It was sometime in the late 80’s and Benny and I were sitting in a hotel room with some friends. Our eight combined children were finally all down for the night and we parents were looking forward to some much anticipated adult conversation.
I don’t remember how it happened but the conversation turned to my frustration with how easily I found fault with Benny, rather than seeing evidences of God’s grace in his life. Did other wives struggle with this, too? Or did I never pick up on wifely irritation because we Christians are too often “on our best behavior” around others and leave our snippy attitudes for behind-closed-doors interactions at home? The wife empathized with my temptations and shared that she, too, was often tempted to be critical of her husband, even when she kept her attitudes to herself.
Over the next hour or so, the Holy Spirit gently convicted me of my lack of commitment to encourage Benny. It wasn’t that there weren’t things about him that I dearly loved and admired. But what too often bubbled to the surface of my heart, and then came out of my mouth sometimes, were things that frustrated or irritated me.
How did this conviction come about? By the questions and thoughtful observations of my friends and husband.
- “Yeah, Sheree, I can see what you’re saying. Sometimes it seems like you’re a little quick to poke at Benny. We love the playfulness between you, but I’m realizing as you talk that I haven’t often heard you thank or encourage him much, at least when we’re around.”
- “Benny, do you feel a lack of encouragement from Sheree? What challenges does that present for you?”
- “Sheree, what do you sense the Lord is saying to you? What might change look like in the future?”
Some serious speck removal was happening that night. But no one was gouging them out of my eye with accusing words or painful jabs. In fact, I started it by confessing my struggles and inviting their help. My conscience was already bothering me so their honest questions and observations didn’t take me off guard.
When Benny and I retired to our room in the wee hours, I asked his forgiveness for my stinking attitudes and criticalness. I expressed my desire to grow in encouragement as a wife, but acknowledged some of my habits were so deep seated change would take time. What had just happened? The day before I had said some biting, fault-finding things to him — and now I was asking his forgiveness.
What happened was speck removal. My husband and friends had the courage and love to gently help me see what was happening in my heart; and then coming out of my mouth.
“Benny, did I just get confronted?” I playfully asked him. When specks are removed gently and compassionately, there is relief not condemnation. I felt cared for, not criticized; helped, not judged.
I wish I could say that night changed me forever. It didn’t. I’m still tempted to judge my husband and to find fault rather than look for things to encourage. But I’ve experienced the life changing grace of God to see my sin more quickly and to find hope for ongoing change. The correction of friends isn’t what changes us, after all. Change comes only by convicting, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit moving on our hearts. Because Jesus died for and lives within me, I can have faith that “He who has begun a good work in me will carry it on to completion” (Phil 1:6). You can, too!
I remain a work in progress but am forever grateful for the truth-telling that set my heart on course for change.