Marriage after Corona/Covid-19

Hi, I’m Kevin. I want to share a part of my life’s story in the blogosphere. It’ll be a longer read than usual.  I grew up seeing my parents suffer together.  When I was a young kid in Vancouver, my father raised the family (my Mom, brother and me) by working two or three part-time jobs.  Life was tough in my younger years but I didn’t know the difference. 

Later on we moved to the prairies of Saskatchewan. We worked hard together.  I grew up seeing my parents live a family-first model of marriage.  In this model, marriage is not so much about romance but it’s also about the kids, money, raising a family together.

When I grew up, became a young adult, went off to college in Ottawa and Virginia. I was taught to believe that the soul mate model of marriage was the only true way to live.  Life was about seeking happiness, and marriage was supposed to bring happiness.  From a secular view, marriage was actually seen as optional.  Marriage and children were a hindrance. These things can get in the way of achieving happiness and a comfortable lifestyle.  This is today’s current view of marriage. This will, however, change.

After college, I moved to Toronto.  I believed that life was all about achieving success in one’s career.  It was about finding the love of your life; one could then live happily ever after.  I bought into society’s ideals hook-line-and-sinker.  Love and success were supposed to make a person happy.  If one doesn’t find success and happiness, you would then be settling for second place; and second place was a loser’s place.

In a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, author W. Bradford Wilcox said this about the soul mate model of marriage:

“For those who are already married, the stresses and strains of marriage and family life in the time of Covid-19 will send thousands of couples to divorce court. Marital failure will be especially common for husbands and wives under the sway of what I call the “soul mate model” of marriage. The soul mate model—trumpeted in books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” not to mention countless songs and rom-coms—is the idea that marriage is primarily about an intense emotional and romantic connection between two people and should last only so long as that connection remains happy and fulfilling for both parties. This self-centered model gained in popularity for many Americans starting in the 1970s, the ‘Me Decade.’”

Later in my young adulthood life I realized this model to life and marriage was wrong-headed. I could see it taking me no where. I then realized that this was actually a mass deception created and perpetuated by the mainstream media and by Hollywood. A Me-First mentality.  I looked back and began to consider history and traditions, and why life seemed better in the golden olden days. Call it nostalgia if you wish.

I looked at myself and didn’t like what I had become.  Self-centered.  Selfish.  Prideful.  I knew that there had to be more to life than just seeking happiness for myself. I confessed and repented of my ways. I made a switch, slowly but surely.

Wilcox said of the family-first model of marriage: “in times of trial and tribulation, most people—and most spouses—don’t become more self-centered, they become more other-centered, more cognizant of how much they need their family members to navigate difficult and dark times.  He believes that in a post-Covid-19 society, the family-first model of marriage will gain ground against the soul mate model.  I agree with this.

Since the great depression of the 1930s, we haven’t had such a big downturn in job losses. During this Covid-19, experts and economists are saying that we will definitely have a recession, or even, a depression.  I have never seen communities as a whole pull together. Perhaps 9/11 in New York City was one instance but on a national and worldwide scale, I don’t think this generation has ever seen anything within our lifetime as during this pandemic. There may very well be or a soon-to-be economic collapse, but of course, I’m hoping there won’t be one. It’s safe to say that everyone is coming to realize the dangers and calamity the virus will inevitably cause. 

I believe that in the end, people will pull together as communities, for the good of the community.  Families will also pull together and stick together.  Why?  In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

An opposing direction that a post-Covid-19 society might go is the prepper-survival mentality.  Every man (and woman) for himself.  Screw the rest.  Prepare your home as a fortress to hide out.  Fill it with food, bullets, and survival items in order to stave off collapse for months or even years.  And bear fire arms. Have your ammo ready.  Lock and load to protect your fortress.  If the situation ever gets so bad, it could come to this low level post-Armageddon mentality.  Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I don’t think it will come to this level.

In togetherness, one becomes stronger than when one is alone. Friendships will be bound together based on teamwork, team spirit and camaraderie.

Families will come together because as human beings, we know there is something more to life than just living life in order to seek happiness.  There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.  It puts the pressure off of yourself, the individual.  The pressure to succeed now lays in the bigger group, the community, and the family.

“There is also happiness in seeking to live life together.  This latter approach to life is bigger than life itself.”

My parents taught me something about sticking it out for the long haul.  Suffering for a short time will pay off in the longer term.  After I took on this new view of life, things began to change.  God blessed me with a life partner (rather than a soul mate).  We began a family together.  We now have a daughter in middle school.  Life hasn’t always been easy but life has been good together.  So far, so good.

This has been a part of my life experience and I wish to share this with the community I’m a part of in the blogosphere. I hope it encourages a few people out there who might read this.

