Why I Could Not Post on This Blog Last Week.
Thursday February 18, my wife, Jo, flew back home from San Jose, CA, to prepare for a routine colonoscopy. The following Monday, the 22nd, she was diagnosed with a localized cancerous mass in her bowel. Within hours I was packed up and started driving 34 hours to be with her, immediately plunging into follow-up procedures. All my focus was on her, not on my weekly InSight & OutBurst. We are now waiting for a surgery date.
Now here is the post, My Marriage Do-Over, that I wrote long before this medical crisis.
The Awkward Question
“So, Jack, if you could do your marriage over again, what one thing would you do different?”
Good question! It popped into my mind as I was thinking about our 54th wedding anniversary coming up on March 31. I wondered how I would answer. As I meditated on it, I was surprised to feel regret, as well as some guilt. Here’s why:
My Regret and My “Yeah, but . . .”
For at least the past ten years Jo and I have read the Bible and prayed together every day with great regularity and constancy. But not during the previous four decades. I wish now we had started right from the beginning.
To make myself feel better, I started thinking of reasons why we had not. And, fortunately, they were very good reasons. As young Christians in the 1950s two things were pounded into us in sermons, at church young people’s meetings, and through Youth for Christ clubs and rallies.
1) You must read your Bible and pray every day, preferably in the morning, and
2) you must witness to others, telling them the story of your conversion.
And I did, faithfully, well, at least the part about reading the Bible and praying. I kept track in my diary of passages I read, and things I prayed about. Yes, my personal devotional life was fine.
And it continued to be fine throughout my student years and on into marriage, pastoral ministry, nearly 25 years of missionary work in Brazil, and the 10 years of leadership ministry afterwards. I read the Bible and I prayed, as did Jo, faithfully every day. That’s what we had been trained to do, and that is what we did. Oh, I prayed together with Jo for all meals and on exceptional occasions or special situations, but we didn’t “do devotions” together, at least not regularly and certainly not consistently. Except for praying together at prayer meetings, our prayers were mostly solitary, private, “closet” prayers.
Private Prayers Are Not Enough
There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Jesus prayed alone, as did Daniel and other heroes of the faith. Private, solitary prayer is absolutely essential to a healthy spiritual life. It is a fact, however, that the Bible refers to praying in groups of varying sizes far more often than to praying alone.
Jesus said, “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” Matt. 18:20 (MSG).
More “Yeah, buts . . . “
Jo and I received no pre-marital counseling. Few couples did back in the early 1960s. No pastor ever told us we should read God’s Word and pray together as a couple. I can’t remember ever hearing it preached about. I did hear plenty of reinforcing sermons about having personal, private, devotions, but I neither heard nor read any advice for husband and wife to pray together. Nor did Jo and I see it modeled by parents, pastors or friends. If they were doing this, I certainly never heard about it.
I also remembered that for decades we lived a highly pressured, often chaotic lifestyle: frequent travel, many separations, crowded housing, lack of privacy, and “on call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months at a time in the Canela village.
All these arguments in my defense made me feel a little better, and a little less guilty, but didn’t take away from the fact that, if I had our marriage to do over again I would change this one thing.
Right from the start of our life together—even during our courtship and engagement—I would plan and schedule a time to regularly and consistently read the Bible and pray together with Jo.
It was Jo’s hip surgeries that finally nudged us into reading and praying together with much greater regularity and consistency.
Don’t Follow My Example
So, what about you? Here’s hoping you are reading and praying together with your best friend, your fiancé, your spouse. If you are, good for you! And don’t keep it a secret from friends, your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews.
And if you aren’t, start now. Don’t wait for some crisis, medical or otherwise to start.
In other words, don’t follow my example. Improve on it!