Rats, Marriage, and a Whole Lot of Jesus


Marriage is an adventure. From day one you are stepping out into one of the greatest adventures of your life. Sometimes it takes a while for the adventure to set in. Other times, the adventure kicks in right away and you are faced with a problem so insurmountable that it shakes your young marriage to its very core.  That adventure came to me only one day after returning from the honeymoon.You say your vows, cry your tears, and spend way too much money on the wedding, but nothing prepares you for this. Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at roughly 5:39pm, Nicolette and I go to get into our car to head to Jesse’s house for Connect Group.  I was talking about something, per the usual, and Nic was listening. I am off somewhere in my own world as I climb into the driver’s seat.However, my monologue is rudely cut short by a blood curdling scream. I look over and see Nic running back into the house screaming and crying. Big tears just pouring down her cheeks. My brother runs outside, thinking she must have run me over with the car or something, only to find me standing there with my jaw to the floor.  Finally, we get it out of Nic.She opened the glove compartment and saw what she thought looked likimage_24036_4.jpge a little brown whip, then a little claw, then a beady eye popped open and stared at her. She had found a bon a fide rat that had taken up residence in our car. A whole new meaning to the rat race.Of course my first thought was to call Jesse. I tell him we have a rat stuck in our car and we have got to get it out. So I spend an hour going through the car trying to find the rat, but to no avail. So we park the car and load it up with traps.  Surely, if by the morning and there is nothing in the traps, then our little furry friend must have left, scared for his life. The next morning rolls around. Nothing in the traps. So I get in the car, go to work. Still nothing. I am relieved. She is relieved. Everybody is relieved.  Then I go out to my car around lunchtime, only to find new droppings and that it has chewed through my vents. He is still there! Very much alive and very much living in my car.This obviously means that we need to pull out drastic measures.  So, we Jesse and I go to the store, get every little thing imaginable to kill this thing. All the while, Nic is begging me to just tear the dashboard apart and find it that way. Obviously, that is way too much work and I would rather spend money and buy traps, smoke bombs, and ammonia.Now a rat only needs a hole the size of a quarter to get into any space, because it can collapse its lungs and turn basically into jello. Then it puffs back up and is good to go.Well, we obviously knew how to outsmart this character.  We tried flushing the HVAC with ammonia, Lysol, and repellant.  All the while we had traps set up to catch him if he even remotely came running through the car. When none of that worked, we took a coffee mug, lit a little fire in it, turned the A/C on recirculation and put it in the car. I do NOT recommend doing this. However, we did get it on the video below. ;)[wpvideo WJg7YAeM]After almost three hours we had nothing. So, I shampooed the seats, mats, and carpets.  The car smelled brand new, looked amazing, and as far as I was concerned there was no rat.The three of us went on a quick trip up to NYC that weekend to pick up furniture for our apartment. While we are there, my mother in law hired an exterminator and had it go through the entire car. NOTHING. The car is good. Nic is finally calm. I have taken my car back from Mickey Mouse’s evil cousin. LIFE IS GOOD.Then we are driving back down.  The smell hit us all at once. I thought maybe Jesse was just letting it go in the back seat. We did just have McDonalds.  But after a couple of hours, the smell was still present.  What happened was the little guy had found a nice hiding place in the engine compartment somewhere.  On our drive up to NYC we hit a snow storm and while we were there it was 14 degrees. The little guy froze.  Now, back in the south, he was thawing.

Nic refused to get back in the car for almost an hour. I was sick to my stomach. And we had to go through, a very packed car, in 40-degree weather on the side of the road. If I had just listened to Nic in the first place and went the extra mile, it would have saved me days and hours’ worth of trouble.

But we do that in life. We shampoo the carpets. Run ammonia through the HVAC. Go through the carwash. We smell good. We look good. But there is a Rat in your engine! The rat only needed the size of a quarter to get in. He only needed a little opening. Big issues often start with small choices.I can handle this or I can hide that.  It isn’t that big of a deal. Guess what? All it needs is a quarter sized hole in your life to weasel its way into your heart.  Before youUnknownknow it the wires are chewed up and your car won’t start. Why? Because there is a rat in your engine. It doesn’t matter how many times you wash the car. Until you get it out. It is still there. It isn’t until you get the big guns out, dig into the very depths of your heart, your sin, your secrets, and your weaknesses will remain.The problem is these hidden things don’t just impact you. My decision to not listen to my wife (who is very similar to the Holy Spirit) and tear my dashboard apart to find the rat in the first place, led to a very discomforting ride for my two passengers.How was I supposed to know the rat was going to thaw? You may think that the thing you are struggling with is frozen, doesn’t smell and is hidden from sight, but let me tell you, one of these days it is going to thaw and everyone around you is going to be able to smell it. And it doesn't smell pretty.We have to purge our hearts. We need to let the Holy Spirit in. We need to partner with Him to change who we are. He wants to work in your life, but you have to let Him in. You have to invite Him deep into the compartments that you don’t want anyone to see.

