The focus of it all…

We are back from honeymoon and now that 2019 has begun to find its groove, I have some spare time to blog again… and finally get to share some of the significance of the details and elements of the Big Day.

Honestly, we planned the wedding in 2 weeks and I think what surprised most people was how easily I delegated the creative aspects to people I trust wholeheartedly – but more about that in the next blog. So, for the majority of the engagement process, we focused on preparing for Marriage – and not just any marriage, we wanted a Kingdom Marriage: a marriage that was God-created and could be used to encourage others and further His Kingdom. That’s how I have always lived my life, and I couldn’t imagine not expecting the same for my marriage. So as much as weddings are fun and filled with pretty things, that was never our focus. We were looking beyond at living out the covenant between us as husband and wife, with God at the centre.

Just as He has done throughout our Love Story, Holy Spirit lead Chris along our path. Chris and his wife Louise oversaw our marriage prep and have become so special to us and we really value their input in our lives. So when our original ‘choice’ for marriage officiant fell through, I knew it was Holy Spirit opening the door for Chris to not only preach (as originally intended), but do the entire service.  It was his first wedding, which was great because we were doing it for the first time too and could be newbies together! He asked if there was something we wanted specifically mentioned in the sermon and again, I felt Holy Spirit say, nope He would give Chris the message.

And wow, did Holy Spirit speak to Chris! Below is Chris’ sermon – he knocked it out of the park and honestly captured so much of what Garth and I had spoken about during our engagement (at home on the couch with tea) and what we aspired to and even the challenges and battles we had faced. It was such a beautiful confirmation from God that this marriage is His Plan and His Best for both of us – and His fingerprints are all over this.

 

There are lots of people who state they know Christ and live a life for him and with him that are in fact not really doing so… When Jesus is Lord of your life there is an order and a pattern that is seen… Fruits appear. Not rotten, disgusting fruits like fear, deception or irritability but life, patience, self control and kindness.. the gifts found in Galatians 5
When Jesus is Lord of our life we have purpose and passion.. we see this world as an interlude to our eternal destines and make decisions which have a reach far outside of this temporary time..
Matthew 28 we are told to make disciples – our life’s work is to help others see and feel and know what we have experienced so that eternity is set of them
When Jesus is Lord of our life we are changed / we think differently, act differently and look at the world differently as we read in Romans 12. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬
When Jesus is Lord of our life we speak the word of God and live what we say.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:22-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬
When we live as kingdom people we have a king – we are obedient to His ways even when we don’t agree, we follow His decrees even if our flesh desperately wants a different answer and acknowledge that our life is not our own but we are owned by Him whom created us and forms us.
Zechariah and many Old Testament words prophesy Jesus coming and they even mention his donkey that he rides in Matthew. 21… Jesus is the long awaited messiah and king who will lead us into glory
Lauren and Garth – many of us have walked with you for years or months but we all witness two people who love God and honour Him as I have described above today. It is the journey you made as single people that qualifies you for today. Two people who do  not know God or love according to His pattern would not be able to build the kind of kingdom marriage that God is looking for or desires.
You still have a responsibility to each other to do the work that has been described today – your salvation and walking it out remains yours to do but now you have to include and acknowledge each others spiritual journey. Your past and single life whilst coming to an end today has equipped you for what is to come..
So what are you doing today?
You are making the second biggest decision of your life after following Christ. This is the only decision and relationship that you take with you for the whole of your life apart from Christ. Many people in this room will come and go over the next 60 years but the person standing in front of you and the person of Jesus in your heart remains.
Today is a decision to give up the ability to say “me”, “mine “ and replace with “we”, and “ours”.
Today is a covenant that states you will be with each other until the end of your lives.. it’s not a contract of obligation which has terms and an end date and get out clauses. This is a total surrender of privilege, rights and independence to pledge a lifetime to each other. It is a covenant that God ordains and joins together. Your old life and person dies today and is replaced by this new creation of Mr and Mrs Wild.
Today is a decision which states who will be with you until the end / regardless of difficulties, pain, heartache or joy – until the end of days it will remain the two of you joined together that only God can separate.
Today begins your kingdom marriage so what does that look like?
Firstly – A kingdom marriage Has a King – that is our Lord Jesus
  • he is the ruler of your marriage and it’s ways and purposes
  • He is the ultimate ruler and determines your steps
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
  • ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬
A kingdom marriage has a heirachy
  • Jesus is the King of your lives and marriage
  • Garth is the head of the home as he submits to Jesus
  • Lauren submits to Garth as he submits to Christ
  • Children shall follow
This is the pattern that God ordained in Ephesians 5 and is the pattern of a kingdom marriage. Everything flows from God and His kingship. For wives this does not mean that they can’t work, will have every decision made for them or must be silent – but rather it says follow your husband as He follows Christ. Husbands our mandate is clear – love our wives as Christ loved the church… sacrificial, all encompassing, removing all self interest and without condition.
Submitting to a man like that is simple.
The king decides the purpose
  • To bring God glory and live in unity as one
  • As man and woman we were created in his image to multiply the earth and take care of it to give him glory
  • Our great commission still stands to both raise disciples and to make disciples to advance his kingdom
The king decides the rules
  • Just as with our relationship with him he has given us clarity in living for him
  • The bible gives clarity on how to live and love for him on the earth
  • Read the road together, pray together and grow in wisdom so that your lives are in tune with his commands
The kingdom has an enemy
  • The battle you have to build and have a kingdom marriage is not a natural one but spiritual – fight in the spirit
  • “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
  • ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-18‬ ‭NLT‬
The king equips his people
  • just as in kingdoms the kings would have armies and spike train and equip
  • In 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, we read that we are given gifts inside each one of us..
  • you see marriage of two sinful people trying to make a life together is impossible but two redeemed, sanctified and equipped people bonded in marriage can do immeasurably more than we could hope or imagine..
So Lauren and Garth the covenant you make today is ordained by God and only made possible to do by Him. Hold onto your God. Listen to Him and obey His voice as you do married life together..
Then at the end you will hear “well done my good and faithful servant”
 – Chris Berry
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Going Wild

