It was a simple conversation in the afternoon during a lunch break. I had called my wife to see how her day was going. I could tell she was a little flabbergasted as my three young children were screaming in the background. I miraculously found myself listening and asking questions.
Rewind one year.
Same conversation. Same people. Difference outcome. I got upset because my wife wasn’t listening. I hung up. I didn’t call back to apologize. Why would I do such a thing? I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting the attention I deserved. My desire for pleasant conversation was ruined by screaming and distraction. My children were a nuisance to my three-minute agenda.
The latter conversation took place during what I have called our “Remedial Year” of marriage. I was finishing up some work at Southern Seminary when we moved from Louisville to Gaithersburg so that I could attend Sovereign Grace’s Pastors’ College 2011-2012.
Sure, I was going to be taking classes on systematic theology, hermeneutics, preaching, counseling, etc. But I told my wife that we needed to focus on our marriage–a focus she had been gently and patiently waiting for me to admit. This emphasis on marriage and parenting and life application at the Pastors’ College is what won my heart. Since being a Christian, my only mentors had been dead ones or only accessible by ink in a book. I readily welcomed people into our lives to ask questions and counsel us in how we could communicate better and worship Christ in the midst of arguments. Yet, people were too busy. I get that. I don’t blame anyone for my proclivity toward laziness or deferment.
I remember sitting on the couch in Gary & Betsy Ricucci’s living room and saying, “We feel like we are home.” There was a sensitivity and desire to help us in our marriage that we had not experienced before. There was flavor of grace where before we had tasted blandness. The reminders to care for our wives, while at the PC, was not rote. . . rather, it was a lifestyle that permeated the thoughts for Mr. Ricucci. His love for Betsy helped me see that my wife was more than merely a helper, but she was God’s gift in my sanctification and ministry.
This tendency to prefer my wife was experienced the first time I spoke to Mark Prater on the phone, as I sought to move toward partnership with Sovereign Grace.
I remember our first phone call when Mark asked me how Ashley was thinking through a move to Gaithersburg. You see, I had interviewed with a few churches before this imminent move and my wife’s feelings and thoughts were not asked or considered. It was merely assumed that she would be alright with it. From the start I began to sense a different emphasis in how the pastor and his family are viewed. His wife and his family make the man. They are not mere accessories to his ministry, but they inform and influence and imply his ministry outside the home.
What had subtly happened in my pursuit of ministry is the presumption that the world revolved around me–my desires, my ministry dreams, my papers, my sermons, my relationships. Because I was blessed with an amazingly patient and forbearing wife who stood beside me, I began to feel entitled to her service. I had not given too much consideration to how moves and vocational decisions would shape her life. Philippians 2 was applicable to other relationships, and even in the day-to-day grind of conflict with Ashley, but as a way of perpetually thinking, it was seemingly inoperable in my marriage. Sure, Ashley would say that I am too hard on myself or over-stating the case, but I know that thinking what was best for her was not preeminent in my thinking.
BUT God had mercy on me. God gently led me to a place where people cared that I was cross to my wife on the way out the door. . .and they weren’t afraid to ask and enter into that uncomfortable conversation I just had on the phone.
As a result, instead of hanging up this time, I waited. . .And then asked if I could pray for my wife as she had to train and teach and admonish our sweet and sour children. A year ago, I had cut off the opportunity for grace. Through the genuine care experienced at the PC, I learned to wait on the phone. . .and to wait on God.