You probably didn’t marry a grown-up husband. Neither did I. Somewhere along our marriage timeline, though, he became one.
A while back at church we served in the nursery. We don’t particularly love this gig (don’t tell anyone), but we do it once a month for a lot of compelling reasons. Bill surprised me by choosing the “large group teacher” option when we signed up. This is something he has never done. I guess he thought he knew all about teaching, all about groups, and all about large. He was a pastor for over 25 years, after all. But teaching a large group of children ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade? All in one room together? I had a vague sense of foreboding that I kept to myself.
Yesterday was his fifth outing as a large group teacher. I watched from down the hall as the children sat like docile sheep in their little wooden chairs, their attention riveted by my husband. It was a vintage Sunday School painting framed by the muraled walls on either side of the hall. Jillian, our children’s director, and I marveled at the sight. She smiled and said, “Oh, Bill is my favorite.”
“Really?” I asked, “Why?”
“Well,” she answered as if gathering breath for a long list of answers, “First, you guys are always on time. And second, he is always prepared. Thoroughly prepared. The first time he taught he kept emailing me with questions the week before.”
What she didn’t say was that some of the guys that help out at our church—most not even 30—are not prepared, are not on time, and sometimes act as if the fact that they are there at all should earn them a medal. She didn’t say it, but she implied it. She’s gracious like that. And I’m pretty sure Bill is not her only “favorite.” (To be clear: I’m not bashing young nursery volunteers, and I know Jillian would never. These are great guys with servant’s hearts, but probably so over-committed that nursery duty becomes an after-thought. And, I confess, if it weren’t for Bill, I would make us late every week.)
I remember volunteering in the nursery before we had kids and the dread we both felt about it. And how we both thought we deserved a medal just for showing up. But my husband is a different guy now. I’m talking about a man who is in his late 50s, who has weathered marriage to me for 35 years, who has raised four sons, adopted their wives as his own, and who stands in awe of his grandchildren. Now, not then. Hear this, young, disillusioned, frustrated wives: it takes decades.
The other day, we sat in Waffle House on a weekly breakfast date, and Bill told me about a five-minute talk he’s going to give later this week. He had already planned the content for each minute of that talk. There was nothing extraordinary about this conversation until I remembered something deep in the archives of his public-speaking history:
Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusade came to Atlanta the summer after Bill graduated from high school. Bill was chosen to give his testimony on Youth Night at the Atlanta Stadium. I’ve always wished I could have been there that night among the crowd of 40,000 people who heard him tell about how he came to Christ.
One night a few years ago, one of our sons, who was a teenager at the time, asked Bill to coach him in his preparation for a talk he was going to give at a Bible Study. I enjoyed listening to our son pour out some great ideas and learn from his dad how to structure them into a cohesive talk. Later I asked Bill, “Did anyone coach you when you spoke at the Billy Graham crusade?”
“How did you know how to prepare?”
“Well, I didn’t really prepare.”
“You didn’t prepare? To speak to 40,000 people?” I took a breath because I was now tempted to screech.
“No, I just winged it. That’s all I knew how to do back then.”
I find this hard to believe now. Now, when a room full of 30 children is as valuable, precious even, to him as a stadium full of 40,000 people and a cluster of TV camera lenses pointed at his face. Now, when he plans ahead for that wiggly child on the front row more thoroughly than he did for Billy Graham himself. Now, when a five-minute talk merits way more than five minutes of prep time. Now, when this man’s work ethic is like a freight train, his integrity is like steel, and his consistency like the sunrise.
Recently, as I listened to him rehearse the points of his five-minute talk, I sensed the vast chasm between the boy I married then and the man I am married to now. And this is just one example of what appears, from this present vantage point, to be a quantum growth-leap.
I love the way The Message renders Philippians 1:6: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”
Recently, as I listened to him rehearse the points of his five-minute talk, I sensed the vast chasm between the boy I married then and the man I am married to now.
I believe when we trust God to grow our husbands up (to grow us up, too, and our children, for that matter), we trust in something larger than our own abilities to affect that growth. This is a fancy way of saying, “Let him alone. God will take care of him.”
The growth journey is more arduous and the destination more glorious than we can imagine at the outset. It is long enough to include some pretty discouraging lulls and even a pit or two. But if God is a God who sits on his throne and says, “Behold I am making all things new,” (Revelation 21:3), then growth is more like a continual birth than the result of a seminar. That it happens at all is that kind of miracle.
What’s my point? No, he isn’t grown-up yet. (I might add, neither are you.) But he will be. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient.
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