"Why don't you ever lead me?!", I said, frustrated, to my husband. "Lead you in what? I thought everything was going fine!", he said, in his typical Mr. Peacekeeper fashion. "Well we could be doing more! We could be doing better at what we're already doing! But you never lead us!"
You could have heard these types of conversations over and over and over between my husband and I during our first few years of marriage. I was the eager beaver, wanting to be involved in everything at church and practice the spiritual disciplines at home, preferably with my husband. But he was quite content to let his walk with the Lord look a lot different from mine and felt a lot of freedom to not be involved as much as I wanted to be. That was painful to me at first, as it crushed my mental picture of us doing all those things together. I cried. I prayed. I begged for a change. And felt as stuck as I could be in that situation. But over time, God let me see that underneath my drive to be involved in everything wasn't just a deep hunger for Him, but also that my heart entangled in the approval of man. And I figured if I did all the things, all the involvements, the more liked I would be, and if I were more liked, I would be happier. My husband's way of connecting with God didn't involve a 6 AM Bible and prayer time like I thought it would. But at times he walked so far outside of the Christian cookie cutter that it almost made me a little nervous, such as telling me that he connects with God on his bike. I never heard the pastor preaching about that as an option for connecting with God. Anybody get what I'm saying? As much as we discussed and explained ourselves to pieces, the tension between us and our spiritual life continued. I kept "reminding" him that grace compels us to go and do and he'd respond with an, "okay, so go and do. I don't have to do everything with you."
So I went and did the things. I served wherever I could. I strived to stay in community. If there was anything I could sign up for, I'd sign up. And I genuinely wanted to. I've just loved being in church and walking with Jesus since day 1 of being a Christian. I could not understand anyone that didn't feel the same, including my husband. As people asked where he was, the approval monster reared it's ugly head and I'd default to two answers: either make excuses for him or defend him by explaining all the other godly, wholesome things he does. Both of which had a sliver of truth in them but I left out the fact that sometimes he just wasn't interested in attending all the things.
I kept on praying for him and for our marriage. I sat in the tension between accepting him as he was right now and praying him into all he could be in Jesus. The more I sought the Lord, he continued to make this clear to me: I want YOU, Lindsey, to work on you. Don't say a word to Brian. Don't wait for him to lead you to do the things you want to do. Keep showing up and be responsible for your own obedience. God was right. I was so blind to the ways my own sin was involved. I needed to seriously put to death my approval monster. And I needed to just do what God wanted me to do whether my husband did it with me or not. And most of all, I needed to keep my mouth shut and stop trying to be my husband's Holy Spirit.
Then the real work began on the inside of me. Day by day, I tried to do what I knew God wanted me to do, without inviting Brian along. When the approval monster crept up, I started to care less and less and was able to tell it to shut up because the approval of my Father became enough for me. I asked the Lord to blind my spiritual eyes to the little things that pop up that bother me, and He did. Instead of just not keeping a record of wrong, I started keeping a record of right. Every time the devil tried to throw it in my face that there's been no progress, that things won't ever change, I threw it in his face that God already is moving in me, and I believe He will move in Brian, even if the amount seems insignificant. I refused to let my mind go to a place of stewing on all the things he's done wrong, and just starting cranking up the worship music instead, so I could fix my mind on things above, and not on things on the earth. I'd have to literally stop my mind from going down a negative track that leads to bitterness, and start professing that I believe my God will be faithful to me. Hardest of all, God told me to start seeing and respecting Brian right now as if he had already become the fullness of all God wants him to be.
After staying at it for about 3-4 years, I started to notice that everything is different from what it was 3-4 years before. We started bearing fruit. Brian would pray for me (without me even asking), and his prayers were so powerful and loving and anointed, I could barely even believe it was his mouth that these words were coming out of when I opened my eyes. He started wanting to serve in places that felt too hard for me to even serve. He wanted to give in places where I didn't feel like being generous. God started show us how Brian does really well at leading us in the macro vision for our family life, and I do well at initiating the daily little steps it takes to get us there. We began to see how God was to using our unique gifts and idiosyncrasies to compliment and not clash with each other. And little by little, we fell in love all over again. We are each other's best friends. He's my number one supporter in all my dreams and gifts and believes in me far more than I believe in myself most days. And as for me, I've grown to love it when I see my husband connecting with the Lord in ways that may seem outside of the box for most people. He feels His presence when he writes metal music and rides his bike, so I am glad when he does. Most of all, I stopped trying to make a deacon out of him or some big church-y, spiritual beacon. I run the race God has set before me with his blessing but maybe not with him holding my hand, and I'm more than okay with that.
If you can relate to me, I want to encourage you to draw a circle around yourself and be concerned with your own obedience to the Lord and not your husbands. Keep praying. Hold your tongue. Be excessively grateful for him. Leave it to the Holy Spirit to do His job. Respect him as if he already is who God wants him to become. Don't you dare shame him or nag him into leading. And for the love, be physically intimate! Keep circling around that wall, and little by little, I believe God will start to make it crumble down, and you two can step into the most abundant, sweet season of marriage you never thought possible, in Jesus' name.
I'm still Lindsey. I still love being at church as much as possible (I do think my church is probably the actual most amazing church in the USA though), I can't imagine a day without reading the Bible, and I look forward to taking steps to fulfill my divine assignment everyday. He's still Brian. He still loves his bike, doesn't want to be a deacon, and prefers to discover God through studying quantum physics over being at a bible study. But we are brand new from the inside out. I've never been more grateful that he's nothing like me, because he glorifies God the most when he's being him. And thank you Jesus for taking two hot messes and turning us into a Gospel miracle.