A broken and imperfect people

Do people view Christians as imperfect people? Yes, we Christians are imperfect; and we don’t need to hide this fact. And I’m one of these imperfect ones. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am imperfect. I have known some who put on a facade–like a make-over to look like that “perfect and righteous Christian.” Nothing can be more phoney. Pastors, elders, deacons can be pressured to put on a facade because of fear of not looking like that good example. This can be true of any church.

Our younger generation are totally not into this “old school” hypocrisy of “fake it till you make it.” They want people to be real, genuine and true to themselves. They want this of themselves. I don’t mean that we show off our sin like a peacock. By this I really mean that we ought to trust in God’s forgiveness with boldness and courage. Without a true understanding and experience of God’s grace, the freedom to do this is impossible.

This generation has been raised in a non-religious society but it realizes its need for God and spirituality. I see the rise of two cultures clashing. One culture realizes the imperfections we all have and rebel against the injustices of our society’s leaders, including our political, business and religious leaders. It wants to fix this broken culture.

The other culture realizes our own need for a savior because we have seen our hopelessness of trying to fix ourselves and our society. This savior has been revealed to us, and He is the one who saves us from having to rebel and fight (not that we don’t strive to improve society). This second culture is the Christian or Jesus culture.

I have been a broken person and see my own imperfections more than anyone else. I just try not to show it or make it too obvious. If this is how you feel too, then you’ll understand it is why we need a God who loves us despite our imperfections. We don’t need a god to make us feel better about ourselves. We need a savior who loves us despite our brokenness. This is what grace is. This is the most liberating way to live.

This understanding of righteousness and setting God’s righteousness above our own human righteous is how Christ built the Church from nothing. A personal spiritual revelation of God’s grace is the only thing that can revive the Church today. I see a new generation of Christians rising up today that is full of faith and a new found sense of spirituality. This gives me new hope in the Church.

Everything about me has been and is going back to God’s grace. It’s amazing. Yes, it’s God’s grace that’s amazing. It truly is. When I listen to the song: Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong, I’m amazed by the words of the lyrics. It goes like:

All these pieces
Broken and shattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
Empty handed
But not forsaken
I've been set free
I've been set free ….
You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart Lord
I'll be your vessel
The world to see
Your life in me….

Then the amazing part goes like this:

Oh I can see You now
Oh I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying Yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

After I realize God’s love despite my broken and shattered life,
Despite my need to be mended and be made whole,
Despite my failures, weaknesses,
God still wants to make me into a vessel of his to be used by him.

This is why I can see God more clearly today. I have looked into God’s loving eyes who gave himself up for my broken life. Now I’m set free. Set free from having to hide my imperfections. Set free from human performance. This is true freedom.

Yes, Snoopy needs God’s grace too.

Part 1 – Great Nations: When there is Sibling Rivalry

When siblings become rivals, they provoke, prod and poke each other. At their worst, they might sometimes hurt one another. In life, when two siblings fight, they can be so hard on one another they end-up beating each up black and blue. At other times, ironically, when an outsider intrudes upon one of the siblings, the other sibling comes to the other’s rescue. I can remember, I have had both my share of fights and rescues.

Brothers will be brothers. They can love and hate one another. When they are deep into rivalry, they will always remain as brothers. In the bible, there were sets of two rival siblings, Cain and Abel (Genesis 2), and Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25). These were rivals who ended hurting one another—one brother murdered the other sibling.

In Genesis, there was a record of two people whom God blessed. One was a woman, Hagar, and the other, Sarah. The two were not sisters but rival wives of Abraham. The two women both produced offspring that populated the earth. One is thought to have become an Arab people. The other have become the Jewish nation. These two ethnic nations still remain great peoples.

People descended from Hagar:

“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” (Genesis 21:17-18)

People descended from Sarah:

“The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15-18)

In the biblical past, the two nations of Hagar and Abraham have not been at peace with one another. They have been sibling rivals for centuries. They have cut each other down with hurtful words and war. Islamic nations can achieve prosperity if they maintain peace within their own sibling nations like Israel.

I pray that these two great peoples do eventually find peace with one another so that God’s blessings may be poured out upon their peoples and lands. May God bless these two Abrahamic traditions and grant them peace and prosperity.

North Korea’s Kim and South Korea’s Moon

In the brotherhood of nations, one nation might fight another nation with weapons that kill—brother against brother, sister against sister. Sometimes, they take jabs at one another using words. Sometimes they taunt one another using rockets, grenades and missiles. Arguments and battles of oratory brilliance can spark more than just lightening rods. They can spark rockets and explosives that can kill thousands, if not millions of innocent people.

