[Jhn 16:33 NKJV]
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
[1Pe 5:8 NKJV]
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
And of course…
[Eph 6:12 NKJV]
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].
We see in these verses the very reality that we are at war with a vile enemy who is a spiritual being that is set on our destruction. But we know that there will be a Victor; His name is Jesus Christ. Still we find ourselves in the midst of a war. Our enemy is more destructive than any terrorist, he is, after all, the most wicked of terrorist. It is this enemy that has his targets set on the believer, the believers family and all that is good, holy, and true.
Now we understand that the battle or war we are engaged in is spiritual. And yet we see all too often that the blood of spiritual wounds bleeds into the carnal world in the form of consequences for sin. Even when we are mindful of sin, it is still present, and it comes in many shapes and disguises. The most deceptive disguise has the trappings of holiness. The issue I am referring to is ministry.
As a servant of the Most High, I have been engaged in ministry for most of my life now. It has become to me, a first-nature. As a believer, I have been called, as have all believers, to go and make disciples of the nations. As a married man, and a father, I have a dual responsibility to care for my family and lead them to the LORD every day.
What I have found over the course of my ministry is that the family is the first target that the enemy goes after in an attempt to bring down the leader of the family. Our enemy is set on destroying the relationships between husband and wife, between children and parents and amongst siblings. And I must confess that I have seen his wicked assault first hand over the course of the past several months.
A couple of years ago we were asked to come to a relatively new church to be a part of the ministry there. I was excited that perhaps these were the “marching orders” I have long been praying for. So in a literal mountain-top experience in prayer with the LORD, I felt the LORD telling me to go. The warning the LORD gave me, coupled with the call to go, rings in my ears even today. I did not hear an audible voice (although that would have been really cool), but from the craggy rocks, high up in a mountain in Colorado, the LORD warned me to be careful of my steps. The way, I felt Him saying, is dangerous and many sure footed believers have fallen. Still, the confidence that this is what the LORD wanted me to do was ever present.
I could hardly contain my excitement, but did not want to reveal what the LORD had given me to my wife until I sat on it for a few days. Finally, I let it all out with my wife. Based on her response, she was equally excited. She said, “Awesome, when do we go!?!” We made plans, our children were on board, and so we waited for God to open the door. No sooner had we all agreed that this was indeed God’s will for us, things just started falling into place. There was no way any of the things that happened next were mere chance. Now I will not go into all of the wonderful things in this post that happened, but suffice to say, the LORD paved the way.
As we began serving at the new church it seemed that everything was going well. I was involved in the church leadership, my wife was with me ministering, and our children were with us. Our younger children immediately found their place, our teenagers (dragging their feet as teenagers do) begrudgingly found their place, and my wife….well…this is where the story begins to get a little weird.
We had a one year old baby girl at the time and our baby required much of my wife’s attention. Her ability to serve along side me became more and more infrequent. Then we got the news that another one was on the way! With the birth of our newest daughter, my wife was all but sidelined. But it was not just the children that seemed to be the challenge.
My wife is a very strong woman, who loves the LORD deeply. Her testimony would have you in tears to hear from her. She was deeply involved in our previous home church, she loved ministering to women, and discipling those who were struggling in areas of their lives. She has a wonderful gift of teaching, training, exhorting, and admonishing younger women to help them conform to the image of godliness. In short, she is the ideal spouse for me! The only problem is that all of these wonderful gifts seemed as if they were shelved the moment that we started going to the new church.
The church we were now attending is a small church and has held its number for the past 10 years, some coming and going as time passed. Not that filling seats is a priority for the sake of numbers, but a church that has not seen the kind of growth as the church that we had come from. No doubt the leadership is full of godly men who revere the LORD and serve Him passionately. The women’s ministry at the church is very small and our pastors wife already had a lady to assist her with the ministry. Yet there seemed to be no room for my wife.
Here I am, oblivious to the fact that my wife was suffering in silence, wanting to be used, opening herself up to the women at our church, but shut down at just about every turn. I chalked it up to women being women, and did not give it a second thought. I was sure that with time, perhaps after the babies were a little older, that my wife would find her groove, and blossom.
What I did not realize was that the enemy was hard at work sowing discord and planting seeds of bitterness. I found myself arguing with my wife about what I thought were silly things, like serving. I wanted to be at church every time the doors were open, I wanted to serve will great zeal and set the example, being an instrument to help the fellowship grow so that the Gospel could go out. I was seeing for the first time what the growing pains of a small church entailed. Being that my desire is to one day plant a church myself, this was optimal training ground! What more could a guy ask for…right?
