Last week I experienced one of those confusing, harrowing times during which everything around me and within me seemed to turn on a dime and de-escalate into utter chaos. Because of the circumstances I knew I was dealing with spiritual warfare. I had people to see and things to hear and say, and “for some reason,” it became difficult to get where I needed to be. But light still prevailed over darkness– praise God! I was recounting the story to a dear friend recently who told me, “We need to be sharing these things with each other so we know we’re not alone!”
Well, this is me sharing my story so fellow Christ-followers can know they are not alone and remember to be alert. God’s Word says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This is real, and we need to recognize when we are being stalked as prey so we can fight back with prayer and Truth.
via battosai72 on deviantart.net
So, my story: In a sweet, caring, and creative gesture the women’s ministry team at our church planned for their Fall kickoff event to include getting to know the pastors’ wives. Of which I am one! 🙂 It was kind of an “awe shucks” moment– a very special idea that I hadn’t heard of before! The event was also for the purpose of announcing new opportunities for women to connect and learn together. I was excited and honored to share with the ladies of our church and have some time to mingle, too. We have some amazing women at the helm of this ministry, and they were so on the ball, distributing instructions and requests to us wives over the summer. They gave us plenty of time to submit photos and fun facts, as well as consider how we might answer a few “interview” questions. Right away I felt a burden to share from deep in my heart in response to a question about what we have learned from our marriages. The question was on the back burner of my mind for a month or so, simmering away.
The afternoon/evening of the event was when the wheels fell off. My husband came home and “for some reason” everything he did irritated me. I completely lost focus as I was trying to finish writing my responses to the interview questions. I deleted a lot of it and started over. My throat, which is prone to feel scratchy and sore anyway, began getting up to its old tricks. I started to feel a tension headache and aches in my neck and back. When I looked at the recipe I had chosen for dinner that night I realized that while I had ensured I had all the ingredients, I hadn’t noticed that this recipe takes a full HOUR to cook– time I didn’t plan for and didn’t have. Mike was as sweet as could be, keeping quiet to let me gather my thoughts, assuring me that I would feel better once I got to church, and offering to make dinner once I came up with a “plan B” of grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. As I was frantically changing clothes and getting my things together I realized what was going on (although I didn’t really put the pieces together until later that night). We took a minute to pray, and then I did all I could do: “just keep swimming,” aka just get to church. Even when my darling husband accidentally used the wrong kind of cheese in my sandwich (I need to have non-dairy, especially if my throat already feels yucky) I kept my cool, ate a handful of chips, and prayed that my stomach wouldn’t grumble all evening.
Once at church, everything was great. I had already practiced a few songs with our senior pastor’s wife and we were ready to lead the women in worship. The lights, sound, and slides all worked. There was a modest crowd of women of a variety of ages, and I delighted in hearing their voices singing together in praise to God. The sharing time was blessed, as well; I enjoyed hearing stories from my fellow pastors’ wives– some familiar, and some new and surprising (such as one couple’s brush with law enforcement!). When the time came to share my response to what I have learned from my marriage I felt the Spirit leading me through my prepared words, skipping some parts and adding other ideas in. Once all the official business ended I was able to enjoy some relaxed chatting with several women and hear about their lives. It was a joyful, encouraging, affirming evening, and my stomach didn’t grumble once!
As the night was winding down and only a handful of us remained at church, talk turned to how well everything had gone, and that’s when I heard that I was not alone in my pre-event chaos. It turned out that several of us were under attack that evening, and it was good to acknowledge the victory God gave us. It was truly his hand that brought each of us there to do our part that night. I had such a strong feeling that the enemy of my soul did not want me to share what I shared, but the Redeemer of my soul helped me carry on in his perfect power. Wow!
So I want to share my thoughts from that night in case it might encourage just one more person. Maybe it’s a woman from my own church family who wanted to attend the event but couldn’t make it, or someone I know who lives far away, or a stranger. I just feel convicted to share these words, so I’m going to obey that conviction and post them.
The question: What have you learned from marriage?
I have learned that God made me– and you– to need him most.
I think people can see that in our marriage of 10 years Mike and I have a lot of fun and like to spend a lot of time together. We enjoy many of the same things and can be patient enough with our differences to live pretty peacefully.
