Paula Hendricks has an absolutely compelling post over on the true woman blog titled “25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband.” As a pastor this is one of the most frequent and heartbreaking things that I encounter. Because of that I am exceedingly thankful for this article and I’m confident that I will be using often to encourage women walking through this valley. Here’s are a few excerpts:
The nest would soon be empty. As was our marriage.
We had our roles down pat. I was the aggressor, bordering on a plate thrower; he was the passive aggressor, master of the silent treatment. We pressed each other’s buttons with heartbreaking regularity.
Over the years I constructed a compelling case of “he did’s”—stories I relayed to accommodating girlfriends. Mind you, I did this strategically. Prayer groups were preferred. There I got head nods—even a prayer on my behalf. Please change him.
My own prayer life was all about change (meaning, him). Clearly, God was sympathetic to my cause. I was David in the psalms unjustly treated by Saul. I was Joseph imprisoned for my faith. I was on my way to martyr status.
Why then, being so unjustly treated, so right, was I so miserable? And, for all my Bible verse quoting, why was my spiritual life so stagnant?
You see, my husband is not a believer . . . a fact I routinely brought before the Lord and prayer partners. During our twenty-five years of marriage, I had purchased countless books and CDs with titles such as BelovedUnbeliever. Yet, my daily prayer, Please change his heart, had gone unanswered.
Not, however, because of a lack of evangelism on my part. I left tracts on our coffee table and upped the volume on sermon CDs.
On Sunday mornings I would tear up. If only my husband was sitting next to me at church. If only he would thumb through a Bible. If only he could hear this sermon. From my balcony view, I would glare at the backs of other husbands, arms draped over their wives’ shoulders. Surely these husbands led nightly devotionals, volunteered at Vacation Bible School, and prayed before meals. If only . . .
Inevitably my mind would drift toward a vision, twenty-five years in the making. My husband and I would be called to the pulpit to share our story. I would smile through humble tears as he would credit me for my contagious Christianity. His testimony would highlight my years of faithfulness: attending Bible studies, teaching Sunday School, rising at 5 a.m. to seek the Lord. The applause would be deafening. Maybe we’d write a book. A video series perhaps…
Looking at the negative aspects of my marriage had only produced despair—twenty-five years of whining to God about my righteousness in journals that I have since destroyed. Even Christian therapy had been reinforcing my case of “he-did’s.”
The truth is, I was the one who needed to change.
So, if I ever get called to a pulpit to give a reason for my despair giving way to joy, I will take the microphone with a humble heart. After all, it was my negativity that impeded marital intimacy for all those years. No more. The joy I now feel at waking up next to this man rivals that of any newlywed.
As I look back over our last year together I can’t really think of anything that stands out as a major change for our family. We didn’t have any big moves in 2012 (thank goodness). Our children have continued to grow and flourish here at the church and at Northside School. We did add a dog and somehow we’ve inherited another cat, but in the grand scheme of things those are rather trivial matters…So on the whole I’d say that 2012 has pretty much been a quiet year for the Buell family and that makes my heart glad.
When I look back on the common, quiet, everyday events of this last year together I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for another year that I’ve got to spend with the love of my life doing the common, quiet things that contribute to our life together. I’ve come to realize more and more that life is not made up of big moments that change our course (although there are some of those), but small, quiet moments that cumulatively make up the character of our life together. That’s why my heart is so glad looking back on this last year of life together. It’s been full of small, precious, tender moments that have refined, sharpened, and crafted our life together. It may seem strange but I’d rather watch TV with you on the couch than pretty much anything else in the world because it’s part of our life together and I have to tell you that life with you is nothing but pure joy.
So here’s to another year together raising our family, loving each other and living this very quiet, common life that God has so graciously given to us together.
I’m convinced that the one of the saddest part of ministry is watching marriages fail, especially due to infidelity. To sit in a room with a husband or a wife weeping over the betrayal of their spouse is almost too much for any shepherd to bear. It’s the kind of scene that must never cross your mind in the midst of the affair, but it is where you will inevitably end up if you violate the covenant of marriage.
Wendy Plump of the New York Times paints a graphic picture of the affects of sexual infidelity in this article at the new York Times. It is a “must read” article and one that I will be using in pre-marital counseling to remind couples of the awful effects of unfaithfulness.
Here’s an excerpt:
IN the end your marriage may not need to be trashed, though mine was. The affairs metastasized in our relationship from the inside out. By the time all was said and done, there was little left to save. Our marriage had become like a leaf eaten away by caterpillars, where the petiole and midrib remain with some ghostly connective tracery in between. Not enough to hold even a drop of rain.
I look at my parents and at how much simpler their lives are at the ages of 75, mostly because they haven’t marred the landscape with grand-scale deceit. They have this marriage of 50-some years behind them, and it is a monument to success. A few weeks or months of illicit passion could not hold a candle to it.
If you imagine yourself in such a situation, where would you fit an affair in neatly? If you were 75, which would you rather have: years of steady if occasionally strained devotion, or something that looks a little bit like the Iraqi city of Fallujah, cratered with spent artillery?
From where I stand now, it all just looks like a cheap hotel room, whether you’re in that room to have an affair or to escape from the discovery of one.
And despite the sex and the excitement, or the drama and the fix of everyone’s empathetic attention, there is no view from this room that is worth having.
