A poncho.

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             ‘He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.’ I. Watts

             for all my dear single friends – REJOICE – you do not have ‘ this itchy problem’!

My mum came to visit us this year.  She had brought knitting wool that  I thought would make into a lovely poncho. The minute my mum feels it is an inspirational idea, she is on it. Next thing I know she is already knitting away.  A couple of days later, voilà, a sheer piece of art, my new poncho, was ready!

It looked simply stunning. I could not wait to try it, but the minute I did, it felt so itchy. Unbearable to wear! The weather was still sunny and hot. I had a T- shirt on and the wool was rubbing on my bare skin. All I wanted  to do is to get rid of it.  A Russian wool.  It looked the best quality ever…. but at the same time you could not enjoy it.  I can’t wear synthetic ‘wool’.  Instantly I feel like a Sweaty Betty.  All I could do is to laugh through this disappointment. Russia, as a country, is an amazing place, but …… if you have  ‘an itchy problem’, you will be tested to the core and  you can’t  express your ‘weaknesses’ about it. I remember, before I left for California, the missionaries in Moscow were about to lose their place  to stay. It was a time of trials in the heart of  the winter, the weather outside was -30 C at least, not the best time for moving. … if you have somewhere to move! The doors were slammed  in our faces anywhere we tried. I could never forget that feeling when you desperately need help, you wait for it, pray for it, but it doesn’t come soon enough.  My prayer partner and I had to go on two-week fast because we weren’t ready to show our ‘weakness’ about it. At times like that people’s character and faith in God are on a  ‘wool’s core test’ !

So,  this time I wasn’t willing to give in to some insignificant ‘itchy’ problem that this wool caused. Even though often little ‘itchy’ problems in relationships cause great damage. Like those little foxes ruining massive vineyards. I kept taking to friends about this ‘little itchy problem’. A friend suggested I rinse it off with ‘Comfort’. Strangely enough I had a bottle of ‘Comfort’ just sitting in the kitchen. My mother in law kindly gave  it to me ( unlike many Californians, in Britain everyone dries their clothes in the fresh air. It saves a fortune on the electricity bill, but it makes your clothes, especially the towels as a ‘sandpaper’).  The sheer smell of ‘Comfort’ knocks me off my feet though. No wonder I’ve  used it.  The deceptive label on the front of ‘clear blue skies and flowers’ only adds fuel to fire my anger. But out of  desperation I considered it. I don’t know how I survived this synthetic smell (the whole country does)  that seemed to penetrate my entire house! But I love the name, it is 10 out of 10  for the marketing department. This makes me think of the Holy Spirit who alone is effective in eliminating the ‘itchy problem’ in relationships, no wonder he is called  a Paraclete (Gr. παράκλητος, Latparacletus) meaning an Advocate or a Helper or…. a Comforter!

While I dealt with the ‘itchy problem’, I got thinking about family life. That’s what my every day looks like – time with the family.  Thinking while cleaning (that’s one positive point to such a frequent activity) is so useful. I remember having the most profound thought while cleaning the bottom of my wedding dress right after my marriage. It seemed to become a good habit. Having 13 years of marriage behind me now, I had first hand experience of what it feels like for two sinners to be married.

Not so long ago, I’ve noticed that I’m ‘a true daughter of Eve’. It only took  me many years of prayer  to realize. May be because I was busy having babies. But when I do get enlightened on something specific at long last, it is a BIG BOOM  effect. I find it so incredibly hard to admit my faults to others, especially my immediate family. Human sinful nature desires adoration at all cost, so why ruin it with those you see  daily?  My first reaction, even before I think about it properly, usually was: ‘ No, that was not me. NO, it is not like that. I haven’t said that. No, I haven’t done it.’ When I think about it not being emotionally involved, I’m rather astonished myself. But as two sinners rub on to each other as a wool does on bare skin, it will create a ‘itchy problem’.

On the other hand, my husband doesn’t have this particular ‘pride problem’ in a large dose as I do. He says almost straight away: ‘Yes. it was my fault.’ It spoils everything: you can’t further blame him, you can’t argue to find him guilty, you can’t do any further emotional accusations’ that much  with the person who plainly admits his fault except praise him and appreciate him in your heart. Such person isn’t ‘itchy’ to be around.

