The Olympics dominate the news.
Rightfully so, the whole world comes together every two years for a winter or summer competition to see who the best of the best of the best is.
It’s off to a decent start, but what about what’s happening behind the scenes?
As reporters began checking into their Sochi hotels, many noted the appalling conditions. One summarized, “Almost every room is missing something: light bulbs, TVs, lamps, chairs, curtains, wifi, heat, hot water. Shower curtains are a valuable piece of the future black market here… the elevator is broken and the stairway is unlit, with stairs of varying and unpredictable heights… there is a bag of concrete in a palm tree, leaking grey down the trunk.”
Other updates shared:
- “For those of you asking, when there’s no lobby in your hotel, you go to the owner’s bedroom to check in.”
- “My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says ‘Do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.’”
- “Good news. I have internet. Bad news. It’s dangling from the ceiling in my room.”
Many toilets have no walls for privacy. Beds that athletes sleep on are crammed together. This is certainly not the standard many people would expect of the Olympics, let alone a basic hotel.
So… why would an athlete, journalist or even a visitor stick this out?
You know the answer, don’t you?
It’s the Olympics. Even in harsh conditions, it’s the Olympics.
Now, why is it not absurd for someone to demonstrate that kind of commitment for a sporting event… yet quitting a marriage is treated more flippantly culturally?
I realize that’s a potentially offensive statement since we don’t know each other. I’ll happily give you the benefit of the doubt if you’ll likewise agree that we need to treat marriage with an even deeper commitment than one might treat the Olympics.
Before you even entertain the phrase “I quit,” consider saying, “These circumstances are less than ideal, but I’m in this for the gold.”
Philippians 4:13 promises, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
It’s why I’d offer that when you come to a fork in the road in your marriage… spoon.
Where do you start?
Marriage counselor and author Gary Chapman observed that romantic love has two stages. Initially, everything in the relationship is easy and enjoyable. You’ll set aside other things to spend time together, for the relationship itself is oozing with bliss. This stage usually lasts for months, but no more than a couple of years.
Chapman also observed that as life eventually demands your time, your relationship will need more work than you planned on. This is when some people might feel overwhelmed and say, “I married the wrong person.”
You might appreciate Psalm 34:18 here: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Life is less about finding the perfect person and more about growing into the person God created you to be. There will be times in any relationship that you’ll want to quit, but you don’t have to. Things won’t go the way you planned it, and your sense of what “happily ever after” will require more sweat than you planned on.
The encouraging news is the rewards of the second stage of romantic love are that much greater when you take the time to foster them. It’s why I’m always amazed at the older couple on the dance floor of a wedding. As the DJ recognizes them, everyone claps at these two people who somehow stayed together for fifty years.
I’ve found if you take them aside you’ll hear them say something like, “We’ve been blessed, but it’s taken a lot of hard work. There were four years where I didn’t think we’d make it, but we stuck it out… and now those years are just four out of fifty.”
What could that kind of commitment look like with your spouse? If you’re single, how can you inspire that in others? You’re not just a tourist at the Olympics in less-than-ideal conditions. You’re suiting up to compete for the gold. It will require sacrifice.
Author Mark Gungor creatively offered, “God wants to kill you. Not the physical you, but the selfish you… if we don’t die to our selfish nature, we will never be able to experience all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us. If there was ever an institution designed to kill the selfish you, it’s marriage… it’s virtually impossible to succeed at marriage if you don’t learn how to let the selfish part of you die.”
As a disclaimer, yes – situations where abuse is involved are another matter. You will need some kind of intervention or temporary separation to even find your footing.
That caveat aside, let’s own this. You can do all things through God who will strengthen you. His principles of love, grace, patience and forgiveness make a difference. If He’s involved, any situation can become more than what it is today.
Another section of the Bible compares life to a race. Look up 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 if you are open to reading it. Meanwhile, here are some takeaways if we apply that metaphor to marriage:
- Understand that you are in a marathon, and not a sprint. People often treat marriage as something they’ll do until they run out of energy for it. Soon they’re onto another “sprint” somewhere else, be it a hobby that distracts them or another person they end up having an affair with. Think about what “I do” really means before you say it.
- Push yourself past your perceived limits. We all have real limits that when crossed truly do constitute as abuse. Most of the time, couples struggle with perceived limits they end up amplifying through statements like, “I can’t go on in this marriage. I keep stumbling over shoes that were left out and projects that were left undone.” Those feel like real walls today, but (like any physical race) are just perceived limits you can find a way to push through.
- Really run… no “Wii running”: When the Wii video game system first came out, families bought it and began exercising with the Wii remotes in their pockets. Over time, we all learned that if you even slightly move the remote it’ll give the system the appearance of effort – just enough to register, but not enough to make you sweat. Does that describe how you operate in your relationship with another person?
- Cross an actual finish line: There are many benefits to putting God first in every area of your life. One of them is that when circumstances don’t turn out as you hope you can celebrate the effort you put into being faithful to cross the finish line anyway.
This is how real relationships work and thrive. Next week we’ll talk about what happens when you want to quit, but for now chew on these thoughts.
Likewise, consider how you tend to fill the empty, awkward silences in your life. Might it be time to turn off the TV, set down your golf clubs and put away your shopping list for just a moment?
Despite what Jerry Maguire says, another person can’t complete you. The gap inside of you is bigger than what a human being alone can fulfill. Do you want to keep looking for wholeness in however another person might treat you today, or enjoy the established love of a Savior who gave up His life on a cross to spend eternity with you?
Be still and let God overwhelm you. Wrestle with the fact that you are loved by your Creator in ways that can’t be defined by the religious practices you’ve tamed but only through a wild relationship you can’t control. Let Him break in through the walls of your heart.
Receive Him, and then start to love others like God loves you. In doing so, you can begin to bring wholeness into whatever your relational life ends up looking like.
The best way to find the right person to complete the rest of your life with is to become a complete person without them today.
Until then, see you next week… if not around town.
“Fully-Alive Living” offers weekly insights to serve you in taking another step forward in matters of the heart, soul, mind, body, and relationships. With over 20 years of experience and advanced education in working with people of all ages, Tony Myles and his family live in Medina where he serves as the Lead Pastor of Connection Church.
Contact email: email@example.com