The Wonder of the Mystery

Mystery books are some of the most popular on the market. They are not my favorite genre. Occassionally, I will read one that has some other aspect that is interesting to me.

To me a mystery is a story that has a detective trying to find our the answer to a crime, usually a murder. And, of course. the answer is not easy to find - often there is a surprise twist at the end. I like mysteries with a pleasant twist at the end, such as The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which I find delightful. But sometimes, the twist at the end of books makes me mad .... the John Grisham style.

In mystery books, something bad happens, no one knows who did it. The central character spends the whole book trying to find out who or why. Life is full of mysteries but not the type in these books. Some mysteries add fun and intrigue to life. Some just frustrate me. Then there are the situations that seem very mysterious when we are young, but age brings understanding. The mysterious becomes simple. Life would be so bland without some mystery.

The mystery book that I enjoy reading most often is the Bible. Never thought of the Bible as a mystery book? God talks about a "mystery" at least 25 times. Last Sunday, we were teaching from Ephesians 3. Verse 4 says, "In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ."

But the mysteries in the Bible are much different. These mysteries are the best kind of all. God reveals "the mystery" to us through one of his own. These mysteries involve God blessing us with His riches.

Many of life's specials blessings involved mysteries at one time, but no longer. When we married, cohabitation was considered "shacking up" - something most of us would not even consider. Today, many couples live together first - eliminating the pleasure of the mystery. I remember a few years ago, a young couple, who visited our class for a while, got married after living together for at least a year. When asked how married life was, he said "not any different." Part of the wonder of marriage is the discovery of the "up close and personal" companion. The unfolding of that relationship, while joined in a commitment for a lifetime, brings great joy (most of the time!).

Another mystery, which my generation enjoyed, has to do with children. Ultrasounds were in their infancy when I had our first child, almost 30 years ago. We could sort of tell that a baby was in the picture, but they weren't sophisticated enough to show the gender of the child. I had a "mystery" child in my womb. Some of you are thinking that your child is still a mystery to you. But today's parents now know the gender of their children. The name is picked out. The nursery is appropriately decorated. The mystery is revealed before the birth.

The most exciting revelation of mystery has to be the one God gave us in Ephesians 3:6 "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." The revealation of this mystery does not detract from the wonder of the Christian life, but instead multiplies the phenomenon of grace - the promise of Jesus Christ.

Money to Marry

We can’t afford to get married.

Have you ever heard a young couple say that? What they often mean by that statement is that they do not have enough money to have the wedding, reception, and honeymoon that they want.

But frequently, they mean that they can’t afford to buy the house and lifestyle that they want as a married couple. So, instead of marrying, they live together. Often, they even start a family together.

Even though the economic downturn has greatly affected older adults, the young, lower-education, working class adults are having trouble finding the jobs to provide for the lifestyle they expect.

A recent article, "The Generation That Can't Move On Up," by Andrew Cherlin (professor at Johns Hopkins University) and W. Bradford Wilcox (director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia) explains what is happening.

Working-class couples still value marriage highly. But they don't think they have what it takes to make a marriage work. Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn't ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. That's an increasingly high bar for the younger working class. As a result, cohabitation is emerging as the relationship of choice for young adults who have some earnings but not enough steady work to reach the marriage bar.

However, we know that cohabitating relationships don’t last. Children who are born to cohabitating parents are more than twice as likely as children born to married parents to see their parents break up by age five.

This problem compounds in a child’s life when parents get on a relationship-go-round, bringing a series of partners or stepparents into the home. Cherlin and Cox also explain how this group’s economic and family situation is affecting their church attendance.

But now, when a transformed economy makes marriage and steady work more difficult to attain, those who in better times might have married and attended church appear to be reluctant to show up. Thus, working-class men and women aren't going to religious services as often as they used to.

Culturally, we have set up these young adults for unrealistic expectations of marriage and the prestige of money. Money has taken first place. As Christians, our role can be to avoid letting income levels become the basis of social acceptance, to embrace and encourage these young couples.

How can Christians today reach out to these young, working class adults who are avoiding church and marriage?

Women, Money, and Fear

Our daughter is a “bag lady.”

Depending on your age, one of two images will probably come to your mind.
If you are as young as she is, you are probably thinking of someone who looks like this young women who loves purses. Our daughter has several large bags and could easily live out of those bags. In fact, she has lived out of them.

But if you are closer to my age, another image will probably come to mind. This woman is disheveled and homeless, carrying bags with all of her belongings. Her “bags” are stuffed full of her “valuables,” all that she owns. The thought of becoming a real homeless “bag lady” is a fear many women have.

The most documented female money fear is commonly referred to as the "bag lady syndrome," or anxiety about finding yourself suddenly destitute and on skid row. Many well- known, affluent woman have admitted to having this fear.

Most marriage resources list financial security as one of the top needs for women. This security is closely related to this fear of not having a home, “the bag lady.”

Most men don’t realize how strong this need is in a woman’s life. Part of it stems from a woman’s sense of vulnerability physically—a fear of assault, physically and/or sexually. Another part is the “nesting and nurturing” attribute of women. They have an innate sense of making a home for their family, nurturing, and protecting their children.

If a woman has experienced financial distress, either as a child or as an adult, this need for financial security can become even stronger.

Marriage and Financial Fears

What does that mean for marriage? Husbands can be aware of the strong emotional reaction that they may receive if the home if not financially secure. He can also partner with his wife in making a realistic budget and staying with it. As they review their finances together regularly, the wife can gain confidence in the couple's financial faithfulness.

Men and women have financial fears, but women’s fears are different than men’s.

The kind of fear with which most of us walk around is not a fear that God gave us. This fear came with our independence from God.

God wants us to have faith, wisdom, and godliness, not fear. His desire is that we be good managers of His money and to seek wise counsel in making the decisions. But recognizing the fears help us to see where our faith is lacking and helps us to understand our emotional reactions.

Besides the fear of being poor, women often fear losing money, looking stupid, borrowing money, making a plan and sticking to it, investing, not trusting themselves (putting financial decisions in someone else’s hands), and keeping the wrong advisors (they know it’s hard to turn loose of their relationships).

The Provider and Protector

Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.

For the woman, who experiences the “bag lady syndrome,” understanding God’s presence in her life as our Protector and Provider can turn fear into confidence.

God wants us to experience Him as our Provider. He is not saying that we sit around and do nothing until money drops in our lap.

But He is saying that when we are faithful to do our part (even though He provides for the birds, they have to get up every morning and look for worms.), He will provide. In marriage, He has ordained husbands to be the conduit through which He wants to provide. (Genesis 2:15, 1 Timothy 3:8)

God is our provider. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:14)

God is our Protector. "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. (Psalm 91:14-15)