My wife, Lexy, and I recently attended a local marriage conference. We were able to do this without our kids (thanks, Mom!), which is the equivalent of a two-week, all-inclusive cruise for you single people. The conference was led by Bill Farley, who happens to be the father of one of the men I serve with on the Elder team at Refuge.
It was a very simple conference. It wasn't focused on the psychology of marital communication, conflict resolution, or childrearing. Nor did it consist of an arbitrary number of tips to spice up your sex life, steam up your bedroom, or otherwise titillate your spouse. No, it was both much simpler and much more helpful than that. Pastor Bill opened the Bible to the Edenic bliss of Genesis 2, kept reading into the catastrophic fall and judgment and Gospel promises of Genesis 3, and then finished with Paul's commentary on these things in Ephesians 5. It was the kind of look at marriage that makes your own shortcomings as a husband look big, the Gospel bigger, and Jesus glorious. I walked away with fresh insight into Christ's vision for my own marriage.
But the biggest thing I left with was an enormous gratitude for my wife a gratitude that, if weighed, would sink a continent. I thought about what my life would be like without her, and I concluded that it would suck. Or in the KJV, sucketh. It would be worse than 9-hour Nickelback concert with only vegan food carts and no earplugs.
What about my Lexy gives rise to my praise, you ask?
She has thrice put the life-through-death Gospel into bright neon in our life together by carrying and delivering two little boys and (very currently) one little girl into our home. I am astonished afresh each time we do this with the enormity of the motherly sacrifice. The discomfort is continual. Sleeplessness is a constant friend. Not friend, actually. More like an eccentric person you met once on the subway who followed you home, crawled under your bed, and practiced trumpet for their ska band every night until 3 AM. And her daily death has born three indestructible image bearers of God, these impossible and glorious creatures with whom we hope to inherit the blessings of eternity.
I can trace nearly every major spurt of spiritual growth back to her influence. She has been a whetstone in the hands of Christ to sharpen me. Without her, I'm convinced I'd be a rusty butterknife, useful mainly in the prying open of old paint cans when you're too lazy to go get the little paint-can-opener-thing from the basement. Without her, I'd probably be an expert on 19 different TV shows, the proud owner of a dusty Bible and no real aim. I know I'd be more selfish than I am, but I also know that somehow I'd think myself more selfless.
Now when I say that, I don't mean that she has nagged me into growth. You can't do that. You can only nag someone into hostility or, at best, begrudging, hostility-infused behavior modification. But you can love someone into growth. You can encourage them into growth, pray them into growth, and walk next to them into growth. So has she done.
And she's done this and more without the continual stream of praise that most pastors live with. The number of people who have complimented me on a sermon outweighs a thousandfold those who would notice what she gives. People often thank me for a sermon, not knowing that it was her cruciform sacrifice that kept me in my study while she fed and loved and diapered our kids.
So on this Mother's Day, I'd like to thank my wife for partnering with me in this winding hike towards the peaks of eternity. Thank you for laying down your life for Ari, Ira, Daphne, and me. Thank you for bearing your varicose-veined, pregnancy-insomniad cross. Thank you for loving an imperfect pastor of a husband who often preaches things far loftier than his life bears out. Thank you for praying for me when you feel like yelling at me and persevering with me in this one-flesh life.
Your husband and friend,