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He Said, She Said

Our family needed a spiritual leader"

Judy's Side:

After Larry and I became Christians, I had visions of him praying with me and helping me grow spiritually. And as our children grew older, I thought he should lead family devotions and tell our sons about Jesus. Instead he stumbled over grace at dinner, fell asleep when we tried to pray together at bedtime and seldom brought up the subject of God or faith.

He did take us to church, but we needed more of a spiritual life as a family. Fearing our children would grow up without really knowing God, I pushed;

Larry resisted. I nagged; he sidestepped. When I took over the role of spiritual leader, Larry didn't even seem to care.

Then one night on the way back from our home fellowship group, I could tell Larry was upset. Our group was studying Matthew, and that night I had shared several insights. Toward the end of the meeting, someone had brought up the subject of spiritual leadership. Was that what he was angry about?

As we drove, I asked what was bothering him. "I feel like a fool," Larry told me. "I don't even know what a spiritual leader is, let alone how to be one."

How could he not know what a spiritual leader is?

Larry's Side:

I was 29 when I became a Christian. At first, I made sure we were at church whenever the doors were open. I loved the music, the sermons and the people.

But I had concerns. Growing up, I'd hear my dad ridicule Christians: "Religion's just a bunch of bunk. All they want is your money." Dad's comments played in the back of mind.

More than that, though, I worried about making a fool of myself in front of friends who had grown up in the church, as Judy had. I didn't know the books of the Bible, and I didn't understand terms like tribulation, transfiguration and rapture, let alone spiritual leader. Wasn't it enough that I was a Christian? No one told me when I put my faith in Christ that I was also supposed to lead my family spiritually.

Judy kept nagging me, saying I needed to be an example for our sons. But I failed at everything I tried. When I led prayer, Judy looked bored, and the boys never wanted to sit down and have Bible study. They wanted to be outside playing with their friends. I grew tired of the struggle, so I just let things slide. Judy was better equipped to be the leader anyway, so I just let her take over.

What Judy and Larry Did:

The night they talked things out as they drove home from Bible study, Larry was finally able to be honest about his frustrations and fears. He felt intimidated by Judy's greater religious knowledge and enthusiasm. And he resented her attempts to manipulate him. He wanted to do things in his own way and in his own time.

Judy fought back the urge to get defensive. Instead she listened and over the next few days prayed about what Larry had told her. Together they worked out a solution.

They began by agreeing to stop forcing their prayer times. Instead of using a lot of religious language, they would keep their prayers simple, specific and short. They also would pray together whenever they felt it was needed, rather than waiting until bedtime.

They turned their dull family Bible studies into a Bible game night. Their two sons loved this time together. They also kept a written record of prayers on a large flip chart so everyone could see God's answers.

Judy came to see that much of her "spiritual" work—quiet time, Bible study and memorizing Scripture—was done in hopes of manipulating her husband into following her example. She realized that she needed instead to concentrate on her own spiritual life and trust God to work on Larry's heart.

She also became more honest about her relationship with God. She told Larry that she too had times of doubts and fears and that she had questioned some of the Bible's teachings. Her openness led to deep discussions, and Judy was amazed at Larry's insight into areas she had questioned for years.

As a result of Judy's openness, Larry became more confident in his ability to minister to others. He started teaching Sunday school, volunteered in a marriage ministry and served as a church usher whenever he was needed. People began to recognize his caring heart and sought him out for counsel.

Larry found himself thirsty to know more. He attended seminars, retreats and men's meetings, not because Judy suggested it, but because he wanted to go. More and more he sought private time in their bedroom to study the Bible and develop a deeper relationship with Christ.

Over the next several years, Larry began to feel God calling him into fulltime ministry. With Judy's encouragement, he returned to school to get his master's degree. He is now the counseling pastor at their church. And as a spiritual leader at home, he helped lead their youngest son to faith in Christ.

by Judy Bodmer

If you know a couple with a creative solution to a common marriage problem, let us know. We'll pay $50 for each story that is featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number and a short description of their problem and solution to:

Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188
e-mail: mp@marriagepartnership.net

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