Today is my anniversary. I have been married to this man for 14 years. We married when I was living in New Mexico as I was trying to finish out a semester of college. He was living in Virginia. Except for his pastor, who officiated our marriage and the pastor’s wife, as a witness, not a single soul was present to celebrate that day with us. I never wore a wedding dress or walked down an aisle. We had no reception, no honeymoon and no wedding pictures to remind me of the day the Lord gave this man to me for the sole purpose of making me look more like Christ.
As I reflect back on the last 14 years, sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have a special day and wear a pretty dress. In spite of that sadness, I have learned so much about who I am as a person being a wife. As I think back on who I used to be, I often don’t recognize the woman that my husband married in December of 2004. I had only been saved and redeemed for about 10 months and very much a baby Christian feeding on milk.
At the time of my marriage, I had yet to read my Bible all the way through. I was still wrestling with the word “trinity” since I carried so much bad JW theology from my childhood into my newly regenerated life. Most importantly, I was starting to learn what it looked like to be led by the Holy Spirit. Scripture says that I was given a new nature when I was reborn, born of the Spirit to be precise (John 3: 5-8).
Re-born saints are given a new heart that consequentially comes with new desires, specifically a desire to live a life wholly dedicated and consecrated to God, though at the time, I had no idea what that looked like. Being re-born, I was given God’s Spirit, and I knew that something about my person had changed, though I didn’t know at the time how that change occurred. Galatians 5:25 says that new creatures in Christ live by the Spirit and should keep in step with the Spirit. However, the first few months post re-birth, it would be safe to say that I had not yet learned to walk or keep in step with the Spirit, nor was I crawling. Being a baby Christian, I was learning how to roll over and sit up by myself for the first time.
And that is who my husband married…..a baby Christian with zero knowledge of the Bible learning to sit up as the Holy Spirit began to lead and teach me about myself in Christ.
Today, I am humbly thankful to admit that I know a little something about the Bible, at least enough to differentiate false theology from Biblical theology. I love the beauty and the richness of the doctrine of the Trinity. I no longer feel insecure about walking in step with the Spirit and along the way, God has healed so many areas of my life.
Most importantly, I no longer freak out when trials or difficulties come, but rather I have grown a trust in my Good Father to know that I should rejoice in any and all difficult circumstances because I know that it will produce endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, knowing that hope will never disappoint me because God’s love has been poured out in my heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5). I have also learned that anytime I find myself in a difficult situation, relational or circumstantially, I should consider it pure joy that my faith is being tested to produce the kind of endurance that will lead me to a maturity that is complete, lacking nothing. At the same time, when I do lack and need wisdom, I know that I can go to God, knowing with full confidence that he will give me that wisdom generously (James 1:2-5).
None of the above happened in an instant or over a couple of weeks or even months. It took years. Years of sometimes not knowing what was going on. Years of dealing with panic attacks, depression, insecurities, health issues, rejection from family members and at times my church community. Years of not knowing who and what to trust.
Being in step with the Spirit was my only source of sanity and kept me looking to Scripture for my answers. Scriptures and the Spirit was and is where I gain real truth, real wisdom and real guidance.
John Owen, an English Puritan theologian who lived in the 1600’s writes that leaning on the Holy Spirit is a habit of God’s grace. Habit means that it is an action performed in our minds that must happen chronically, persistently and consistently. It is the very act of regeneration that is infused into the soul of those God saves and enables them to “vital acts of faith and obedience”, meaning only the Holy Spirit has the power to help us to spiritually and supernaturally have a faith that obeys God willingly and joyfully, though often times not easily. (Note….joyfully does not mean “happily”, but that is another blog post all together.)
It’s not easy to obey God. It’s not easy to live out the redeeming gospel in our lives with others, which includes our spouse, family members and overall church community. Owen further writes that the powerful effectual removal of our default desire to disobey is God’s gift, freely given. God removes our inclination to disobey Him, by way of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:17), replacing disobedience with a yearning to know God. It is God that gives us a desire to know him with our whole heart (Jer 24:7).
This process is called renewing the mind (Eph 4:23). Owen calls it, renewed in knowledge (Col 3:10).
“This renovation of our minds has a transforming power to change the whole soul into an obedient frame towards God (Rom 12:2) and is ascribed to the work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)”
God turns our darkened mind to one of light says 2 Cor 4:6.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Owen declares that God has illuminated our minds with the same power that he created light in Genesis 1. The light that shines out of darkness is the actual, real, literal, tangible knowledge of the glory of God that we see in the face of Jesus, revealed to us in Scripture. God reveals himself in Christ by the gospel. We, who were once in darkness, become reflectors of light in the Lord (Eph 5:8). God given gospel illuminating light is the only way to be guided in life, mind and heart. It is the fuel and the motivation to the obedience of our faith.
All that to say, the woman that my husband married 14 years ago no longer exists. As I have learned to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, praise be to God I am not who I used to be. There are battle scars in my heart and mind that are evidence of my feeble attempt to hold on to who I thought I was or needed to be as an expression of my womanhood, my ethnicity or both.
Like Jacob, I have wrestled with God in rebellious declaration of my independence, but inevitably, I grew weary. In humility and exhaustion, I can now declare that I am not God and I don’t always know what is best. Only God does. As I walk with my own limp, I am filled with gratitude that God continues to refine me and show me areas of my heart that do not reflect Christ. I do consider it joy to face trials and difficulties of many kinds, especially the kinds that bring out the further sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within me, often using difficult circumstances as a means for God’s work.
My husband does not like to text. He dislikes it when I send him long text messages and rebukes me often with “just pick up the phone”.
However, today was different. This morning, I received these words from my husband via text. After I read them, I cried. I can’t take any credit for the work that God started in me or my husband 14 years ago. The sustainability of our marriage is solely dependent on the Lord through the work of God’s Spirit. I know that. My husband knows that.
14 years of marriage has brought us to this place…not just personally and maritally, but spiritually as well. I look forward to 14 more years and beyond.
Fourteen years ago we said, “I do.”
As I look back at our lives together I am humbled.
I thought I knew what love was, I didn’t.
I thought I knew what commitment was, I didn’t.
I thought I knew what compassion was, I didn’t.
I thought I knew what it meant to be a husband, I didn’t.
I thought I knew what being a father was, I didn’t.
I thought I knew what the blessings of a wife were, I didn’t.
You have given me daughters and a son that I never would have or could have imagined I needed or wanted in my life.
Our Father has blessed me with a wife that puts Him first and family second and I love that.
I love that we are our earthly anchors but our foundations are built on our faith in our Savior.
I love that when I fall short as a husband and father you are there to gently and lovingly guide me back on track.
Watching you grow as a wife and mother throughout our marriage is a true blessing.
You are always there to support me and I pray that I am as supportive for you in my own way.
I am super proud of you for completing your schooling, not because you will have letters after your name but because it brings you so much joy. I love to hear your struggles of how this new job in counseling is challenging you because I see God using you to help others.
We both have had trials and difficulties in our lives from in our youth, and these have followed us into our adult lives, but one constant is there for both of us and that is Christ.
“For you created my inmost being ; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” reminds me that we are created to bring joy to our Father and that He delights in us.
Thank you my bride, my beloved, for loving this broken down man and making my dream come true of growing old together with the woman I love.