changed my surname and relationship status yesterday.

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According to the South African government and Home Affairs, I am legally Mrs Wild. It was a simple process: we met in the church office with our two witnesses, answered two simple questions and were pronounced husband and wife.  And yet, we do not consider 20 December to be our Wedding Day – that’s happening next week Friday, the 28th.  Why? Because as Christians, we believe that marriage is not a legal piece of paper declaring my name change, but rather a covenant between ourselves and God – it is a holy commitment to love each other, be faithful to one another and keep God at the centre of our relationship.  And until that covenant has been made and celebrated with friends, we are spending the week ‘un-married’.

But that didn’t stop us from enjoying yesterday…

Before the meeting (we use this word deliberately, because it was not a ceremony or special event), we went for a walk on the beach – yip, the same beach where it all began.  We had to marvel at how much has changed in 8 months; how many tough challenges we have had to face, how much we have grown – both relationally and spiritually… its been a season of huge acceleration for both of us.  We then got married, enjoyed coffee with friends and went home – to wash dishes and pack away my laundry.  You know, married people things… and then I was blessed abundantly by Kristin Swan, a super lovely make up artist in the city: she did my hair and make up as a ‘blessing from Jesus because He wants you to celebrate’. I cannot adequately express how special that was or how much I needed it – that in the midst of our unconventional and difficult engagement, I would be given such an amazing gift.  And obviously, G loved the transformation… which we embraced with a photoshoot on the beach (photos to hopefully come soon once they’ve been edited etc). And then we got to celebrate with a couple who God has blessed us with – we love our new friendship with them and have been able to share the highs and lows and lessons learnt through our season of marriage prep; it made sense to get to share our celebrations with them last night.  God is so good.

Instead of focusing on the change of relationship status, Holy Spirit reminded me of something else – the significance of a name change. I’ve always loved my name and God has used it time and time again to remind me of my Identity in Him – that no matter how much credit my parents may take, He named me. And the meaning of my name has had such significance for me.

Lauren Joy Vercoe.

Lauren means ‘crowned with laurels; victorious’ and well, Joy is pretty obvious.  My surname, apparently coming from French heritage can be split into two french words: Verite (truth) and Coeur (heart).  I’ve always loved that – ‘being true to one’s heart’.  And for me, it meant being true to my heart after God.  On the way home from my SOZA session last month, Holy Spirit explained how I was stepping into a new season and how significant my name change would be.  Although my ‘foundation’ will always be ‘true to my heart’, a new season of Freedom and Reckless Abandonment (in God) was on its way – that I have been granted permission to be Wildly, Joyfully Victorious – living in the Fullness of Jesus’ Victory, Freedom and Healing – His Grace.

