“Til death do us part” used to be so depressing to me. I adore my husband. I can’t imagine a Heaven where he is not my other half. While I look desperately forward to the Marriage of Christ and the Church and I certainly don’t want to miss that, I’d like to walk in holding hands with Jim.
About a year ago, however, crime around our home started to rise. And then more. And then even more. Personal safety is very important to me, so this has shaken me to the core. I’ve asked all the questions even a three-decade long Christian might be tempted to ask: Where is God when the automatic rifle rings out at 9:00 pm and our five kids are asleep upstairs? Why doesn’t he keep the mentally ill homeless man off my front porch? Why has he allowed all of our real estate offers to fall through so we can’t get out of this mess? WHERE IS GOD right now?
One night after a particularly trying day of dealing with a homeless fellow on our property, I collapsed in the closet floor in tears with my husband listening. I asked all the questions. I ended at, “Have we made this whole God thing up? Where is he right now? Where was he today when the guy jumped the fence in our backyard in broad daylight? Is he even there? Does he hear us begging?”
Jim, a man with a loud voice and vivacious personality who tends to be a life-of-the-party kind of guy, had gone quiet. He had been quiet for a while, months even, but I really hadn’t noticed because it was hard to hear his quiet through my own tears. I struggled. I grappled. I doubted.
And he listened. He listened endlessly for hours upon hours. When he would rather have been watching the Cubs game, he listened. When he wanted to see how the brisket was doing on the green egg, he listened. When he wanted to check the Grizzlies score, he listened. When he just wanted to go to sleep, for crying out loud, he listened.
He offered quiet thoughts here and there. But just thoughts. Not judgments or critiques. He led me daily in short, simple prayers that talked to God about where I was, where he was, and where God was. He loved me so well, so beautifully, with such tenderness and grace that I started seeing Jesus in Jim in a way I hadn’t before.
Jim has been a Christian since childhood. He is an elder at our church. But Jesus started to shine through his gentleness (not a natural trait of his big personality, if I’m being honest) in such a way that a mysterious and amazing truth started to emerge: his role as my husband gave him access to deep places in my heart, which he as my brother in Christ used to point me back to Jesus.
Funny thing: I always thought that his role as my husband was primary in our relationship. How much closer can you get than to be husband and wife? That is the most intimate relationship on earth, I thought.
However, as my husband, Jim patiently listened and wisely chose moments to speak gentle truth to me with deep humility that communicated that he was walking alongside me on this life journey. Not ahead, not behind, but just with. I came to the point of considering walking away from Christ because I didn’t understand why things were happening the way they were. My trust was shaken. My faith was tested.
As I talked and as Jim listened, he reached out and took hold of my hand. He went from primarily husband on earth to equally, if not more importantly, brother-eternal. His rights to my heart as a husband enabled him access and permission to guide me in a very specific and personal way back to Jesus.
A whole year has gone by since the crime spiked and our neighborhood started losing its luster for me. The Lord still hasn’t answered my prayer the way I would have liked, but there has been a sweet release in my soul that looks like resting in God’s kind care of us.
Jim is still seeking to follow him and lead our family, and I’m seeking to make his job a little easier by trusting the Lord to lead us through my husband. Sometimes, it seems that the leading is the hardest job, sometimes it’s the letting lead that requires the most of a person. Either way, we are in places of waiting on God and in that, we are side by side, hand in hand, constantly pointing one another back to our Father and trusting his plan.
With tenderness and grace, Jim, my dear brother in Christ, is walking with me in such a way that his role as my husband is greatly enhanced. It will be such joy in Heaven to worship Jesus with Jim, as the sister he helped get home safely.