I remember that first year of Marriage for my wife and I. It wasn’t easy, if I can be honest. I was working odd jobs and private contract work that took me away from home more often than not. The job I was doing consistently ended abruptly as the hours were becoming unmanageable (I was working from 5 am and ending my day at home planning the next day for hours), and we lost a vehicle in a traffic accident. Things seemed bleak and uncertain, and we bought groceries on credit cards, and had to figure things out. Yet, that honeymoon phase of the marriage seemed to get us through it. We overlooked a lot because we were in love, and things were new. It was like that song “Living on a Prayer,” we had each other, but that was a lot for love (the Lyrics go something like that).
When that phase was over, we had to grow and mature past it. We had to go deeper than that enamored love that was able to get us through the rough patches. We had to make tough decisions and choices that required faith and trust. We had to learn to trust God in our decision making, and trust Him to grow us as individuals and as a couple. The tough stuff was still there when the feelings of puppy love and warmth began to fade. A relationship has to deepen and grow or it will stagnate. As one old preacher once told me “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Can I admit to you that I get discouraged sometimes? I have been 3 years at my current ministry, and I can feel that the honeymoon phase is ending here. What I mean is this: typically, when a preacher is new, people will put up with an awful lot. They will go along with vision and mission ideas that they might not otherwise, because with a new preacher comes new ideas and fresh faces. It’s a sort of puppy love, as it were, because the relationship is so new. However, that eventually fades, and people begin to want to put things back where they were over time.
This has nothing to do with the preacher being wrong, or the people being wrong, it’s the time in the congregation where that relationship must deepen. Just as in marriage, we have to grow together. We have to constantly mature, or we will stagnate. God’s Church is called to constantly grow in to His image, and we’re told that in Him, we will be growing throughout eternity. There is nothing stagnate about relationship with God, not now, nor in eternity. It’s constant growth. And so my charge is this to all believers: stop looking for the familiar once the excitement dies down in each phase of your walk with Christ, and in the walk you have at your local congregation. If we’re not growing, we’re dying, individually and together. When the honeymoon is over, seek to mature, to grow, to deepen in Christ daily, by yourself and with your brothers and sisters in Christ. In this, after the pruning, weeding, and growing pains, endurance is built up, joy is made more complete, and we are more prepared, daily, to be in His presence.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.