On a deeper level we both share a desire to become more like Christ, to be more humble, to become more committed to one another and the people around us. We both want to grow and be obedient to God.
But those things are not enough.
When it comes to head-butting (which refers to difference of opinion OR one or both of us being a butthead), we each have let the other person down at different points. For me there have been many moments of unmet expectations in my marriage, and God is teaching me that those moments are not failures on Mike’s part, but opportunities for me to surrender those expectations and trust God with my life.
Expectations are a control and trust issue, a refusal to accept anything I didn’t think of myself, but I will miss out on God’s best for me if I don’t let go. Striving to live as “one flesh” with another person has held the most opportunities to learn this lesson, and I am not done yet.
God is teaching me forgiveness and humility, patience, tolerance, and reliance upon him. He is teaching me to give up control in a variety of areas, but specifically in my marriage. (He is also showing me some areas in which I need to gain self-control, and equipping me to do that through the help of his Spirit. But for me it’s mostly about relinquishing control.) All of this points to my need of God.
We are given companions in this life, thankfully– family, friends, spouses. But these people cannot and do not save or completely fulfill us. My husband is wonderful and a great match for me. I don’t even mind that the first and unanimous feedback from my family when they met Mike was, “He’s so patient with her!” I don’t LOVE what that implied about me, but it’s true that he is patient and that I require patience. 😉 What a gift! My husband helps to make me a better person, and I hope to return the favor, but if I keep to my own thoughts and plans and put my trust in my husband making my wishes come true or living up to my expectations, I will be let down. I will miss the point of life.
If I will pour out my heart to God, surrender my expectations to him, and allow him to change my heart to be more like him, I know my temporary time on earth will contain more glimpses of my Heavenly Father than I could have imagined, and than I would ever see if I followed my own way.
My marriage is an iron sharpening iron kind of situation, and while I sometimes feel frustrated by that– that we need the sharpening at all, or that it couldn’t just be easier– ultimately it is the greatest gift. And I am not saying that marriage is the only place this gift comes from; family and friends can bring about these changes in our hearts, too. By the grace of God, our marriage shows off God’s power through our weaknesses as the Spirit helps us along on our journey closer to one another, but more importantly closer to the Lord.
There you have it. Those are the words God put on my heart to share. I pray that with every passing year I will learn more so I can share and encourage others, especially my husband.
I also pray that I will become better at recognizing when I am under attack and responding in reliance upon God. I wish I had responded better and sooner last week. I didn’t pray as soon or as much as I should have. I reacted from emotion first. I hate to admit it, but the “powers of darkness” as the Bible calls them have kept me from doing many things over the years whether it is attending events, serving, speaking up for truth, or singing.
I’m learning that when everything is going wrong “for some reason,” I need to be alert. I don’t want to live in fear of my enemy, ascribing every chipped fingernail to the devil’s schemes, but on the other hand I don’t want to be so naive as to think I am immune to attack or that these attacks are not real.
I encourage you with the truth I need in my own life: When times are good, pray that God will help you recognize your need of him so when times are hard you can respond in prayer before emotion. When you are feeling weak, reach for the help you need from God and from others (whether you ask them to pray or for something more tangible). By the same token, share the victories you experience in Christ! The enemy of our souls does not want us to share the good news of Jesus. He does not want us to live in step with God’s Spirit. He does not want us to help one another or spur others on to good works. He wants us trapped in sin, believing his lies, isolated, suspicious, and defeated. But if we believe God’s Word is true, then his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). You may start out weak like I did last Thursday, but God will make you strong. We need to share about these things!
If you’re anything like me, you will have times when you have important Kingdom things to do but you look in the mirror and see a hot mess who has no business leaving her house. Maybe you feel like everyone there has it more together than you do (they don’t) or will judge you (they probably won’t, but if they do that is sin for God to judge), or you won’t know anyone (time to make some new connections), or you don’t have anything to offer (you do), or you don’t need what is being offered there (you do). I want to encourage you, because I need the encouragement myself, to step out in faith and show the enemy that his “for some reason” tricks to derail us are no match for the victory that has already been won for us by Christ Jesus.
I would love to hear your thoughts or stories on this subject!