Above All Else

When I was in rehab in California, I prayed a prayer:

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."

Proverbs 30:7-9 (ESV)

Thankfully, God has answered this prayer. When I have wandered from Him, and become prideful and arrogant, He has brought me low. The things I've tried to accomplish didn't prosper, and I spiral down as the objects of my pride crumble. When I repent, submit to Him, and (do my best to) walk uprightly, He blesses me and things go well.

The most important thing, above anything else, is to be saved. Paul talked about this - that he could preach the Gospel to others, but by his own lack of discipline and self-control, find himself cast-away. (I Cor. 9:27) Jesus talked about it in the Sermon on the Mount, telling those present that, if your hand or your eye offends you, you should cut it off or pluck it out, because it would be better to be maimed or half-blind than to be separated from God and spend eternity in hell.

We're working with reality. This life, it's heavy stuff. It's not a game. The stakes are as high as can be. And we can't be flippant or casual with how we live.

Recently, my pastor made a comment during a sermon that really sort of stuck - if he were living in some sort of hidden sin, he would rather have it exposed and be humiliated if it led to repentance, than for his ego and reputation stay intact but end up in hell.

I haven't been able to get away from this. Is my pride more important than salvation? Am I more concerned with reputation and doing what I want than I am with being saved?

All week, I've been singing this old song.

Above all else I must be saved.

Above all else I must be saved.

Whatever You have to do to me

Don't let me be lost for eternity.

Above all else I must be saved. (emphasis added)

It's had me rocking on my heels all week. Nothing else matters. Are you serving Jesus or yourself? Are you following His will or yours? And what matters most to you?

honor where honor is due (or, why i love my wife)

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

If any woman has a husband for an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife. For how do your know, wife, whether you will save your husband?

1 Corinthians 7:13-14, 16

As I’m sure that everyone who reads this blog knows, I walked away from God seven years ago. I was regularly abusing alcohol; I was engaged in all manners of blasphemous, reckless, and sinful behavior; and I was angry, bitter, and condescending. I made being at home with me a chore on a good day, and a hell-on-earth on a bad day. And yet, my wife stayed. She had every right and reason to leave me, and yet she stayed.

When you take your wedding vows before God, you assume that both you and your spouse will be standing together as Christians, enduring the good and the bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death do you part stuff as a team. But no one imagines the bad times being when your spouse walks away from God, and is addicted to porn, and is drunk all the time and getting high all the time. No one imagines that sickness includes depression and thoughts of suicide. No one dreams that for poorer is because your spouse lost yet another job and won’t stop drinking. But that was what Heidi faced. She stood by herself and upheld our wedding vows, even when I wouldn’t. I don’t understand why. But she stood for that. And she stayed.

She consented to stay married to me, even though I didn’t deserve it. Every Sunday for years, she woke up and got first one child, then both kids, ready for Sunday School, and I kissed them all goodbye and she went and stood between God and me and prayed and cried and pleaded for Him to work on my heart, to turn me around, and to bring me back to church. She said, “I don’t know who that is, but he’s not the man I married.” For five years, she prayed. For five years, she asked God to help.

In that time, none of the things I was propping up was working right in my life. Everything I tried to do fell apart through my own pride and ego. Job after job came crashing down. The drinking got worse, I got angrier and more combative. And then everything finally came crashing down. My lies and sins and drunkenness all came together to leave me a broken, defeated wreck of a man, and Heidi was faced again with a choice - “Do I stay with my husband, or do I leave now to protect myself and my children?"

She stayed. In my desperation and brokenness, I finally returned to church. I resented it and didn’t want to be there, but slowly, my heart began to turn. In my brokenness, in my humiliation, I found repentance. And then I found joy. I found peace in the Holy Ghost. And my marriage began to heal. And all the ancillary things in my life, the things in my life that had been falling apart and slipping through my fingers, began to come together and work again. I stopped drinking. I’m not angry or lonely or hopeless or depressed anymore. I’ve built friendships again. And all because she stayed.

She prayed for me. She loved me. She didn’t give up on me. I’m alive today, and serving God today, because my wife wouldn’t leave.

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.

Thank you, Heidi Beth, for being the most amazing wife. And happy birthday, today. You’re my queen, and I love you. Thank you for not giving up on me.