There was this time, about a year into our marriage, when I stood with my hands on my hips in the narrow galley kitchen of our apartment and told Bill: “I don’t need Sermon Number 57 right now.”
Bill is one of the most objective thinkers I know. His objectivity softens the edges of my subjectivity. Over the years, I’ve learned to think what is true from him. To think it even when I don’t feel it. But sometimes I don’t welcome these lessons in logic, divine or otherwise. I’ve done some pretty immature things in response to Bill’s sermons, the ones directed, however kindly and softly, just to me. I’ve stuck out my tongue. I’ve thrown my Quiet Time journal. I’ve dug in my heels. (Literally, like every single time we ran up the last steep hill of a run in our old neighborhood, he’d take off and say to the wind at his back (and me), “Let your mind tell your body who’s the boss.” You’d stop too.)
But sometimes I’ve needed these little sermons from him. And sometimes I’ve needed the ultimate sermon: The Gospel. I’m here to tell you, he has been faithful to deliver it to me right on time.
Colossians 2:6 tells me the Gospel is a relevant sermon for an everyday life. “As you have received Christ Jesus, so walk in him.”
I walked down an aisle at a stadium at Vanderbilt University the first time I received Jesus and the new life he had to offer. I walked down that aisle, keenly aware that my church youth group buddies were most likely laughing at me and got all I could get of Jesus, which was more than I deserved. I don’t put great stock in literal aisle-walking, but this particular trip took me straight to Christ, so I how can I be too skeptical? I walk an aisle in some form or another most days. This is how I am made new day after day. So, yes, if I am going to be continually remade, I might need my husband to preach me a Gospel sermon from time to time. (Come to think of it, I wonder if “continually remade” isn’t a good description of sanctification.)
There was the time in the car on the way to Blockbuster when Bill yelled at me (I’ve written about that night here), because there was no other way I’d hear what he had to say. He told me he was not capable of meeting my every need (which I’d implied was actually possible) nor was this his purpose in life. This is the un-message of the Gospel if I’ve ever heard it. Nobody can do what Jesus can do. Not even husbands. “Kitti,” he implored, “you need to look inside your own heart and give God full access to what you find that’s wounded there.”
I did. Not overnight or without mess, because the Gospel is not a quick fix. Most of Bill’s homilies have not been that loud or that dramatic, but that sermon, it stuck with me. And then he did it again a few weeks ago.
One Friday night we decided to turn an errand to the coffee roaster in Griffin, Georgia, into a date. It had been one of those weeks that takes a one-hour drive to shed.
After a full hour of randomly sorting out what had been important to each of us that week, I still could not focus. I made a valiant effort to pay attention, to enter Bill’s world. I love him and I love his world, the one I’m not directly involved in, but I am usually interested in. But my mind felt taken hostage by worry and doubt and fear about what was going on in my world. Finally Bill said, “Kitti, I haven’t known what you need lately.
“I don’t know what I need.”
But what I needed wasn’t complicated or hard. I just hadn’t gotten quite enough of it yet. I needed a car ride in a little British-racing-green Mini Cooper with my husband. I needed the illusion of travel, to get one full hour away from home and drive a full hour to get back. I needed to listen to my husband’s life, to pour mine out as crazy as it was. I needed our interlude of prayer in that car as we rolled away from the worries I’d let plague me. I needed the good, solid restaurant, the glass of wine, the dinner, and the soft lights. I needed to hold hands with my husband and walk down a sidewalk in the cold.
And I needed a sermon.
Husbands, observe a man who’s learned to preach the gospel to his wife:
That night, after the drive and the dinner and the walk and the wine and the talk had worn away the hard edges of a hard week, Bill took my hand in the casual way he has of claiming it with his own, and mentioned, in the same casual way, some truths about Jesus that had captured his imagination afresh just that morning. Had I thought about the cross lately? What it meant to the Father’s heart? What it meant about his love for us? Bill leaned toward me, and it just spilled out of him. He couldn’t help it. He was smitten. A man awed. This was a higher love than his love for me, and it drew me up to it.
If pressed, I’d describe this sermon in rather shocking terms. Nonchalant. Accidental. Normal. Not really a sermon at all. More like simply a life.
So, husbands… it’ll take time, but let yourselves be awed by the God who remakes you day after day, and you’ll get there. The sermon will write itself on your hearts. And when your wife needs to hear it from you, she most likely will, whether she knows it or not.
Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:7)