Being a member of the Blueprint family for the past three years has been an incredible blessing for me. One of the primary things that the Lord has taught me is the importance of the community’s role in my growth as a believer. I’ve heard Dhati hammer the point home on countless occasions: Community exists for the purpose of sanctification. Makes sense. I mean, you can’t really exercise the gifts of the Spirit alone, and you certainly can’t bear the fruit of the Spirit alone.
This is one of those statements that sounds really good on paper (Yeah, lets challenge each other and grow closer to Jesus!) but gets pretty messy once you actually try and do it. Being merciful when you’ve been wronged is not easy. Giving cheerfully when you’re broke? Not easy. Longsuffering? It is as unpleasant as it sounds. But that is the reality. For whatever reason, God in His wisdom has ordained the community as the primary environment for discipleship and spiritual growth. And within this community, marriage is set apart with special significance.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship that two adults can share. My wife sees aspects of my character that other people would never have the opportunity to witness. Because of this, marriage exposes, more than any other relationship, our own sin and deficiency. I don’t want to sound as if marriage is not a wonderful blessing, full of joy and happiness as well. It most certainly is. But I always have an audience to serve through the Spirit; there is always someone there in need of gentleness, goodness and love. In marriage, there is constant opportunity for growth and sanctification, even when I don’t feel like taking advantage of it.
Constant opportunity. That is one thing that the Holy Spirit has been confronting me with lately. Probably more than in any other season of my life since He first drew me to Himself. God has been exposing deep levels of sin and selfishness in my heart, and He has been doing it constantly. And if I am honest, it has been one of the more frustrating experiences of my life. At every turn, it seems, I have been making mistakes, failing to meet expectations, losing patience and succumbing to discouragement.
Ugly People Hate Mirrors
At the same time, my wife has been feeling that I haven’t been genuinely enjoying her presence lately. She wonders why she gets the least of my patience; she laments how I seem to run to everyone’s rescue at work, but not notice her struggles; and questions why my attention defaults to my phone, tv or the computer. I typically deny any legitimacy to her claims, but I’m realizing that it is just that—denial. And she’s right. She does get the least of my patience, creativity and energy. I'd been struggling to see the correlation for a while. If I’m frustrated at work by my shortcomings, I just try harder. If I’m discouraged because things didn’t work out the way I had planned with family, I just make up some way to rationalize the failure. But then it hit me: None of these failures really expose the depths of my heart. Sure, they cause the facade that I’ve built to fall apart, but it wasn’t really me anyways. In my marriage, though, when I fail my wife, it is a failure at the core of who I am. And it explains so much as to why my demeanor and affections toward her would change. Simply put, ugly people hate mirrors.
What I mean is this: people who struggle with body image don’t typically sit in front of the mirror, gazing proudly into their own reflection. No, they avoid the mirror at all costs—hating to be reminded of their reflection, hating to see their flaws and the blemishes that they think make them ugly. And in our marriage, my wife is my mirror.
If God uses marriage to sanctify us, then my wife is the primary tool that God has been using to expose my sin.
Poor thing. She wasn’t/isn’t the problem, I am. It’s not that she follows me around criticizing everything that I do, either. She doesn’t. But it’s as simple and practical as this: Deana needs me to lead her spiritually, to pray with her and guide her in the Word. She should need that from me, and I don’t do it. And when I see the effect my failure in leadership has on her faith, her ability to hope, and her overall temperament, it makes me want to retreat. It doesn’t make me want to draw closer to her, because in my twisted thinking, she is the reason why I keep falling short. If her hurt reminds me of my failure, it is no wonder why I tend to withdraw my affection. That’s obviously not fair to her, and I unfortunately don’t have a solution.
So my prayer is this, that the Holy Spirit would protect her from my selfishness and give me the grace to lead and love her. I pray that as he exposes my sin, He would also give hope and a confident expectation of change and growth. I pray that He would inhibit me from accusing Deana of being the cause of my sin, but force me to accept the fact that my sin is my own and to fight it daily. I pray that if Deana is to be a mirror in our relationship, the reflection would be that of Jesus and not of myself. And as He exposes my own sinfulness I hold to 1 John 3:2,3 as my hearts cry:
but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.