The Strangest Marriage Proposal…..Ever

This past month marked 10 years since Steph and I were engaged. It has been an amazing journey for the two of us, and I am thrilled that the Lord has blessed me with such a wonderful wife. With it being 10 years since our engagement, I got to thinking about how it all went down.

 

Steph and I started our long distance relationship back in April of 2007 (how we met is another story altogether…..I will save that for another time). I was in seminary in Vancouver, BC while Steph was in Ohio just starting off her counselling career. With there being 2500 miles that separated us, we had a lot of really long phone conversations, a lot of emails, and I took three trips out to Ohio. Then in early November of 2007, Steph was finally able to make the journey out to Vancouver to visit me and see where I was studying in preparation for pastoral ministry.

 

For a few weeks prior, I had been planning my proposal. Steph and I had talked a lot about marriage and we were already starting to plan for our wedding, but I had led her to believe that I wouldn’t propose until February. Everything was planned out perfectly……I thought. After picking Steph up at the airport, I would propose in my borrowed Dodge Caravan. I attached the ring to a string and tied the string to the sun visor on the passenger side. I knew it was going to be a great engagement proposal and a great surprise for Steph!

 

As I drove down to the airport in Bellingham, Washington, I was excited. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for us, but I knew Steph was the woman for me. I arrived safely and in plenty of time, and now all I had to do was wait for my future bride. Steph had managed to find a $10 direct flight from Columbus, Ohio (seriously….. a $10 flight – look up “Skybus” if you don’t believe me). When she arrived, we hugged and kissed and made our way back to the van. Here is where things started to get interesting.

 

When we got in the van, the first thing I told Steph was that she had something on her face. I told her she should look in the mirror so she could get it off. Of course, she didn’t really, but this was a way to get her to pull down the sun visor and look in the mirror. In retrospect, telling your girlfriend and future wife that she has something on her face right after a 5 hour flight is not the nicest thing, nor is it the best plan to start off a proposal. Not surprisingly, Steph was embarrassed, but she went ahead and pulled down the visor to look in the mirror. As she pulled down the visor, the ring on the string came down and landed pretty much where I wanted it to land……right in front of her face. Remarkably, Steph didn’t notice it. As I watched this play out, I was almost in shock. My perfect proposal plan wasn’t working out as planned. The only thing I could think of to say was, “Steph you still got something on your face.” Even more embarrassed, Steph looked back toward the mirror and this time she saw the ring! Presumably, this should have been where I started in with my perfectly worded proposal, but I was so tongue tied that I said nothing at all. Steph, on the other hand, simply said, “really?” We hugged and kissed and laughed and I put the engagement ring on her finger. Whew! Soon were on our way up to Vancouver.

 

So it was that through these unpredictable happenings, that we were engaged on November 8, 2007. And while it’s probably not the strangest engagement proposal ever, it is rather comical that I never actually asked Stephane to marry me and she never actually said “yes” or “no.” I guess Steph’s “really?” was all we needed. I got the outcome I was looking for and that’s all that mattered. The next 8 months would be a long wait for us, but on July 26, 2008, we were married and we have enjoyed a very happy marriage. I praise God for giving me Stephane as a wife.

 

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2:14

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27

10 Purposes of Marriage

1. Companionship: “Then the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3).

 

2. Enjoyment: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

 

3. Completeness: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man (Adam) said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:22-24).

 

4. Fruitfulness: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

 

5. Protection:

A. The husband is to protect the wife by laying down his life for her. “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  B. The wife is to protect the home. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

 

6. Typify Christ and the Church: Marriage is to be a human object lesson of the divine relationship between Christ and believers. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

7. Sanctification: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) It will be readily acknowledged that living in close proximity with another person has a way of exposing our warts and bumps and bruises (in short, our sin). We see our own pride and selfishness in ways we can’t when isolated. God can and will use this to make us more like Jesus and to give us victory over indwelling sin.

8. Support and Trust: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil….a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12). “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain” (Proverbs 31:10-11).

