Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Fixing the sinkhole

It's time to stop kidding ourselves and love one another for real

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

At the cemetery where I do my 2.7 miles every morning, there was a sinkhole the size of a Buick hard by the stream near the last bend in the road. They kept filling it in with gravel but two weeks later it went back to the way it was. They would throw orange cones or sawhorses around it, but everybody knew it was a disaster waiting to happen. Finally, I understand the township got after them, and then I saw trucks with heavy-duty equipment for a few days on end, and the road hasn't caved in since.

There are the things we do when we are still kidding ourselves, and the things we do when we get serious.

They come in like damaged goods, my friend Linda said through tears at the Keswick Diner about her fourth-graders in a Philadelphia Christian school. One troubled student said to her: "My parents are not acting like parents; they yell and slam doors."

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By the statistics, Christian America isn't doing marriage seriously yet. A book called The Marriage Builder that a man gave me for babysitting 30 years ago contained the neat insight that good marriages happen when we "minister" rather than "manipulate." I loved the mnemonic device, and underlined that baby, yellow-highlighted it, and spouted it to anyone who would listen. I did everything but use it. Using it is always the missing link. I reaped what I sowed.

It is time to face the fact that, as Nikabrik said, our wallet is empty, our eggs are addled, our fish are uncaught, and our promises broken. One more church seminar will not fix the sinkhole. The problem is we have been attempting to obey Christ at the same time as holding onto our rights-attempting to love God at the same time as loving gods of happiness. The antics look like Drizella forcing her ungainly clodhoppers into Cinderella's slipper. The no longer avoidable truth is that we may have our rights or we may follow Christ, but we may not have both.

The issue of stark choice came up in the Corinthian church, and Paul scolded: "... brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud-even your own brothers" (1 Corinthians 6:5-8).

I know that tone of voice. It's the tone that has been preceded by plenty of gentler admonitions-about the importance of bearing with one another's weaknesses (Colossians 3:13), and pursuing love (1 Corinthians 14:1), and the sweetness of unity (Psalm 133:1). But since the velvet glove isn't working, Paul puts it point blank: You have to ask yourself, Corinthians: How much would I be willing to put up with rather than dishonor God? Look around you, your testimony is already trashed. How about something revolutionary-like giving up what you're entitled to in a relationship? Remember when some of you "joyfully accepted the plundering of your property" (Hebrews 10:34)? And why did you do it? Because "you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one."

When there is strife in a marriage, somebody needs to die who hasn't died yet. Paul said, "I die every day!" (1 Corinthians 15:31). Does God lower His standards for Americans? The apostle sucked up insult without striking back; he just loved. Never mind Paul. Jesus, "when He was reviled ... did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten." How could He do it? He "continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23). It is the same way you and I can do it-and we can. For we "ought to walk in the same way in which He walked" (1 John 2:6).

Pharaoh kept kidding himself-through gnats and frog infestations-that he could avert the inevitable. His servants got the nerve to be blunt: "Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?" (Exodus 10:7). The time is short now, and our suffering is light and momentary and "preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Let us love one another for real and not just keep patching over the old sinkhole.

Email aseupeterson@worldmag.com

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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