My friends, first let me say thank you. I didn’t anticipate such a big response to my last post, but you have blessed me beyond measure with your encouragement. After pushing “publish,” I went to bed with much anxiety for being so transparent with you about our marriage. I’m so glad that we are not the only ones who have walked this road. Be encouraged that you are not the only ones who have walked or are walking it either.
When Micah was an infant, he slept for 45 minutes at a time. All. Night. Long. Not only did he wake every 45 minutes, he only fell back asleep by being walked, bounced, or rocked and sung to, which often took about 25 minutes. Add that up to mean I slept in 20 minute segments all night until my son was six months old.
Once he slept for three hours straight, and when I woke up, I felt like I could run a marathon. And once, when he was nine months old, he refused to go back to sleep by screaming so much that he threw up all over the bed. And by that, I mean, he threw up all over my bed. Being the organized, prepared person that I am, we had neither clean sheets nor clean extra blankets to use, so we did what any other family in our situation would do – we loaded up the car and waited in the Cracker Barrel parking lot for thirty minutes until they opened at 6am.
But I digress.
You can imagine what the lack of sleep did to us as people. Now imagine what it did to us as a couple. It threw gasoline on our competition. It provided fodder for nasty under-our-breath comments and subtle accusations. You know, that’s probably where my Morning Monster persona began. In any case, sleep was a huge issue.
One day Davy got the brilliant idea of trying to pray for our son to sleep. What?! Pray for sleep?! It sounded too simple, but we were desperate. So we committed to praying together every night for his sleep. As I look back, that moment we came together before the Lord was the moment things started to change in our marriage for the better because we had both reached the end of ourselves. We had no more ideas, and we had no more fight in us to blame one another for something beyond our control. We relinquished the control, threw ourselves flat on our faces, and cried out in desperation. Here’s the miracle: it worked. Micah started sleeping better. No, he didn’t start sleeping through the night (the truth is that he never slept through the night until he was 2 and didn’t start doing it consistently until he was 4), but he started sleeping enough for us to recognize that God answered our prayers. And that was a game changer.
It almost sounds crazy, but when we get to an impasse in conflict or desperation in our marriages, the most effective thing to do is to stop talking to each other. The most effective thing to do is first get on our knees, side by side, and throw that disagreement heavenward. Because when we come together before God, both equally acknowledging our own individual need for God to intervene in our lives and work in our own hearts, we make room for Him to come work between us. It levels us. We are no longer two Inflated Egos with enough heat to incinerate each other. Instead, we are two people bowing before an Almighty and Sovereign God. And if you’ve ever experienced that, you know it’s sobering.
Here’s the thing, though. We have to be humble. Remember this guy?
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. (Luke 18:10-14)
Ok, so I’m going to just go ahead and admit it. When I’m reading a book or blog post and I come upon a long scripture like that, I usually skim it or skip it. Shame, shame on me! So if you’re like me and you just skipped over that verse, I’ll give you a second to go back and read it. We’re all about grace and second chances here. So…go ahead.
Ready? Good. Cause I wasn’t going to give you a third chance. I’m not holy enough to have that much patience yet.
It does us no good to pray together with self righteousness toward the other person like that Pharisee. He was so consumed with all the good he had done, and with all the bad that the tax collector must be, that God did not justify him. God knows I have tons of junk in my own heart to deal with, so why come before Him and put up a front like I’m so much better than Davy? No matter how much I’m putting in or how good I am, God knows that deep down I am still a sinner. In the same token, I’m neither responsible for Davy’s hangups, nor is it my job to stand before God and accuse Davy of everything I think is wrong with him. I’m responsible for my own heart, my own actions, my own choices. Like I tell my kids almost every day, the fruit of the Spirit includes self-control, not Micah-control, Norah-control, Davy-control, or control over any other person. So when we come together to pray, I have to use that self-control to choose to humble myself and acknowledge before God that I’m struggling, that I’m hurt, that I’m dealing with a bunch of junk, and let God work in me.
Things started to change in our marriage after we began praying for Micah to sleep because we humbly began to allow God’s work in our own hearts. He answered our prayers for sleep, but He went beyond that and answered our hearts’ cries for wholeness and health toward each other. In those moments of bickering and anger, we allowed exhaustion to take the blame for our problems toward one another. But the truth is that we had selfishness and sin in our hearts. Coming together on a platform of praying for sleep opened the door for us to actually get healing and for God to begin to cleanse that ugliness from the inside out.
So here’s the point of this post. A praying marriage is a strong marriage. It may not be strong immediately. It may be an uphill climb, but consistently coming before God humbly and agreeing with one another that we can’t move forward without His help and guidance, will produce a strength that is unparalleled. I can’t tell you how many times we have seen tangible change in our relationship and our circumstances by committing to pray together every day. By recognizing together that we need God, that we don’t have all the answers, that we can’t come to a resolution or have any solutions on our own, we have seen God work incredible things in our lives. Like when we couldn’t, for the life of us, get Norah to stop trying to scratch Micah’s eyes out when she got mad. Like when we were in a job crisis and had to decide if Davy should dissolve his company and look for work elsewhere or move forward in his business on faith. Like when I was experiencing some troubling health problems and we couldn’t find a doctor who could give me answers. Life has thrown us some scary and interesting and confusing things, but God consistently comes through when we pray together. It has left us in awe.
So here’s my challenge to you: for the next thirty days, commit to praying together with your spouse for one thing. It can be small or big. It can be an issue in your relationship, with your kids, in work, in health, whatever. Come together humbly, acknowledging your need for God to intervene, and see what happens. He may not answer your prayers like you anticipate, but I know that He will meet you. He is good, and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him will all of their hearts.
(Feel free to take this challenge or leave it, but if you take it, I would love to hear how God has moved in your marriage!)
Like I said in the beginning, I am only an expert on my own marriage. Everybody’s relationship is different, and I can’t even begin to understand all the intricacies and history of your own story. But one thing remains true for all of us: God is faithful, and when we humbly bring our relationships to Him, He can work beautiful miracles.