Someone told my husband once that one of the most difficult things about being married is how often you fail.
I failed miserably (again) tonight.
There we were: in the car, on the way home from a beautiful wedding, discussing a topic about which my husband and I both feel passionately. As the conversation progressed, I took the opportunity to lovingly challenge him in a particular area, which he received in the spirit I intended.
The conversation should have ended there, but instead, I ranted for the next five or 10 minutes, reiterating all the things that we (and by we I meant mainly my husband) needed to do in this particular area. Musa, who had been receptive just a few minutes before, suddenly grew quiet. It took me at least two minutes to notice.
When I felt I had sufficiently hammered my point home, I concluded: "I hope you don't think I'm lecturing you."
"Sometimes," he replied emotionlessly.
His answer hit me like a direct blow to my chest. He had called my bluff, I absolutely was lecturing, and it hurt me to admit that I had gone too far ... again.
If the idea of me lecturing my husband seems small or insignificant, understand that it's not. When you're married, you see the best and worst of your spouse. It's really easy to praise their strengths, and the things they naturally do well, but how you respond to their weaknesses, their shortcomings and all the areas in them that God wants to grow, that's a sign of true maturity.
As tempting as it is for me to take advantage of my husband's vulnerability in our marriage, it's an egregious sin. Beating someone over the head with their weakness is not only unwise, it's also painfully unloving and prideful. How can I, at length, point out a hundred areas where my husband needs to grow, as though I myself am perfectly lovable, teachable, submissive and respectful at all times? Surely he is bearing together with me and all my imperfections, especially while I am lecturing him, and in return he gets none of the patience, grace or mercy which the Lord freely offers me.
Now, is it wrong to talk with my husband about things I see in his life that may need change? Of course not. Is it wrong for me to speak in a way that makes him feel like he sucks at life? Yes. Is it wrong for me to think that somehow my long speeches can or will change him? Absolutely. God is the only one who can change hearts, and He doesn't need my help. When I lecture my husband to death, what I'm really saying is that I don't trust the power of God to work in his life. What I'm really saying is that I, not the Scriptures, or the Holy Spirit, set the standard to which He should aspire.
And here's the real kicker - nine out of 10 times, the appropriate response to seeing a growth opportunity in my husband's life is prayer, not a lecture.
It's easier said than done, but I know from experience that it is most effective. If I lecture my husband about something, there's a chance he'll change because he feels bad, or maybe because he just wants to get me off his back. But how long will that last? On the other hand, when God shows my husband a specific area of his life that needs to change, He also provides the drive and the resources to help him change. That's life change, and that's the goal.
The bottom line is that as a wife, my position is one of support. I'm his cheerleader. I'm his biggest fan. I'm his confidant, and even though I see his weakness, I believe the absolute best about him at all times. I never want to bully him into change for my own comfort or satisfaction. Rather, I want to love him in a way that makes him comfortable letting his guard down. I want him to know that our marriage is a safe place for him to be who he truly is without fear of judgement or ostracism. And when I see areas where he needs to grow, and quite naturally I will, I want to be faithful in taking those things to the person who can help him and humble me.
So I failed again, and tonight I did what I've often done over the past three years of marriage, I confessed my wrong motives and apologized. And my wise husband's words were comfort: "I've been where you are. It's like walking the edge of a razor blade. Be repentant enough to hear God and change, but forgetful enough to not be discouraged."
Here I was telling him about an area he needed to change, when I was the one whose heart God was tugging on tonight.
I will continue to fail often in our marriage, but my husband is to me what I pray God will enable me to consistently be to him - gracious.
"Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances." Proverbs 25:11