What one woman has learned from being a L.O.V.E.R.By Trillia Newbell | January 3rd, 2012 | Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
by Kay Simmons
“A Biblical view of marriage,” says Paul Tripp, “is a flawed person married to a flawed person in a fallen world…but with a faithful God.”
After nearly 30 years of marriage, I can say without hesitation-this is true! Did I believe that in year one? Nope! How about years two to, hmmm, say-twenty? Oh, I definitely believed one of us was flawed, but it wasn’t me!
My husband, Mike, and I had our first date on April 10, 1982. We got married on September 4, 1982. Our first child was born March 18, 1983. Yes. I was pregnant when we married. God intervened and saved our firstborn son’s life thirty minutes before the appointment we had made to have him aborted. But, that is another story for another time.
I only share that now to give a glimpse of the kind of foundation on which we entered into our marriage covenant. The foundation consisted of loads of sin: sexual immorality, selfishness, deceit, greed, and pride. We were living as Ephesians 2:3 describes, “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Thanks be to God, our story doesn’t end there; and neither does the second chapter of Ephesians! Verse four goes on to say, “But God…” Those might be my two favorite words in the Bible, as well as my only explanation for why we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary on September 4, 2012!
The past 29 years have been full of mountain top highs and death valley lows. We have walked through the wilderness called worldliness. We have walked through the desert called adultery. We have run after the mirage of high society and sought to satisfy our cravings with expensive toys, whether we had the money or not. If there was a lie for sale, we probably bought it.
Why on earth are we still married? Looking back today the consistent thread holding our marriage together, mending the torn places and strengthening the weak spots, has been, a faithful God.
As I pondered how to describe what God has taught me through this journey called marriage, I thought it might be helpful to take a role that God continues to redeem in my marriage, and allow God’s Word, which is alive and active, to speak to the areas I am myself most needy.
The role I’ve chosen is lover. Mainly because there’s probably no other role I’ve struggled with more as a wife. The world reduces it to raw and illicit sex and every grocery store check-out line magazine sells that definition by making women feel inferior if they’re not up to date on ways to drive their man crazy in the bedroom and by stimulating men visually with computer enhanced images of scantily clad women. I used to love going to the grocery and video stores with our daughter, as she would make her way up and down the aisles turning over each magazine and video case with sexually explicit photos on the front. It was great! But, I digress…
God has taught me, and continues to teach me, the role of lover is so much deeper than skin. So, I’m going to take one letter at a time and attempt to share how God is pruning me with his Word and how he calls me to live it in my marriage.
L – Lay – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13
Who is my closest friend? My husband. Yet, why do I struggle day in and day out to lay down my life for him? Oh, I’m well aware that in Ephesians 5 he is called to lay down his life for me as Christ laid down his life for the church; and-ahem-I am quick to pull those verses out when necessary. But, these verses in John are written to all believers. That’s me, the wife and friend of Mike Simmons.
So what does laying my life down look like? In practical, everyday terms it can mean something as simple as ironing his clothes for the next day instead of relaxing on the couch surfing the Internet. That screams, “I love you!” to him because he typically irons his clothes each morning as he gets ready for work. In deeper, more eternally valuable terms it can mean holding my tongue and choosing rather to persevere in prayer for him, not judging him by my standards, but extending mercy to him as God has extended mercy to me. My hasty, reactionary words cast at Mike usually have the power to cut, belittle and emasculate him; leaving my best friend feeling shamed, exposed and rejected. That is not how Christ has dealt with me. It is rather what Christ endured in my place so that I can love and serve my husband instead of myself.
O – Outdo – “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
I must be honest. This is a huge challenge for me. For years I failed in the area of honoring my husband; especially in front of our children. You see, I believed the lie if I honored him and praised him, he would get “the big head”. I had to protect my own stake in this thing by making sure he knew I could put him in his place.
Instead of honoring my husband, I would enjoy occasions to make fun of him; even egging on the children by laughing with them when it was obviously hurtful to my husband. Now don’t get me wrong; I know it is healthy to be able to laugh at oneself. I also know it is easy to tell when the line has been crossed between laughing with someone and laughing at someone. I’ve been a line crosser.
This is a particularly poignant point for me because Mike is consistently eager and quick to honor me. My struggle is such a revealer of my pride. Yet, the Holy Spirit is faithful to urge me to honor my husband and even presents me with opportunities in the presence of our children, though they are grown now. And, you know? When I honor him my love for him only grows, because I realize anew what a gift from God he is to me.
V – Vengeance – “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ ” Romans 12:19
Boy howdy-does this goes against my nature or what? When my husband wrongs me, I want to make him pay and I want to make sure he feels as bad as possible! Typically, the way I used to make him pay was by rejecting him, shutting down and going inside myself, ignoring him and withdrawing from him. What did this accomplish? It made him miserable and me, too! There’s no lasting pleasure in avenging oneself, especially in marriage. And, besides, when I seek to avenge myself, I’m putting myself in the judge’s seat where only God in his holiness and righteousness can sit. I have learned the hard way that it is much more helpful in our marriage to not make Mike’s sin about me; which is, in my case, the gut reaction I have to be prepared to hold in check.
