My Filthy Rags

I had three major confrontations with the Lord in 2001. They began at the women’s Bible study (testimony here) and continued through the summer, when I finally dipped into a pile of articles Doug had given me to read.

Those articles would eventually be life changing, but I didn’t want anything to do with them at first. Oh, I was very happy for him, because he’d finally found a ministry that actually addressed his spiritual need. It was the first time we’d heard anyone use the term sexual addiction, and these men* had testimonies to back up their articles. He felt so much hope, and I was hopeful, too. Maybe, this was the answer we’d been waiting for, and all my suffering would finally be over. 

You see, while I recognized there was a spiritual war going on, I didn’t realize Doug and I each had battles to fight. I thought this war was his war, because it was his fault. If he would just do the right thing, we’d win the war and live happily ever after. Wasn’t I doing my part?  Keep the home fires burning, Caroline! Despite the fact God had been dealing with me all year long, calling me to yield to His will for my life, I just didn’t understand that there was something for me to do. I was sure our problems started with him, and would only end when he stopped living a chronic cycle of Sin-Repent-Repeat. In the meanwhile, I would be the good Christian wife I thought I was and endure this suffering. Isn’t that what longsuffering means?

Wives, God doesn’t call us to endure our husband’s sin. If we’re just holding our own, trying to get better at enduring, we’re wasting our time. That’s as far away from being a help meet as we can get. Yet, I know that’s what most wives think they’re supposed to do: don’t quit on him. Without meaning to, they become his enabler.  

You see there is a difference between godly endurance and human endurance, and too often we confuse them. Godly endurance stands out, because it bears spiritual fruit in both you and him. It doesn’t enable him to stay unchanged and in sin, but instead reminds him that his race isn’t over. We don’t ignore his fall and fail to hold him to account, but urge him to get up (repent) and keep going.  

I’m not sure when I gave in and picked-up an article, but I do remember the words took me by surprise. Like a tsunami. The first article was called, “Why People Remain in Sin and Bondage,” by David Kyle Foster. I remember thinking that maybe this article would help me understand Doug better, but instead it helped me understand myself better. It was an incredible experience. Yes, it was life changing.  I very clearly recall sitting in bed and sensing the presence of Christ beside me. I could see myself next to Him, my head down, looking at the pure white drapes of His robe. It was then I finally saw my filthy rags. I wept, I repented. My eyes were opened. For so long I had seen myself somehow ahead of Doug on this course, but suddenly I realized we were in the same place. I had no advantage over him, because I didn’t struggle with his brand of sin. I was not further ahead, because I had grown-up in Sunday school classes. We were equally wretched sinners, both in need of a Savior. 

Looking back now, I realize that God was preparing me for what was soon to come. If our family was going to survive the onslaught Satan had prepared for us, I was going to have to rise up out of my selfish version of Christianity and become a woman God could actually use. I was going to have to put my flesh in its place, just as much as Doug would—though in very different ways. I was now in the war.

*David Kyle Foster (Pure Passion) and Steve Gallagher (Pure Life Miniseries)

The Moon or The Stars

“Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

My Mother had a strong optimistic streak to her, and we could count on her for a word of encouragement anytime we needed it. There was always a Bible verse, proverb, or rhyme ready on her lips to support whatever good counsel she was dispensing, and this particular gem really captivated my childhood imagination. I loved the idea of landing among the stars! I know it is more accurate to say, “Shoot for the stars. Even if you miss, you might make it to the moon,” but the point is the same: aim high. Set goals that you know are out of reach.

Well, I am going to do that now. I can hardly articulate the goal, though, because it really is more than I have words and courage to express. Maybe, very simply, it is to just be honest and write an absolutely unfiltered (read: unedited and unpresentable) account of stuff that I think really matters to wives. I guess that is a broad enough statement. And, I know it’s not stuff that matters to all wives, but I know there is a certain population of women that could possibly benefit from reading some of this. I don’t know who they are, but I’m not really responsible for making sure they get to read it. It’s kind of like Doug’s songs. The Lord just told him to put them out there, make them available. So, that’s what we did. We founded a publishing company just to be sure they would always be available free of charge, and then he posted links all over the internet. That was a long time ago now, but people are still discovering his songs, and still being blessed. Not everyone can afford a CCLI license, or sheet music, you know? We made sure everything they needed to use his songs was there for them online. We even had a plan to ship songbooks free of charge to anyone who asked. People say folks don’t appreciate anything that’s free, but a starving person doesn’t care. We want to serve the starving.

