I married for a variety of reasons:
John is so cute and sexy.
We have fun together.
We have so much in common
(he thinks I’m cute and sexy too).
He loves Jesus.
He asked me.
I don’t ever recall thinking, “I want to marry John because, knowing me better than anyone else, he will address the things that hinder my spiritual growth.” And yet that is one of the purposes of marriage.
God loves that John and I still dance in our kitchen, that we have perfected the art of dark humor for hard times, that we are still cute and sexy—or at least we think so; and we are partners in All Things Jesus. But one of God’s hidden purposes since June 17th, 1973 has been to sculpt each of us into the image of His Son, and his favorite chipping tool is each other.
After forty-four years, you’d think it would get easier to take, but I find it just as dreadful as that time way back in 1974 when John gave our grocery money to a couple of hitchhikers against my better judgement—which, as it turns out, was not so much “better” as judgement.
Well, here we go again. This week John addressed a list of nasty habits for me to consider. Okay—a list of three, which is the same as fifty; and he didn’t exactly call them nasty, but I read between the lines. He spoke kindly, and I responded similarly:
“Kindly suck it up.”
To my credit, I didn’t say that out loud.
His concerns were of a spiritual nature, and I wanted to retaliate:
“Oh Yeah? Well, guess who left their underwear on the floor today?”
But I kept my cool. Very cool. Downright COLD.
As it turns out, he was being overly-sensitive, judge-y, and critical. Oh no…wait…that was me.
It took awhile, but I repeated back what I thought he was saying until I was 100% sure he was absolutely wrong and then we prayed.
I wrestled all day in prayer. Wrestled with God. Apparently John had managed to convince even God of my sin. And they won.
They won because truth wins and this truth from John 3:30 burst to the surface of my murky little heart:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
“He” being Jesus.
This verse shredded my paper-thin defenses, motives, and questions. John was right—both Johns were right. But even if my John had been wrong, the truth of this verse would have worked right things in me. If my life’s goal is truly, “More of Jesus, less of me,” this brings an end to the parsing out of just how much responsibility I’ll accept for my attitudes, motives, and actions, because one thing for sure: I must take full responsibility for my sin of pride—and its many disguises of which I am still ignorant.
Later that day, I thanked John for sharing hard stuff with me, acknowledged my failings, and asked him to keep praying for me.
Battle Done. Freedom Won.
We hug each other with lots of mushy stuff, and no reserve.
This “being made more like Christ” is not for sissies. I want to resist it. But in the end, I find Jesus irresistible. And John too.
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to GROW UP* in all ways into Him who is the head—Christ. Eph. 4:15
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Pro. 27:17
(And just in case I’m ever tempted to start parsing…)
“Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that?” 1 Corinthians 6:7
*Bold lettering is mine.