It was a late Saturday morning. After a big pot of coffee and a lot of talking the two of us were making the bed together. As he tucked in the sheets and I fluffed the pillows we were still agonizing over the decision to sell our house and move down the street into a bigger place that we recently found out was for sale.
As we went through the pro/con lists again, I told my husband that I just wasn’t ready to make a decision yet. There was something that wasn’t sitting right with me.
He responded confidently, “Well then…we won’t make any decisions until both of us are comfortable with it.”
I knew he really wanted that house. But I also knew that he knew I was struggling. We were coming out of a season of great loss. And a lot of change. So his willingness to set aside what he wanted, for the sake of giving me peace in that moment was nothing short of a gift to me. A sacrificial gift on his part. And one that has had a lasting impact on my soul, like so many other passing moments in our marriage.
And so here I sit. Writing in the very house that he wanted and I was unsure of moving into. Feeling safe. Honored. Loved. Esteemed and respected. In time, God used my husband’s patience to give me room to pray. And trust. And with no pressure, to look forward to the next chapter of our lives in this new house.
Funny how it works, isn’t it? That so very often, when we are putting each other’s needs above our own, God does amazing things. Hearts are opened and then knitted together. Two minds become one. And a covenant friendship deepens even more.
My husband and I have been married for seventeen years. We both became christians the second year of our marriage. When our five kids were little he worked the nightshift as a police officer patrolling the most dangerous streets in our state. Because I didn’t work and stayed home, he put in a lot of hours of overtime to support our family. Which meant that when he was around, he wanted to make every minute with us count.
It was just natural for him to take over when he was home. He knew I was tired. And was often in desperate need of some alone time. There are days when I remember him taking my hand, and leading me to our bedroom, saying jokingly that I wasn’t allowed to come out for at least thirty minutes. He wanted me to have some time to pray, and rest, and read the bible while he gave the kids a bath and tucked them into bed.
Later on as the kids were growing up and we were getting more involved in the church and learning more about marriage, I often heard the words “submit” and “lead”. It was easy for me to take what I was learning at face value.
Submit? No problem. I always thought it meant that God put my husband as the head of our family. To protect us. And care for us. And to sacrificially serve us, like he was doing. And it was my job to love him back. And give him the respect he deserved. Simple enough, right?
But I didn’t realize that I was one of the lucky ones. Respecting my husband was just natural. I didn’t need to be told to do it because it was just an overflow of how he treated me. We were friends. Everything felt mutual. Equal. Life was hard. But we still knew how to have fun! I just figured that every christian had a marriage like ours. Time and experience would tell me different.
As time went on, there seemed to be a stronger emphasis on submission and leading in the Christian culture I was a part of. And I started feeling the pressures of putting our marriage in this “Christian box”. I started second guessing things. Were we playing our parts correctly? Was I sinning by giving my husband my opinion on things all of these years? Was my husband sinning by allowing me to have a say in things? And when he did listen to me when I had a strong opinion about something, was I manipulating him? At one point, I was even told by a church leader that it was strange that my husband and I told each other everything.
And then I saw marriages around me start to crumble. Marriages from mentors and pastors who we deeply respected. I saw God given authority being abused…in my own church as well as the global church. And because I thought I didn’t have a safe place to go, I went online to find the answers.
The word “submit” started to make me angry. The word “lead” made me want to run and hide. The word “authority” made me want to rebel. Because the men who were proclaiming these things were using them for their own gain. I saw hurting women. And disillusioned children. All of these precious words…God’s words meant to strengthen, protect and uphold his children…became twisted and evil.
The other day I was reading something again on the roles of men and women within the Christian marriage. My husband was sitting in the living room and so I went to share with him my unrest again about this emphasis that I am seeing and how it seems as Christians we have lost what it means to be friends within our marriages.
My husband responded, “Remember what I was reading the kids this morning out of James?” And then he quoted it to me:
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
I could feel my breathing slow.
Oh, the sweet sanity of Christ.
And we both agreed. Let’s keep doing what we can to be peacemakers within our marriage. Within this friendship. Showing mercy to one another in our weaknesses. Submitting to one another’s needs. Praying that we would have pure hearts towards one another. And consider each other’s feelings day by day, as we have been.
“It’s just common sense, Kimmy.” He reassured me with a smile. “Let’s just keep working on our friendship. And not make it so complicated.”
And just like that all of the voices in my head quieted down. And I took our marriage out of the box and placed it back in God’s word where it belonged, in all of it’s mystery, it all of it’s depth.
Very often it seems it is my husband picking me up again and brushing me off, as he leads me along the way. But sometimes it’s me picking him up. Encouraging him to stay the course, too.
Because isn’t the most important thing where we are headed?….
“Christ is up ahead! C’mom! I’ll help you get there!”
And sometimes it is just that simple.