I’m convinced that most couples that I’ve met, both Christians and not, were matched perfectly. They balanced and complimented each other in so many ways. The first couple that comes to mind were my parents. My dad was an extreme introvert and a very private person. My mum knew every neighbor and beyond. She is the one who was on parent’s school committee and everywhere else. Their characters, joined together, were complete. But the ‘itchy problem’ of sin that Satan had created in the garden of Eden (remember Adam and Eve sewing clothing out of fig leaves to cover themselves) never goes away…. until God Himself interfere. It doesn’t matter how well matched and suited couples are. They will suffer with the ‘itchy problem of sin’ cause the enemy will make sure of it. Perhaps He starts his attacks with Christian couples, gets nowhere with some, defeats the others and goes in circles again and again. He is a powerful spiritual being, in fact more powerful than any human. That’s why a perfect character match, physical attraction and even higher intellect is simply not enough to keep the family safe from his attacks.  God Himself had to sacrifice an animal and use their skin to cover the first disobedient couple. Universally, in spite of an incredible, unfathomable technological progress, this problem of marriage between two sinners  remains just as unsolved outside of Jesus and His sacrifice for the sin.

One gifted counselor noticed something. He had a couple in this office that needed some help in their marriage. The problem seemed serious, but no one was claiming responsibility for it.  He said: ‘This is rather fascinating: a big problem and two innocent people. Even I can’t solve it.’

What I believe is helpful is to learn from each other and copy each other good qualities. Ask for forgiveness often. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ This is the best spiritual daily exercise I know of . So, the first thing you want to know about a person you are about to marry, how is their prayer life? I would.  Over time it is only going to get more difficult and complicated with children coming along. It will make a wife stationary for a while in life, will strip her figure for a time or for good, will limit the time a couple has to themselves and the list can go on and on and on….

A very good illustration about copying each other qualities is this.  When I was first married I could not stand French brie or Camembert cheese. I didn’t even know if I liked ‘curry’ either. My husband loved Indian food & French cheese.  Over the years I fell in love with those two myself. Likewise, what is more important, some of the godly qualities  rubbed off on me as well. My husband was  so quick to forgive. I loved to sulk. He hated arguments. I loved to prove my point. So, over the years I had a good, opposite example to copy and pray about it. In his turn, my husband became a bit more expressive in his emotions. Early on in marriage, he told me that he could not understand how his mum would cry while watching a film: ‘this is not real at all ?’ I thought to myself:’ Oops. I would do the same if the story was moving!’  He became more compassionate, patient and generous among other things. And that is  one of the purposes of marriage I’m sure – to become more like Jesus ‘who is sweeter than a honeycomb‘. There is no better way than rub against someone who will speak ‘truth in love’ to you day in and day out. When we got married we both thought that we loved the Lord and were spiritual people. Only after a short while together, we doubted whether we are Christians at all ?!!  I’m sure this doesn’t have to be so intense and dramatic for all couples, but refining fire is not a joke at times.  Just have to keep your perspective fresh on what is going to come out of this.

We are both far from perfect yet. But we understand the Lord is still chipping away extra pieces from His masterpiece. He wants to make sure it won’t have a ‘itchy affect’ at all.  In fact, no fashion would be necessary. Imagine how much money can be saved?! Hey, who will think about money then. Hard to imagine yet. We love out assets now.  Don’t you love the definition of ‘an asset’ = ‘ is a resource controlled by the entity as a result of past events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the entity.’  

The reason why I even mention business here is because I’m still such a novice at it. I haven’t done much business in life. Buying and selling is just not my passion which must drive you to be successful.  But when your family grows as dough with the yeast you need to have some assets. After much prayer, I got myself involved in a small business. Naturally, I was worried at first. What was fascinating is that if you stay honest, apply what you know from the Bible through much prayer, you will have the best shot at it.  I knew about Christian business people who are doing well, but haven’t expected it to be that easy and straightforward. It is. The rest is just details and having a desire to learn will take you when you need to be.  The Bible does give the best advise to do any business successfully. Jesus, Logos, the Word was before any business ever was.itchy

The spiritual definition that I’ve worked out is this: Jesus secured His victory on the cross in the past to bring redemption of mankind in the future for their eternal benefit! Wow!!!

Let’s keep our family fire burning. It spreads warmth, love, hope for the completely victorious future, patience, fitfulness, perseverance, no matter what life and the enemy throws at us towards all. God has overcome the power of sin. So will we  by the power of the Holy Spirit. And if the Lord has you single, you life brings glory to Him just as much. At times it feels lonely, but it is ‘not unbearably itchy’ at least!  I’ve quoted above a line from Isaac Watts famous hymn ‘Joy to the world!’ He had to remain single all his life, (he felt in love with a poetess, she was naturally very fascinated by his writings, but when she met him, she decided that he wasn’t handsome enough to tempt her as Mr. Darcy puts it), but he had written sweet praise during his whole life to our Eternal, full of love and mercy, God! What a life that counted for Christ that was. Whichever your status in life is, with Christ – it matters even when time ceases!!!

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