I ran barefoot out the door to find my prayer book. Harsh words attempted to replay as I retrieved my quiet-time bag from the car. My husband had departed for an appointment after a heated disagreement between us. How could he leave, knowing things were so unsettled between us? Anger consumed me as my mind began piling on the perceived history of our points of contention. I felt wounded, and the bitter seeds of resentment were threatening to plant themselves deeply in my mind.
He is always discounting me. My needs don't matter to him. I didn't want to forgive, I didn't want to love him, and I certainly didn't want to pray for him. Yet, like a person desperate for water in a dry desert, I opened my prayer book and began to pray God's protection, guidance, and love over my husband. I spoke each prayer out loud through constricted throat and hot angry tears.
Meditating on the scripture that went with each prayer, I prayed at first out of habit. Then, as my tense muscles relaxed, I prayed with the knowledge that God is faithful to complete his work in my husband and me. That choice was a few weeks ago. Looking back I was surprised to recognize that my decision to pray for my husband was a moment of bravery that has led to openness between my husband and me. I trust God more deeply and am not letting hard moments fester.
Bravery doesn't just show up in the big moments, where lives are on the line. Bravery exists in the small course changes I make to align myself with the will of God. In fact, those smaller unseen moments, the ones where I practice faith, grow in wisdom, choose to forgive, and face fear, cause me to stand firm in the larger battles where the stakes seem larger. Bravery requires integrity. Integrity is the quality or state of being complete or undivided (Merriam-Webster). Holding onto my anger would create a fault line in the integrity of my marriage.
I've experienced that before. Early in our marriage, there were so many outside forces pushing us apart that our inability to show compassion, and to allow the other person to be in the process, almost ruined us. The consequences of holding a grudge lead to a lack of communication and built an invisible wall to insulate me from further pain. My heart hardened toward my husband and God.
Now, I truly desire to remain open to God and my husband, even when it hurts. I have years of sweat equity in my marriage. We have cultivated integrity through these moments of angst. God desires me to love my husband, rather than holding onto what I think he has done wrong. By choosing to pray for my husband, I was able to let go of controlling the outcome.
When I make day-to-day choices to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I am learning that he won't let me down, no matter the circumstances. "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way" (James 1:4 MSG). Boy was my faith-life forced into the open during the argument. I didn't remember that God was at work with my husband, and I didn't recognize my own sinful nature was showing its true colors. I was treating my husband as an obstacle rather than my ally.
Now that my sinful nature had been revealed, I had two choices: nurse the bitterness or submit to God's authority in the situation. Over the past few months I have chosen the latter. By forming the habit of praying for my husband, I made the silent vow not to give hurt one more second to fester. From the first word of prayer, all the anger I felt unwound itself from around my thoughts and heart.
Awakening to God's ways, I slowly and purposely sat with each aspect of the prayer. Instead of placing my expectations on my husband to fill my needs, I prayed for Christ to do so. Praying for my husband was the mature decision. In it, I chose to love him above my selfish ways, and looked to God to help us to hear one another, respecting the other's needs.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9 BSB). By intentionally praying, I began to acknowledge that God's view of our marital argument was far better than my need to always win. It turns out God is an advocate for both of us.
These small acts of bravery acknowledge that I don't know the big picture for my life or for those whom I love. There are so many situations throughout scripture that I would have honestly done differently, including the cross. Yet by so doing I would have negated the very things that led to the salvation of many. Bravery is recognizing I don't know the right path, but God does. My job is to follow no matter what.
The decision to pray for my husband rather than curse him led to reconciliation between us both. It has also greatly strengthened our relationship. Doors have opened in our relationship rather than closing them. No doubt, that one decision will lead to future brave decisions as I continue to lean on God's wisdom and strength rather than my own.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
Many of the brave decisions we make as followers of Jesus are in the little choices we make moment by moment. Like choosing to quietly respond when being yelled at by our children. Or deciding to tell the truth when we make a mistake at work. Throughout the New Testament Jesus worked with his disciples on making changes in small ways. Watch for places in the Gospels where Jesus said phrases like "truly I tell you" and "You have heard it said .... but I tell you." These are course correction moments, where Jesus reveals the true intent of the law, and God's desire for those who follow him.
A few examples in scripture:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire" (Matthew 5:22-23 ESV).
Course correction: Our thoughts matter to God and steer the ship of our actions towards others. What are your current thoughts towards your family members, coworkers, neighbors, etc?
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24 ESV).
Course correction: Salvation comes through Jesus, not the law. Jesus' ultimate goal was to reconcile us to God. He was giving us an opportunity to have new life.
Sometimes the bravest thing God calls us is to be still. Know him. Trust him. Only move forward when he calls us to do so. Are there small choices that you are being asked to make right now? How can The Dented Fender walk with your brave act of obedience? We would love to walk with you.
Father, I don't always feel that brave, but I choose in small and big ways to walk with you and trust that you will make my path straight. Amen
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