Three women sat in the corner of the coffee shop, talking about holiday plans, sharing, supporting.
Alice, the youngest of the three, was still a newlywed. Beth had celebrated her 10th anniversary last summer while Claire and her husband were fast approaching 30 years.
Alice: This big Thanksgiving meal scares me to death!
Beth: Why? It’s just another meal.
Alice: There’s so much to do, and I want it all to go right. What if the turkey is dry? What if the mashed potatoes are lumpy? I don’t even know how to make green bean casserole. What if I mess this up? What if Alan is sitting across the table wondering if the whole marriage was a mistake?
Beth: If he’s not grateful for all the time you put in, the next time, you serve him mac-and-cheese! That’s how I handle Bob. I make sure he knows everything I do. Husbands might forget, or they just might not notice. I say that our men need to be reminded of how lucky they are!
Alice: Claire, what do you think?
Claire: Honey, was “a perfect Thanksgiving dinner” part of your wedding vows to Alan?
Alice: No, of course not. Why?
Claire: What did Alan say? Not what do you think he might have meant or what are you afraid of; what did he say?
Alice: He promised he’d love, honor, comfort, cherish…sickness and health…for better and for worse…till death parts us. Why?
Claire: Then believe him. Take him at his word. No one forced him to marry you. Trust that he really meant all those things apart from a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Do your best; look for recipes, ask advice, borrow stuff, but don’t make the mistake of mingling your cooking next Thursday with his love for you.
In these friends, we see two approaches toward marriage:
- At first, Beth sounds like the complete opposite of Alice, but take away Alice’s fear and replace it with pride, and she is Beth. Both of these women have mingled the unconditional vows of their marriages with their daily behavior. Alice lives in uncertainty, unsure of her husband’s love. Beth lives in defiance and arrogance, convinced that she has earned her husband’s love. Neither attitude is what marriage really is.
- In contrast, Claire believes the promises that were freely made to her, promises that have nothing to do with how well she can prepare a turkey.
How do you approach God? The natural way is the way of works, the way of behavior. Like Alice, this approach might manifest itself as fear and constant worry that you haven’t done enough to have God love you. Scripture answers that fear very simply: you haven’t. Like Beth, this approach shows itself in pride, mistakenly thinking that you have been good enough, devout enough, sincere enough to have God love you. Again, you haven’t.
The natural approach is the approach of the Law, but whether we are afraid that we haven’t done enough or confident that we have, the truth is we haven’t. Another word for this is “ourselves,” and that is no way to approach God.
Claire’s attitude is what Christian marriage really is, and Claire’s attitude is what the Christian faith really is: Trust in God’s promise, have faith in the words He has said, believe that He means exactly what He says.
Your God has made you promises—promises confirmed in your Savior. “For all the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
This is the path of life, living, loving, and even cooking Thanksgiving dinners, confident of God’s love for us.
Tony Pittenger is pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Port Orchard, Washington.