Marriage Monday: When I’m a Failure

Do you ever feel it? The failure of marriage?

I’m not talking about the failure that leads to separation and divorce. No, that is a different topic entirely. I’m talking about those days when you just know you have been the worst spouse in existence. You wonder why your beloved even puts up with you. No matter how hard you try to say the right thing, everything out of your mouth is wrong. No matter how hard you try to help, every action hinders instead.

Am I Alone?

The voice inside my head often tells me that I am the only wife who ever experiences failure like this. I have had friends confess that at times they have felt like the world’s worst mom, but few have ever shared with me their feelings of failure as a wife. Typically I hear that it’s all his fault. Or it’s the kids fault. Or it’s hormones. Or it’s…

Just go ahead and fill in the blank. You know what excuses you use.

But I have a feeling that I am not really as alone in this as I feel. It is easier to gripe about a perceived external cause than admit our own failures. So the words we share in public are words of complaint rather than confession. All the while, we press down that suffocating feeling of failure.

What would happen if we would just admit it and work through it instead?

Guess what, my friends. We will fail in marriage. We will let our spouses down. We will say and do the wrong thing.

It is what we do next that makes the difference.

The last thing I want to do when I feel like a failure is humble myself before the Lord, crushing the pride that led to my failure in the first place. But that is the only thing that will work.

I cannot be the wife that my husband needs. I am incapable of it. But the Holy Spirit who lives within me can provide every right word, every strengthening action, and every ounce of rightness that I lack on my own.

My failure comes when I do not allow Him to shine through me. It comes when I try to do this marriage thing on my own. It comes when I seek my satisfaction, strength, and energy from worldly sources. It comes when I rely on Ann to be capable of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While each and every one of those attributes are essential to a successful marriage, Galatians 5:22-23 reminds me that they bind together to comprise the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of Ann’s human nature.

Of course, now that I really think about it, this is not just about marriage. It is about our spiritual walk in general. We will fail. But the Spirit never fails.

What will you walk in this week? Your failure or the Spirit’s success? I don’t know about you, but I am ready to be satisfied by His lovingkindess (Ps 90:14). I am ready to walk in His strength. And I am ready for the fruit of the Spirit to overcome my failure.

Will you join me?

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Put Down Those Oars

Put Down Those Oars 8-1Have you ever tried to move against a strong wind? It is a tough ride. It takes every ounce of energy to make it happen. Every bit of focus.

Think of those “windy” moments in life when everything seems to be working against you. You are exhausted. You would love to quit. But you know if you do, you will just go backwards. You have to keep going. Keep pushing. Keep striving.

You see your Bible sitting across the way, but you just mutter a prayer instead.

“I can’t do that right now, Lord. It is taking all my energy just to move. I’ll just talk to you from right here, but I can’t stop, Lord. I can’t stop. You understand, right? Get me through this wind, and I’ll take a breath and really spend time with You.”

Sometimes we have to act even in the midst of the storm.

Do you remember the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water? (See Matthew 14:22-33.)

When Jesus commanded Peter to walk on water, the winds were still roaring. The disciples were still working hard to get to the other side. I love the description in verse twenty-four:

But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.

“Contrary.” Is that great?

Life often runs contrary to my expectations.

The winds roar, and it is hard to stay on course. I put all of my energy into just making it to the next step of life.

In a moment just like that, Peter decided to put down the oars. He did not ask Jesus to help him row. He did not ask for the wind to stop. He asked Jesus for permission to walk away from the fight. To let it all go and run to Him right in the middle of the storm.


Yes, I know that Peter later took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink. But first he chose to let go in the middle of the storm and head to Jesus.

We can’t keep fighting in our own strength.

My friends, we fight the wind on our own far too often. Jesus is right there, waiting. He is never far. But sometimes He just wants us to choose to step away from the fight and walk toward Him instead. We may falter on the way. We might get distracted, and He might have to pick us back up. But, that is not our concern right now. First, we must let go of those oars and turn to Him.

Earlier this week the kids and I read about an overworked missions team. There was too much work for them to accomplish each week. So, what did they do? They started taking an entire day off to pray. Just pray. To put down the oars and walk to Jesus.

Guess what?

Their work load did not decrease. But their productivity increased. They were able to accomplish more in the remaining days than they had even had scheduled before the change.

What winds are you fighting today? Why don’t we put down those oars and focus on Jesus for a bit instead? I know that’s what I need to do today.

