“We don’t need you to DO any more or PLAN any more, we need your heart.” As I heard these words spoken from my husband of 18 years, I was also hearing something that sounded like a clanging cymbal...........or maybe a resounding gong. The sound in my head is what made me cry. “......[if I have] not love, I am nothing.” It wasn’t a great start to our night, nor was it what I had in mind for our first night home from vacation, but what he had spoken needed to be said.
“We need your heart.” In true form, I stiffened at first. I’m thinking, “Of course, they have my heart. Who could love their family more? My love for them overwhelms me at times with aches in my heart, lumps in my throat and words that fill up my computer screen. How could he SAY that? ‘We need your heart.’?” The most comfortable thing for me to do in a moment like that is to STAY stiffened, get angry, and argue to save face but I’ve been in enough of these conversations over the years to know the smartest thing for me to do is to ask God to soften my heart-- right then-- no ifs, ands or buts. Even when I’d rather keep it like sun-baked plaster.
Unfortunately, it has taken me too many years to learn the immeasurable value of what Jeff does for me when he brings up hard things like this. To his regret, he wasted no time at the beginning of our marriage saying difficult things to me and we will both tell you, that did not go well. My stubborness wouldn’t allow it to benefit me. As the Lord has graciously given us more years together, these "kids down", coffee-laden, couch-time talks have gotten easier. Well, a little. As for value, his words of truth have forced me to lay my heart bare before the Lord and ask Him to help me, change me, or heal me in ways I would have NEVER clued in on. Because Jeff has been “spot on” so many times, I cannot risk waving his words away. If I choose to do that, I could miss something huge, something God wants to do in my life, something significant in my sanctification.
I have several sweet friends who are newlyweds or are preparing for marriage and if I could tell them anything, this would be on top of my list. For the guys, don’t be fearful of lovingly calling your wife out in regards to her sin. It’s part of your role. (Ephesians 5:26) You are hurting her if you don’t. You’re causing her to miss out on a blessing- backhanded as it may initially seem. Even if there is only a hint of a soft heart, you will continue to gain her respect. For the ladies, ask God to soften your heart, listen to him, take it before the Lord and be grateful you have a husband brave enough to speak it. It’s part of your sanctification. (Ephesians 5:27) Beware of not taking his role, thus his words, very seriously. There’s fruit to bear and the marriage relationship has the potential to harvest bushels of it.
“We need your heart.” The obvious is, my family doesn’t sense they have it. There lies the problem AND the mystery. The problem is that in all I do for/with them and plan for them, they don’t sense my heart of love for them. The mystery for me is what does that look like- them “having my heart”? How do I make sure I am communicating this while teaching, cooking, serving, folding, packing, unpacking, cleaning, paying, reading, training, planning, writing, bandaging, buying, tucking, and driving? What does it look like in my friends' homes? What does God want it to look like in my home? Jeff was wise (and grace-giving) in making sure he said that I didn’t need to plan or do any more, because that comes so natural to me. Evidently, baring my heart does not. On paper, yes. In life, no.
It’s been a month or so since that conversation and I doubt my family senses anything different, but my prayers and my thoughts are different. My focus has shifted. As I “do” and as I plan, I remember what he said. New prayers are prayed. I am counting on the Spirit to do a new work in my life. The invaluable.
Lord, please show me how to communicate all the ache, all the lumps in my throat, all the words, all the flutters, all the fullness-- the love-- that I feel in my heart for Jeff, Julia and Brighton...regularly, loudly, quietly, abundantly, clearly.