A Prayerful Knight: Peter’s Perspective

I grew up in an always-busy household with my parents and four older brothers. One of my parents’ goals was to teach us how to respect the opposite gender.

Those lessons started with the little things like learning how to talk to anyone, and learning to make eye contact with them as much as possible. In a lot of ways, respecting women meant acting like I tried acting with my guy friends—caring, fun, and generous. All of that was well and good, but I’m strong. The hardest difference was learning how to be gentle with my girl friends.

As much as I learned these concepts from my parents, I saw my brothers put those characteristics into practice as they dated and eventually married the women of their lives. As I watched my brothers learn what it meant to be men of God to their wives, I saw a common theme. With each on of them, there developed a role of becoming a protective knight to their wives, or their “knight in shinning armor” in other words.

Then I got married. Everything I thought I had learned about how to respect and protect women completely changed.

I remember one very long night when Cassie was having a lot of back pain. It was the first time I’d seen her in such excruciating pain. There was nothing I could do to help her except watch her be in pain and try to help her where I could. Honestly, those areas I could help were very little.

As I watched Cassie, deep down inside me I was a wreck. Everything I was taught to be the “knight in shining armor” for my wife wasn’t helping her. I felt completely helpless. I blamed myself for not being able to be there for Cassie. Wasn’t my job as her husband to protect her from pain?

As the night went on, Cassie’s numbing pain slowly went away. We started talking about what happened and how we could deal with the back spasms better next time. and after telling Cassie how I felt, she said something I will never forget.

She said, “Peter you can’t protect me like you want to protect me. My body is fighting against itself. You can’t fix that. This is where you need to trust in God that He is watching and protecting us.”

Those words hit me hard. Later that night, after Cassie fell asleep, I poured my heart out to God. It was a cry of guilt for not being able to be enough for my wife, and for not trusting in Him in this area in my life. But as my prayer went on, it turned into a sweet prayer of praise as I saw how God is and will always be our knight in shining armor.

That night I pled with God to take that role from me – so that I don’t have to worry about it anymore, and to let God be the protection Cassie needs. Honestly, that prayer has effected how I protect my wife. I protect her as much as I can in my broken armor, but the best thing I can do is to be a praying knight. My role as Cassie’s knight is to bow before our Risen and Perfect Knight who watches and protects us through all our needs.

There are times I still worry about how Cassie may be doing on a given day. But now, that is simply a reminder to go again before my Holy Knight and pray for her protection.

My role as her husband isn’t to be the knight in shining armor, but to be the praying knight and let God come first to my wife instead of me. It is hard, but it is so worth it. My perfect, holy Knight and Father comes through for my wife completely—every time.

He heals her wounds in ways I never could, and my attempts pale in comparison.

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It’s Okay to Lack

For most of my life, the same people were around me. I’m sure we had our awkward moments, but my friends had grown comfortable with my disabilities. Past the third grade, I don’t remember feeling as if I needed to “train” my friends on how to handle my high-risk limitations.

If my friends had questions about my disabilities, they either didn’t ask them, or they learned to watch me closely and found the answer themselves. My world was simple. My friend group was small, but everyone had my back and I had theirs. Any chronic issues of my life were talked about as if they were everyday occurrences and common knowledge.

Over time, I forgot I was disabled. But then I returned to Indiana to attend college.

All the sudden, my body-guard best friends were nowhere to be found. I was the new kid on the block, and I was obviously an oddity that needed observing. I quickly discovered my disabilities were still scary to some people, and down-right annoying to others. My confidence took a hit every time I had to apologize for my twitching limbs, my awkward stutter, or my random seizures.

It felt even worse every time I had to explain my limp, my crooked arm, or the reason I eat food with my right hand squeezed between my legs at all times.

I swallowed my pride and pushed forward, though. My new circle of friends learned to chuckle at my quirks, accept my limitations, and they realized asking for help didn’t mean I was weak. For the first time in two decades, I had to learn how to teach my friends.

