A few weeks ago I was sorting through one of those huge piles of miscellaneous papers - that had grown wildly out of control and I’d hidden away in the corner of a closet. Kids’ artwork, letters and cards, photos, articles, bill statements, random notes - you name it, it was in there. Lots of junk to be tossed, but countless jewels to be treasured too - I just dreaded the task of going through it all. As I did, I found a little piece of paper upon which I had scribbled down this quote…
“Don’t ever wish perfection on your children.
If you do, you are wishing them a life without God.”
Those words stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard them, calling into question every secret wish I had collected over the years not only for my kids, but for myself and my husband. And all those secret wishes, if I was really honest, culminated into one wish: perfection. But ouch. The words of this quote had also painfully exposed what I was actually wishing on them: a life without God.
In my almost twenty years of marriage, I’m ashamed to admit how many times I’ve wished perfection on my husband. There were times I not only wished it, but I spoke it out too - waving my finger of critique and condemnation in his face when he just didn’t measure up. Failure, sin, hurt, struggle, weakness, imperfection. Yep, he’s got ‘em all. He’s 100% certified human. Just like me.
In my blog If Only, I share how as wives, we absolutely do not want to miss the gift of who our husband is, by wishing he was someone he’s not - and how life-changing it can be for us to give thanks for our husband’s gifts and strengths; for the unique man God has created him to be.
But sisters, we also desperately do not want to miss the gift of who our husband is not; we do not want to miss God’s work in his weakness.
In 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, Paul testifies to God’s work in his own weakness:
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
As Kurt’s wife, God invites me to be his “helper”. (ref. Genesis 2:18) In Hebrew, the word helper is “ezer”, which means “a helper who saves”. Now let me be super clear here. I am not Kurt’s savior. Jesus is. I cannot save him; only God can. And only Kurt can choose to reach out for God’s saving grace. But as Kurt’s ezer, there is something I can do. In fact, there is something I am called to do. PRAY for him. I can surrender him to God. I can plead on his behalf. I can fight for him with the greatest weapon I have, which is prayer!
"All major things, events, in the history of salvation have first been won in prayer
and then in action, the spiritual realm first not the physical."
(Fr. Michael Scanlan)
If we don’t pray for our husband, who will? If we don’t advocate for him, who will? If we don’t have the humility and courage to walk alongside him as his helper, who will? But if we do, there is no limit to what God can do! What God can do in that man is immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine! (ref. Eph. 3:20)
And guess what? What God can do in us is beyond our imaginings too.
If we wish perfection on our husbands, we aren’t just wishing them a life without God; we’re also wishing them a wife without God. Paul speaks about the thorn in his flesh; the thorn he begged God to take away. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:8 that when a man and woman marry, the two become one flesh. So the thorn in my husband’s flesh becomes a thorn in mine too; It’s painful, I know - sometimes a little aggravating, but other times downright excruciating.
And maybe we’ve begged God to take it away from us too.
But could it be, that in my husband’s weakness, God’s power can be made perfect - not only in him, but in me, and in our marriage?! If so, THIS is why we as wives can boast in his weakness; and dare to love it too. Not for what it is in and of itself, but for the powerful work God desires to do through it.
Now let me say this: if our husband’s weakness involves sin, then we are actually called to hate that sin. (Rom. 12:9) But as Paul writes in Romans 5:20, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more”.
So don't think I'm crazy. I’m not proposing you love your husband’s addiction, his infidelity, the disrespectful way he speaks to you, or that he never helps around the house; not his lack of faith, his lack of presence, or even the fact that after twenty years he still doesn’t wipe the damn toilet seat. Dare to love his weakness - for the abounding grace God can bring through it.
As a wise friend once said to me, a friend whose husband was gripped by an addiction that almost destroyed their marriage - “Every day I have to surrender my husband to God, because I cannot change him; only God can. The only person I can change is me.” It was the heroic ways in which my friend prayed for her husband, while also courageously seeking change and healing for herself, that allowed for a major breakthrough in her husband‘s life.
She can boast today about the work God has and continues to do - in her husband, in herself, and in their marriage - through that incredible thorn of addiction. “God gave me the grace to see my husband through His eyes; to feel God’s mercy for him, forgive him, rebuild with him. Somehow I had the grace to do that. And without my husband’s cross, which I had to take up along with my own, I would not be who I am today.”
So maybe it’s time to open that closet door and lay it all out before the Lord… in that pile of our husband’s weaknesses and struggles and sin, some of which may have grown wildly out of control - in the the stuff we’d rather not look at or hide away from view; (or maybe the stuff we keep waving in his face.) Yes, there’s some junk in that messy pile of the man we love - junk that needs to be tossed, rejected, released and healed. But in the midst of that very mess is also beauty. His thorns are his thorns, and they’re our thorns too. But they are also jewels - glimmering with the promise and hope of a Redeemer - a Savior whose power can only be found in our weakness.
So sisters, let’s dare to love his weakness. Let’s dare to love our own. Like Paul, let’s “delight” in what we know the Lord wants to redeem. And as we courageously clasp the hand of our helper, and sort through the muck of sin and shame and pride and failure, (maybe even sit in it for awhile) we can boast. Because in that very place is where we will meet our merciful Savior; where Christ’s power can REST on us…
His grace is sufficient. For when we are weak, then we are strong.