“I married a Christian man who promised me we’d spend time in the Word together every day when we got married. It’s been 20 years and I’m still waiting.”
“I thought he was such a good Christian man, he wouldn’t even pray with me before we got married, because he said that people told him that creates deeper intimacy, and would lead to sex. We’ve been married for 5 years and he has only prayed with me when I have asked for it.”
“We always said when we had kids, we would do devotionals at dinner time with them…he won’t do it. Our oldest leaves for college in three years, and I’m still waiting.”
I had dinner with a friend a few days ago, and she, too, expressed the most common complaint I hear from Christian wives: her husband won’t step up to leadership in their family and she’s tired of waiting. Specifically, she wanted devotionals with her and her kids. “He’s never led a devotional in our home. We’ve never studied the Bible together because he won’t lead. I’m tired of waiting.”
Oh, girl, could I relate.
I became a Christian as an adult, so when we went to the Family Life Conference together, and I heard the man talk about how he led devotionals every dinner time and prayed with his wife and kids every day, we decided we would do that, too. We bought the “Devotional Bible for Families” and I expected great things when we returned from the conference. We didn’t even have kids yet! When I heard the woman talk about how her husband started each day with a prayer with her for their kids and her day and his day, I couldn’t wait to get home for my husband to do these things. I eagerly shared with him what she said, and looked forward to the next day when our lives would be miraculously morphed into the traditional Christian family, as I perceived it to be.
Well you know what happened…
And I spent years waiting for my husband to lead.
Meanwhile, I was also criticizing him.
He was probably waiting for me to stop.
I let him know when I felt unloved and how he disappointed me. I didn’t realize that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21 – entire chapter here) and how I was just plain foolish – Proverbs 14:1 A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.
Criticism is judgment. And it can destroy the man you married. The man I married.
Finally, I learned more about being a wife. Ran across 1 Peter 3. That whole, “gentle and quiet spirit” thing…
So I shut up for about two years.
I spoke when I was spoken to. I instigated conversation only to communicate affirmation or something pertinent to his world. I stopped criticizing him and replaced my communication with words of encouragement. I read everything I could get my hands on about Christian marriage and what God said about being a wife…
…I was still waiting for him to “do his part.”
Instead of obeying God and living my life for the Audience of One, I was trying to purchase my husband’s affections.
My motives were wrong.
That’s also called “manipulation,” even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time.
Somehow, I missed the fine print. I still bought the lies that marriage was about making me happy…I had missed the entire point of the Bible…that the various contexts in which we find ourselves (employed, parents, married with children, etc.) are there to give us circumstances within which we will grow in our relationship with God. Instead of understanding that this thing called, “life,” is about Him, like the typical human, I made the classic cosmic mistake of thinking this life was about me.
I couldn’t even “do Christianity” right – my so-called “faith” was a checklist of Christian activity, but no real relationship with the Creator. I thought those people were nuts.
Finally, after a decade of learning the Bible, and “doing all the Christian things,” I decided enough was enough. I remember praying something like, “So, if there really is a God of the Bible, You are supposed to be a pretty big deal. You are supposed to be Someone who creates universes, parts the sea, causes floods, creates plagues, raises the dead, and You tell me I can move a mountain with mustard seed sized faith. Is this really it? Is this how big You really are? Cuz I’m not getting it…there has to be more…show me Your more, otherwise, I’m done doing all these things, aching for connection with You and being met with nothing. I don’t get it. Help me get it!”
A few days later, 4am rolled around with me wide awake. I couldn’t sleep.
I rose and felt compelled to read again about Jesus.
I can’t remember which gospel account I read, but I had an encounter which forever changed me.
I got it.
I realized how bereft my spirit is without Jesus Christ.
God did something only God can do – through His Holy Spirit, He revealed to me the relationship that feeds my soul.
No other human can do this in another human, so it is futile for us to even try. This is the work of the Spirit at God’s direction.
So when women cry on my shoulder or send me emails about how their husband is far from God, or how he’s walked away from the Lord, or doesn’t even know Him at all, I encourage them to pray for Him.
Because other than bringing Life with our words and our attitude (letting Jesus shine through our lives), prayer is really all we can actually DO for others.
Their relationship with God is exactly that – their relationship.
We can’t be our husband’s Holy Spirit.
It just doesn’t work.
And when these precious women tell me they are still waiting on their husbands to lead, I ask them the same questions:
- If you took a short daily devotional to him tomorrow morning, and asked him what he thought, would he answer you?
- If he answered you, would you then ask him more about it and then share what the passage meant to you?
- Could you then say, “thank you,” and then go about your day?
- Would you do this a couple of times over the course of a couple of weeks, and then one morning, maybe ask him to pray for you?
- If he said, “yes,” could you then say, “thank you,” and go about your day?
- Could you do this again, and then ask him if he could take your hands in his and pray with you right then?
- Could you then say, “thank you, that means so much to me,” and then just go about your day?
- Could you repeat this, being encouraging, over the course of several months?
- Could you keep doing it until it’s several times a week, or maybe even every day?
- Could you do this for a few years? Maybe even for a decade or more, just enjoying the time you are together, and not minding if it’s you that is bringing him the questions and handing him the Scripture? Could you help your brother in this way?
- Could you not be too surprised if one morning you find yourself too sick to come downstairs and he wanders upstairs wondering why you haven’t been down to do devotions with him that morning?
Why do we assume that they know how to lead any more than we know how to follow?
Why not create an environment where your husband feels safe (read that as “not criticized and judged”) being who he is when he’s with you, figuring things out?
Or does nagging, criticizing, condemning, and complaining, gossiping, and whining, work in your world?
Maybe the above won’t “work” with your husband, but knowing that we are encouraged to “ask our husbands at home,” Biblical questions (1 Cor 14:35), and knowing that men generally love to give advice and appreciate being asked their opinions, perhaps it might.
Bring Life to the people around you, (especially this special brother, your husband) by being a wise woman of strength and dignity, whose words build up those around her, and do not tear them down.
Seriously. If you follow Jesus, get out of His way, so His more can be seen in you.
Some reading this have moved to the place where they are apathetic about their husbands and the relationship. They’ve tried too hard for too long and been met with too little “results.” Might I suggest that God isn’t done with either of you yet?
Just saying…where there is breath, there is life, and where there is life, there is hope, even if it’s tiny.
If you are aching to know what I’m talking about, double-dog-dare you to pray like I did above – God will show up and change you if your heart truly pursues Him. You don’t need Daughters of Sarah® for that – that’s the work of the Spirit! And notice I said, “change you,” and not, “change your husband.”
If you live in the Cincinnati area, however, and you want a bunch of other gals to walk along side you as you are figuring this stuff out, come to the class. We’re having a taping event on January 5th, at Horizons Community Church in Newtown, Ohio. You can find out the details of the class then and sign up, or if you are from outside the area, it’s a great way to hear the teaching segments and evaluate the content for bringing it to your church sometime. We start at 8:30am, and it runs til 5pm or so. We’ll even buy you lunch for being part of our audience. J If you’ve already taken Daughters, please know we need your help running small groups and praying during the class and during the taping. Please come – do it again – it’s one of those things you can do over and over again and have a different experience each time.
Regardless, please know that God’s gift to you this Christmas might very well be a deeper relationship with Him in 2012.
Triple-dog-dare you to open it.
Love to you,