During the first week of the Young Engaged/Newlywed ministry (The group is called "Plugged In", so I'll refer it as that from now on), Pastor Tony spoke about Daniel 6:1-28. When he first started out, he read verses 1-28 out loud, and after he read it, I thought "Oh no! I don't really understand this that well...and how in the world does this passage have anything to do with building a stronger marriage? It doesn't talk anything about marriage!" I figured that it wouldn't be exactly what I was looking for in terms of why Garrett and I wanted to attend Plugged In (to build a stronger relationship to create a bind between him, myself, and God).
(BTW-I'm going to start putting my favorite thoughts in purple to make them stand out to me among the rest of my words)
Then, after Tony read these versus from Daniel 6, he wanted everyone to split up into groups of five, and all the groups had to have all girls or all boys. Again, I started to get really nervous since I'm very shy around people I don't know, and even though I had broken the ice with many of the attendees at the beginning of the meeting, I was nervous to interact with them without Garrett being my social safety net! But it ended up being very rewarding, for I got to learn a lot more about some of the women in the ministry by learning a little bit about their relationship with God-always a privilege to have someone share something so special with you! When we were in our groups, we had to answer the question, "What does integrity mean?" My group and I came up with this answer: Integrity refers to a person's character and how they act when no one is watching them.
Then, once Tony started to talk again, I got inspired very quickly. He explained how Daniel 6 was very relevent to building a stronger marriage-Tony truly has a gift of interpreting the words of God! He made this chapter's message so clear and strong. Tony added on to our definition of integrity by saying: Having integrity means not having your life being broken up--your thoughts and actions are in perfect harmony. And that with integrity we think and act the same regardless of where we are at and who we are with.
He related a marriage to Daniel 6 by saying that in this chapter the king trusts Daniel to run his kingdom since he had integrity. For a king to trust someone with their kingdom...that person would have to have integrity...in other words, if the king gave this responsibility to Daniel, in which he pretty much put his dearest posession in Daniel's hands, then the king must have been 100% positive that once he turned his back Daniel wasn't going to metaphorically stab him in the back and ruin the kingdom. In a marriage, that's how trustworhy we have to be with one another. We are giving our mate our most treasured posession: our hearts. If we are trusting another person with our hearts, we need to know that the minute we turn our back that that person isn't going to wreck the gift we gave them.
Although it seems impossible to possess integrity (since many times we need to act differently at work than we would at home, etc.), that's what we need to strive for...especially in a marriage. In order to have an intimate, strong relationship, we need to feel that our mate has integrity, so that we can completely give our hearts to the Lord and our mate-and never feel like we have to look back in doing so for fear that our heart will be broken.
I thought that this was a great message...I never really realized how many different lives we lead and why it's so hard for people to possess integrity. But since the sermon each day I've been consciously aware of trying to be a person with integrity to strengthen my relationship with Garrett and the Lord.
The words of the Bible that have really stuck with me and inspired me this week was from the focus of our Sunday's service-which studied Acts 27:16-32. In this passage, Paul knows that the way to be safe when he and other men are on a boat in a storm in complete darkness is to look towards God and trust in him. The other men on the boat don't want to listen to Paul, and keep scrambling to not be in danger instead of turning to God for help and direction.
What Garrett and I learned from this study was that God is the person who controls the storm...therefore what He has the storm do is all for a purpose...He uses storms as a way to correct us, perfect us, and direct us. In Paul's case, God wanted to direct these men towards Himself. We all need to realize, such as Paul did in Acts, that in order to save ourselves, we need to admit that we are helpless on our own, but the good news is, is that as long as we have a ship (aka God), then we don't need to only rely on ourselves to be saved! Isn't it so generous of God that He makes it very clearly known that He never wants us to go through things on our own? That God lets us know constantly that He is always holding our hand every step through life, and that He is there to help us be saved? We also need to remind ourselves, that if we are always fortunate in everything in life and nothing bad happens to us, then we are constantly being saved on our own...but in order to find God and have a relationship with him, we need to jump ship when we realize we can't save ourselves without God...I think unfortunate things that happen all have their purpose. Afterall, if nothing unfortunate happened, then most people wouldn't have a reason to turn towards God's direction (As Pastor Bob put it, "Remember, the saved don't jump ship.").
When things don't work out exactly the way we have planned, we need to not try to keep fixing what went wrong and dwell on unfortunate things, we need to let the bad things go and build anew. For me, since I have had many unfortunate things occur during my childhood/teenage-hood, Acts 27 is particularly helpful to me, since it reminds me that sometimes the only way to be saved, is to be broken. And that I can't keep trying to rebuild my life-I need to let the destroyed life go-and start planning my new one.
I'm extremely blessed that I have God and Garrett in my life to be a part of my bigger, better, and brighter journeys!