How have you seen God as the Master Architect in your lives?
Simon: My life has been filled decisions that have been ordered by God, and I think on them regularly. That is why I'm generally happy all the time, because I know it is His carefully laid-out plan, and not mine. I always remember the scripture, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
People used to tell me that in order to succeed you had to know the right people and be in the right place at the right time. While that theory may hold some truth, it's lacking two major keys: wisdom and prayer. Not only do you have to be smart about how you live your life, but you need to listen to what God has to say. Otherwise, you're just living life at a disadvantage, instead of living in His divine plan.
Shifra: God's master plan brought Simon and I to New York, so we could meet and start our lives together. Neither of us ever planned, on our own, to move to New York—let alone start a family here. Maybe some people would call that fate or coincidence, but I call that God. The blueprint God laid out for us not only brought Simon and I together, but it brought us closer to Him. We met this incredible church family at C3 that is a big part of why we stay here, regardless of the struggles of life and raising a family in New York. Without the support of our church family, I'm not sure how long we would last in this city. We're not sure what it means exactly for the future, but if God brought us here and gave us the life he had laid out for us, He'll keep guiding us, and the more we listen to Him, the more we stay on His path.
How do you build foundations individually and as a family?
Simon: My foundation is built on what I learned growing up and in church every Sunday. Having a dad who served as a worship leader, I was basically involved in every church event and task imaginable, from running the transparencies and playing the bongos to producing videos and eventually playing the drums with my dad. My church community, which overflowed into my family life, was really key to my upbringing. I hope that as a dad and husband I can be disciplined to give my family what my family gave to me growing up: a firm foundation. As a new dad in the C3 community, I’m really excited to see how that area of the church expands and flourishes.
Shifra: When Simon and I first started dating, Jesus wasn't in my life, but He was in Simon's. We started going to church together as our relationship progressed, and once I started forming my own relationship with Jesus, as well as Simon strengthening his, our future started to unfold. I started reading the Bible and daily devotionals, and when we started going to C3 Brooklyn, Pastor Josh offered some suggestions of books to read to broaden my knowledge. Creating that relationship through prayer and reading His word, I started to understand my brokenness as a person and why it was up to Jesus to save my past self. It wasn't Simon's job or even my own. When I was baptized, my life started over. This was the beginning of my foundation with Him. Now as a woman with a family, when I start to feel selfish—or I'm "getting down" about my marriage or being a parent and the struggles that come with family life—I reach out to the C3 Daughters, and more specifically, the moms and wives with whom I'm closest. It is so encouraging to know others have been through similar situations and can offer transparent, nonjudgmental words of encouragement, advice and prayer.
As a family, watching Simon become a father has deepened my love for him more than I thought possible. I see a nurturing side of him and the joy that fills his eyes when he sees his son, and that is just everything to me. Building a foundation on that kind of love is the most important piece of our foundation as a family.
Which relational blueprints in the Bible—like Ruth and Boaz or Christ and the Church—resonate most deeply with you?
Simon: Ephesians 2 talks about the relationship we have with Christ ordained by God. It lays out very simply that we were "dead in our sin and cravings of the flesh," but by His grace we are not only saved but we are His “handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That hits the nail on the head for me. He is our peace, therefore we no longer have the need to be hostile. He's the balance. Comparatively, Ephesians 5 tells me as a husband to love my wife as God loved the church so that she will remain pure.
Mine and Shifra's marriage is not by any means perfect, and we tend to remind each other of these principles in the heat of an argument, but it's a good reminder that whatever conflict we're in, there's a solution. We can sleep soundly knowing that God has his hand over our marriage.
Shifra: Being a wife and mother has given me a new understanding of Christ's love—self-sacrificial, unconditional love. I'm not going to sit here and act like I have the ability to love and sacrifice my own needs for the needs of my family 100% of the time, but in those selfish moments, I can't say that I've ever gotten anything positive out of those situations. In fact, they usually lead to more conflict. Pure joy in my family comes when we speak and act lovingly toward one another, putting each other's needs ahead of our own. And with our son, Solomon, self-sacrifice has become a given. He needs everything from us, and we're here to provide that for him. As a baby, he can't offer much back in return besides a sweet smile and cuddle, maybe a giggle here and there, but that's where unconditional love comes in. Whether he's screaming and crying or being sweet and smiley, my job is to love him through all those moments, as God loves me through my successes and my failures.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
How do you raise your son with the knowledge that God has a blueprint for his life as well?
Simon: No one can prepare you to be a parent. You just kind of have to do it because—hey, guess what—you have a kid now and you have to take care of him. It is a relief to know that whatever our son Solomon does in life will be led by God’s word and guidance. We can teach him the fundamentals of how to live and be an upstanding person, but we also get to teach Solomon how to listen to the Lord. We can be examples as parents and hopefully one day he will appreciate the way he was raised—the same way I feel today about my parents.
Shifra: Raising a child is both an exciting and terrifying thought. While I'm aware that God has a blueprint for Solomon, I know that God has also given me free will to parent and make decisions. Ultimately, as I keep growing in my relationship with Jesus, I can grow to be a better parent. Christlike love and patience is what will help me raise Solomon. Sometimes in the middle of the night, Sol is crying and nothing I do makes him comfortable. All I want is for him to be happy and content, but sometimes it's totally out of my control. Sometimes I have emotional breakdowns, and sometimes I jump right to prayer, asking God to comfort my son and bring me patience and love for Sol. I imagine I'll do the same if he rebels as a teenager, or makes decisions that I disagree with. I hope in those moments I can pray for him and remember that his blueprint exists, and there's a bigger plan that I don't have the ability to see.
In retrospect, how do you see God as laying the foundation for the present?
Shifra: I’ll never forget the day I really felt connected to God. I was sitting in my kitchen reading Matthew 16:24-27: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done."
A peace filled over me as I sat there reading, with the sun beating down on my face. I felt this overwhelming emotion sweep through me. My face crinkled up as tears streamed down my cheeks, and my body broke out into thousands of goose bumps. I closed my eyes and there He was, calling out my name and telling me to follow Him. After almost 30 years of looking for life's answers within myself, unable to turn to the one who created life and the one who died for my sins, I finally felt something real that made perfect sense. He's had a plan for me all along, and when I finally let go of putting it all on myself, everything changed. I can calm my worry and anxiety about the future by letting Him take control, trusting Him, and living in the present. It's not always easy, but I know it's what I need to do to continue to strengthen the foundation for mine and my family's life.
Simon: Shifra’s story blew whatever I was going to say out of the water. But I still have an answer. He has always had His hand on my family and my life. Anytime I’ve ever had a doubt in my mind about a huge decision, I pray. I ask God what to do, and He tells me. Sometimes my attitude can come off as if I’m not concerned or worried about the situation at hand, but that’s usually because God hasn’t steered me wrong yet. If God is for me, who could be against me? Any huge decisions I’ve ever made have been through careful consideration and sometimes OCD tendencies, but more often than not, the clarity comes after I pray about it. When there’s a question mark in my head, boom, I ask God what to do and then I do that. I don’t mean to make it seem so cut and dried, because I can’t say that I have 100% clarity immediately every time. But God has gotten us this far, and as long as we keep communicating (that’s the plan), we can trust and have faith that God will provide whatever we need. In Jesus name!