Take The World

Have you ever just felt like a relationship was under attack? The heartaches of life pile up and the storms of struggle and grief feel like they’re sandblasting the stones we’re trying to stand upon. Erosion is real in relationships… but especially in the unique bond that a marriage is supposed to be.

I have long held that there are three distinct postures that are crucial to standing up to the attacks and simply enduring with a relationship intact.

We need time face to face—talking about life, being honest with our feelings, dreams, heartaches, and so on. In general I think ladies tend to be more in touch with this need, but it’s crucial.

We also need to spend some time together shoulder to shoulder… like driving down the road or working on a project or serving others side by side. Men seem to have a stronger need for this kind of time together.

But there is a third that is necessary as we have to engage with the world around us—kids and extended family, coworkers, neighbors… all the others. Life comes at us with intensity. We need to face all of the other time when we’re not able to be face to face or shoulder to shoulder in a strong, sort of defensive posture. We need to live back to back. We need to live in such a way that no one can come between us. Our kids can’t play us against one another. Our careers can’t drive wedges into our relationship.

And when we get all three of these postures figured out… we build some serious endurance.

I’m enamored with the intimate stylings of Johnnyswim. In case you’re not acquainted, this is a husband and wife duo that makes some really great music together (and some absolutely beautiful children). Their song, “Take The World,” is a breath of courage to me in a season of weariness and desire to keep growing in my marriage.

You won’t regret watching this simple acoustic rendition.

These words (from the second verse) describe a sentiment that my beloved and I have been reminding each other of quite often in recent months:

Oh I can see the future
You and me we last forever
In the rising tide no fear or fight
That we can't face together
Darling you and me
We can take the world

Back in the very beginning of humanity, the designer put a man and a woman together and established the pattern that we would leave our parents and “cleave” to our spouse. The idea is one of being sort of welded together. It’s a bond that is intended to last as long as both partners are alive. It’s a bond that is supposed to be physical (yes, even sexual) and emotional and spiritual. It’s a bond that should endure whatever the world and this life throw at us.

It’s a bond designed to take a beating.

SO… that’s kind of what it means to “take the world.”

So to my very own beloved, I say again: “We’ve got this.”

We can take the world.

Higher And Higher

Some songs just make you smile, don’t they?

The name Jackie Wilson may not immediately bring a face to mind or a song, but for me those first few bars of his classic, “Higher and Higher,” strike a chord of recognition. It’s just so fun.

(You might want to take a minute and go watch this great video that syncs Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dancing to this great song – it’ll make your day brighter.)

It’s a pretty common theme in my life that people recognize how much better I am because of the woman that chose to love me for life. I get what Mr. Wilson was putting down. He said that this love keeps on lifting him higher and higher and higher.

I know that feeling. My beloved has a way of encouraging me, helping me, motivating me to reach for more. Just like Jack Nicholson’s neurotic character blurted out in the romantic comedy, “As Good As It Gets,” I find myself thinking it time and time again:

“You make me want to be a better man.”

(You can watch that clip here if you need a refresher.)

She really does. I keep trying to incorporate better disciplines because she deserves it. I want to take better care of her and for her because she is so precious to me. Her love does indeed keep lifting me, boosting me, drawing me on to better, higher, deeper… more.

When I think about it, I have had a number of relationships—family members, friends, and such that have had an elevating impact upon my life. People have cared about me and helped me and encouraged me in such a way that I have grown through those connections. But really that is the nature of genuinely loving someone. Love does that.

One of the great wonders of the grace of God is that He loves us unconditionally just the way we are. But it is equally a wonder that He loves us so much that He is always drawing us higher, continuing to transform by His amazing grace every follower of His to be more and more and more like Jesus. THAT is truly being lifted HIGHER and HIGHER.

We used to sing a hymn pretty often that expresses that same idea, “Love Lifted Me.” It was about the way the love of God was a rescuing force to bring us life. It’s a response to the hope of the good news that Jesus, God’s Son, died to give us life that goes on beyond this world.

This whole marriage thing, of course, was God’s idea. I’m pretty convinced that it was because we learn more about our failures and shortcomings when we share life closely with someone… and at the same time we are challenged to grow. Love keeps lifting us higher and higher. Right on, Mr. Wilson. Right on indeed.

2 Years In

2 years ago today 2 little boys arrived at my house.

They’re a mess. They’re a handful. They’re knuckleheads. They’re sweet as can be. They’re monsters. They’re such a joy. They’re amazing little people. They’re invigorating. They’re exhausting. They’re my boys.

I have raised a lot of boys in my life. But… I was a much younger man the last time there were toddlers and preschoolers in my house. I’m feeling every minute of my 51 years plus a decade or two extra.

I was well-trained for the work I’ve been doing for two years with these boys. But it’s so much harder than I could have imagined. I’ve got an incredible support system. But it’s so much lonelier than I would have thought it would be. I have the best partner ever in this full-time job. But some moments I feel like I have to carry the whole thing myself.

I have blown it so many times. But every one of them was an opportunity to teach these boys the most crucial lesson: every man makes mistakes, but a godly man admits it and tries to make it right quickly.

One of these boys has a very hard time when he’s not the first or the best or the most special. If it looks like he’s not going to win, he is very much inclined to quit. I can relate to that. In my own ongoing journey of growing, it’s so easy to give up on a day or a week or a month or a year because I’ve just blown it so badly. It’s hard to re-frame the struggle to simply try to make a better next minute or hour.

But there is so much to be said for simply keeping on.

Even as I see on the horizon my time in this role coming to an end, I’ve made a promise to these boys since the day we met them. “No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you – no matter what!”

Last weekend we made a pretty special memory. Since the day they came to live with us, the boys have been fascinated with my wife’s display of race medals. She’s completed a number of half marathons and 5k races and a couple of marathon relays and such. (I have a collection too, but it’s not as extensive as hers.) So we signed up (all 4 of us) to participate in the Kids Marathon with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon so that they could win their own medals.

We logged a lot of miles over the last 2 years. The plan for this event was that we log 25 miles independently leading up to the event and then complete the last 1.2 miles on the course.

Saturday morning these boys and I took off running together—not fast, not hard, just running—and ran the whole course, all 1.2 miles of it, without stopping to walk or rest or anything. And we did it together. That’s the deal. That’s what I stepped into 2 years ago. I committed to keep going with them until we cross our finish line.

On Saturday, when we rounded the last turn and saw the finish line about a block away, I said, “There it is, boys! Let’s finish strong! Run hard!” And they took off and left me behind. The little one looked back at me over his shoulder just before reaching the finish line, giant grin on his face, and then turned and blazed on across. The older one was right on his brother’s heels. And I was finishing my race with tears in my eyes with the joy of seeing them run well.

Right now my race is to help them learn to just keep going. Soon another will step in a take up the coaching mantle and I will move to the sidelines as the loudest, proudest, most familiar voice in the great cloud of witnesses cheering for their success.

It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters that you keep going.

One day maybe my little boys will read this and know how incredibly proud their Papi is of them. My hope is that they will not be surprised, just reminded.

As we move forward in our transition journey, please pray with me that these boys will only gain momentum in running toward the great plans our Father has for them.

I’m 2 years in… and trying to finish well.