Our hope is, of course, that their disputes do not end up with fatalities. Inevitably, there will be some bloodshed. Hopefully, however, there will eventually be healing and friendship. As nations continue to struggle with one another around the world, I hope that we as Christians might pray for peace around the world. A few examples in modern times are: North Korea and South Korea; East Germany and West Germany. There are other examples on every continent.

As Christians, we hope that we do not pound the other nation into submission. We pray that rival nations may resolve their disputes. We pray that sibling nations might put away their arms and offer gifts and palm branches of peace.

Throughout history, nations do rise up from ashes to become great nations. Nations will also fall from grace and end up becoming crippled, grow old and die. Nations ought never take for granted their golden days of prosperity. They need to count their blessings and remember to thank God for the prosperity that have been bestowed upon them in their history.

The United States, the U.K., Canada, and other western nations have become great nations. However, there is always the possibility that they might fall from grace, become impoverished, and worse, die. Think of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Where are they today? They have become merely records written in human history.

There is a need for a foundation of nations. Rivalry and fighting is not it.

A patient and hopeful gardener

Image result for images fig tree

In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus told a story of a gardener:

“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’

Luke 13:6-9

What?! No fruit for the last three years?! A smart practical farmer would do one thing. Cut it down and plant something else that’ll guarantee a crop.

But here, in our passage, we see a farm-hand, perhaps a hired gardener. He says to the owner, “Boss, let’s give it one more chance. Let’s leave it alone for just one more year. I’ll dig around it. Add some fertilizer.  If it bears fruit next year, great; but if not, then let’s cut it down.”

To the owner, that fig tree was just another plant. But to the gardener, he cared for it. He likely invested his time, energy, sweat and tears into caring for it. He knew that tree he tended each day. Maybe he even had a name for it. He didn’t want to see his efforts go to waste because he was the one who cared for it. He knew what it was capable of. He didn’t want to give up on that plant. He’s a patient gardener who knows about holding out for hope—maybe because he’s seen it happen before.

This parable of the gardener and the fig tree actually shows us good news. This gardener is a typology of Christ in our lives. Just as this gardener held out hope for the fig plant, Christ the Lord is also holding out hope for us.

Like this gardener, Jesus invested his blood, sweat and tears into our lives. He died for us on the cross and he wants to see us produce fruit. He wants to see a good harvest in our lives. So what would this fruit or harvest in our own lives look like? Jesus was speaking about repentance.

In this season of Lent, we are called to enter into a place of repentance. Jesus told this parable to give his followers a message. He is saying something like this. “I want to see hearts repent. I hope to see changes in your lives.” Otherwise, like the fig tree analogy, God may come to cut it down. Jesus was reminding us that God is saving us from destruction.

Jesus’ message to his followers is the same for us today. It’s still a message to warn those who might be feeling a little too comfortable in their spiritual state. When we are too comfortable where we are in this life. We let our guard down. We become complacent in our faith. We also care less about the people around us. We care less about the well-being of our friends and family and even of society. People might become an obstacle, or an object or just a tool for our own benefit. But God is holding out hope for us because God wants to change the direction in all of our lives. That’s the essence and reason for this story of the gardener of the fig tree.

Imminent death at our doorstep

We all hope the world’s threat from nuclear proliferation has decreased since President Trump’s meeting with DPRK’s President Kim. One deadly push of a wrong button by a rogue madman could destroy half the world. Today, we also have deadly pathogens and global pandemics to worry about. There might be some mad scientists working in backroom laboratories inventing some new strain of virus. Today, we know about the newly identified Disease X as pathogens that can potentially kill hundreds of millions of people, if we don’t find antidotes (read here).

The book of Revelation gave apocalyptic warnings during the early church. “The fifth angel emptied his bowl on the throne of the beast (Rev. 16:10).

We’ve provided scientific explanations to our real world problems of global pandemic. Whether God actually sends plagues, or we invent some crazy pathogens, either way, death would imminently be at our doorstep.

As human beings who are constantly looking for human and improvements in our world, we are holding out for some hope. We know there is hope. But most important, God is the one is patiently holding out for hope that we might be saved. This salvation is not only physical, but it is also spiritual. Just like we need to prepare for emergency preparedness kits for earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and fires, hurricanes, etc., we also need to prepare ourselves in spiritual ways.

In First Corinthians 10, we really see death very clearly. Paul reminded the Church, which was of Hebrew descent, that 23,000 of their ancestors had died in the past because they had been constantly rebelling against God. He didn’t want them to take their relative sense of calm for granted. He said to them, “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” He wanted them to be on guard. Stay alert. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be taken in by their temptations to sin like they had done under Moses in the wilderness.