The most unlikely of situations when God taught me this was when I discovered my husband was committing adultery. Prior to this revelation, I had always told him, “If you’re ever unfaithful to me, I’m out of here!” All of a sudden, I was in the thick of it and, for some reason that I can only attribute to God’s grace, I didn’t go anywhere. Oh, I thought about it; but, knew I couldn’t really do it. The main reason was when I discovered Mike’s affair, God was kind to show me my own sin. I had no perfection to claim, no righteousness of my own, my sin was carried by Jesus on the cross just as much as Mike’s. God was my judge and God graciously reminded me that he was Mike’s judge, too.
Yet, I did want my feelings of betrayal and rejection to be validated. I was very angry when a Christian counselor told me that what we were going through was not about me, not about our marriage, it was about him and God. Not what I wanted to hear. But, that week as I prayed and buried myself in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit confirmed that word to me. Mike’s affair was not about me, it was about his sin against the holy and righteous God. I felt strongly impressed by the Lord that I needed to leave Mike to God, and I did.
I was kind to him. I prayed for him. I shared with him different things God was teaching me in his Word. I continued to wash Mike’s clothes, fix his meals, etc. but, that was it. It was when I took myself and my fractured emotions out of the picture, and he couldn’t just focus on trying to fix everything by making sure I was okay, he was left to deal with himself and God. Thankfully, God granted Mike grace to repent and granted me grace to forgive him.
Let me be quick to say-this is our story. God might have written your story in a different way. Of one thing I’m sure, however He ordains anyone’s story, it will ultimately all be to the praise of his glorious grace!
E – Exhort – “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,‘ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
I looked up the definition of the word “exhort.” Merriam-Webster defines it this way: to urge, advise or caution earnestly; to give urgent advice, recommendations or warnings.
Now this is something I can sink my teeth into; or is it? I can begin to really chomp down until I get to the reason for exhorting “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hmmm…better put my teeth back in my mouth and chew on this myself before I rip into my husband.
There is no question that God is telling us to exhort, or earnestly caution and warn each other. But, does that mean God is giving me the green light to be the Holy Spirit in others’ lives, particularly my husband’s life? I’m thinking not. So, how can I exhort my husband in a way that will promote softness and not hardness of heart?
This is another area where I’ve failed miserably through the years. James, of the Bible, is exactly right when he describes the tongue as a small part of the body, but one capable of inflicting the deepest wounds and causing the most widespread destruction. That is spot on for what’s in my mouth and what has resulted from what has spewed from it!
However, through my failures, God has taught me much about setting a guard on my lips, being slow to speak, speaking God’s Word rather than my own, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction rather than thinking that’s part of my job description as Mike’s wife. What does it look like when I exhort Mike according to Biblical guidelines and not my own? Well, something like this,
I once observed Mike stumbling back into a sin pattern that I knew from experience would not be good for his soul or our marriage. My initial inclination was to fear, be tempted to anger, judge and let him have it with both barrels loaded. But God (see, I’m telling you, 29 years of those two words!) prompted me to just pray.
As I prayed for Mike, the Lord took me to 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 and as I meditated on God’s Word, he reminded me of the gospel… “that Christ died that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised…that if anyone is in Christ, the old has passed away and the new has come…that it is the love of Christ that controls us and reconciles us to God…for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This filled me with faith to lovingly exhort Mike; not out of selfishness or condemnation, but out of the joy and hope that the sin Mike was being wooed by was defeated by Chris. And that neither one of us was bound to live for ourselves any longer because we are reconciled to God through Christ!
The next evening as we were talking, I exhorted Mike by sharing with him what God had spoken to me through his Word, and that was
that. There were no fireworks, no manipulation, no accusation, no judgment and we moved on. The next morning during our Saturday morning coffee ritual Mike told me how much he appreciated what I had shared with him the previous day. He said he felt only love and no condemnation, which God used to soften his heart and open his eyes to the perilous waters in which he was beginning to wet his toes. Ahh, what an awesome God we serve!
Last, but not least…
R – Rejoice – “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
This is not, I believe, “ha ha rejoicing” just for the sake of rejoicing. Paul says to rejoice “in the Lord” and in the verses that follow instructs the Philippians to “be anxious for nothing.”
Now I don’t know about anyone else, but one of my greatest temptations is to fear. I can construct a fantasy out of fear quicker than I can blink my eyes. This has been particularly true as far as my husband is concerned.
If he is late getting home; if his schedule is out of the ordinary in the slightest; if I am feeling disconnected from him because our schedules have gotten out-of-control busy; if I am feeling unattractive and bloated (you know what I mean); if he’s not as gooey with me as he usually is…gosh, this is looking really silly, but, I’m just being honest. In other words, when my mind is fixed on me and my pitiful state, it doesn’t take me any time to doubt Mike’s word, become suspicious of him, and consider enlisting the services of a private investigator. Wow, that is really humiliating to see in black and white. But that’s the power of fear. It is immobilizing and capable of wreaking havoc in my heart, not to mention my marriage.
But God (are you seeing the common thread?) knows my heart. He is mindful that I am but dust and he knows the most effective way to battle fear is with faith. So, he tells me in Colossians to “set your mind on things above and not on things that are on earth” and in Philippians to think on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise.” Well…the only image that comes to mind bearing all of those qualities is Jesus Christ! Perhaps that’s why Paul begins with telling the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord.”
One thing that happens in my heart when I rejoice in the Lord and set my mind on him is, I’m reminded of all the ways he has proven himself faithful over and over and over again. So, why do I fear that he will be anything other than faithful today? 2 Timothy 2:13 tells me, “…he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
…and that is what God has been for the past 29 years, `faithful to two flawed people, namely Mike and Kay Simmons.