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Now and Always

Now & Always 7-28Most who are married or who have attended a wedding have heard those well-known words:

…for better or worse
for richer or poorer
in sickness and health…

We cover the extremes of life in those wedding vows. We commit to stick beside each other in the best and worst of times. But sometimes we forget about now.

Now can be the hardest time to honor, love, and cherish our spouses. Now is tough. Not fitting into either the best or the worst, now is often mundane. It is ordinary. Nothing exciting is happening to keep us motivated. Nothing with extreme challenge is making us stronger.

It is just ordinary life.

Now is also not the same as then. Then I was a young, blushing bride. Then I will have hopefully reached some new measure of success. But now? Now I am caught up in being a wife, mother, homeschooler, and employee. Now I am a good twenty pounds overweight and struggling with discipline. Now lacks the newness of sixteen years ago when our relationship was just blossoming. Now lacks the mysterious wonderment of what our future might become.

Now is just ordinary.

But he loves me right now. Oh what a gift!

Amazingly, it gets even better!

Now is not just when he loves me. It is also when he tells me he will love me always. He sees me in the mundanity of life and says that he will love me even if nothing ever changes. He will love me always.

The extremes of life, whether they be successes or failures, do challenge marriage with those make-or-break moments. But the daily, ordinary, boring mundanity of life can subtly chip away pieces of even a strong relationship. Or, they can offer us the opportunity to reaffirm the solidarity of our love, for now and for always.

May we shower love upon our spouses this week, even in the ordinary of now. And in doing so, may we find ways to offer the assurance of always.

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Obedience of the Small

During my time in the religion department at Ouachita Baptist University, I had the privilege of taking a biblical interpretation course. Dr. Hays taught us to take a passage and see its layers. Simply by reading, reading again, and reading yet again, he showed us how new details could stand out to us even when we thought we had exhausted every avenue of thought in a verse or passage.

Noticing Details

I have not always exercised that developed eye for details, keeping it in shape to see the depths Dr. Hays taught us to see. Even so, there are times when things jump out at me because I have learned to take a second, third, and fourth look at passages.

Take this verse, for instance:

So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed. 2 Chronicles 30:5

This continues the story of Hezekiah we discussed a couple of weeks ago. The people have been purified, and they are ready to celebrate a nation-wide Passover for the first time in many generations.

So, what stands out to me here? The very end of the verse. “For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed.” (emphasis mine)

Do you know what that means?

Some still celebrated.

Celebration of the Few

The temple had been in various states of disrepair over the decades, and many years passed with priests completely unable to perform their duties. Yet some people still faithfully celebrated the Passover.

How must it have felt year after year for those few? They were being faithful. They were being obedient. Yet I cannot help but think that some of them must have longed for something they had never experienced – a Passover like God’s people held in the very beginning. A Passover with the whole community. A Passover in great numbers.

But they did not let those longings keep them from obedience. They persevered. They celebrated. They worshiped. They persisted in obedience. Even when the great numbers focused their attention and energy elsewhere.

We have no details showing us how life was for the small numbers who continued in worship. There is no story chronicling their faithfulness. They are not mentioned at all until this moment, and even here it is just a passing statement that only infers their existence.

What About Us?

It is not glorious to obey in small numbers. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is lonely. It is challenging. It goes unnoticed.

But it is worth it.

Are your numbers small right now? Obey anyway. Do you feel isolated? Stand strong anyway. Is obedience challenging? Obey anyway.

The world may never notice. History may never record your perseverance. But it is worth it. Keep going! The day will come when the great numbers will join you. And I guarantee your joy will be complete in that day!

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You know how it goes.

You get it all figured out. You create a plan. You dive into that plan, and all goes well for a while. Then something interrupts.

It’s called life.

Life used to frustrate me. I wanted to walk according to the plan. Predictability was my friend. And, if I’m honest, I will admit that I would still prefer things to always fit perfectly into the schedule and progress according to plan.

But the reality is that life is not simple and straightforward. No day runs exactly the way we want it to. Sometimes the deviations are rough. Other times they actually improve the day. But the reality is that they will always exist.

So, what will we do with life?

My gut reaction is to change life. To make it fit into the plan. Or to at least stick to the plan no matter what life brings.

If I can’t do that, I want to give up. To throw up my hands and decide that it is just not worth the effort.

Instead, I choose to live life.

You see, my Savior is in charge of life. His plan is perfect. He never loses control nor does He ever see a day that does not move exactly according to His wishes.

And I get to live in that perfection!

I am pretty sure today will not go as planned. But that is okay. I will make it my intention to honor God with all I do, seeking His kingdom. When I do, life will be good, even when it deviates from my plan.

