Years ago I thought I knew what he was supposed to be. We marry the person we choose – making choices based on who we are and our own maturity at that time — oh, and their amazing eyes, the way our heart flutters when they are in the same room with us and all that goodness too. I remember the sound of his phone messages and how I would play them over and over thinking he had the most romantic voice on the planet. And I had heard all about how you don’t try to change another person and how you accept them flaws and all. I never knew I was hiding a plan in my own heart to overhaul this man.
First off, the very things I found endearing were the very things I was going to secretly change over time. I thought it was cute how he wore tie-dye shirts with plaid pants and still came off looking like a surfer dude. I was drawn to his easy going personality. I would help him get some fashion sense and I would help him become more of a go-getter and awaken his latent assertive side. So I thought.
In later years I would get frustrated at these same lovable qualities. When he would come out of the bedroom, “ready” for church wearing two shades of green that should never be put on the same body at the same time I would say, “Hun, those two greens are not friends.” And I would sigh. I would despair that this man had no sense of what matched what.
And when he was still an introvert who needs more space than the average bear — during hibernation season — I would get frustrated and wonder how on earth we were going to use our home to the glory of God if it was meant to be a perpetual sanctuary so he could recharge his battery.
Oh, things had to change!
And change they did. God had His secret plan as well. He had changes in mind as He does in every marriage. He loves us as we are, but He isn’t going to leave us there. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, God is like a man who finds a stray dog:
[The man] tames the dog primarily that he may love it, not that it may love him, and that it may serve him, not that he may serve it. Yet at the same time, the dog’s interests are not sacrificed to the man’s … In its state of nature [the dog] has a smell, and habits which frustrate man’s love: he washes it house trains it, teaches it not to steal, and is so enabled to love it completely.
You see the picture. This man finds a stray dog. He has enough love and care for the dog in its stinky, muddy, matted state that he takes the dog home, washes it, house-trains it and gives it a home. After all these pains to change the dog, the animal is fit for life with the man. But, the man goes to these efforts because of His already existing care. This is our blessed situation with God. We have been loved, but He won’t leave us matted, muddy and uncivilized. We must be house-broken – because He loves us. We are becoming more and more fit for His presence. This is sanctification.
He changes us because He loves us.
Much to my surprise, there was change. Don’t get me wrong, he still comes out wearing outfits that make my brow crinkle on occasion. He still is more of the wait-and-see than the make-it-happen type. What changed was in my heart and eyes, not his ways. He has grown too, but the biggest changes were in me.
So now we are approaching his 50th birthday. I’ve spent more years on earth with this man than without. I know him as well as I know myself. He’s the single closest friend I have. He still makes me laugh harder than anyone and occasionally my heart still races when he walks in a room.
What I am doing for this introverted, deep, sweet, Godly man on his birthday is what suits him. Instead of inviting our friends and family into his life so he has to endure the spotlight, I am gathering letters from those who love him. I am putting all these beautiful words in a scrapbook. I’m filling the pages with pictures of the one man I love from his childhood to his fatherhood. I am laying out a book of his life and the admiration and blessing of those around him. We’re taking that book away with us for a weekend. Just the two of us. And he’ll get to sit and read it on his own. No spotlight. He’ll have time to take in those words and consider the people who think the world of him. I promise they will shock his humble heart in the best of ways. He’ll get to absorb the goodness privately. That’s how God formed him. I’m honoring him the way God made him and I’m doing what blesses him – just as he is. This whole book and get-away are a surprise. I am giddy with the anticipation for this giving of honor.
Yes, God sure made changes. And I’m so glad He did.
photo of dog courtesy of Bing Images