A Good Man Is Hard to Train

I married a wonderful, handsome man. He was everything I dreamed of . . . or would be once I got that ring on his finger and he was mine. Mine to train and mold. Doesn’t every woman have a little bit of that “savior mentality” in them? I just knew that Michael was so blessed to have chosen me as his wife, because I was gonna “fix” him. It was only after an extremely difficult first two years of marriage that I realized he wasn’t what was broken — it was me. Oh, he had his share of warts — but mine won first prize in our marriage. You see, I had set out to make the perfect Christian husband. He would be the pillar in our family, our church, yea — even our community. How every woman would envy me this man of mine! Whoa, I had set myself up for a hard fall. What’s that Bible verse about, “Pride goeth before a fall?” Well, I hit the ground with a big thud and it still smarts. But at least I can smile about it now.

Soon after the honeymoon was over, I started harassing him about going to church. He wouldn’t budge and chose to play golf instead, the heathen. So, every Sunday I would don my Sunday best, set my face in the most pious of expressions and say, “Honey, God misses you in church.” Then I would proceed to nag, harass and guilt as only I thought my own mother was capable of doing. Poor Mike couldn’t wait to get onto the links and he might even spend an extra long time at the 19th hole.

After we had our first child, I naturally assumed that he would step up to his God-given role as the spiritual leader of our home. Wrong! It was then that I started an all out battle to drag him into church, whether he liked it or not. Every birthday, Christmas and anniversary gift was a Promise Keepers book or a “how-to-be-a-godly-man” book. My husband doesn’t even like to read the comics. What was I thinking?

Things finally came to a head when I broke down sobbing and told him that our marriage was falling apart and that he surely did not love me since he wouldn’t go to church with me. Needless to say, he was incredulous. “How in the world does my not wanting to go to church equate to me not loving you?” he wanted to know. “You know that I believe in Jesus and that He is my savior but we never went to church together before we were married — why would this change after we are married? What do you want from me, anyway?”

Hmmmm. I did what any woman would do — I grabbed a bag of peanut M&Ms and called my best friend. Pouring my heart out to my sister in Christ, I explained how I had suffered through this marriage with a “godless” man. After all, he was not stepping up to be the spiritual leader in our house and here I was, breaking my back being the Proverbs 31 woman. The injustice of it all! I waited patiently for what I was sure to be my friend’s shared indigence.

Being the excellent friend that she is, she sighed and said, “Well aren’t you the wifely martyr that every man just longs to spend his time with.”

What? I was confused. “What do you mean?”

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“Well, it sounds as if you have become so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good. I wouldn’t even want to spend time with you — in church or otherwise.”

Now I was really mad. Was this a conspiracy or something? She went on to explain that I had placed my expectations on my husband to fulfill me, when I needed to place my expectations in Jesus. Every time I nagged my husband to go to church, to read the Bible, to pray with me — I was telling him that he was not good enough; that he wasn’t living up to my expectations. In fact, she went on to say I was probably in God’s way. Her sage advice was to “pray and get out of the way.” She recommended praying first for God to change me and show me ways to love my husband unconditionally and second, to pray for God to move in my husband’s heart.

With a quivering lower lip stuck out so far that a bird could take roost, I took her advice and began to pray for ways in which I could better love my husband. And I prayed that he would want to take a more spiritual role in our family, which led to me praying for his purity in mind, for his satisfaction in his work, for his health and well-being . . . and the list goes on. Through the years, God has been faithful in laying on my heart those things that God wanted to change in Michael, as opposed to what I wanted to change in him. I stopped nagging him about joining the kids and I in church or Bible studies.

One Sunday morning, Michael got up, showered and put on a suit. “Today, I am going to church with my family,” he said. Soon after he joined the church. I still kept praying . . .

Two weeks ago, I was preparing dinner. The chicken was frying in the pan, the potatoes were boiling and the kids were watching “Clifford, the Big Red Dog.” I felt the overwhelming urge to pray. “After dinner and the kids are in bed,” I thought. The urge became stronger, God was not taking “no” for an answer. I began to pray.

Now I have never claimed to hear God actually speak to me. It’s not like I heard an audible voice. But that night, I heard God loud and clear in my heart, “Go and pray now, and get on your knees.” I stopped what I was doing and went into a corner of the living room because I did not want Michael to come down the stairs and see me kneeling in the kitchen! While on my knees in the living room, again I heard the voice in my heart, “Get on your face and pray for Becky.” Becky is a friend of mine that is dying of cancer. I got on my face and prayed out loud for my friend. I was so deep in prayer and feeling the Spirit of God, that I did not acknowledge that I vaguely noticed movement beside me. I turned my head and there was my big, handsome husband beside me, praying with me! We prayed and held hands. It was a holy moment and I will never, ever forget the sweetness of it.

I thanked Michael for praying with me. He responded matter-of-factly and we both went on as if nothing had happened. Now Michael is no Billy Graham, but his faith over the years of our marriage has lifted me up numerous times. While I may be a more outward believer, Michael has a faith that is unshakable. It is now that my best friend’s wisdom rings true, “Pray and get out of the way.” This is how I have learned to move over so that God is able to move in.

Originally seen at Renewing the Heart. Copyright © 2001 Focus on the Family. Used with Permission.

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