Meeka and I just celebrated 24 years of marriage. We were teenagers when we met, just out of high school. In many ways, we’ve grown up together. I can’t even begin to put together words to express the gratitude I feel to God for the life-giving love we share in our relationship and in our home.
Looking back over the years, there’s been a lot of on-the-job training. When I had the privilege to write a book on marriage ten years ago, I was no expert then, nor am I now. We are accumulating experiences of God’s provision along the way and sharing it with others.
Most of what I’ve learned has come when I least expected it, like the time we were traversing Sawtooth Ridge. I had convinced Meeka to cross this rocky ledge in Colorado with me to hike another mountain summit. Adventure!
Once we were actually on the ridge, a simple walk became a treacherous hike. Not far into the walk, Meeka lost her footing and scraped her leg on the dry, sharp granite boulders. We continued though, looking for flatter ground.
I was leading the way; this was, after all, my idea. I could feel Meeka’s frustration and concern mounting. Instead of reassuring her, I began to feel defensive. An ugly and familiar feeling of insecurity began to rear its head. Meeka probably asked me a legitimate question about where we were going, when I responded out of my insecurity: “Don’t you trust me?”
“No. I don’t trust you,” she said calmly before adding, “but I don’t have a choice right now.” Immediate and poignant, her words were like an arrow into my insecurity. It was the perfect response. I wanted to fight and run all at once.
With time and years, I have looked back and seen the importance of that moment. It was a moment of clarity after three years of marriage. When God teaches me lessons, I usually come away with good questions. The question that this lesson provided me is still pertinent: What vision is before you as you lead her? Where was I leading her? Eventually, it was: Where are leading your children?
The question of vision was a question about my heart, my motivation and incentives. It exposed the hope around which I was organizing my life. When I asked her if she trusted me, I was asking her to focus on making me feel good about myself. I was frustrated and I wanted her to reassure me. When we are led by our insecurities, trying to compensate for them, it creates an insecure environment for relationship. That’s why Meeka said, “No, I don’t trust you.” In other words, I don’t feel secure around you!
Like I said, we had been married for three years at this point. This question of where I was leading her began to gain momentum and the enormity of it began to fill my heart and mind.
Instead of standing confidently in the grace of Jesus and finding my worth in Him alone, I was waiting on Meeka to affirm me and give me value. When she made me feel good about myself, everything was good. When I felt she was being antagonistic to my selfish ends, I was frustrated, defensive, and angry.
This has been a nasty habit that the grace of God is still disrupting in my life. Yes! That’s right!More than twenty years and I’m still learning and growing. I’m so thankful for her patience and strength. I don’t think we would had survived had God not graciously shown me in Scripture that there is a more compelling vision than my self-esteem. Scripture describes an alternative vision rooted in what God has done through Jesus. Simply stated…
I’m God’s priestly servant leading Meeka to Jesus.
I’m God’s priestly servant leading Reece, Noah, and Aimee to Jesus.
In light of this vision, my strengths and weaknesses are occasions for God’s grace. When the goal is bolstering my self-esteem, my weaknesses are moments of heightened insecurity and all that comes with it: defensiveness, anger, frustration, isolation. When revealing the good news of the gospel is my vision, then whether I’m weak or strong, Jesus increases and I decrease (John 3:30).
It’s Jesus, not me, that I need to give to my wife and my kids.
The first eleven chapters in Romans is the most clear and succinct presentations of God’s plan for salvation in all of Scripture. In these eleven chapters its as if Paul is climbing the mountains and peaks of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “The power of God for salvation,” (1:18).
Then, in Romans 11:33, Paul reaches the summit of his Holy Spirit-guided journey. He looks back over all that he has written and seen by God’s grace. He’s at a loss for words:
The power of God in Jesus silences Paul. It puts him in his place. And then he erupts with the doxology:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (11:33-36).
Now, he turns to the church:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1).
The call to lead is inspired by the gospel of Jesus! The vision that guides me is the mercies of God poured out in Jesus. As this vision grows with clarity, so my heart grows with awe and gratitude. I’m a husband and father who stands before Jesus and says, “OH!”
I’m called to lead my wife and kids to rest in God’s mercies found in Jesus. I lead them to worship God in response to what God has done for us in Jesus. I’m God’s servant dedicated to God’s purposes in them. The power of God secures me in Jesus which frees me to love them as I’m called to do.