9. Mutual Honor and Respect: “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

10. The Glory of God: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). This is the goal of everything, including marriage.

The Relationship Between Sex and Knowing Christ

“Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.  Knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”  So argues John Piper in his book “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.”

In order to help the reader better understand what he means, he restates these two points negatively.  “All misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  All misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.” Still a little fuzzy?  Try this one:  “All sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.”

To say that the purpose of sex is intense physical pleasure for husband and wife along with procreation would not be wrong, but Piper takes us beyond a basic understanding of sex to its deeper meaning.  Too often Christians have a distorted view of sex, having been more influenced by the world than by the Scriptures.  In some circles, the topic of sex is taboo and we forget that the Bible is not silent when it comes to this subject.  I remember one of my professors in seminary giving us his own personal paraphrase to Genesis 1:28, which the ESV translates, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  My professor’s paraphrase went something like this: “Have sex and have lots of it!”  All humor aside, God created sex and it is clearly a “good” thing, when it happens in its proper, God-ordained context – marital love.

Few Christians would argue that God intends for us to know Christ more fully.  Paul even said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ.”  So how can we know Christ more fully?  A typical evangelical response might go something like this – through prayer, bible study, fellowship, and worship and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  But let’s return to Piper and his thesis – “Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.”  Perhaps we could now add sex to the list.

Piper writes, “God created us in his image, male and female, with personhood and sexual passions, so that when he comes to us in this world there would be these powerful words and images to describe the promises and pleasures of our covenant relationship with him through Christ.  God made us powerfully sexual so that he would be more deeply knowable.  We were given the power to know each other sexually so that we might have some hint of what it will be like to know Christ supremely.  Therefore, all misuses of our sexuality (adultery, fornication, illicit fantasies, masturbation, pornography, homosexual behavior, rape, sexual child abuse, bestiality, exhibitionism, and so on) distort the true knowledge of God.  God means for human sexual life to be a pointer and foretaste of our relationship with him.”

One of the ways this can be illustrated is in Genesis 4.  “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.”  Adam’s knowledge of his wife obviously refers to sexual intercourse.  There is a much deeper intimacy and knowledge that comes through sex than through any other type of relationship, which is why God has reserved this privilege for those who are married and have become “one flesh.”  Husband and wife have the great privilege of growing in this “knowledge” for the rest of their earthly lives together. And as Piper stated earlier, God intends for sexuality to be a pointer and a foretaste of our relationship with him.  God does not intend for us to simply know things about him.  I have met Christians who equate knowledge of God with knowing facts about the bible and being able to quote scripture by memory.  In contrast to that, God’s desire for His children is that they might move beyond mere “head knowledge” to a deep and intimate knowledge of their Creator.

To be sure, marital love is only a foretaste of what awaits God’s children at the coming of their Savior, but what a powerful reminder it is!  As it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

So what does knowing Christ have to do with guarding and guiding our sexuality?

To quote once again from John Piper, “not only do all the misuses of our sexuality serve to conceal or distort the true knowledge of God in Christ, but it also works powerfully the other way around: the true knowledge of God in Christ serves to prevent the misuses of our sexuality.  So, on the one hand, sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully.  And, on the other hand, knowing Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:3.  “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Christians know that sexual purity is important, but we also know that it is a challenge, given our toxic culture.  There are temptations all around and it’s easy for our purity to be compromised. The solution is not to simply give in and say “everyone is doing it so it’s ok.” The solution is to flee from the temptation and trust that God will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).  As Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: That you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)  Notice how at the end of that passage we are told that the Gentiles “do not know God.”  In contrast, those who know God are committed to sanctification – to pleasing God in everything they do, including their sexuality.

As Piper concludes, “If the Scripture teaches that truly knowing God – truly knowing Christ – guards and guides and governs our sexuality in purity and love, then we may be sure that anyone whose sexuality is not governed and guarded and guided in purity and love does not know God – at least not as he ought.”

