Priority in Prayer

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Photo of our sweet son taken by my darling hubby!

I don’t believe in New Years resolutions. Study after study concludes that they are an ineffective way to set achievable goals and they often work against us, giving us a benchmark for the date of our repeated failures. So when the ball dropped on 2013, my husband and I had no goals set above what we already work towards on a daily basis.

A few days after we welcomed (or perhaps slept through) the New Year I was fortunate enough to go on a date with the man I have been blessed to share my life with. If you don’t know me personally, you just have to believe me when I say I have the most incredible husband!

We do not ‘date’ nearly as often as we want to or should. We are fortunate to have willing babysitters in the form of beloved grandparents but we seem to use those opportunities to serve together in ministry or participate together in something church related instead of pouring into each other. Now I am not saying it isn’t important to serve side by side but I think the date we had prior to our January encounter was early September – like I have said before, we are far from perfect.

While we were at dinner, ironically the same table at the same restaurant as our September rendezvous, we had a wonderful discussion about how we could spur each other on spiritually, what things we wanted to change in our home to make it more Christ-centered and how we could pray for each other better. The night before our date my husband was at work late and I sent him a link to an article I had read for husbands on how best to pray for their wives. As we discussed it over dinner I realized in a lightening bolt moment that this list was intended not for my husband, but for me.

Everything on the list was something I needed to be praying for myself. Of course I know these things are something I should be asking of my Lord, and my husband should be praying as well, but I do not often come with such boldness, such arrow-focused intensity.

Here is the list as found on Desiring God:

  1. God, be her God — her all-satisfying treasure and all. Make her jealous for your exclusive supremacy over all her affections (Psalm 73:24–25).
  2. Increase her faith — give her a rock-solid confidence that your incomparable power is only always wielded for her absolute good in Christ (Romans 8:28–30).
  3. Intensify her joy — a joy in you that abandons all to the riches of your grace in Jesus and that says firmly, clearly, gladly: “I’ll go anywhere and do anything if you are there” (Exodus 33:14–15).
  4. Soften her heart — rescue her from cynicism and make her tender to your presence in the most complicated details of dirty diapers and a multitude of other needs you’ve called her to meet (Hebrews 1:3).
  5. Make her cherish your church — build relationships into her life that challenge and encourage her to walk in step with the truth of the gospel, and cause her to love corporate gatherings, the Lord’s Table, and the everyday life of the body (Mark 3:35).
  6. Give her wisdom — make her see dimensions of reality that I would overlook and accompany her vision with a gentle, quiet spirit that feels safe and celebrated (1 Peter 3:4).
  7. Sustain her health — continue to speak your gift of health and keep us from presumption; it is by blood-bought grace (Psalm 139:14).
  8. Multiply her influence — encourage and deepen the impact she has on our children. Give her sweet glimpses of it. Pour her out in love for our neighbors and spark creative ways to engage them for Jesus’ sake (John 12:24).
  9. Make her hear your voice — to read the Bible and accept it as it really is, your word… your very word to her where she lives, full of grace and power and everything she needs pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
  10. Overcome her with Jesus — that she is united to him, that she is a new creature in him, that she is your daughter in him. . . No longer in Adam and dead to sin; now in Christ and alive to you, forever (Romans 6:11).

By changing the personal pronoun on this list from which it was originally intended I saw hollowness in my current relationship with Christ that I longed to change. I am not saying this has been resolution. But it is a reminder and one that I have kept in my mind since the year began. In fact it was a tool of conviction that my prayer life had been more mundane and self focused instead of passionately Christ focused.

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Lord, anything but……

 

Some women put together a list of qualities their man must have before they would be willing to date them. For me, it was 3 things I would not, could not accept in a husband and a future life together.

I said Lord, give me a husband and he can be anything but…

He cannot be younger than me.

I am not sure why but at the time I decided this, I think I felt that the guys I was friends with were already so immature that going any younger would be more like babysitting than a relationship. Only I wouldn’t be getting paid! Also, who wants to be the ‘older’ woman?