In Western culture today, you decide to get married because you feel an attraction to the other person. You think he or she is wonderful. But a year or two later— or, just as often, a month or two— three things usually happen. First, you begin to find out how selfish this wonderful person is. Second, you discover that the wonderful person has been going through a similar experience and he or she begins to tell you how selfish you are. And third, though you acknowledge it in part, you conclude that your spouse’s selfishness is more problematic than your own. This is especially true if you feel that you’ve had a hard life and have experienced a lot of hurt. You say silently, “OK, I shouldn’t do that— but you don’t understand me.” The woundedness makes us minimize our own selfishness. And that’s the point at which many married couples arrive after a relatively brief period of time. – Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Erik Raymond has a great post over on his blog. Here’s the introduction:
With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.
There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.
I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.
Far too many marriages are suffering because the husband comes home mentally, physically and emotionally zapped from his work day. He has done well as the provider for the home and now he is going to come home and collapse into a lazy-boy (aptly named) or in front of a computer or some other process of decompression and relaxation from a tough day at work. This type of thing may be ok occasionally but if practiced regularly it will lead to major problems.
Time magazine has a fascinating article on the rising movement to legalize polygamy and polyandry. The movement is directly connected to the rising demand for gay marriage. Belinda Luscombe writes:
Proponents of defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman have long argued that if we entertain variations on that theme, like gay marriage, the institution will soon become unrecognizable. “If you think it’s O.K. for two [men to marry], then you have to differentiate wit me as to why it’s not O.K. for three,” said former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, echoing a common refrain. Even though there’s no historical precedent linking one to the other, growing public support for gay marriage has nonetheless gladdened the hearts of polygamists. “If people are open to gay marriage, it impacts on how they look at plural marriage,” says Darger, who lives with his three wives and 18 of his 23 children in Herriman, Utah…”You can’t talk about gay marriage and still criminalize us for who we love and how we organize our families.” [emphasis mine]
Make no mistake the movement to legalize gay marriage is a movement to obliterate the definition of marriage and nothing less.
Paul Tripp has a great post over at the biblical counseling coalition’s blog about how the cross addresses marital issues. Tripp reminds us that 1) The cross tells us what’s wrong wit us, 2) The cross tells us how what’s wrong will get fixed, 3) The cross tells us our role in the work of personal change. Here’s one section that I found especially helpful:
As I sat in that restaurant that evening with my friends, I felt incredibly helpless, but not hopeless at all. The cross tells me that I have no power whatsoever to work the internal change of heart that is the key to lasting personal change. In other words, I have no ability at all to deliver people from their deepest problem; sin.
As I sat across from my friends, I knew that I didn’t bear the burden of being their redeemer. If I was to help them, it was profoundly important for me to know my place. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Apostle Paul uses the best possible word to define our place in God’s work of change. We are called to be nothing less than and surely nothing more than “ambassadors” of the One who suffered, died, and rose again so that change, real lasting personal change, would not just be a distant hope, but a realistic expectation of all who are bold enough to step into the arena of human difficulty and offer help. The cross reminds us that we are not the change agents, but representatives of the One who holds the power of real internal and interpersonal change in his hands.
I first heard about this story from Steve Childers in his final talk at my first GCA National Church Planting Conference. His message was entitled, “Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.” It’s the story about Robertson McQuilkin and his dear wife Muriel. McQuilkin was the son of the founding president of Columbia International University, and as a young missionary couple, Robertson and Muriel spent 12 years in Japan before returning to the United States, at which time Robertson became the president of Columbia International University in 1968.
Although thoroughly enjoying his role as president at Columbia, McQuilkin resigned from his post in 1990 to care for his wife who had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease since the early 1980′s. Someone happened to have a micro-cassette recorder in that meeting and recorded a portion of his resignation speech. Here is that recording of Robertson sharing about why he resigned. This is a testimony of biblical manhood.
A few months ago I started a new tradition of writing a letter to teach of my boys on their birthdays. As I was thinking about it, I decided that it might be memorable to do the same thing with my wife. Today’s is Amy’s 32nd Birthday and this letter commemorates the last year.
True to form this has been a year of massive changes for us. I was counting up the number of times that we’ve moved in our 10 years of marriage and I think it’s a total of eight with another one coming (into the parsonage) in just a month or so. Of course, the biggest change this last year was our new addition, baby Luke. I am so proud of the way that you have risen to the challenge of three children (5 years old and younger). You are a wonderful parent and I was strongly acknowledge how dependent I am upon you and what a wonderful job you’re doing with these boys.
Of course this last year has had other changes as well, especially our most recent move down to Cool, CA. While moving to Cool was definitely what we both wanted, it was still a big change for us. We left our beautiful 2,000 square foot house to move into a 1,200 square foot house (while adding another person to the family at the same time). We left our home group, which was full of wonderful friends who we still dearly love. We left a great church that we still have deep affections for. At the same time, God has been so gracious in His provision for us here at Cool and I know that neither of us would change anything about this last year. While our home has been rather cramped, it has been full of love. While we still miss our friends from Emmanuel, it seems to me that God has paid us back double with all of our new friends here in Cool and especially with a tremendously gracious and caring church body.
I think one of the things that has stood out to me the most about you this year has been your ability to adapt to the changes around us and to maintain a gentle and quiet spirit in the midst of seeming chaos at times. You really are the glue that holds our family together and I am so thankful for you. Not only that, but you are a precious friend and counselor to me. I love the account of God’s decision to create woman in Genesis 2. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him.” In Hebrew the word is ezer kenigno and it means one who is perfectly formed for the help of another. Amy, you are my ezer kenigno. You fill up so many of my shortcomings with your graciousness and your love. Thank you for continually pointing me back to my need for a Savior and to the gospel. I love you.