Let me introduce you to my wife
The Cristine I met over 12 years ago… was surely out of my league. She was the kind of woman a guy like me would have to admire from afar while some really chiseled Romeo with an impressive job, nice car, and bigger plans scooped her up and rode off into the sunset with her.
Foremost, she loved Jesus, and was a woman of prayer. She may have been young in her faith, but she at least talked the talk. I knew the most important thing – she loved Jesus more than she would ever love me. I was hooked.
Because Jesus was #1 in her life and our oldest, Brianna, was #2, she’d previously dated guys just to make sure #2 was taken care of. This was a mountain she was tired of circling. Toward that end she’d begun spending Friday nights at home cleaning her apartment instead of doing the “club thing” any longer and so as to not to betray #1.
The closer you get to someone or something, the more detail you see. As clarity set in during courtship, I discovered “steadfast” may have been stubborn in disguise and “sturdy” may have really been calloused on the outside, broken on the inside. But, God was at work in her, tearing down the old self and replacing it with Jesus.
The deeper we got into “married life”, the clearer we could see the baggage we each brought into the mix would have to be dealt with or it would deal with us. By grace, wise counsel, and combination of great discipleship training and private Christian counseling, we have learned how to fight for our marriage and not just “in” our marriage.
In the beginning, there was a long “lead” time between the blow up and the make up. But, this is far more creditable to God’s sanctifying work in her than my ability to negotiate conflict and behave my way back into her good graces.
Whereas Cristine used to parent primarily out of guilt, there’s been wild transformation. Today, she stands on obedience and love, taking quick ownership of her faults, dumping them at the cross, and moving forward into a season of parenting out of an effortless joy she used to have to muster.
On my best day, there’s no chance I could have convinced her she’d enjoy being Mommy, let alone a homeschool mom with 3 students. So, I witness to you this truth – God has done a great work in her heart. Today, there is joy in my wife’s eyes as she teaches children she never dreamed she’d want to have.
When many people hear “wives, submit to your husbands”, it doesn’t merely sound sexist, it sounds utterly unsophisticated. Over time, I’ve watched her love for God and desire to fulfill His purpose for her life turn her into my greatest fan and support. My “battle buddy” as the Army taught her. Respect is sweeter given than commanded. I’m feeling the sweetness.
We’ve had many “loud interactions” together over the years. Not my most Christ-like moments. At times, I’ve wondered if she’d ever forgive my offenses… Yet, as God continues to conform her to the image of Christ, I know this for sure: where there is disagreement, there is value. Pay attention to the tension. Or, as one mentor taught us “the Spirit doesn’t war against itself”,meaning where there is discord in your relationship, it’s not God creating it. And, He has used the discord to uncover more valuable root fears, pride, or wounds that ignited the conflict in the first place.
I used to think marriage would be happiness, full time. Then, I got married and thought it would be happiness most of the time. For a time, I thought “is there any happiness?” Then, I remembered God uses marriage to make us more like Jesus. That’s painful, challenging, and sometimes confusing. But, as He conforms us to the image of Christ… joy is not absent… happiness seeps in… and overflows. Today, I hear my wife laugh and see her smile much more than I ever have. Or, so I’d like to think. The reality is, it’s not her smiling at all… it’s just Jesus shining through the cracks of what’s left of her old self.