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Leading the Leaders

The reign of Hezekiah has always thrilled me. If I had to pick a favorite king of Judah, he would be the one. After generations of sinfulness and disobedience, Hezekiah decides to do it right.

He wastes no time beginning reforms.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 2 Chronicles 29:3-5

Who’s in Charge?

There is something I find interesting in this story. Hezekiah instructs the priests and Levites right here in the very beginning. Yet all through the reforms, a certain theme is repeated:

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed and until the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. 2 Chronicles 29:34

For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:3-4

Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 30:15

For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. 2 Chronicles 30:24

Do you see the progression here?

- Hezekiah initiated.
– Some of the religious leaders responded, but not all.
– The people responded in greater numbers.
– The religious leaders slowly came around, feeling convicted because of the response of the people.

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this.

First, our positions mean something! Hezekiah should not have been the initiator. The people should not have been ahead of the priests and Levites. It was their job to instruct the king and be spiritual leaders for the people. They failed and then had to play catch-up when they should have been leading.

Fortunately, others stepped up! This leads directly to the second lesson.

Don’t wait for the “right” person to act! Leaders do not always lead as they should. Sometimes they get complacent. That does not give followers an excuse. Sometimes people must be willing to motivate their leaders to action.

You might not see yourself as a leader, but you still have no excuse. If you are choosing to sit around and do nothing simply because your leaders are not acting, then you are living in sin. You are jointly responsible. And you are capable of instigating a change!

The priests should have been the ones to direct the king and mobilize the Levites. The Levites should have been the ones to teach the people, stirring them to action. Instead, Hezekiah pushed the priests and Levites. Then he stirred the people to action. The Levites got a more decent start than the priests, but it was only the amazing responsiveness of the people that truly lit a fire under the sluggish priests. The ones who should have started everything were the last to respond.

Where will you and I fall? May we be the first!

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Marriage Monday: Protection

So many things in marriage need protection. In a matter of seconds, all of us could rattle off a list of ways we can and must protect our marriages from adultery, from breaking under stress, or simply from growing cold.

But there are other areas of marriage that I think we forget to protect. Even when our marriages are strong, little things threaten to chip away at the intimacy we share.

Think about a few of these things with me, if you will.

SUCCESS – Are you your spouse’s biggest cheerleader?

How often do we consciously remember to protect the success of our spouses? I fail at this one so frequently. My husband is amazing. He succeeds in so many ways, but many of those successes are never applauded. Why? Because Doug is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. He is the idea person behind the success of others. In all honesty, he prefers to be in the background. But, this world measures success by what they can see. So, if my husband’s success is only visible as the success of others, it can be easy for him to feel like a failure.

I must protect his sense of success! It is absolutely critical for me to acknowledge and cheer on his skills because I am the one who sees them. If I do not protect his success, then I am promoting his failure.

On the other hand…

FAILURE – Do you allow your spouse to fail?

No one likes to fail. But it is so easy to take a personal dislike for failure and turn it into a prison for someone else, especially a spouse. We hold an expectation of perfection over our spouses and magnify every one of their failures.

Protecting our spouses’ freedom to fail is almost as important as protecting their successes. Marriage needs to be the safest place to fail. (Now, keep in mind that I am not talking about a failure to keep marriage vows.) My husband needs to know that my love is not based on his ability to avoid failure. In fact, his greatest growth often comes from moments of failure. It is important for him to know that I applaud, support, encourage, and protect all growth, even growth through failure.

PREFERENCES – Is your spouse free to have preferences?

This may seem to contradict our recent discussion in “The Things He Loves.” Yes, we should grow to share likes and interests. But, support of personal interests is also absolutely critical.

Far too many people poke fun at the interest of their spouses. She criticizes his love for hunting while he mocks her enjoyment of a chick flick, especially if it is a sappy one that makes her cry. She does not understand his innate need to yell at the umpires while he does not grasp the therapy of a shopping trip. (Of course, I don’t really grasp that last one myself!)

Instead of criticizing what we do not understand, we must protect one another’s interests. Some of my husband’s passions make my head whirl. I can’t always keep straight all of the nuances of his interest in guns or politics or even some of the deeper aspects of theology. But I love to see that passion. And I want to protect his freedom to enjoy those things without criticism.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But perhaps it will stir our imaginations a bit. Maybe by pondering how to protect these aspects of our marriage, we will consider other areas that need protection. Personality traits. Pursuits. Choices. Habits. Methods of relaxation. Work ethic. The list goes on and on.

What can you protect for your spouse this week?

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