We traveled to North Carolina over Christmas break to visit Jeremiah’s side of the family and per usual, his parents generously offered to keep the kids so we could go out for dinner or coffee - particularly because our time there fell right around our 11th wedding anniversary. This time around we took them up on it and set out to our favorite local coffee shop.
The weather was ugly - rainier and gloomier than even I like it. The restaurant was crowded so we grabbed two counter stools facing right out the window. Just like the weather, normally I’d like it this way, but that morning it all seemed extra insulting as we sat there, both staring out the window, nearly silent. Nothing but a stiff attempt at conversation every few minutes.
I sat there, barely blinking, just heavily staring. And then nearly crying. The thoughts poured in heavier than the rain: Look at us, nothing to say, no joy, no fun. Is this all there is in this 11 years of marriage. I’ve really screwed this up. Why am I so cold, so stonewalled. We can’t connect anymore.
Simultaneoulsy with my thoughts, we brought up Jeremiah’s first big sermon gig with our church happening just two days later. Of course we were going to talk about this - we should talk about this - but in the moment I took it as just another reason why our marriage was a failure. We can only talk logistics, I thought.
A week earlier, I was helping to set up for Christmas Eve services at our church and told some staff that my biggest prayer for this sermon opportunity was that Jeremiah would not get sick. He gets sick pretty often, and it’s always a respiratory thing, and it’s misery. He had been completely healthy all fall so we just needed one more week of health to get through the sermon.
Of course you know what’s coming. Once we hit North Carolina, Jeremiah got sick. Throat, head, the whole bit. Another insult at the coffee shop. I was panicked about my marriage and panicked about him being able to get through this sermon.
As we talked about it, still staring at the rain, Jeremiah mentioned something about spiritual warfare. A freaky deaky idea that we honestly don’t talk about much at all and that can feel a little well, freaky deaky. And although it was odd for Jeremiah to bring something like that up and it was odd for me to agree so quickly (given the strong silent treatment I was currently dishing out), it was the most relief I’d heard all morning.
I think I said something like, yeah duh, of course that’s what this is. I said, right away I can think of two really faithful, trustworthy, godly friends of mine who would say without hesitation that that’s exactly what was going on. OF COURSE Jeremiah is sick. Why are we surprised? He’s about to bring the truth and grace of the gospel a mere two days later to a significantly large crowd. He’s preparing to graduate and step into bringing the Word as a career. And then instantly I was like oh yeah even bigger duh - while Satan’s got Jeremiah tripping up is own self, OF COURSE he is going to go ahead and weasel his way in to our marriage, to my thoughts, to make me doubt and get us all in a disconnected mess even though it’s all a total lie.
See the mistake I always make is forgetting that this freaky deaky touchy feely warfare stuff is an actual reality. And sure, what a bummer that is, but also what an incredible relief. I can look at this one of two ways. I can stare out that coffee shop window and wonder where God is - wonder what kind of nerve he has to allow Jeremiah to get sick - wonder why he’s holding out on us - wonder why we can’t have all good and perfect things every day of our lives. OR I can turn away from the window, stare at my husband, thankful God has equipped him for leadership in ministry and in marriage, thankful that we have each other. I can believe the promise of God’s constant presence, deep unconditional love, and lavish provision. GOD is not the one against me. Never has been, never ever will be. And the fight isn’t with my husband either. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” - Ephesians 6:12
Interestingly, a couple days before Christmas we were hanging out with my brother and sister-in-law and we were talking about the train wreck that is adjusting to family and holidays and life as life goes on with marriages, moves, life, death, etc. My brother made a quick comment but I haven’t forgotten it. He said, the only thing that has stayed the same in the past ten years is you two being married.
And that, we all know, is an absolute miracle.
Without recognizing the all powerful warfare reality and without recognizing God’s more powerful love reality, my brother wouldn’t have been able to say that. Jeremiah and I would’ve been toast long ago.
As my new favorite Christmas song goes:
All glory be to God on high, and to the earth sing peace! Good will henceforth, from God to man: begin and never cease!
Begin and never cease. God is for us, not against us.
And by the way, by the absolute power of the Holy Spirit, Jeremiah KILLED that sermon! Go here to listen!