Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Breath of Life

     In Ezekiel 37, the prophet has a fantastic vision of God’s
power to bring life to something that is dead.  In the vision, Ezekiel sees a valley full of bones—dry, dusty bones that had littered the ground for quite some time.  God asks Ezekiel a simple question.  “Can these bones live again?”
     The vision unfolds in a captivating and graphic way, as the bones begin rattling, then moving together on their own to form full skeletons.  As Ezekiel continues to watch, the bones are covered with flesh—tendons attaching muscles to the bones, the inward parts forming, and finally skin covering over the exposed internal body.
     But as amazing and miraculous as this was, the fully formed bodies still laid lifeless on the ground.  God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind, and command the wind to bring breath into the dead bodies.  When breath entered them, those that were once nothing but dried broken bones scattered on the ground, stood strongly as a vast army before God.
     What made the dry bones live again?  It wasn’t just the structure—the flesh and tendons, organs and skin—that made them live (although they were important).  No, even as fully formed people, they still laid lifeless on the ground.  What made them live was the breath of life from God.  Only with that breath of life did they rise up and stand.
     In Christian marriage, the structural elements are necessary for a good, healthy relationship—good communication, conflict resolution skills, managing resources well, fulfilling your roles in the relationship, intimacy, practicing the tenants of your faith—but you can do all of those things and still feel dead, as if you are just going through the motions.
     I don’t know where you are in your marriage relationship.  You might feel strong and alive, or you might wonder if your relationship could be any deader.  You might feel like you’ve been at every point between those two extremes at various times in your relationship.
     So what becomes the breath of life in your relationship?  What are the things that you can do for your mate to give God-centered purpose to your covenant union?
     While the structural things are necessary for a healthy marriage, the breath of life often comes in the simplest of things; the things couples can lose over time if they are not careful.  Here just are a few things that help keep the breath of life in a relationship.

  • Intimacy that focuses on more than just sex.  God created sex and sex is good, but a holistic intimacy (emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and non-sexual expressions of physical intimacy) lets you mate know you value him/her in a deeply meaningful way.
  • Gratitude.  It is easy to take one’s mate for granted, especially in long-term marriages when we become comfortable in our roles.  Remembering to say “thank you” for the things your mate regularly does to bless you is a good reminder for you and a breath of life for the relationship.
  • Manners.  Saying “please” and “thank you” to each other rather than demanding or expecting, holding the door for your wife, speaking well of your husband in public, being mindful of your tone and the words you chose to speak to each other—whatever the circumstance, we usually know when we are being indifferent (or even rude).  To be mindful of manners is to invite the breath of God into the relationship.
  • Joyful surprises.  An unexpected gift, doing a chore for your mate, a loving note in the lunch box, a date night, intentionally speaking his/her love language—whatever the kind gesture, pleasant surprise fills us with powerful, positive feelings toward our mates and our marriages.
  • Humility.  It’s hard to live with someone who is always right about everything and makes it a point to let you know.  Humility isn’t about being weak or compromising on your principles.  It is about valuing your mate, recognizing we are all human and have room to grow and learn, and exhibiting a spirit of peace and goodness toward your covenant partner.
  • Laughing together.  Who doesn’t like to be with someone who can make them smile and feel good?  When we enjoy life and enjoy the spouse God has blessed us with, we receive an indescribably wonderful gift from God.  But remember, there is a distinct difference between laughing with your mate and laughing at your mate.  Make sure you are doing the former and not the latter.
  • Shared ministry.  Sharing in ministry together, whatever the ministry is, allows a couple to focus outside of themselves and work alongside each other to bring the breath of life to others.  And, a couple’s service to God will not return empty if they open themselves up to allowing their joint service to breath selflessness into the marriage relationship too.

     In the Hebrew, the same word is used for wind, breath, and spirit.  Whether it is being intentional about the things listed above, learning new ways of interacting, or reclaiming something you and your spouse used to do, start now letting God’s Spirit fill your marriage and bring a powerful breath of life.  When our marriages livereally, truly livethe world sees Christ.

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