Burl Cain, warden for Angola Prison in Louisiana, once said that no earthly thing can change a man, only Jesus can. He became warden over a prison that was once called the bloodiest place on earth. Back in the fifties and sixties, no one came out of there alive, and no one served their full term. This gutsy man proved that only Jesus can change a man. I learned that the hard way.
Here’s what I have learned in the past 50 years:
Foremost lesson is what I learned from the study of Nehemiah: Bring everything to God before any action takes place. Paul backs that up, too. The second is like it: Bring anger promptly before God and lay it at His feet before the first word passes the lips. Doing this saves lots of heartache and keeps relationships whole, viable, and tender. I cannot say that I do this all the time. I am impetuous and stubborn. Imagine that! However, when I do follow the above, I have found that I can give God glory rather than embarrass Him.
There are other things that I have learned which seem almost obvious, yet the lessons came hard won.
- I do not believe the world's assertion that there is ONLY one true love. Love is a choice. I know this for many reasons. (More on that in a bit.)
- More money only magnifies the character of a person. If the person has a bad character (lies, cheats, greedy, etc.) more money will just make those flaws worse. If he/she is generous, generosity abounds. If thrifty, then thrift abounds.
- The bad habits a boy has will get worse when he grows older. Once a person “gets away” with something, they will get more daring stretching the envelope until caught or deeply mired in the quicksand of their own making. I watched this happen to someone who wound up in prison for his illegal escapades.
- Repentance sometimes brings the blessing of not having to pay the consequence of a sin, but more often than not, we do pay the consequences. Praise God we do not have to pay the ultimate price for Jesus did this already on the cross.
- A woman will never change a man.
- A baby will never change a man.
- The only thing that changes a man is Jesus. If a man has no discipline before he’s married, he will have less discipline when he’s married. If a man loves Jesus and lives Christ-like, then marriage will magnify that, and children will magnify that. It is more desirable to have a man like this than to have one with no discipline. In other words Bad Boys remain Bad Boys and do not make good husbands, unless Jesus changes the man.
- There is no bottom to the depths of a woman’s heart who is in love.
- Just because a person says he loves Jesus does not mean that he actually does love Jesus.
- Minor Character flaws really do matter. If he lies to others, he’ll lie to you. If he steals from work, he’ll steal from you. If he is unfaithful to his work and to his boss, he won’t be faithful to you. If he is not a good money manager before marriage, he’ll be even worse after marriage because he’ll have your money, too. If he has bad credit before he marries, he’ll ruin yours after he marries you.
- When a man prays, keeps his word, reads his Bible, he may seem unexciting and dull. But, those are the kinds of men that are anchors in the storms of life. These kinds of men make great best friends, and will remain loyal throughout life. If his jokes are kind, if he is uncritical, if his friends are kind, honest and loyal then he will be the same kind of man 30 years from now.
Love is a choice, therefore Christians should not consider divorce an option. Getting up and looking at the person you've been married to for the past 5, 7, 10 years and thinking “I don't like him much” is not a reason for divorce. It truly is a passing phase. When two people love the Lord first and the other second, there is no such thing as “growing apart.” It cannot happen. This growing apart is the result of selfishness. Maybe I should say that again. True believers in Christ cannot grow apart because they possess the Holy Spirit that binds them as a third chord. (Ecc. 4:12)
It takes hard work and total commitment to keep a marriage healthy. When a couple decides to marry, there is the conscious and deliberate decision to commit to one another. The love between them comes from God and with His nurturing, that love will continue until death. When the couple lives as two individuals with selfish attitudes that leaves God out of the equation, this is when the marriage begins to fail. When the individual comes first before the mate...when the selfish desire takes precedence over the mate’s pleasure, then the death throes of the marriage begin. The only way a marriage will last is when both have a greater desire to please the other in everything rather than selfishly pleasing himself or herself. The same as how we are supposed to be with Jesus--being more concerned about pleasing Him than ourselves.
However, there are covenant breakers such as, lascivious behavior, adultery, verbal/physical abuse, child abuse. First pray, pray, pray for the one caught in Satan’s web exhibiting this kind of behavior. Yes, a true believer can act that way, and can destroy the marriage. But remember Satan is out to kill, steal, and destroy anything that God has created and loves. Christian marriage is top on his list of things to devour. When counseling doesn't help and the behavior doesn’t stop, then pack the clothes and lock the door because those things are not “as into the Lord” and God has no intention for us to continue in a life filled with that. After all, He divorced Israel over the same kinds of behavior. God intended marriage to be like Song of Solomon, a courtship full of respect and excitement. I believe marriage to be like Psalms. Joy in one person to the exclusion of all others in that way. Being dependent upon the Lord for all things and relying upon one’s mate to keep their covenant involves a great deal of trust.
While it seems like it, betrayed trust is not the end-all of marriage. God requires forgiveness. He forgave; we must forgive. That is a very hard thing to do. When two Believers marry, then divorce is not an option. You can depend upon heartache and pain when two people come together. That is part of our human nature. However, you can be angry, and not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, (Eph 4:26). Absolutely joy comes in the morning.
Self-control is part of the Fruit of the Spirit. It requires a great deal of self-control to live harmoniously with another person. God will guard our tongues as well as our thoughts if we ask Him to have control over them. It brings Him glory and isn’t that what all this is about?
Ecc. 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not easily broken. Ecc. 12:6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.