Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Standing is its Own Reward

Nick is the son of a single mother.

His mother didn’t start out single. She gave birth to three children while married to a very talented but unstable (professing) Christian man. He left her for a younger, more attractive co‑worker in what looked to me (and to the rest of the world) like the stereotypical male mid-life crisis. It played out like the cliché of all romantic clichés, frankly.

It looked embarrassing. It probably was. I actually liked the departing father a great deal, and was deeply disappointed when I heard about what he had done and what had become of his family.

Undesirable Circumstances

The ex-wife who got kicked to the curb was a believer, and she had lots of loving support from her local church. In spite of the odds, that mother raised three children on her own, and she raised them godly.

In lieu of a father, Nick grew up going to church every week. He had many Christian male influences. Much prayer ascended to heaven on his behalf for years on end from sympathetic believers. But he had no unequivocal, singular masculine pattern to follow. All he knew for certain was that he wasn’t going to allow himself to become a carbon copy of his absentee father. Some things you don’t want to repeat.

Nick got saved. Nick got baptized. Nick got into scripture and matured into a prudent young man capable of providing for a family. Nick got married.

Nick’s wife came from a large and unusually tight family. Tight families are great when they provide spiritual support for their offspring, but not so great when they place sentimental burdens on one another that keep family members from developing their spiritual gifts and using them wherever the Head of the Church so directs, even if that process takes them out of the orbit (and control) of the Family.

This family was one of the latter kind.

The Family from Hell

So Nick’s wife’s family became a source of constant stress to Nick. I can readily see how this might go, as I’ve seen it happen in other marriages: instead of trying to persuade one very important person in his life to follow him as he follows Christ, the husband finds himself trying to persuade an entire clan, all of whom have diverse and well-articulated opinions about the wisdom of every course of action he chooses for his wife and children.

Other godly young men married into this large family and found themselves absorbed into its culture, their choices dictated by the received wisdom of the patriarch, matriarch, or the current consensus of the siblings, all mediated through the wishes of their wives.

Nick never did. Nick stood firm. He did what he believed the Lord would want him to do as head of his household. He read the Word, he brought home the bacon, and he led his family wherever he felt they should go, regardless of the opinions of the clan into which he had married.

I know a good friend of Nick’s mom. Recently they talked on the phone. Nick’s mom is deeply concerned about her son. She feels he is under terrible pressure, and I don’t think she’s necessarily wrong. There is no fake guilt more overwhelming than the sort a wife can generate in her husband when she wants to run the show and he won’t cooperate. It can be absolutely crushing.

Under Pressure

Around the same time, I happened to be in the audience when Nick was expositing the word of God from the pulpit. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I spend a fair bit of time studying the Bible and listening to other Christians preach it. Frankly, I should spend way more. But the outcome of my regular routine is that there is almost nothing these days I can hear from the platform that I haven’t already considered, weighed, studied and formed at least a vague opinion about.

That’s not me being a swollen-headed jerk, that’s just reality.

That night, in just a few minutes, Nick told me things about a book of the Bible that I had never heard before in my entire life, and he told me in a way that was completely spiritually convincing. He told me in a way that let me know he has never stopped reading scripture, never stopped studying it with the deepest engagement and intensity, and never stopped making the glory of God his very highest priority. I sat there edified and grateful, and not a little perplexed. After all, this guy is going through hell in his private life, right? That’s what I’m told.

How can this be so?

Conciliation and Truth

Let me tell you what I think. Your mileage may vary. Men were made for spiritual conflict. Women were made to bandage the wounded. The Christian man who prioritizes temporary conciliation and false peace above defense of the truth will never become a true man of God. The Christian man who thinks what God wants him to think, says what God wants him to say, and does what God wants him to do will never lose, never fail, never get off track and never wonder why he’s here or where he went wrong.

I’m not saying his life will be perfect. His wife may never see eye to eye with him about his spiritual priorities. She may even leave, if she’s of carnal disposition. His children may take advantage of the obvious lack of unity between mom and dad and act out in ways that distress him and make him wonder at times if he’s doing the right thing. His relatives may huff and puff about his choices and priorities, even those who profess to be Christian. But in the end, he will be a man his daughters will respect and a man his sons will strive to emulate. If or when his wife leaves him, she will regret it for the rest of her life once she gets a good look at what the alternative looks like.

Nick, standing up is its own reward. God bless you man, you already know this. Don’t ever back down.

A Message to Mom

Nick’s mother? Please know that Nick is in a very sweet spot as he struggles to implement what he believes to be the Lord’s will in his family. He is doing what godly men in every age were made for. His potential reward is unimaginable, because he is up against one of the most emotionally difficult dilemmas a godly man will ever face, and we know that the Lord Jesus does not test any of his genuine disciples more than he can bear. That tells me your son has already passed multiple evaluations and is in a very tiny, very spiritual percentile of believers who stand to reap the sort of reward at which many of us will never have a shot.

Don’t pray that Nick will have less stress in his life. Pray that he will do the right thing and never falter.

If they ever figure out what’s really going on, his children will thank you. His wife may too.

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