This next month I will be celebrating 24 years of marriage to the most amazing woman I know. Woohoo!!! I’ve learned a lot on the journey – not just about the “we” that my bride and I share, but about the “me” that I bring to the “we”.
There’s a phrase that kids say (or at least they did when I was young): “Finders keepers, losers weepers!” When I found my wife, I definitely knew then (and I know now)… she’s a keeper. What I would learn (and I am continuing to learn) is that, unlike the kid phrase, losers aren’t weepers… they’re keepers.
Let me explain what I mean.
In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, we find some profound instruction for our lives, including a very gory solution for dealing with the threat of destructive sin:
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” - Matthew 5:27-30 (NLT) Emphasis Added
Woah! Jesus, we get it. Adultery and lust aren’t good. But self-inflicted removal of an eye or a limb? Is that really THE solve? It depends on the value of what is at risk if one doesn’t take action. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Better to lose a part, THE part that is THE liability, then keep it and lose everything.”
One of the MANY significant things I have learned in these 24 years of marriage is as amazing and as beautiful as my wife is… as wonderful as my three daughters are… as valuable and cherished as my calling to ministry and seeing God transform people’s live is – I am not strong enough. The relentless onslaught of this oversexualized world on my male mind is more than I can withstand. This sobering realization has forced me to brutally admit two critical things:
First, I am not immune to self-sabotage and I am very capable of throwing it all away. It would just take the wrong situation and few bad decisions for my world to come crashing down.
Second, my ability to weather the storms of temptation and sin is not determined or made possible by the depth of love for my wife, kids or calling. Trust me, I love them deeply. Sadly, the problem is, love isn’t enough. Why? Lust is not rational. It doesn’t weigh out pros and cons, pluses and minuses. It wants its own way, regardless of cost.
So, in the face of these dark realities, what’s been my answer? Lose.
I’ve had to be willing to lose what’s costing me most, in order to keep what matters most.
This is what it has looked like for me:
I’ve chosen… to lose the right to access the internet anonymously (no free-range roaming for me). I installed monitoring software on all my devices – my phone, my iPad, my laptop. My wife and my Growth Group (dear trusted friends who are my accountability partners) all get reports on where I go, what I take in. It has cost me privacy. And I welcome it. I’m better for it, as they share my desire for the best version of me.
I’ve chosen… to lose the right to use certain apps, deleting ones that have vulnerabilities, places to hide, areas that have stuff that can taint my heart and mind. My vocation involves certain social media tools like Instagram where the content in the Explorer tab for me is too alluring to be exposed. So, I install those kinds of apps to do some work and then delete them after I’m done – letting my accountability partners know. The hassle is worth it.
I’ve chosen… to lose the right to watch certain TV programs. It has cost me the ability to sit with my family to enjoy certain shows like Dancing with the Stars (my mind can’t handle the scantily dressed women doin’ their thing). I had to admit to myself, it was more than just dancing. I had to say no, for me… because it affects all those who my life touches.
I’ve chosen… to lose the right to sit at Starbucks with certain view of customers who are coming and going (thanks a lot yoga pants!). If you know me, I’m not a style curmudgeon. I think fashion is fantastic. I just don’t want to be exposed to clothes that leave little to the imagination.
All my examples above involve things that, in and of themselves, aren’t necessarily bad. But they have been areas that are a challenge for me, where I have needed to own as my liabilities – kind of like the examples given by Jesus, referenced earlier in Matthew 5 (eyes and hands aren’t bad, it’s what they lead a person to that He suggested a person should take action on). Note that this action, is the responsibility of each person, not God. It would sure be nice if He would just whisk away all my messes and threats, but He doesn’t. Rather, He asks me to take a long hard look at myself, own what is contributing to my well-being, or lack thereof, and make the necessary (even painful) decisions to eliminate what is leading to my destruction.
The struggle is VERY real. Fact is, it will never go away. Every single day, I face the question: Do you want to keep what really matters and be who you’ve said you desire to be? If so, I have to continue to choose to lose what is leading me to wrong, in order to keep what is right.
The vows I made to my bride 24 years ago were for a lifetime. I am committed to that end… even if means I get there, gazing at my wife, with only one eye! It’s worth it. She’s worth it.
Losers are indeed keepers.
How about you? What do you have to lose?
If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. - Matthew 10:39 (NLT)
Each time he [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)
This Saturday, January 26th, the men of our church are gathering to be UncomMen. The subject will include practical ways to be pure. Come join us!