Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reflecting God's Image

"And have put on the new man,
which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him..."
Colossians 3:10

Have you ever heard the theory that the longer you are with someone,
the more like them you become?
How that after a period of time, long-married people start looking alike..physically?
Kevin and I are told that from time to time.
Each day together is another page...
added to the love story we are writing and living out.
It takes a long time to tear down the walls
and peel back the layers....
to reach the deepest levels of another's heart.
The years go by,
and with them are the happenings of life....
events that force us to open ourselves up...
to one another...
in the most personal of ways.
We see each other at our most vulnerable...
our most defenseless....
our worst.
Every layer peeled reveals another dimension of what's inside
and creates a deeper intimacy...
a closer bond....
a merging of emotions.
It is what married life is all about.
Getting to know each other.
Becoming more "one" with each passing day.

It works the same in our relationship with God.
The longer we walk with Him,
the more like Him we become.
Through heartache, distress, joy, & blessings,
the layers are peeled.
We open ourselves to Him.
He opens Himself to us.
We learn Who He is.
He takes us through experiences that reveal His true character
in ways we would otherwise have never seen.
We catch glimpses into His divine nature.
With every glimpse,
we learn to trust Him more.
Through every trial,
dross is removed...
from our nature.
We become more refined with every step of the purging process.
As intimacy grows,
we begin to mirror and reflect His image.
We begin to look more and more like Christ.

I have thought often of the picture above.
Aunt Vaida bought if for me several years ago,
and it has hung over our kitchen table,
a daily reminder, ever since.
It says,
"Live in a way that those who know you but don't know God,
 will come to know God because they know you."

Do you know someone who looks like Christ?
On the inside?
Someone who introduces you to Him,
simply by being who they are?

I am infinitely blessed to know someone like this.
I boast only in the Lord.
Because without Him and His divine providence,
I would never have met this person.
Looking back,
I can see God's infinite plan,
and how He had to rearrange and orchestrate so many details....
in both of our lives...
in order to allow our paths to cross.

If I didn't know God,
but I knew this person,
I would absolutely come to know God
because I know him.

He doesn't like praise,
and when I compliment him,
he is quick to chuckle and shrug it off...
as if it is nothing.

I am beyond blessed to not only know him,
but we have walked through married life
and been the very best of friends....
for almost 25 years.

It's true.
My husband reminds me of Jesus...
more than anyone else I know.
His characteristics,
his kindness,
his dedication, determination, and diligence,
his consistency,
his compassion,
his giving heart,
the even keel of his personality,
his love,
his humility.

It is not my intention to glorify Kevin.
Kevin is human.
He is fallible.
My intention is to glorify the God Who lives and dwells within him.
The God he worships and serves and loves with all his heart.
The God Who is in the continual process of
conforming him into the image of His Son.
The God Who shines through him in so many countless ways.
All glory belongs to God.
All glory be to God.

Kevin's cross is hard to bear.
The health issues he has dealt with for years
and deals with on a regular, everyday basis
are near-overwhelming, at times.
I don't know how he does it some days.
I watch, day after day,
as he trudges on...
pushing against the pain....
willing himself to drive a long distance to work....
working long, second and third-shift hours....
no matter how intense it gets....
pressing on, regardless.

I don't think he would ever mention it,
if it weren't for me asking him umpteen times a day,
if it weren't that I see it in his eyes,
and if it weren't for the fact that he wants me to pray for him.
He suffers....a lot.
I think men who are made of lesser stuff,
would have already resorted to an easier path,
run from their responsibilities,
or found a way to drown their pain and anguish.

Not so with Kevin.
I've never seen anyone with more resolve
to live up to his commitments and keep his vows....
to God...
and to me.

He exemplifies Jesus to me...
in so many ways.
Our marriage is one of the most precious blessings of my life.
I never take it...
or him...
for granted.
Not for a second.

I feel so sorry for him.
I cry over it....often.
Plead with God to help him...
to heal him....
to give him strength.
God is so faithful.
Some days are better than others.
God sends reprieves.

And in the midst of my praying,
I come to realize...
that one of the reasons Kevin has drawn so close to Jesus throughout life,
one of the reasons he has come to know Him so well,
is due to the great level of dependence He
he has developed upon Him over the years.
Much of that has transpired through
the heaviness of the cross
he is required to bear.

Suffering has a way of drawing us in...
closer to Jesus....
to learn of Him and become more like Him.
The more we know Him,
the better we reflect His image.

Of Jesus Christ, the Scripture says,
"Who in the days of his flesh,
when he had offered up prayers and supplications
 with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death,
and was heard in that he feared;
Though he were a Son,
yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered..."
Hebrews 5:7,8

It is hard for me to think of Jesus having to "learn" anything.
He is God.
He embodied and epitomizes knowledge...
and wisdom...
and the deepest depths of understanding.
But, the flesh part of Him...
it is the part that had to learn.
He had to learn obedience....
how to bring His body under subjection to God's will for Him.
And the way He learned that was none other than through suffering.
Some lessons can only be learned....
through suffering.

