People often ask me what's the biggest lesson I've learned from marriage and parenthood. Over the past 2 years, I've given a variety of answers to that question that I barely recall, but were probably true for me at the time. Now, though, I would give say what I've learned most is this: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." Let me explain.
Before I was saved 2 and a half years ago, certain behaviors I despised. For example, when I saw parents in the mall or something who would just get so angry and frustrated with their kids, yelling at them, pulling them by the arm, or whatever, I'd get disgusted. "Are their kids simply an inconvenience to them or something? How can they be that way?" Even after becoming a Christian, whenever I saw people acting that way, I'd screw up my face in a look of disgust and wonder how people could act that way. Now, though, I understand.
Before any of you jump to conclusions, let me assure you that I have not yelled at my daughter, or pulled her by the arm or anything like that. Still, though, I understand how difficult kids can be. When Amanda, my daughter, would have problems sleeping and would cry seemingly without end in the middle of the night, I'd get frustrated and become almost angry with her. Why couldn't she go back to sleep?!
I felt this way not during the first few months of her life, but when she was 6-7 months old and Laura (my wife), Amanda, and I were going through a particularly difficult time. At those times, in the middle of the night, I'd have no eyes on me, except perhaps my wife (and not always). No people watching me, so I wouldn't feel pressured to act nice. Well, no eyes but those of God and at that time I struggled with my faith, too, so I didn't think of God's eyes much.
Even in my marriage to Laura, I struggled sometimes. During our first year, we stayed basically fight-free. After Amanda was born, and especially during a a couple of months this winter, that period of marital peace was shattered. Our fights never lasted long, and we offered each other forgiveness quickly, yet a tension existed that had never been there before. Why? Simply because our faithfulness to each other was tested by struggles external to the marriage itself.
Thankfully, though, the tension has eased and a period of marital bliss has re-appeared. Yet, now, if I see a couple fighting, or a couple going through problems, I no longer wonder what's wrong with those people. After all, I have a wonderful wife who loves me without fail, yet we fought and struggled. What holds our marriage together when others falter? First and foremost it is the grace of God and the grace He has bestowed on us by granting us His Spirit. We can forgive each other so easily, in part, because He has forgiven us.
That grace and His forgiveness I blocked out during the height of my struggles which occurred around Christmas-time this past year. Previously, I had basically laughed at the story of Esau, and how he sold his inheritance for food because he was "dying" of hunger. Also, Peter's denials puzzled me. I didn't think I could wind up like either of them. Yet, now I understand. I didn't sell my eternal inheritance for a snack, yet I almost gave up my sonship because of a baby's tears. She wouldn't stop crying, so I cried out to God repeatedly. Help us, O Lord! Help her! But God didn't seem to answer. So, I did what Job wouldn't do. I cursed God and planned to walk away from Him for good.
Thankfully, though, when I cursed God I didn't die. What made me return to Him? Desperation, basically. Where else could I turn? What could I live for if I didn't live for Him? Turning back fully turned out not to be the easiest thing for me. I sank into a deep depression and felt unworthy of the baptism I underwent at the very end of December. God tells us, though, that because of the act of His Son, we can walk boldly into his presence with the assurance of forgiveness. If God can forgive me even for what I did, then I must embrace that forgiveness and forgive myself. Who is it that condemns when God justifies? So, I have embraced the grace that God offers and even forgiven myself, for who am I to set myself above God by not forgiving myself when he has?
Why, though, have I failed so terribly? Was I some weak faltering Christian before? Probably not. Indeed, many people I know had commented on my growth, how strong I have grown in the Lord during my brief Christian walk. Perhaps they were right, but often I wonder if people's evaluations of me are based on the words I sometimes speak. You see, for me learning Christian doctrine and speaking words of wisdom came fairly easily. I have been granted an ability to learn things rather quickly. So, to see errors in people's speech and to find the correct words comes fairly easily to me. But to live them? Ah, that's a different story. There's a difference between speaking words of wisdom and being wise. There's also a difference between sounding like an advanced Christian and manifesting advanced Christian character. Even the "good character" I've shown, I displayed nearly as strongly even before I became a Christian.
Some may say I'm being too hard on myself. I do feel as if I'm being hard on myself, but too hard...I don't know. One consolation I take from my experiences is this: Peter failed mightily even though he had believed his loyalty would hold even when the faithfulness of others failed, but yet God used Him mightily. And, when I'm weak, then I am strong. God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise and the weak things of this world to shame the strong...so that none may boast before God. He sometimes uses the biggest failures in the mightiest of ways simply, I think, because they've learned how weak they are and how fully they need His grace. I can find strength in that.
Mostly, though, I find my strength through Him and my relationship with Him which was not broken. After all is said and done, I do believe I have leapt off the boat and swam toward the waiting arms of my Lord and Savior. He has restored me. Whether God has "big" things in store for me, or "little", I know that he has prepared for me the biggest thing of all: a place in His kindgom and the right to be called a son of God.
Thank you for be grounding in your faith enough to allow God to use you to tell your story. To testify to those of us who will become parents and those of us who already are, to those of us who will become husbands and wives and those of us who already are...through your words I can see some of my own judgements and criticisms...God Forgive me...God beckons us to help one another, he never ask us to judge them, simply help them, Thank you for your testimony, may God continue to use you to share your life experience as a road map to us in this life's journey...and you're right, it's not enough to know the word...but when we are able to apply it in our daily lives, their begins the test of faith. Thank you May God Bless you and your family exceedingly and abundantly...please recieve this blessing...in Jesus Name..