My mother-in-law died last year, just before Christmas. This year, we’ve walked through the one year anniversary of her promotion to glory. In some ways, it feels surreal. After all, it wasn’t our first time to celebrate the Savior’s birth without her presence. As missionaries serving far from our families, that is actually the norm. But we couldn’t call… or video Skype… and just knowing that Dad was facing a second Christmas without her? …it made my heart ache. It also reminds me of a heart-aching lesson the Lord taught me in that season, a lesson about the cost of gifting sacrificial love.
When we returned to our place of service in July, 2010, we knew my husband’s mother’s health was fragile; we never dreamed she’d see her Savior face to face before that Christmas. Thankfully, Tim was able to make a whirlwind trip back to the States for that Thanksgiving, spending it with his parents, and having the opportunity to say a final earthly goodbye to his mama. I know that time, while heartbreaking for the rest of us who couldn’t go and be with Mom/Grandma, was a treasured and precious time for both my husband and his parents.
While he was gone, I started scheming. Our 16th wedding anniversary was coming up shortly after his return… We hadn’t gone away together, just the two of us, for over 8 years… A friend volunteered to take our kids for the weekend, to let us get away to a lovely-for-West-Africa little resort literally just minutes away from our house for the weekend… Offers like that don’t grow on trees! What’s more? We actually had a bit of surplus in the budget and could afford to retreat, together…
As I said, I started scheming… dreaming… anticipating time… just the two of us… after some very long, difficult and stressful weeks apart. I was excited; friends were excited for me – for us. Raising eight children – the youngest of which was just winding up nursing – busy lives, and a limited budget? That meant that those sorts of opportunities truly were few and far between. Then factor in the reality that even thinking about all the prep work required to leave this family often discourages any desire to do so. But this time? I was more than ready. One night, while chatting on-line, I quietly typed these dreamy ideas to Tim as our littlest one slept on my lap, sweet little hands cupping my face. He seemed as excited about this little get-away as I was… and I couldn’t wait for him to be home.
Literally, just days after he left the States and returned to Niger, his mother’s situation turned critical. It was not long before the decision was made to remove one of the gentlest, sweetest women I’ve ever known from life support. Tim was devastated… we all were… There’d been unexpected moments of hope- talk of transplants and even some plans for the future. So, while not unexpected, reality still seized us by surprise, accosting our already aching hearts. We couldn’t afford another trip home that quickly for him to attend her funeral. As Tim grieved, he started talking about wanting to just get away from the city, away from all of the people asking him how he was doing and the well-meaning but sorrowful, sympathetic looks directed his way. He wanted to take our older children to a wild game park/reserve and just camp out for 2 or 3 days, accomplishing in his mind two things: 1) escape and time alone with his big kids who are much better than his wife at living in, enjoying… the present moment and 2) scoping the place out and seeing if it might be a place we could vacation as a family.
If he took this camping trip, however, our just-the-two-of-us-get-away simply wouldn’t… couldn’t… happen. He decided – and it wasn’t the decision I wanted.
I was hurt. Hurt soon turned to anger.
I sullenly nursed anger and wounded pride (After all, what would I say to all those friends with husbands who would never choose something over a weekend away with their gal?) until a still small voice gently confronted me, stopping me in my internal foot-stomping tracks and prolific self-pity party. The Holy Spirit pointed out that my hurt-turned-angry feelings sprang from jealousy more than anything else. I had wanted to be the one Tim turned to in his grief. I wanted him to need me above all else, to choose me as the one upon whom he’d lean. In reality, he was telling me he needed time alone and away with THE Comforter. That truth should have delighted my heart… but it didn’t.
So what do we wives do when the Lord shows us that we’ve tried to set ourselves up as our husband’s idol, expecting our man to have needs met by us when he should be running first to God? In the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded to tear down and destroy high places tempting idol worship. (Deuteronomy 12:1-5 is an example.) The word translated tear down is, in other places, also translated “utterly destroy,” “obliterate,” “make perish completely…” I see no other choice than to choose to die to self and free my husband from this subtly insidious expectation that he worship, adore and run to me first and foremost. To love well, I must obliterate that idolatrous construction of my expectations for what our marriage and our friendship… our relationship… will look like.
It is one thing to recognize that you have “high places” – areas that tempt you to worship someone or something other than God. It is another to realize, as you examine your life, that the Holy Spirit is gently pointing out high places I have constructed for my husband… my children… my friends, etc.?
Might He be showing you one or two?
If so, how do we go about tearing down those places?
(Post by: Richelle)