family, then stay happily married as empty nesters until death parts them — especially in the entertainment industry. Most people head into marriage positive and hopeful, but an enormous number stall out somewhere along the way. Far too many married couples are unprepared for the hard work or they get too focused on their children and allow their marriages to quietly die from neglect. Others grow disenchanted when the continual challenges of everyday life seem to dissolve the natural high new love produces.
It is when married couples experience long, dark stretches in their relationships that too many begin to believe that their relationships are too sick to fix. They embrace the “fresh start” approach when they should have ramped up their efforts early on when problems began to appear. They do not realize or are unwilling to discover that amazing human growth frequently happens in the midst of trial and tribulation. Human beings grow strong when the wind is blowing. So can marriages. And our children deserve to see trial and reconciliation.
I long ago asked Christ to enter my life because I understood that I do not possess the knowledge, wisdom, patience, strength and endurance to live as well as I want to live on my own. When I married 25 years ago, with the intention to be a happy partner for life, I understood that I could not possibly do it without him. And may I say that this approach to life as a married individual goes well beyond a simple outlook, strategy, or philosophy. To ask Christ to be a part of your marriage is to ask the living God himself to participate, inter-relate, influence, and bond you with your spouse on a daily basis.
How do you move to those levels with God? Some days easily, joyfully, wondrously. I often experience those easily detectable emotional highs and surges of love and affection when I watch my husband work within his profession or when we sneak away for a coffee date to connect with each other and build life plans. I also sense God is near when big concerns like paying for two kids in college at once are tempered by new strategies and an illogical sense of peace. These kinds of moments in my life amaze me so my spirit soars: God possesses intimate understanding of our circumstances and he is actively caring for us!
Then the clouds blow in. Your parent is aging and sudden health issues demand that you must strategize and come to consensus about living arrangements with adult siblings. A friend experiences terrible loss and you worry that you will not know how to be supportive for an untold amount of time as they work through the various stages of grief. Your child is struggling. Your cholesterol levels have soared. Your tired old car has an engine in need of an expensive overhaul. You may be out of a job as your company downsizes. Perhaps you are unemployed and long for work. It is during these times of great emotional stress that Christians ask for the living God to draw near. We set our alarms early and get up to pray. We complicate already busy schedules with Bible study because God’s wisdom is spoken through the Bible and through other believers. We haul ourselves out of bed on Sundays because corporate worship and prayer invites God into our presence. We volunteer and are inspired. Our eyes begin to see God’s daily touch.
Let us stop, at this very moment, living only by natural impulse and ask God to be a spiritual reality this week as we look into the faces of our spouses, searching for the kind of love and companionship and passion needed as we face our own realities. May God be direct. May he be real. May he help us live deeper and better because our spouses deserve the best in us and we cannot possibly face this life of ours on our own.