During this Lenten season, may we offer a prayer of repentance:

I confess that I am in bondage to sin and cannot free myself.  I have sinned against You in my thoughts, words, and actions; by what I have done, and by what I have intentionally not done when I had the power to do so.  I have not loved You with whole-hearted devotion.  I have not loved other people around me as I would want to be loved.  For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.  Forgive me, make me new again, and guide me, that I may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name.  Amen.

Where is God

https://ebonyjohanna.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/on-earth.jpgWhere is God?  As Christians, we believe just because we know or we assume something to be true.  There are some who won’t believe until they see God and heaven.  Downside of this is that they may never get to see until they pass from this life.  By then, will it be too late for an “I told you so.”  Hence, we look for God’s presence, God’s reality, and indicators of God’s existence in our world.  Jesus also used words like “My father’s kingdom.”

In Luke 17:21, Jesus taught that God’s kingdom is neither here nor there.  His followers, including some of his disciples, had thought that his coming kingdom was going to be a secular government on earth.  Jesus was actually referring to a spiritual kingdom.

As creatures of this physical world, we prefer to speak of God’s kingdom as a country or nation.  God’s kingdom has no physical location.  It is everywhere, yet it is nowhere to be located.  It is neither ethereal nor out-of-this-world.  Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is here with you.”  It cannot be seen but yet it is with us.  We might try to emulate God’s kingdom on earth, but it can never be an earthly kingdom.  God’s spiritual kingdom might be within an earthly kingdom, but we can never put an earthly kingdom into a spiritual kingdom.

So where is God’s kingdom on earth?  It is current.  It’s happening in the here and now.

    • It might be found within the life of a real king or queen, or it might now.
    • It might be found working in the life of church organization, or it might not be.
    • It might be found working in offices of a corporation, and it might not be found working in a church office.
    • It might be found working where people are praying on an old warship in the middle of the South Pacific, and it might not be found in normal-looking but dysfunctional family.
    • It might be found working in compassionate hearts volunteering in a street ministry, or it might not be.
    •  It might be found in the life of a single mother raising two children in the ghetto, or it might not be.

God’s kingdom can be understood as God’s purpose or God’s will happening in this world.  God’s purpose or will can be happening in your own lives.  It can be within our society and culture.  It can be within your place of habitation, within my yown community, and yes, even in my secular place of work.  It is working and functioning within God’s people and where God’s people are glorifying God and doing God’s will.  When God’s will is done, as it is in heaven, then we can say that his reign or kingdom is coming.

One might ask several questions:

    • Do I sense God’s kingdom and God’s will being done in my life or family, in my community, in my church?
    • Are people seeing God working in their lives?
    • Does what I do glorify God?  Is what I do glorifying to God?

If it is a “Yes”, then God’s kingdom might be in your midst.  If you can say positively that God is working in places where you are present, then God’s kingdom might very well be present.  God’s kingdom is present where you are in-line with God’s will, and actively doing his will.

In the end, it will always come back to the question of faith.  If you can honestly affirm the above question with an affirmative “Yes”, it takes faith to believe the unseen.

When feeling unsure of ourselves

The Thinker. Artist: Rodin. Legion of Honor in San Francisco CA.

Struggling with issues in our culture, life and society is not a bad thing.  Everyone goes through these phases at different stages in our life.  Things can be at odds with our personal ideals and values and can challenge our spirituality.  You might even doubt your faith.

We might come to question and doubt ourselves because we wonder if what we value are right or wrong.  I also have also doubted too.  We can either become antagonistic toward culture and society and run closer to religion.  Or we can become antagonistic toward religion and shift toward secular/popular culture, or even agnosticism/atheism.

We all wonder at times whether what we’re doing is right or the cool or uncool thing.  We might feel, “Forget what the rest of the world thinks. I’ll do what I feel is right.”  We try to fit in.  Do things the easy way.  Walk the wide road.  At times, we lose a sense of who we are.

Sounds like it’s happened to you before?  Our lives are not static but can be in flux, changing.  We might still be getting to know who we are.  Figuring out what’s right… and what fits my situation and circumstances.

God and our conscience might be telling us one thing; and the world might be telling us something completely opposite.  Life can be confusing and society doesn’t always seem helpful.  Pressures all around us.  We don’t feel safe to give ourselves room, to ask, and reflect on whether what we practice makes sense to ourselves within our culture.

Jesus told his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV).

In the end, pray and ask God to give you grace. In Christ, God will absolve us from all our doubts, out wanderings, our hard-heartedness and rebellion. Let him be the captain of your soul and He will send you his Holy Spirit and his Word to comfort and counsel you.