He can be anything but….

He cannot be a Mennonite.

Ok, I know this sounds harsh and judgmental but you have to understand that I grew up outside the church and in a densely populated Mennonite community. Everyone was somehow related and the ongoing game of ‘Mennonite Bingo’ – trying to figure out who you were related through, was nauseating. Names like Peters, Klassen, Doerksen and Funk were so common it was comical. Since I didn’t understand the difference between the Mennonite denomination and the Mennonite heritage, I lumped it all together and said no thank you.

And he can be anything but….

He can not now nor ever be interested in vocational ministry.

The thought of marrying a pastor was so terrifying that this was an iron clad statement. To know why this paralyzed me so, simply visualize your pastor. He is an amazing man, right? He is wise and thoughtful, endlessly patient. His passion and fire is contagious and he speaks with a conviction that takes your breath away while encouraging you to your knees. Now think of his wife. She is soft spoken and demure while managing to raise their six adorable and perfectly behaved children. She is his rock and it’s obvious that they are equally matched in their scholarly aptitudes while she maintains her submissive role. She is an incredible and gracious hostess, able to balance her Sunday school duties while running the women’s ministry events and quilting with the seniors mission circle. She always looks perfect, not a hair out of place and her fundraiser cookies are always the best seller.

Simply put – I knew I could never measure up.

I think you may know where I am heading with this but I will share with you that my husband (drum roll please) is a year and half younger than I am and was born into a Mennonite family. He is also a pastor at a large Mennonite Brethren church.

Those that know me tend to chuckle at how I got here. Everything I said I couldn’t or wouldn’t do is what God gave me. It is a testament of my weak trust in Him and how He has blessed me in spite of myself. I wish I could say I learned my lesson, that my faith is unshakable and my trust immeasurable.

But it’s not.

I have grown but I am still growing. There are times I echo the words of Isaiah and say “Here I am Lord, send me.” And other times I whisper “here I am Lord, send me anywhere but…” It’s a process, one that continually brings me to my knees and makes me wonder how God can be so loving and patient with a grumbling Israelite like myself.

Speak Well

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. We didn’t do anything exciting; in fact, we saved a date night for later this month to celebrate. With little kids, you take babysitting when you can get it!

In seven, years so much has changed in our lives. When we married we were bible school students living in a tiny apartment in a small college community, a great distance from family and friends. In retrospect we hadn’t known each other that long and if we are honest, we didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did. I didn’t know how to cook and we often wondered if we would make rent. We didn’t have cable or cell phones, we were a 20 minute drive from ANY shopping and we spent almost all our time together, even many classes.

As a newlywed, we were given ample advice. Some was requested and some not-so-much. But I remember being told one thing that has stuck with me for these 7 years and I will strive to maintain for 7 more. It was simply this:

Speak well of your husband.

It is so easy to sit with a group of girls and bond over your shared story, even if that story revolves around your husband’s forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, messiness or any other unattractive attribute. We usually don’t set out to do it, but we do. And even if your husband never knows what you say it can be immensely damaging to your marriage. In the same way, if you speak well of your husband and he never knows what you say, it can be incredibly beneficial for your marriage.

You can ask my dearest girlfriends or my family and I am confident they would attest to the fact that when I speak of Mike, it is usually glowing. My intention is not to boast of our wonderful relationship or mask the imperfections, of which there are many. My goal is that if Mike was to overhear me, he would blush a little bit. He would whisper to me later, ‘aww shucks hun, that was sweet of you to say.’

(Full disclosure: Mike has probably never said ‘shucks’ in his life, but it’s the picture I get in my head!)

When I do confide to a friend about our struggles it is because I have his consent to do so. If I unintentionally share more then I had intended, I seek my husband’s forgiveness. It’s a commitment that I made and I have found that the more I do it, the more I don’t realize I am doing it. Its second nature and even though it probably gets annoying to those I am closest to, I am so pleased I can bless my husband in this way – even if he never hears a word of it.