Getting married is the easy part. It is all about planning a big party and then going on a vacation with someone with whom you love to spend time. Sure there are stressful moments dealing with family and making sure the details get ironed out… but there is always an unmistakable joy on the face of a couple who is excited to make the transition into newlywed status.
The fun does not end, per se, but a new reality does set in over time. Once the big party and dream vacation are over, the new digs have been decorated, all the ‘firsts’ have been experienced, a couple really gets to know each other. I can’t tell you how many couples that I have sat across from who believed they knew other thoroughly. When I tell them that they have yet to scratch the surface, the skepticism is screaming through their disguised nod of agreement.
After year one passes and the second year is fully under way, you have discovered that the most incredible person that you have ever met has flaws. This person actually does have weaknesses. And, surprisingly, this person does indeed have the skill set necessary to offend you, anger you, and straight-up drive you crazy. This is where the beauty of growing in a marriage relationship really begins to take shape. When struggle surfaces and the rose colored glasses fall away, does the love represented on the wedding day grow through the learned and experienced difficulties?
The church works in exactly the same way. God has done some really amazing things in the recent history of Crossings Community Church. Over the past year we saw a 52% increase in average attendance and a 78% increase in first time guests. It is incredibly encouraging to see God gather people around the truth of His Word.
It is also extremely encouraging to have conversations with these new homes as they speak of great things they have experienced at Crossings Community. I love having those conversations and, to be honest, God uses them to encourage my heart.
However, the greatest encouragement and miracle is when all the newness and initial impressions fade away and the relationship remains. All of the first impressions become a new normal and the weaknesses and struggles become apparent. The realness of relationships settle in and the inevitable difficulty arises. A word of truth is spoken in grace and love, yet the pride is bruised. A desired element of change hoped for doesn’t come to fruition in the way expected.
Contrary to what people might guess, newcomers sticking is not such a powerful encouragement because it continues to pad the numbers of the church. Instead, new homes moving past the honeymoon season and into the difficult season of real relationships and confronted weakness is most encouraging because that is when homes begin to truly experience gospel transformation.
When newcomers stick, the fruit of transformation and discipleship begin to take root. Difficulty, compromise, and discomfort create growth in our lives. Neither marriage nor church are any different.
What if we looked forward eagerly, knowing that difficulty is ahead but that God has it there to transform our hearts and our homes in ways that will be glorious?