Four years ago I would have told you my marriage was dead. In fact, the one thing that should have brought my husband and I closer together was creating a huge chasm between us: Church.
Before we were married, we had discussed religion. Although we were both brought up in a strong background of faith, neither of us was attending church at the time. But we both felt it was important. We specifically agreed that our children would be brought up in a church family.
Four years after we married, I joined a local church. Without my husband. I was seven months pregnant with our first child when I was baptized. I was deliriously happy: expecting my first baby, rediscovering my spirituality, madly in love with my husband.
Two years after the first, our second son was born. Lugging around a baby, a diaper bag, and a toddler is no small feat. Add to that teaching Sunday school at 9:00 in the morning and you have one stressed mama.
I watched married couples stroll hand in hand along the halls of our church, heading to Sunday school. How wonderful, I thought, to share your thirst for the Lord with your husband. I watched as couples sat together in the pews during worship, an arm draped casually over a shoulder. How wonderful, I thought, to worship together.
I sat alone with my leaky breasts, too worried about my crying infant in the nursery to enjoy worship. My heart began to ache in its loneliness.
I joined a committee and became very active. I wanted to spend every waking moment in God’s house. Being away from my husband grew easier and easier. He was surprisingly supportive of my church work and was always willing to watch our children. But he remained unwilling to attend. He would come occasionally, on Easter or Christmas or other special occasions. When he did go to church with us, he became very grumpy for the remainder of the day. He seemed to think he had “wasted the morning” and now the weekend was gone. I started not wanting him to come. The church was my happy place. His presence ruined it for me.
I started to resent my husband. Every Sunday morning, as I rushed around feeding the boys, packing the diaper bag, getting myself ready…he would sit at the breakfast table in his boxer shorts and read the newspaper. I began to seethe inside.
I argued with the Lord. “How could you let me marry this man, Father? We do not belong together! He doesn’t even care about you!”
My husband is no fool. Though I never said a thing, he knew I was unhappy. He felt he had let me down, that he could not be the man I wanted him to be. Vehement arguments began.
During one particularly painful discussion, he mentioned the “D” word. I grew up in a broken home. I did not want that for my children. Or did I? In my heart I felt that I was married to the wrong man.
I began to comb the scriptures and prayed in earnest. “Rescue me, Lord. Change my husband!”
1 Corinthians 7 crossed my path: “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband…”
Then 1 Peter 3:1-5: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives…”
I determined that I should win him over by example. I struggled long and hard. I prayed. Silence was marked by occasional heated outbursts. Still, my heart was beginning to tender to him; I was learning to love him again. And I was doing what my Heavenly Father asked of me.
I tried everything: example, pleading, guilting, intellectualizing, feigning indifference…nothing. He wouldn’t budge. I was praying so hard. But the content of my prayers was still: “Change my husband, Lord!”
Finally, I gave up. I told God that it was all in His hands. I gave my husband’s faith over to the Lord.
Don’t you know that was what the Lord was waiting for?
My prayers changed into, “Please help me accept him and love him as he is, Father” instead of “Change him now!”
It was amazing the sense of peace that came with the realization that my husband’s relationship with his creator had nothing to do with me.
God’s timing is so perfect. It just so happened that as the Lord began to move my husband’s heart, my church was starting a Contemporary Praise service. We were in desperate need of someone to lead a praise team and grow that ministry. I watched in amazement as my husband slowly stepped into that role. A dedicated guitarist, he has been playing in bands all of his life. God knew just the way to his heart.
After thirteen years of marriage, my husband was finally baptized. The man I almost gave up on wept with joy as our Pastor welcomed him into our Christian family.
That was two years ago, and my husband’s faith has remained strong. Friends, I know that the Lord answers prayers because He answered mine. Don’t give up! Never underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage. He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)