What I had failed to see is that I was leaving my wife behind. Here is my precious bride, drowning in the cruel waters of her husbands blissful ignorance. I had ignored the warning signs, excusing them as faithless complaints from a nagging wife. I had all but thrown my wife under the bus. For nearly seven years I knew that we had our issues with communication, both being Type-A personalities. And so I viewed my wife’s cries for help as contentious ramblings from a woman who was trying to dominate her husband. Guys, sometimes I am just a big dummy! My heart has never been to cause my wife to stumble, or to see her suffer in any way. I was ignorant to the fact that my wife was genuinely desperate for my help. Here was her protector, her warrior, her husband, and I was blaming her for the stagnation in our marriage now.
Oh, and then there was the pride. My wife begged me to go to counseling, and I would have nothing to do with it. I was under the impression that this too would pass, and besides, we are both Christians, surely we can handle this on our own. Foolish pride. The thought of being exposed for having problems in my marriage was not something that my pride would allow. But that pride would only drag us down until the battle that the enemy had begun stirring up in my home came to a head. And it did…well sort of.
The animosity between my wife began to become more evident by her countenance. People began to notice that my wife and I were becoming more short with one another. Apparently it was grave enough that our leadership confronted my wife and I about it and warned us to take care of whatever it was that was going on between us. A big shot to my pride and an embarrassment to my wife who was already feeling alienated by the church that I had thrown our family into. I would like to say things got better, but that would not be the case. Even though the enemy was set on destroying us, God had a bigger plan. I tried to reconcile and encourage my wife, but the issue was not really hers. I mean, she does have her issues, as we all do, but my pride had kept us from counseling and resolving the issues that had been just under the surface now for a couple of years.
It all came to a boil shortly after my parents both passed away (within 30 days of each other). I was already on edge, my wife was unhappy, my children were being affected by our constant arguments over just about anything and everything. And words that are better left unspoken, or better yet cast down, came out like verbal vomit as the tension in our home grew. Then it happened. That lovely wife of mine, the one that I trusted, for better or for worse, through thick and thin, my soul mate, my best friend, threw me under the bus. That is what I told myself anyways. Stupid pride. She had scheduled a meeting with my pastor and his wife behind my back. I was oblivious to it until that night after church when I got called into my pastors office. My first thought was, “how could she betray me like this?!?!”
Reluctant to speak, embarrassed, humiliated and defeated I sat before my pastor and friend, guilty of letting things get out of hand to the point where my wife had enough and could no longer go on. If you are reading this you are probably thinking, “Good…you big jerk! You needed to get called out.” And I have to say, I had no intention of ever hurting my wife. I was just ignorant, blinded, and unwilling to accept the fact that my marriage was in disarray, even though the signs were so evident that if they were a two x four, I would have a concussion by now!
So I sat through the meeting, partly numb, partly in disbelief, partly enraged, and fully stupid. God was beginning a work that I did not understand. Just like a child who is going to the doctor for an inoculation, I was more afraid of the needle than the healing that was on the horizon. It took me a day or so for it all to sink in, and I cried out the LORD. As a believer, I always run back to the LORD. It was not as if I had set out to bring any of this upon my wife, it was not that I wasn’t in the WORD, it was, however, my failure to see the signs and my lack of love towards my wife, my pride, and my stubbornness that had brought me to this place, so I wept before the LORD and asked Him to forgive me.
As we began counseling with our pastor and his wife over the course of the next few weeks, Instead of being opposed to the counseling, I now embraced it. I began to understand some things about my wife that I had either forgotten or never fully understood. But in the beginning, I did my best to show that my wife was equally as flawed as I was. Man am I dumb or what? As the days went on I began meeting with another brother in Christ for accountability. And between the counseling, the accountability, my time in prayer and time in the WORD, and of course more focused time with my wife, I began to look at my wife in a new light. Where I thought she was the sword swinging warrior that I was, impervious to tireless work of ministry, what I began to see was the weaker vessel, the fragile, beautiful wife that the LORD had blessed me with. With that, the LORD opened my eyes.
