This morning, I read something on Facebook that I really liked. It was titled, “The Marriage Box.” It said:
Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc. The truth is that marriage at the start is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage. Love is in people. And people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage. You have to infuse it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.
After I read that, I got to thinking. You see, I believe marriage is the training ground for every other relationship in our life, so I tend to apply the principles I read to all relationships – especially friendship. There are tons of books on how to have a good, solid, loving marriage. Friendship isn’t treated so carefully. Anyway, it occurred to me that this wasn’t just about marriage – it’s about life. You get out what you put in. You reap what you sow.
I know that’s not a new concept. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (KJV) I pulled it up on an online parallel Bible and really like the way the NLT says it, “Don’t be misled–you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” The world refers to this as “karma.” Karma is actually a concept from Hinduism and Buddhism. Websters defines karma as, “the totality of one’s acts in each state of one’s existence.” Hmmm….in English, I think that means that “what goes around, comes around.” Yes….a tired cliche to describe a Godly truth. The point of this is….you’re going to get out of life what you put in it.
Think about it….if you go to your garden and plant tomato plants, you’re not going to expect cantaloupes, are you? Or if you sow carrot seeds, you’re not going run to the garden to harvest your bell peppers! (Personally, it doesn’t seem to matter what I plant in my garden, if it grows, the squirrels eat it!) However, even though most people you know will agree wholeheartedly that this is true and they believe the principle, their lives don’t always reflect it. Don’t turn me off yet…keep reading.
Think people who seem to have a lot of friends. What do they have in common? I bet you’re thinking, “well, they’re friendly.” Also not a new concept! Proverbs 18:24 says “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Clarke’s commentary on this verse says, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly – Love begets love; and love requires love as its recompense. If a man do not maintain a friendly carriage, he cannot expect to retain his friends. Friendship is a good plant; but it requires cultivation to make it grow.” So, in other words, if you want more friends, be more friendly! On the flip side, too many friends isn’t so good. You can’t truly pour into a lot of people. The second part of that verse talks about “a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” I believe you have very few of these friends in a lifetime and they deserve your time, energy, love, prayers.
Now think of a person who seems to leave destruction and wasted relationships everywhere they go. You know somebody like this….they hop from one place (or person) to another and when they hop away the people left behind are often thankful that the experience is over. These people are bridge burners. What are they sowing? Bitterness, division, deceit, anger, hatred? Maybe they take more than they give. At any rate, these people are often not happy people. They always feel like someone is out to get them. They’re ready to be offended at the drop of a hat. They look for the bad rather than the good. Guess what! They’re reaping what they’re sowing! You cannot sow bad and expect good. It simply will not work. Maybe it looks like it’s working for a while, but eventually the train will derail.
Now….let’s talk about the people who aren’t necessarily living bad lives. They’re not mean or hurtful, they’re simply living their lives, doing what must be done, being obedient and faithful….but doing no more than necessary. I think you’ll find that these folks are also getting out what they put in….not much. Jesus said, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Matthew 5:41 NASB This is in the same place where Jesus was urging us to love our enemies, to do extra, to offer the other cheek…just after the Beatitudes. (Matthew 5 is good reading, I highly recommend it!) In John 10:10, Jesus said He came so that we might have abundant life – it is the enemy of our souls who works against that. I believe every teaching Jesus offered was part of teaching us how to achieve that abundant life. So, if we give extra, we’ll get extra. If you’re giving the minimum, you’re going to get the minimum. What does abundant life mean to you? Give that and watch it return!
Now….if you’re sitting there thinking, “Sister, I give and give and give! I go the extra mile. I love and pour into others. But, life is stinky for me right now!” Well, I would say, hang on, God will turn it around. We can never discount the enemy’s tactics. He will not give up until he is cast into Hell for eternity. His goal is to pull you away from God. So, you will always have trouble, you will always have pain, you will always have disappointment. But, God is bigger than all that and you can have JOY in the midst of it! (btw….have you ever seen the acrostic for joy that says J-Jesus first, then O-others, finally Y-yourself. The recipe for joy. Kinda goes with what I’m saying here, doesn’t it?) Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (NIV) And in John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
So…I would ask you….do you like what life’s giving you right now? If the answer is no, then I say examine it carefully and prayerfully. Is there something more God wants you to give that you haven’t been willing to? Is there an attitude or habit He wants you to relinquesh to Him? Are you allowing His grace, peace, love and joy to fill you and overflow onto others? Are you following the recipe for JOY? (remember….Jesus said, “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NASB) Either way, whether life is good now or not, whether God’s trying to mold you some more or not….Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” NASB
And….if you’re thinking that I’m sitting here all smug cause I’ve got it all figured out, please know that I wrote this with one eyeball looking myself in the mirror! Normally, the lessons y’all get here are the ones God’s trying to work in me! With His help, I am slowly but surely becoming the woman He wants me to be. I hope He’s working in you too, because growth just gets us closer to the One Who loves us! Let’s agree to pray each other through!
Be blessed and tell someone you love them!