So, that’s the story here, too. This is my moon shot. I’m setting my goal far higher than I can ever achieve, but I’m gonna go for it. Another favorite saying from my Mother was, “Inch by inch, everything’s a cinch,” and I’m going to be reminding myself of that little maxim as I go along. Ultimately, I am just going to trust that if I am hearing from the Lord, He will prove Himself as I yield to Him. I’m a nobody, you know? Seriously. There’s no reason for anyone to care about anything I have to say—but it’s a free lunch. And, I know there are hungry people out there who may just be blessed. I have spoken to enough women to know there is a need. I’m not saying the Lord has given me a private revelation (He has not), but He has taught me things in the battle that I know apply to anyone willing to apply them. A marriage is a union of two people, so it takes two people to make it work. If a man is not yielded to the Lord, and unwilling to repent, that wife is going to have to make a hard decision. However, it’s possible that the hard decision she has to make isn’t what she’s been hearing from her women friends or pastor.

Yes, I know. I just said that I might say things that contradict pastors. I know that makes me evil in some people’s eyes. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there. Contradicting our church mores is one way this is going to be very unpresentable. Yet, if I am faithful to share what the Lord has given me, I will be sharing truth that will be life-changing for someone. I’m confidant of that, because it has not only changed my life, but the lives of every woman who has been courageous enough to trust and obey the Lord concerning their marriage.

Bold statement. I better go now and find my battle ax. Fear is creeping around outside the door.

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For This Child I Prayed

Riding home on the train the day I learned I was expecting, I began to pray for my baby’s future spouse. That first day I had no idea if I was praying for a husband or a wife, but I knew God knew, and I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a single opportunity to intercede for the person who would one day be the most important person in my child’s life. I distinctly recall telling the Lord that I wanted him or her to be as happy in their marriage as I was (and am) in mine. Marriage had been such a trans-formative experience for me—so utterly fulfilling. And, as I had prayed for my own husband since I was 14, I thought this would be the absolute right thing to do for my child. And, I would have their whole life to pray!  I could pray for my child’s one-day-spouse all his or her whole life, too. And, the day Hannah was born, when I knew I was praying for a husband, I began praying with even more specificity.  When I look at Tim, in my heart I say, “For this child I prayed.” I prayed for him all of his life! I remember praying for him in junior high. And, high school, and in those college years. I prayed for his parents, I prayed for his job, I prayed for his purity. I prayed for everything and anything that came to mind. I had no idea for whom I was praying, but I knew my prayers mattered. I knew I was praying for someone real; I was praying for someone God had chosen for my daughter.

About the time Hannah started to begin thinking seriously about what kind of man she would marry, I wrote my own personal “wish list,” and began praying over it. I have always been in the habit of writing prayer lists, because when we write down our requests we give the Lord an opportunity to prove Himself to us. I have often looked back at old prayer lists and had my faith increase, seeing how God answered requests that seemed impossible. In the ministry, this is especially true. Men’s names that showed up on list after list, for years, and where are they now? Free in Christ! It’s great!

So, I wrote my list of what I wanted in Hannah’s future husband. I was pretty specific. It was a step of faith. I stuck it in my prayer journal, and over the years I would remind the Lord of my list. I would pray for him accordingly, using my list to remind how to pray.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I remembered my list. I hadn’t thought much about it in recent months, since Tim came into our lives. But, I think the Holy Spirit wanted an opportunity to prove Himself. He reminded me, and I read down the long list I’d written. I was kind of amazed.  Would you like to see it?

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I’m happy to tell you that Tim is indeed an answer to prayer. As I watch my daughter become his wife, I will be celebrating my God who hears—if we will only ask. Saturday is very much about Tim and Hannah, but it is even more about a loving God who answers prayer.

By the way, Doug had a list, too. I urged him to give a wish list of his own. Would you like to see it?

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Yup. That was all Doug wanted. He said, “Well, I know your list will include everything important, so this is the one thing that matters most to me.” I dare say this might be the most important thing we prayed for, and it is definitely something the Lord answered. I have a grateful heart. The Lord has done a very good thing here.