It was the last night of our honeymoon. I looked out at that water that seemed to have no end in sight and everything that I couldn’t see was nagging on my heart. But then something happened to me that is rare – the deliciousness of a meal cooked in a 5 star restaurant, the ease of clean sheets and shaved legs, the embrace of a friend after a near miss – the feeling of total peace. Peace as a precious gift. Of being completely known and exposed and still held.
The type of mutual understanding that can only happen between the Creator and His creation, His daughter. I curled my sandy toes up underneath me and looked out at the clear blue water. It was turning a soft gray as the light disappeared somewhere below the Caribbean. The moment was one where you feel completely alive in your own skin, comfortable, and you are ultra aware of what’s going on around you: my sweet new husband was on his phone in the beach chair beside me, there was a maternity shoot closing up after finding some golden light, kids were building a sand castle and giggling with abandon. My wifehood career stood just a few days young. I was happy, I was rested after months of designing at school and planning a wedding, but I was incredibly worried.
I was worried I wouldn’t be a good cook or who knew how many ups and downs our life could have and how am I going to keep the house clean? How do I take care of my own heart when we’ve got this lifetime of work ahead of us? How do I blend the ministry of my life with his? There’s mismatched socks and a mattress on the floor and a queasy stomach of a newlywed wife. There’s the scrutiny of ministry, there’s family expectations, there’s two more years of university, there’s brokenness everywhere within me and around me. The tangle of thoughts matched the tangles of my ocean washed hair.
Then God spoke to my spirit and said, “I love you. I will take care of you.”
It was one of the most intimate, quiet, clear moments I have had with the Lord, right there on Seven Mile Beach at the Margaritaville shoreline.
The reason I was washed up in my head, the reason we all get washed up in our own thoughts is because I was thinking about what I could do according to my own understanding, experience, and strength. According to that understanding, of course I was anxious. Left to our own devices, we will not succeed. The reason I was so caught up in the worries of what I could see was because I was worrying about the future as if the Spirit did not live inside of me. If we truly believe that the Spirit of God is within us, loves us, and does all things well, what would stress us out? What would keep us from abiding in His Presence every day? (Ouch.)
About ten months later, I was feeling the weight of the unfolded laundry and the wife I so badly wanted to be. Would I be enough for him? Would I ever be a good wife? By sitting with these thoughts, I allowed myself to believe Zach was thinking all of these same things. Wives deal with this pressure to look, act, and behave these certain ways. Throw in being a pastor’s wife at 20 and the expectations can be crippling, whether they come from within your heart or down the block. Many of these expectations come from a place of true integrity. It’s important that we selflessly serve in our marriages. It’s important that we prioritize time with our spouse emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s just a necessity that someone has to tote the laundry baskets and the grocery sacks. The problem, though, was that I spent so much time worried about the moment that Zach became unhappy, I was missing the fact that he was content. I was missing these moments God had given me as we laid the foundation for our Christ-centered marriage. I spent so much time worried about how I can keep things from changing, when the actual goal is holy change in both of our hearts.
One summer evening a few years earlier, I was riding on a mauve and white bus through villages in Uganda. We were headed to the airport. Our seats rattled us every few seconds and my heart was a bit more than beat up. We were headed to the airport and I didn’t want to leave. There is something unfinished in my life as to the draw God has placed on my heart for the Ugandan people. Knowing that I would be gone from this place I love in just a few hours, I remember listening to worship music in my headphones and watching the people pass us on the road. I heard God say, “I love them more than you do.” My heart was completely broken for these people. I was going to miss my friends and going to miss the friends I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to make. I wanted to stay and pour out love. I wanted to finish the story and not leave in the middle of a chapter. I wanted to stay to also receive love. I desired to see change, prayers answered, and community built. As the faces of my friends flooded through my mind with such tenderness, I was overwhelmed by the truth that God loves them more than I ever could. While I hope He someday allows me to minister and be ministered to in Africa once again, I can rest in the fact that with all my good intentions, He is the perfect One who can minister to the people of Uganda. He knows their needs and their wants better than I. And while I had to leave for a time, He has never once left.
The goal of trips oriented in mission, the goal of marriage, the goal of families, the goal of every iota in love – it’s the glory of God. If this is true, I can release my grip for control and certainty, and rest in what is sure: God is good. He is in control. He cares more about my marriage than I do. He cares more about our kids than we do. He cares about His Church even more than I do. He hasn’t taken His eye off of us.
It’s good and right to carry the burdens of others in our heart. The desire to serve is not one that God hates. The ache in our hearts to love well is a sign of walking with the Spirit. But I am not the hero of this story. Christ came and has rescued each of us. When I take these burdens under the Lordship of Christ, I can serve freely and surrender the outcomes and perceptions of others completely to Him. My job is to stay faithful and magnify His name through the loads of laundry, loving my husband, and extending my arms in ministry. We won’t be the one that gets the glory for a long, happy marriage – it is the extent of godliness in each of our hearts that will be magnified over time. I won’t be the one that deserves recognition in mission work or housework – God’s grace through each of these things reveals Him to be faithful to those that watch our lives. May the watching world see women surrendered to the true Hero of all our redemption stories. May they see women swept up in the romance of the gospel and trusting their Bridegroom with the way they orient their lives. May they see women not trusting in the strength of their own arms, but arms reached upward to God receiving all the strength we need, even through our weaknesses. May we be women that don’t need the world’s applause, but the gentle whisper of our Father: I love you. I see you. And I will take care of you.
“So she [Hagar] called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” — Genesis 16:13-14