I married John with grand expectations. He was a pastor's son, so I envisioned him leading me spiritually with sweeping steps, in well-executed unity before God — almost like steps of a dance.
As a former high school cheerleader, I was used to expressive demonstrations. I assumed family worship would be filled with exciting, inspirational moments. I imagined us singing praise songs in the car. I pictured morning devotions that included intimate discussions and kneeling together in prayer.
John and I never discussed these things before we were married. So when my assumptions didn't become reality, I believed all John needed was a little encouragement. I bought devotional books, picked out Bible-reading plans and plotted prayer times. Yet the more I stepped forward, the more John moved back. Our spiritual dance became as awkward and disjointed as a preschool tap recital.
Stepping on toes
By nature, I'm expressive. When I feel something — whether it be love, excitement, sadness, anger or praise — I show it in large and unmistakable ways.
I knew John loved God, so I didn't understand why he didn't express his faith like I did. When John didn't make the effort to wake up for morning devotions, I grudgingly did them alone. I felt as if I were dancing solo.
There were seasons when I'd push the agenda. For a few months, I read devotional books to John as he ate breakfast. But it was my effort, my work, my commitment — and I soon grew fatigued.
Of course, John wasn't the only one who heard about my disappointment. I told God about it — often. In fact, having John "become the spiritual leader" became one of my top prayer requests.
Then, one day, God tapped me on the shoulder. I looked to my journal and the words spiritual leader stood out. I thought about our spiritual dance again. From the beginning, I'd tried to set the routine, pick the music, choose the tempo, and I expected John to step in and sweep me off my feet.
I knew what God was telling me: For someone to be a leader, it means the other person has to be willing to follow. From that moment, I changed my prayers and gave up my tactics.
Approaching the dance floor
I was surprised to discover how fast God worked when I kept my mouth shut. It all started when 2-year-old Nathan moved from his crib to a toddler bed.
"Why don't I read Bible stories to the kids at night," John suggested. "It will help them settle in for the night, and it will be a good thing for us to do as a family."
My heart did a jig.
The kids loved Dad reading to them, and I loved the conversation afterward about topics such as faithfulness, sacrifice and worship. On many nights John and I kissed the kids goodnight and continued our discussion as we snuggled together in bed.
Taking the dance to the ballroom
During all the years I longed for a devotional time with my family, I had imagined it to be an intimate thing. But within months, God enabled John to fulfill his dream of creating interactive Bible dramas for kids. Not only were we doing family devotions together, but John and I also began acting out biblical truths every week in children's church. As our kids grew older, they joined us.
One day, as I scanned the crowd of children whose eyes were fixed on my family acting out Moses parting the Red Sea, I realized how nearsighted I had been. I'd wanted a devotional time that would give me warm fuzzies and better connect me with God and with John. But God knew true devotion wasn't only about sharing Scriptures over a cup of coffee; it was also about sharing His Word with others.
Feeling the rhythm
As our kids grew from toddlers to preteens, I home schooled them, and we daily studied the Bible. But it was John who again showed me that seeking God wasn't about marking off lists.
John was much more open to bringing God's truths into every part of the day, whether talking about friends and fights as we drove in the car or discussing wise decisions as we tucked the kids into bed. John would listen and share his heart, referring to God's Word in a natural way. It was a different rhythm than I'd imagined, but one that turned into a dance of hearts — mine, his, theirs.
Learning a new step
Then, unexpectedly, years into our marriage, John suggested having a devotion for the two of us.
"What if I set my alarm 30 minutes early and we read our Bible together and pray before I leave for work," John offered.
"That's a great idea!"
A few years have passed since we began reading and praying together, but recently I asked John about his change of heart.
"When we were first married, I was intimidated by you," John said sheepishly. "I didn't want to fail in your eyes. I didn't think I could live up to your expectations of what a spiritual leader should be, so doing nothing seemed better than failing."
John's words pierced my heart, and I finally understood. God had been right. If I wanted John to take the lead, I had to first step out of the way.
Did you know couples are 30 percent less likely to get a divorce if they get some sort of premarital training? If you or someone you know is planning to marry, check out Focus on the Family's Ready to Wed curriculum, and then prepare for a marriage you'll love!