Because big issues start with small choices.

There is a name for this purging process, for letting the Holy Spirit deep into the engine compartment of your heart. It is called Sanctification.  We say it all the time at The Gathering, “Salvation is a moment. Sanctification is a process.” BUT what is that process? What is the sanctification process that God is calling each of us to?First, the salvation bit of the process. Romans 5:8-10.  This is our salvation. We can now be sanctified and made more into the likeness of Jesus because we have been justified by the blood of Jesus. He paid the atoning sacrifice so that we may know Him and be like Him.The sanctification process, however, is a little less straightforward.  Romans 5:3-5.  I read this and immediately was a little confused by the text. The Bible can be a little befuddling sometimes. It just reminds me of how BIG our God really is.Not just by the rejoicing in our sufferings part, but in the “character produces hope” why does character produce hope? And that is what got this whole thing started. Study your Bible.I wasn't confused just by the rejoicing in our sufferings part, but by the “character produces hope” part. Why does character produce hope? And that is what got this whole thing started. Study your Bible.So the first part in the Sanctification process:

  1. Suffering Produces Endurance

Romans 5:3            I don’t like suffering.  Nobody does. It isn’t fun.  I was interested by what the word suffering meant. Not just the definition, but what the author meant by the word. He chose it for a reason. I found that the word can also mean tension.

So, rejoice in the tension that life brings, for it produces endurance.

            Rejoice in the uncomfortable; because God never called us to be comfortable, just obedient.

God may be calling you to something that makes you uncomfortable, and for that reason you think it isn’t the Lord.  God never called you to comfort! He may be wanting to refine and mold you. You are in the sanctification process. That one thing you have hidden in your heart, God may be trying to finally root it out of there, but if you aren’t obedient in the discomfort, the peace of God in the comfort, cannot come. Do you trust God enough to be uncomfortable?You can’t bench 245lbs just by walking up to the bar and putting the weights on. You have to train. You have to work hard. You have to put your muscles under, tension. 300-Pound-Bench.jpgBecause under tension they grow and become stronger, developing endurance. God wants to develop in you the endurance to face the tensions in your life, so that you come out looking more like the Father and less like the world.  You just have to say yes. 

  1. Endurance Produces Character

Romans 5:4            Character.  What is character? Character is “The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.”  Genesis 1:27 says that we are made in the very likeness of God.  So character is the qualities that are distinctive to the likeness of God. We are developing into being more like God. More like Jesus.In the New Testament church, they never called themselves Christians. Christian, literally means little Christ. So we are Christians, thus we are little Christs. Why? Because we are moving toward being more like Christ. We are moving through this sanctification process, facing tension, in order to transform into the likeness of God. Other known as: producing character.I’m going to clear something up for you. Either you have character or you don’t.  Sometimes when people make bad decisions people will say, "Oh they don’t have a lot of character." That just doesn’t make sense.

If I read my Bible correctly, you ARE made in the likeness of God and the sanctification process is moving you closer to His distinctive likeness. Just because there was a rat in my car, did not turn my car into a rat. It made my car stink, but it didn’t turn my car into a rat. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Your sin does not turn you into sin.

You are still made in the likeness of God. You are just in process.

  1. Character Produces Hope

Romans 5:4-5 Here we are. Back at the beginning where I was so confused.  What did the author mean when he used the term “HOPE?”  I get it. If you have character then there is hope that you can make it through life, but it is deeper than that.  The word the author used is ELPIS which means, “Expectation, Trust, Confidence.”   Our expectation does not put us toOur expectation does not put us to shame, because our expectation is not in us or in finite things, but rather in the Holy Spirit that is poured out into our hearts.  Regardless of our failures, this process of sanctification and the tension that is produced will provide hope that it does not all rely on you. You are not the linchpin in the organization. The Holy Spirit is the very thing that holds us all together. In Him, we live and have our being.If our hope was simply in ourselves there would be a cause for shame. Because you will make mistakes, fall, and sin, but our hope is in the fact that the Holy Spirit will verne-ho-26301.jpgbe present through every step of the process; forgetting nothing, missing nothing, and forsaking nothing. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble.There is no mountain you cannot face. No trial you cannot go through. That you will not come out of victorious, not because of your actions, but because it is in and through the Holy Spirit that we move.

The character that is produced makes us more into the likeness of God, producing expectation, because the more we are like God the more we know God.  For if we Know Him. We Know Life.

P.S. We are still married. ;)

Buy how do we make it through this processs?

Part 2 Coming April 20.

Much Love,