During a challenging life transition, Bill and I found ourselves off rhythm with one another. I was frustrated by the many tasks still remaining on Bill’s to-do list that I thought should have been checked off. In short, I was afraid he would let me down. Bill was frustrated by what seemed to be unrealistic expectations. He was afraid that he would never be able to live up to my “demands” of him.
The temperature of our relationship had been cooling over a few days, and I began to pray that God would show me who needed to change and own the issue. When we counsel couples, we share that the Holy Spirit is the “great decoder” who will show you how to love your mate because God knows your mate best. If we will simply take the time to pray, God will lead us in love.
One day as I left the house to go workout, I knew Bill would be using that time to spend with God in the Bible and prayer. So, on my way to the gym, I prayed, “God, go after him. Now would be a great time to get his attention. Lord, change him!” That day at the gym, I was listening to the New Testament on my smartphone and there piped into my headphones was some wonderfully irritating insight.
Ephesians 4:1-3 was dramatically read into my heart:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
God’s Spirit gently asked me the questions I had been avoiding. Have you been humble toward Bill or have you already decided it has to be Bill’s fault? Have you been gentle? Patient? Have you been bearing with him and all the pile of responsibilities on his list coming from all different directions? When was the last time you said thank you instead of barking out orders or emailing requests for action? Have you made every effort to bless Bill? Every effort to encourage Bill? Every effort to lower his stress? Every effort to meet his emotional needs? The way to your hope is to meet Bill’s needs rather than have him meet yours.
God zinged me! I headed home, walked into Bill’s office and said, “I am sorry. I have been very demanding during this transition in your life. I trust you to accomplish the things we decided together that are on your list in your own way and in your own timing, with no nagging from me.” I gave him a big hug and kiss and as I walked out of his office into mine, a saw a broad smile of relief on his face.
Surprise! I thought God was going to change him, but instead God changed me.
As it turns out, God changed both of us a few weeks later. While Bill was reading his Bible, he read two verses that both comforted and convicted him:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” —Psalms 32:8
The comfort! God would coach and lead him in his new role.
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” —Psalms 32:9
The conviction! Bill prayed, “God, you just called me stubborn!” Bill realized he had been wanting to do God’s will, but only in his own way. So this time, Bill took the few steps across the hall to my office to apologize.
Instead of me calling Bill stubborn, God did. Instead of Bill calling me controlling, God did. When you pray for your mate, God’s way of breaking through is the sweet surprise that brings the change to safeguard your love.
You may also be interested in Everyday Layers Of Love: Simple Ways To Strengthen Your Marriage