He revealed to me that I had been dragging my wife behind me, instead of walking beside her. I had caused my wife a great deal of pain, and in doing so I was causing her to stumble. I began to listen to my wife, and in doing so I began to see some real issues emerging that I was not prepared for. I began to see how human the body of Christ really is, how flawed, how cruel people can be (whether intentional or not). But I also saw how I had failed my wife. How I had not covered her. How I had not protected her. How I had, by neglect, not been faithful to wash her in the water of the word. And so what did I do? I confessed my sin, I repented of my sin, and I sought my wife’s forgiveness. But keep in mind, I still have a pretty thick skull and well… pretty thick skin too. I thought that when I had asked my wife’s forgiveness that the problem was solved, that we were good. My line of reasoning was that I already apologized, no need in bringing it back up again…God remembers our trespass no more as far as the East is from the West right..???…case closed…ha! No chance.
Now I could go on with ensuing drama that is my life, but I am and always will be a work in progress. The point of this little book here is to point out a simple truth. As men and women of God, we must always be mindful of things that are going on around us. Situational awareness, if you will. We must be attuned to the needs of our spouses and our children. We should be focused on the mission before us, most definitely, but we must always be mindful of those around us, to cover them, shield them, protect them, and serve them. After all, the family is the proving ground for the ministry, and if a man cannot keep his own house in order, how can he faithfully minister to a larger family, the church? For me this is yet another brilliant design from our LORD and Savior to show me the importance of leaving no man behind. The greatest example was Jesus, who is described in Matthew 18:12 as One who would leave the 99 sheep to go after the one that has gone astray. Now, I am not contending that my wife has gone astray, but the point is that my concern should be for her in her time of need. God has shown me through this trial a chink in my own armor. Since we are in a spiritual battle, the LORD has effectively spared me, my wife, my family and our ministry from an area that could have been exploited by the enemy.
Another valuable lesson learned through this experience is the reality that I need the accountability of godly people. The Word of God teaches us in Proverbs 11:14 that, “Where [there is] no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors [there is] safety” and again we read in James 5:16 that we are to, “Confess [your] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” It is by these mandates that we we find safety and healing. Furthermore, we read in Proverbs 27:17, “[As] iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” All the more reason that we should rely on one another to grow in our walks.
Finally, I have learned, the church is full of sinners, of which I am just one. People are very capable of hurting others and most of the time without even knowing. I did not realize that I had been hurting my wife, I had not realized that our fellowship had been hurting my wife. I am thankful that the LORD revealed this to me before my wife became a permanent casualty of war. I realize that my wife is equally culpable of sin, and that she too has a role to play in the healing that must take place, but now I am on track to defend and protect my bride and wash her daily in the water of the WORD.
I am sure there are many more discoveries that will come to light over the course of my reflection. I am thankful to God that He is faithful and loving towards me. I am even more grateful that He is gracious and is not through with me yet. I am satisfied with the lessons that I am learning as they are shaping me into the minister that He has called me to be. I know that He is for me and not against me. And I see that the pace I have taken is not necessarily the pace He wants me to go. It reminds me of a joke that I once heard…I have to share this now so bear with me… Three tomatoes are walkin’ down the street. Papa Tomato, Mama Tomato and Baby Tomato.Baby Tomato starts lagging behind, and Papa Tomato gets really angry.Goes back and squishes him and says: “Ketchup.”Ketchup. Get it??? I digress. The point is that I don’t need for my wife to “catch up” I need to walk with her and enjoy the view as God leads us to where He wants us.
I will close with this…it is the lyrics from a song that I heard twenty or so years ago that ministered to me yet again here recently. It is from the band Tourniquet (A Christian Metal Band). Hope it will minister to you as well.
Pushing Broom by: Tourniquet
Fall has come again
Bringing the leaves to the ground
Another year’s gone away
Nothing’s changed in this town
Far may it be from you
To live someone else’s dream
Though your aspirations soar
Just thank the Lord once more
So many times we believe
That our lives will go to waste
Unless we strive to achieve
So many things out of haste
Sometimes we run too fast
When God is asking us to crawl
He who is faithful minding less
Shall be given to rule over all
Does it feel like every time you’re alone
A voice begins to speak
“There’s so much more to life”
You’ll hear, but you know you’re where
God wants you to be
Do you dream your name in lights way up high
For all to see, could it be that faithful to
What you’ve got is what you first must be
Fall has come again
Bringing the leaves to the ground
Another year’s gone away
You plan to leave that boring town
Far may it be from you
To leave your dreams because of fear
At least you’re not afraid
To push a broom another year