For some reason, Shelley has stuck it out with me in the CRAZY life that I have lived. She has displayed an immeasurable amount of grace to me as I have tried to learn how lead our family.
I didn’t come into our relationship as the most spiritually sharp man.
Just over a year before we met I was living in Georgia and playing guitar in a small-time rock band. Without going into all that this means, Jesus was not high on my priority list. I was more worried about playing a great guitar solo than anything. I really loved the guys I played with. We had some great times. A couple of them were in my wedding.
Late in the spring of 1996 life changed in an almost dramatic way that is hard to explain. It was fast. I literally went from playing a gig in Athens, Ga. one night to knowing I would be moving into ministry the next. It was crazy! It was confusing.
3 months later I was living in Little Rock, AR (Another dramatic story) serving on the staff of a campus ministry and going to seminary part-time. It was still crazy!
All of that is important because it shows the reality that I was a still a “spiritual baby” when I met Shelley.
Fast forward about year and in walks Shelley Greenwood. “In walks Shelley”, not in a figurative way but in a literal way. She walked into the room and we met. I happened to be playing bass that evening in my church’s band. She noticed the bass player! Again, life changed in a dramatic way.
Going into our relationship, I have memories of how important it was for me to do this right. I didn’t have the best dating track record and I had no desire to waste my time or Shelley’s. I was genuinely nervous.
9 months later we were engaged and it hit me that I was now going to be spiritually responsible for a family. I was intimidated, clueless, nervous, selfish, and spiritually immature (I would have never admitted that last one back then but it was true).
Leading a family and playing a guitar solo don’t have much in common. I knew guitar solos, not spiritually leading a family. I could probably come up with a cool artsy way to make a comparison but it would be a huge stretch. It was time to learn spiritual leadership.
I believe the Bible is clear that the man is called to set the pace of the home. The Apostle Paul even compares the husband’s responsibility to the sacrifice Christ made on the cross when he wrote in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy…”
Give up my life so that Shelley could be more like Christ. Piece of cake, right? I didn’t know what that meant at all. I had to try something but what I wanted didn’t exist.
I wanted a formula that went something like this:
If I can get Shelley to do “A” + “B” then I will = “a good spiritual leader” and our marriage will be like a gloriously played guitar solo. Marriage isn’t like guitar solos or math which is a good thing. I am terrible at math.
My first attempt at the guitar solo of spiritually leading my wife (see, the guitar solo analogy isn’t working, but thought I would try) looked something like this:
“Shelley, you need to do this …..”
“Shelley, you should read this….”
“Shelley, have you…..”
I was buying her devotional books, Christian cd’s, T-shirts….all the things you need, so I thought. Not that those are bad but I was missing it.
I was treating her like student in a classroom, not like a wife on a life-long journey. I didn’t mean harm but I wasn’t helping her move towards Christ at all.
Shelley did not like it and I was frustrated.
I realized that I needed to back off. I wasn’t giving up but I needed to stop forcing the guitar solo (still trying).
In walks the grace of God. Somehow by God’s grace I stumbled into something that is probably obvious to most.
The most loving and leading thing I can do is give her a spiritual example that she would want to follow.
If I will do that one thing, then everything else seems to fall into place.
• If I am committed to walking with God daily in the Word and prayer, it encourages Shelley to do the same.
• If I choose to act selflessly towards her and our children, it encourages her to do the same.
• If I am open about what God is teaching me, then she is encouraged to be open about what God is teaching her.
• If I take steps of faith, it encourages her to take steps of faith.
• If I am the first to admit a wrong and ask for forgiveness, then she is more open to admit wrongs and ask forgiveness.
Now, there are times when I need to be graciously direct with statements like, “you need to…” but they are few a far between. Hopefully they come from a place of love where I have shown her the way before commanding the way.
The bottom line is that for me to spiritually lead Shelley, I need to pursue to follow Jesus with all that I am. That one thing will set the stage for everything.
God, through Shelley, has taught me more than I could imagine about leading my family and I know I am still a beginner guitar student in the school of leading her. I am thankful she has stuck it out with me.