One of my favorite Christmas memories came five years ago when Mirela told me she was pregnant with our second child. I was overjoyed, amazed, and humbled. When that daughter was born we named her “Maitê,” which means “beloved.” We named her that because it was something we need to be reminded of, that we are His beloved. And it was an affirmation of her identity, too. But mostly, her name reminds us that she was born amidst God’s clear and transformative love poured into our marriage and our lives.
Story from Our Marriage
Six years ago amongst a missional community meal, my wife and I shared more honest than we ever had. We were somewhat nervous, but mostly relieved. We had just come out of the shadows. Our marriage was in trouble. We were in trouble.
This was the night we told our community how bad it was and that we needed intense marriage counseling. The days leading up to our public confession of mess were filled with interventions from fellow leaders and a painful conversation in which I asked Mirela, “Have there been good times in our marriage?” She responded, “Some, but they don’t last long.” She had been fighting for my attention for quite some time. Our marriage had endured lots of pain we simply raced past: the loss of a parent, deep financial hardships, the US immigration system, and doing ministry in the core of a city that wanted nothing to do with the church.
The bulk of our married life had been spent leading communities, doing ministry, planting a church, and pretending to have a good marriage. This was our fourth missional community to lead. We had already sent three communities out. I had already led trainings on how to ‘do’ missional community. This was the moment I finally felt like I belonged to a missional community. It was the first moment we truly asked something from any community. We needed childcare, we needed funds for counseling, and we desperately needed prayers.
We spent the next year simply participating. We weren’t the leaders anymore. Mirela and I have never been the same. That community was never the same either. This honest moment ushered in a sort of caring and loving I had stopped expecting from those I was in “community” with. Looking back I realize that I had finally become a burden and I had become a brother. We sought the gospel together. Mirela and I shared what we were learning in counseling. People saw our marriage transform right before their eyes. Our community paid for months and months of counseling. They watched our daughter. They regularly asked what was going on. Beyond this, each couple examined their own marriage. Mirela and my learning and growing was theirs, too.
Furthermore, it was in this season that I saw the power of simply pursuing love for God, love for one another, and love for neighbor. Emboldened by counseling and my community, I began to share what God was doing in my life with friends and neighbors. In telling them about my mess, crazy things began to happen. Neighbors wanted to talk about Jesus more. They wanted to come to our church’s worship gatherings. They wanted to hear how we saw God’s presence in our mess.
Side note: when people ask me if missional communities work, I look back to this story and say, “Yes, they do.” This one was vital in nudging me to love God, love His Church, and love my neighbors.
Beyond all of that, though, that time in our marriage taught us both two remarkable things: we are a mess and we are deeply loved. So we named our daughter, Maitê, or beloved. Knowing the love of Jesus changed our marriage.
You are Loved
There’s obviously a lot to talk about in regards to Christmas. There are a lot of logistics to figure out. But, when we gaze at the child in the manger, and the Savior born to us, I hope you will find the love of God. I hope He lands in your life and that the Spirit reminds you that your name is beloved. I also pray that as you walk into the frantic last days of Advent, you take stock of the people He’s called you to love and receive love from.