I don’t know the details of this New Season, but I am expectant of God doing great things – to His glory.

The moment I removed my ring

To say the past week has been challenging, is an understatement. Its been rough. Hell, its felt like a hurricane of emotions and struggles. But the worst has past and we’ve caught our breath.

As I mentioned in my previous post, our wedding planning has had a few potholes and despite it being a very Holy Spirit inspired and co-ordinated event, we have had to face just a little human interference… and although I sought to respect and honour and make amendments where I could, eventually it became too much and I began to realise how ‘not well’ I was coping.  Every time I drove my car on a route out of my normal routine, I began experiencing mini panic attacks.  They weren’t major and I brushed it off and carried on. On Thursday, things happened that caused me to have a somewhat more noticeable (and public) attack in the staffroom at work. I finally took notice and realised we needed to address the issues. On seeing Garth later that day, I had another attack in front of him and it opened the door for a necessary conversation… and if I ever doubted how perfectly God times things – we had our final Q&A session of marriage prep sprung upon us for that evening. I arrived raw and a little apprehensive.

We won’t lie, the evening was tough and we’re both really grateful that we’ve had these honest conversations between ourselves, before having to address the issues with Chris and Louise. I think Garth took the worst of it, and was given some pretty direct instructions of things he needed to do – for the sake of our relationship.

By Saturday, I was beginning to struggle again.  He had not appeared to have done any of the things Chris had suggested and his silence on the matter was suffocating. Saturday afternoon we addressed the issue and it was tough; he was unhappy and I was anxious. I went to lie down and have only experienced that kind of crying once or twice in my life before – when the tears come from your spirit and no longer just an emotional reaction. I broke. And he watched me. It was painful to say the least.

And then Holy Spirit began to minister: He reminded me of a passage from a book I had actually asked my friend to lend Garth (Wild at Heart by John Eldridge; phenomenal read!).  In this passage, it explains how just as every man’s underlying question is ‘does he have what it takes?’, so every woman’s question is ‘am I worth fighting for?’.  And in that moment I realised we were both facing those very questions – I desperately needed my future husband to fight for me and his hesitancy looked like reluctance.  My continued meltdowns made him question his own strength. We were facing a battle that suddenly seemed very important – for each of us. And then Holy Spirit told me to remove my ring – not break up or even pause the wedding, but make a symbolic gesture of stepping out of the situation while He did the necessary healing.  I knew I would wear it again once Garth had been obedient and stepped into everything God had instructed, but I had no idea how long that would take. If removing it hurt, watching Garth’s face as I did so, was so much worse.

But we both had something to fight for.

Sunday morning I saw the book sitting beside my bed and noticed the sleeve was being used as a bookmark. Curious to see where Gabi had apparently stopped ready, I opened it. It was the exact chapter referring to the question with which every woman struggles. I read it and Holy Spirit once again began to minister: I thought I had found healing in this area years ago… only I hadn’t; I had simply learnt to live with the pain. I asked Garth to read the chapter and he graciously did, while holding my hand.  It was a long, vulnerable (for me) experience. When he was done, there was a new understanding of my pain in his eyes – but he still struggled with being obedient.

And that in turn made me struggle. I have lived by the principle that ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’ – that if you hear God give you an instruction: do it. Don’t delay and try ‘process’ or consider the potential consequences – obey the Father. While delaying obedience, one is simply being disobedient. And it concerned me seeing that in my future husband. So I brought the issue into the light and we began to communicate.

And something incredible happened.

As we became deliberate in establishing unity between us and reaffirming the connection in our relationship, suddenly we found ourselves encouraging one another to face the challenges ahead, even finding creative strategies to tackle the issues. It would take me a series of posts to begin explaining what happened yesterday – and maybe one day when everything is truly in the past and resolved, I will – but all I can say is I love a God who values Redemption; He alone can redeem the ugliest mess and turn things around for His good and glory. We didn’t do anything special. We simply focused our attention on Him, sought His heart in the battle and positioned ourselves under His covering – He did the rest.

What I have learnt is this: when a couple is unified under Christ, the enemy (in whatever shape or form) has no foothold. And the storms pass – and we find ourselves stronger, together. I’m wearing my ring – and don’t intend on removing it again. We’ve learnt the answers to both of our questions: God has given me a man who considers me worthy of fighting for, and he has the strength to step into the battle, with Holy Spirit (and me) beside him.