I spent the first ten years of my marriage trying to make Cynthia into me. (Can you think of anything worse than a female Chuck?)
Finally, she’d had enough. I’ll never forget when she said to me, “I don’t want you to keep telling people we’re ‘partners’ because we’re not partners. I bear your children, and I cook your meals, and I clean the house, but I’m not really your partner.” Then she added, “You’ve never accepted me for who I really am.”
“Yes, I have,” I shot back.
“No, you haven’t.”
“Yes, I have.”
“No, you haven’t!” As we stood toe to toe in our kitchen, I got louder and she got louder, until she finally walked out in tears . . . and I was staring at a sink full of dishes.
While doing the dishes I pondered her words and finally softened. I had to admit to myself, She’s right.
We began a process that took four years to break that habit in me. It involved some serious counseling that we both sought . . . it was painful but extremely helpful. It just about wiped me out, though, realizing how true her criticism was. I did very little encouraging back then. She really wasn’t my “partner.” Thankfully, that began to change. I changed!
Many years later, at a gathering with some friends from our radio ministry, someone asked Cynthia, “Why don’t you share some things about the broadcast?” She walked up and briefly told the history of Insight for Living. She closed by saying, “The best part about this is that Chuck and I are in this as partners.” At that moment her statement put a big knot in my throat. She hadn’t said the “p” word since I heard it on that cold kitchen floor years earlier. I’ll be honest . . . we almost broke apart those first ten years. We didn’t though, because she stayed with me. She stuck it out.
Last fall, the church where I serve as senior pastor celebrated its twelfth anniversary. I can’t tell you the times during those years I was tempted to say, “I’m out of here!” On one such occasion, I lay in bed with tears streaming, and I sighed to Cynthia, “That’s it. It’s over.”
“No, it’s not,” she replied calmly.
“Yes, it is.” (I’m sure by now you’ve picked up on the fact that we’ve gone to bed more than once with a little disagreement going on.) “You just don’t understand,” I told her.
“I do understand,” she countered. “You’re not going to quit.”
“I am,” I sobbed. “I’m going in tomorrow . . . and I’ll tell them it’s over.”
“You have how many people in our congregation?” she asked me. “Most don’t even know there’s a problem. Don’t you dare do that to all of them.” She was right . . . again.
I owe so much to Cynthia—more than our marriage and our ministry. She has encouraged me by her example to hang in there when things got tough. And as a result, I’m able to look back and see the hand of God. I am able to celebrate more than twelve years at our church, more than thirty years at Insight for Living, and more than fifty years of marriage with my “partner.” Those are things I would have missed if I had walked away.
Some of you are on the edge of quitting something when you ought to stay. You’re determined to live for Jesus in your marriage, but it’s tough sledding. You pray for that child—or that aging parent—and nothing changes. Or maybe you’re not getting the credit you deserve at the church, or you’re not getting the results you expected. Waiting on the Lord is the hardest part of the Christian life. (Just ask Cynthia.) But God does some of His greatest work in the lives of those who wait for Him (see Lamentations 3:22–32). I urge you, my friend, to hang in there. God is working even though you cannot see it.
I’ve never regretted the times I did not quit . . . though at the time it was all I could do to stay. I’m so glad I did.
You will be too.