The Gift of Marriage

Stephane and I were married four years ago today – July 26th, 2008. I am grateful to God for my wife and I would like to share some of the things I have learned from our marriage:

1. The importance of praying together.  Steph and I pray together every day. As the saying goes, “couples that pray together, stay together.” Praying together is a constant reminder that Christ must be at the center of our marriage. I love our wedding theme verse: “a triple-braided cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

2. How much God loves us.  Marriage is to be a reflection of the type of love and intimacy we can have with God. Just like the marital relationship, our Lord desires that we enjoy a deep knowledge of Him, not just a superficial knowledge. In this sense, it is amazing to me how instructive marriage can be when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.

3. I am a sinner.  Ok, ok, I guess I knew that before.  But marriage has a way of exposing all those warts and ugly character traits that we used to be able to hide. After a few years of marriage, I am much more aware of my own selfishness, pride, and sinfulness in general than ever before.

4. As head of our home, I have a lot more responsibilities.  It used to be that I only had to look out for myself and my own interests.  Now I have a family that I am responsible for.  Obviously, this is a huge change from my pre-marriage days, but at the same time it is a good change. And even though I am the head of our home (1 Corinthians 11:3), there have been many times where the Lord has told me – LISTEN TO HER – SHE IS MY GOOD GIFT TO YOU! These are the moments where I must submit (Ephesians 5:21) and listen to my wife.  All honest husbands will affirm the need for this.

5.  The Lord takes care of us.  There have been many issues that we have had to deal with in our relationship (just like any couple), but the Lord has taken care of us every step of the way.  God has brought us to a new level of faith we could have never anticipated four years ago. To God be the glory, great things he has done!

6.  Our love keeps growing over time.  Before we got married, it was hard to imagine loving Stephane any more than I already did. But after four years of marriage, I can honestly say our love for one another just keeps on growing. This is a reminder that our love for the Lord should also keep growing and multiplying.

To summarize, marriage is a gift from God and can be incredibly rewarding when you keep Christ at the center of it. I am not saying there won’t be trials and difficulties along the way, but a Christ-centered couple can always trust that God will see you through and give you grace in your time of need.

Marriage as an Instructor in the Grace of God

It is safe to say that we are all tolerant of imperfection. We are surrounded by a bunch of sinners (Romans 3:23) who constantly break the law of God. The bible tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9). Now that you know this is not going to be one of those “try to make you feel good columns,” you can brace yourself. Of course, when we speak of the gospel, the good news always follows the bad news. Yes, we are humbled by the reality of our depravity, but only when we truly understand our condition can we also marvel and rejoice at the grace of God in Christ.

Perhaps one of the reasons we are tolerant and accepting of the imperfections of others is because we know we are no different. If I were to demand perfection from others, I would be required to hold myself to that same standard and I know I can’t do that. Something that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that my wife tolerates me even with all my imperfections. More than anyone else, Stephane has to put up with me and sometimes (I hate to write this) be hurt by me. If you are married, the person you will hurt more than anyone else is your spouse. Obviously, this has something to do with the fact that you spend so much time together, but how tragic that the person with whom you love so much is also the person you hurt so much.

I have only been married for 3 and a half years, but my wife’s acceptance of me (flaws and all) has taught me something of the grace of God. It reminds me of how God is accepting of me even though I am a deeply sinful man. Unlike us, God cannot be accepting of imperfection. A holy God (Isaiah 6) cannot tolerate sin and unrighteousness. This is where the Son of God comes to our rescue. As Romans 5:8 explains, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What this tells us is that by no merit of our own can we be acceptable before God. It is only through the righteousness of Christ.

You ask; how can I receive this righteousness? How can I be made acceptable and worthy to stand before a holy God? Answer: through faith in Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). No amount of effort in your own strength could ever be enough to satisfy the demands of a just and holy God. However, the merit of Christ is sufficient satisfy those demands. Along with this, you must repent of your sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Marriage has brought a ton of blessings into my life, but one of the unexpected blessings was coming to a better understanding of the grace of God in Christ. Like we read in Proverbs, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12).