For years, I have aspired to be like Kevin...
because the attributes he manifests
remind me of Jesus.
I follow him...
as the head and spiritual leader of our home,
as he follows Christ.
("Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
I Corinthians 11:1)
I respect and admire him more than words.
I've seen him in situations that run the full gamut...
from the highest highs to the lowest lows.
He is always the same.
He is unaffected by the praises of men,
just as he is unscathed and unmoved by their reproaches.
Either way,
in moments of accolades, in moments of scorn...
on days of intense pain, on days of reprieve....
through the good, the bad, and the mediocre,
Kevin maintains his integrity.
He lets things roll off...
and keeps going....
just like Jesus.

I love to read the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem
with the people singing "Hosannas" and throwing palm branches in His path.
Jesus was completely unaffected and unmoved.
He didn't become puffed up, 
though He had every reason to be.
He was the Son of God.
Soon after,
the crowds turned on Him...
Where were the praises?
The accolades?
The faithful followers?
Mark 14:50 says of that moment,
"And they all forsook him, and fled."
Every last one of them.
Again, Jesus was unaffected.
His mind was made up.
He was determined.
To push past the pain,
the scorn,
the anguish,
the torture,
whatever He had to endure...
to make His goal.

I remember when I first met Kevin.
He was my first head teller....
I was fresh out of teller training.
He was the sweetest guy I had ever met.
He was my dream.
He was handsome,
extremely patient,
and one of the things I loved most about him
was that he was the same....
all the time.
I never had to wonder what I was going to get.
You never do have to wonder....
with Kevin.

I started falling for him....
and fast.
Oh, boy!
I had to know,
and I had no idea how to find out.
Was he a Christian?
I had been taught all my life to marry a Christian.
Otherwise there would be an unequal yoke...
that would make life extremely difficult.

Did Kevin share my faith?
My deep love for Jesus?
If not,
I knew I was in deep trouble.
My feelings were intensifying every day.
As he stood next to me, correcting my many errors.
I made a few too many, I confess.  :~)
As we talked in between customers.
As we laughed at funny things they did.
As we joked with our co-workers and friends.
As we discovered how many things we had in common....
how many of the same things we both loved....
like bluegrass music.
I found out his brother played the banjo,
like my Dad,
and he was in a bluegrass band.
We discovered that our family backgrounds were amazingly similar.

I watched him like a hawk...
when he wasn't looking, of course!  :~)
He never got mad.

One day, I witnessed the ultimate test.
A guy pulled into lane one of the drive-thru,
and Kevin went over to get his transaction.
He was friendly, as always,
as he took the transaction out of the drawer.
I don't remember the details,
but Kevin had to give the guy some kind of dreaded news.
Maybe he was overdrawn...
or Kevin had to put a hold on his check...
or something else undesirable.

At any rate,
the guy became enraged.
Irate might be more like it.
He was having a fit.
The microphone was on,
so, of course, all of the employees inside could hear,
along with the customers.
Kevin never flinched.
He calmly spoke to the guy,
in the kindest of tones,
kept smiling,
and let the guy continue to rant and rave.
The customer began to use profanity...
of the worst kind.
I watched.
What would Kevin do?
Would this finally push his button?
Would he flare back at the guy?
Boy, was I interested.
I decided right then and there that I would
find the answer to my question the hard way.
This would no doubt...
remove all doubt...
as to his spiritual state.

I soon found out.
As the guy was spewing profanity,
making a complete fool of himself,
Kevin did something that made my feelings for him go over the top...
as if they weren't, already.

He finished saying what he had to say,
politely tapped the speaker button to "off",
and walked away.
Just like that.
The guy was red-faced,
 and his mouth was still moving ninety miles a minute.
I hate to think what he was saying,
and was grateful we couldn't hear through the thick, bullet-resistant glass.
Kevin was completely unaffected.
He went about his business.
There was no retaliation.
No unkind retort...
even though the guy couldn't hear him.
It was like it wasn't even happening.

Finally, the guy got tired of arguing with himself,
and off he sped....
squealing his tires....
showing his ignorance....
all the way out of the parking lot out front.

Kevin just laughed.
I was convinced.
This guy was everything I wanted.
Cute as he could be,
and a Christian to boot.
That's the day I reached the point of no return.

Mom always taught me to watch how a guy treats his mother,
because that is exactly how he will treat his wife.
"If they don't respect their mother,
they won't respect you",
she would say.

Soon after we began dating,
Kevin took me to meet his parents.
Needless to say,
I was full of observation.
I found no fault...
at all.
I had never seen any man more respectful,
or kind to his mother.

To this day,
he couldn't love her more.
And though we live a few hundred miles apart,
he keeps in close touch with her...
nearly every day.

They say people change after you marry them.
I guess some do.
Not Kevin.
I can honestly say that the only way he has changed
is to draw closer to Jesus....
all along the way.

We celebrated his 49th birthday yesterday.

As I got the candles ready to put on his cake,
I reversed them on the table to read "94".
I told him I pray that God will spare him to see that...
and that He will allow Zach and me to be there to share it with him.

That would fulfill one of the deepest desires of my heart.

I could never begin to thank God enough
for every second He has permitted me to spend
as this dear man's wife.
My heart goes out to him in a million ways.
I wish I could just make his pain go away.
I wish I could make life easier for him.
He doesn't deserve to suffer.
Jesus surely didn't, either.

I don't know if we look alike physically, after all these years,
but I can only hope that in some small way
I can be the slightest bit like Kevin...
in a spiritual sense.

Because the longer he walks with Jesus,
the more like Him he becomes.

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