Welcome to comfort.
“Hi, my name’s Sam. Nice to meet you.” is almost certainly followed up by “What do you do?” when I am meeting any man for the first time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business opportunity, group hang-out, or passing introduction. Career is one that many men seem to universally embrace as a conversation opener. Work is comfortable, and it’s easy to feel valued around what you do. I certainly felt that way.
Five years ago I sat down with the pastor of a church that we were attending in Florida. At the time my wife had discovered some secrets I had been keeping from her and she was hurt. She had been asking me for the six years prior to be the leader of our home, and I was no closer to understanding what that meant. I was leading at work, wasn’t that enough? I was lost and confused. I believed in God, His son Jesus, and His death for my sins, but I had stayed there in my comfortable salvation, pursuing what I knew I was good at. Well-intended words had been spent convincing my wife that I would change, but I hadn’t. She told me to get help, or she would leave.
I was attempting to be a good husband and father, but I was continually met with failure. As I sat there belaboring my woes to this wiser man, he looked at me and, with his southern drawl says “Sounds like you are trying to be an awful lot and it’s not working out for you too well.” I concurred because it sounded right, and then he uttered something to the effect of “Maybe you need to focus on being a son of God first, then the rest will work out.”
Ok, great. That’s right, I’m supposed to be a son of God, with the identity and purpose given to a son. But what does that even mean? It sounds great when someone says it, but how was I supposed to pick up the responsibilities as a leader of my home? It doesn’t just happen overnight, as I had habits that I had built-up, right? No amount of good-intention was going to change that.
There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all.
So I returned home and got back to doing. I felt strangely renewed by what the pastor had said, but the point he was trying to make was still foggy. Success at work continued, and we were experiencing even more blessing financially, but it didn’t fix anything. That same success often came to my defense when my wife would challenge me on my participation. I only grew more indignant of her challenges and made my goal about proving a point; that I could do a full time job, cook, clean, take care of the kids, and anything else to prove I was leading. That, of course, was exhausting and only left me embittered at everyone, including the kids. It was obvious that life had only became more difficult, and that my attempts to solve my “problems” were pointless.
So what was I to do? My wife and I would talk and have intense discussions around change, but then I’d wake up the next morning and go “back to work”. Physically and mentally.
Was it for lack of desire? Was it because I just didn’t want it enough? Was I truly just a selfish person, incapable of pursuing righteousness? I knew these were lies that I believed and held on to, but I felt stuck in trying to get it from my head down into my heart. This was obviously a rinse-and-repeat cycle I was experiencing and it needed to break.
What is my mission?
This pattern continued on, over and over again. Life had changed significantly from that desperate moment in Florida. We had moved back to Cincinnati and I plugged in with some men who were praying for me and sharing wisdom. My wife and I were having meaningful conversations that produced growth because of her persistence. Wounds were being healed as we started praying together, something that was non-existent five years prior. I even found an outreach to be a part of, and so I had begun using spiritual gifts that had sat unused. All of this was good, but we were always an argument away from that old conversation of “why aren’t you leading”.
During one of my “please fix me” prayer sessions, I heard the Holy Spirit ask me “what is your mission?”. The words resonated with me and I began looking into my thought life. What was going on up in my head every day? Yes, I had begun learning to speak with love, taking thoughts captive and giving them to God. But when I wasn’t in a place of need (in an argument, etc), I didn’t spend time aligning with God’s heart for me. If I’m honest with myself, the only time I spent in prayer was asking for help. Even when my life was peaceful, I had a prayer of “Lord, please help me not to screw this up”. At that moment I knew that He was trying to show me something profound. It was more of a feeling than a thought. Like when you know the name of an actor and it’s “on the tip of your brain”, but you just can’t seem to find the words.
In “Spiritual slavery to spiritual sonship” the author (Jack Frost) talks about having an orphan’s heart. Specifically how orphans need to try and prove their worth because they have no birthright, no father to pass down to them an inheritance. There I sat, an orphan trying to earn God’s love and the love of my family. I had desperately hoped that someday I’d make enough money, be well respected enough in my career, and earn the admiration of my wife so that she would stop seeing my failures and start seeing my value! But I knew it wouldn’t. I didn’t know God’s heart for me and I didn’t believe the inheritance offered. I was trying to prove it instead and was so distracted that I couldn’t see truth. This wasn’t something I could control. I had to let go of a mission focused on self.
Where do I go from here?
So I’ve spent months doing just that; repenting and accepting my identity. My wife and I have experienced great freedom where we had been slaves to my apathy, because I know His mission now! I know that I am a son and not an orphan, and so my prayer has shifted from “God help me / fix me” to “God, show me your way and reveal Yourself”.
For any husband looking to lead his family, but feeling stuck in a pattern of doing; there is hope! It may feel far off and unobtainable, but that is a lie designed to keep you there.
Romans 8:15 says “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’”.
Those are your adoption papers! Your father wants you in on His plan! He wants healing for your mind to stop focusing on your doing, and begin accepting the authority He’s handing to you.The mission becomes clear when you let go of all the other goals and you are clear to recognize all the moments in the day where He’s asked you to be present. Your doing is not your mission! It is to be a son, and a son knows His father.
If you are reading this, allow me to pray for you:
Lord, I pray that you would heal the minds of these readers and awaken in in them a passionate desire to pursue you, more than their job or any other distraction. I pray that the orphan heart would be crushed under the weight of an all-loving father who wants to hand inheritance to His child. Lord, wrap them in your love and reveal to them Your mission. Overwhelm them with Your love, that whatever rooted lies exist would be smothered by it.