Not to brag, but my fourteen-year-old daughter, Brianna, has a black belt in karate. Every Saturday, my husband and I take her to a private class where she works with an instructor. I love watching her, especially when she breaks those boards with a Hi-YA! and a one-handed chop.
“Great job today, honey,” I say as we climb into the car. “Wasn’t she awesome?”
My husband, Ben, nods. “I’ll never understand how a girl can chop a board in half with her bare hands.”
“Lots of practice. And determination,” Brianna says.
On the drive home, I think how nice it would be if I could karate chop my husband’s heart.
Twenty-three years. That’s how long I’ve been praying for my husband. Not for healing, not for a new job, or even for him to be a better husband. Ben has a hard heart towards God. And every day I pray for it to soften.
To be fair, my own heart was a karate board for the first ten years of our marriage. But when I found Jesus, everything changed and my heart became a pile of feathers. It was only natural that I’d want Ben to experience the same change I had, right?
When Ben resisted, I decided his heart must be too hard for our Creator to handle. God needed my help.
So I left tracts and Bible verses around the house. I always found them later, crumpled up in the trash. I tried to explain to Ben why he needed Jesus. This resulted in my normally calm husband stomping out of the room in a heat of anger. On Sunday mornings, I pleaded with Ben to come to church with me. He always refused and I’d cry all the way there. Then I would spend the whole service in frustration, barely even hearing the message.
Obviously, my desperate attempts weren’t working.
In fact, it was only four years ago that I gave up. Not gave up on my husband, but gave him up completely to God. I have to say, Ben’s been a lot happier and amazingly, I have been too.
Now, I don’t preach. I don’t beg. I don’t leave tracts on the toilet seat. I do still ask Ben every Sunday morning if he’d like to come to church. And when he says no, I give him a kiss and leave him alone. And then I pray – hard.
The morning after Brianna’s karate class, Ben sits in the recliner, his face hidden behind the Sunday press. I walk over and tap on the paper. He lowers it an inch and I flash him a smile.
“Wanna come to church with us this morning?”
“Nah.” His typical reply.
I bend down and kiss his cheek, wrinkling the newspaper in the process. “Okay. See you in a couple hours.”
Ben nods, shakes the creases out of the paper and goes back to the sports section.
Once at church, Brianna heads off to her youth class and I slide into my usual pew, eight rows from the front. Although I prayed for Ben on the way, for some reason, I feel compelled to spend the few minutes remaining before praise and worship starts to pray some more for my husband. Suddenly, a vision appears in my mind of me in a karate outfit, standing in front of Ben. With a loud Hi-YA! I force my hand into his chest, giving his hardened heart a much needed Karate chop.
I suppress a giggle at the image. Maybe God is telling me that my prayers are those karate chops. And that it is only a matter of time before they break through. After all, what did Brianna say it takes? Practice and determination? I definitely have both of those things.
The praise band takes their places. Everyone stands to their feet and I close my eyes and lift my hands in worship.
Ten seconds later, my eyes pop open as a hand closes around mine.
He looks like he just threw on some clothes he found in the laundry pile and quickly ran a comb through his hair. He is clearly uncomfortable and feels out of place. His eyes are bloodshot and his cheeks, damp. But the most noticeable thing of all is his heart, transforming from a hard ¾” karate board to a pile of feathers before my eyes.
I smile and wipe away a tear of my own. Then I say another prayer.
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