Learning how to teach Peter, first as a boyfriend, and then as my husband, was a totally different experience. He had a right to know what was actually happening to my body, but all I wanted to teach him was how to cope with the awkwardness of my existence. I felt like I had something to prove.

Every time I attempted to prove to Peter that loving me was a totally normal and romantic adventure, I failed miserably. Most times, my attempts to prove my independence and strength left us both hurt, scared, and confused. For a time, I didn’t really care about the price of my short-sighted actions.

My antics were based on my fear of losing Peter. I was confident that if he realized how broken the cage of my body was, he’d walk away from me entirely because I was too high maintenance. I had to learn to trust Peter, and I had to learn to accept that God could equip Peter to handle my disabilities better than I ever could. We both learned—through trial and error—that our marriage needed authentic transparency and a willingness to talk through anything.

Training my friends how to handle my disabilities had been easy. I helped them cope with the differences because I love them. But with my husband, I had to let him help me bear the load because he loved me. Supporting me and defending me are two things he is biblically called to do as my husband.

I had to learn how to trust Peter’s heart and countenance with the Lord. When we confront yet another medical hurdle, I’m often unable to be exactly what Peter needs in a wife. It’s during those seasons, as a wife, I run to my Jesus and shout at the top of my lungs, “In my weakness you are strong, Jesus. You have to be enough.”

Our marriage is beautifully lacking in quite a few ways. But when my physical limitations force me to fall short for Peter, I’m forced to look for Jesus. And in much the same way, when Peter can’t fix, understand, or help bear my turmoil, he is forced to realize in a much deeper way that Christ is my savior, not him. We’re both learning to remember that although we may still be learning what coping with disabilities is like, Christ is all-knowing and never had to be trained in the first place.

(Over the next several months, to find the other blogs in this series, type marriage with disabilities in the search bar.)

Unsung Faithfulness

“You can reach people with a story like that; I can’t.” It’s a line I’ve heard so often it takes supernatural strength to not scream. I understand what someone means when they say such a thing. On one hand, with medical trauma, trials, travesties, and long awaited triumphs, my story seems miraculously riveting.

After all, it’s not common to be told you can live with 3/4 of a brain, a neurological “shocker collar,” and a body which literally enjoys living in the realm of pseudo heart attacks. But to survive all that–praise be to God– and pursue a career in writing, get married, and live a life that seems subliminally normal? Yeah, that’s awesome.

Then you have the spiritual aspect. In not-so-Christian terms, at 17 years old, I told the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to take a hike because no logical person needed Him. Though Christ never left my side, He did let me experience life without Him. My sinful desires almost burned away every recognizably redeemed part of my soul. I shouldn’t be alive. I shouldn’t be safe. I shouldn’t be claimed as a Child if God. But somehow, like the Hound of Heaven that Jehovah is, He let me play the harlot, He let me experience my “prodigal power,” and when I’d had enough, He let me come Home.

So, yes. That story is riveting as well. Unfortunately, the story seems to shut up the individual who believed in the Lord Jesus as his or her savior at four years old and never looked back. Oh, with all my heart, I wish it didn’t.

If you are one of those Believers, take it from one of the people who gets handed a microphone way too often. You, my friend, are the Story that makes people like myself cling to Jesus even more. You are proof that returning to Jesus really is more than enough. As much as I am confident of my salvation in Jesus Christ, as head over heels in love as I am with my Savior, there are days I doubt whether leaving my life of sin was worth it. Redemption takes the place of the lies within your heart, but the lies can run deep.

I sold my Jesus for a season to get my way. You didn’t. Your story may feel boring. To people like me,though, it’s a breath of fresh air and the whisper of Jesus telling me to shut out the lies and keep my eyes on Him.

We were all given our faith journeys for a reason. Just because you don’t see your impact doesn’t mean it’s absent. Thank you for your faithfulness to our Jesus. Your faithfulness brings me to tears and reminds me to keep going.

Don’t Trip Over Me

I clearly remember the day I decided to leave my childhood church. I had walked away from that particular body of believers (who were and are amazing people) when I decided Christ was the last thing I wanted to pursue. When I returned after my two year hiatus, I was broken beyond recognition spiritually and wanted anyone to tell me the pain dulls someday.

Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted someone to hear about my wounds and tell me how to heal; because I had no idea how to do it myself. Growing up, I was the picture-perfect Christian kid. I knew the right answers. When Christ renewed my faith, I knew the right answers but my life made those answers feel foreign, unfamiliar and unobtainable. 

I needed help but was given the impression I seemed “fine.” I was experiencing redemption, but I felt anything but fine. The day I told old friends why I needed a fresh start, a few people gave me very vague answers. I heard lines like, “I’ve been there.” “I know why you’re hurting.” 

… But in my childishly adult 20-year-old mind, those particular responses had come too late. I’d sat wounded and feeling alone for months. I had needed someone more spiritually experienced to get me back on track and it felt like that counsel never came. I’ll always remember the confusion I felt when I was told someone understood my struggles right before I walked out the door. I had no clue I had people to go to to get help… until it was too late. They seemed too perfect to include me.

So, I left and “started over.”

That was close to ten years ago now. Christ saw my spiritual hunger and gave me a Body of believers who loved me deeply but didn’t let me get away with anything. Change isn’t always a bad thing, and to this day, 3,500 miles away, I’m genuine friends with people from both churches. 

I was told recently that I seemed like a very “open book.” As a pastor’s wife, that sentiment is both terrifying and terrific. Too little transparency and people feel as if you’re fake. Too much transparency and your ability to co-lead with your minister husband gets hazy. I want to be relateable; I’m afraid of being a stumbling block.

As I struggle with finding that balance as a new wife to a pastor in training, I’m constantly kicked back to how I felt drowned in loneliness when I first came back to the Lord. I let people see my healed and now-beautiful wounds because I’m learning leadership first starts with being touchable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be in my group of believers. You don’t have to have all of your sin “Christianized” before being a godly impact on others. You simply have to be willing to realize Christ is the source of your joy and your love. When you realize that, your story loses its shame and Christ changes the game by being the Victor.

If you stumble over anything when you notice I’m an “open book,” may you stumble over the Cornerstone of Christ just as I did.

Forgetting to Enjoy Him 

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out new words. At four years old, I’d approach my unsuspecting mother with some variation of the question, “What does n-k-v-i-o-t spell?” I couldn’t wait to hear what word I had magically spelled. I loved the idea of making my thoughts known.

So, of course, I became a journalist. The challenge was always the same: Use the most descriptive words to say as much as possible with as little blank page used as possible. 

I was also the 8-year-old who secretly disliked playing with my peers but got a quirky amount of joy sitting with the elders of my church and listening to them talk about doctrine. At 13, I asked for my first concordance. I learned that I loved teaching others life-application within Biblical truths.

So, of course, I acquired a degree in Biblical studies. Within that realm, the challenge was always the same: Make one point as deeply understood as possible, all amounting to a minimum of 5,500 words. Create a masterpiece which looks like a mini-doctoral thesis. Good luck. 

Too often, I waste my time trying to fulfill both challenges when I share or teach Biblical truths. I wax as eloquently and precisely as possible. I use big words to sound authoritative and knowledgeable to appease my journalistic mind. For my theological background, I could write for pages upon pages to share truth I either found intriguing or applicable. My mind is constantly working through topics and how to share them.

What’s terrifying about that is I can be known for forgetting to simply share Jesus. It’s easier to fill a mind with knowledge than it is with love. It’s easier to foster a debate than it is to outline a soul’s need. It’s easy to teach about Jesus but difficult to simply share the essence of the beauty of Christ. 

I’m an analytical person, to put it mildly. I’ll study a topic till I’m blue in the face simply because I thrive on being intrigued. But when Jesus is the “topic,” I’m constantly being reminded it’s okay to sit still and simply enjoy Him. When we learn how to do that as believers, only then will the truths which we share about Him come to life for those watching.

My Battle With Shame & Jesus

There’s unspeakable shame in being disabled. No one would ever say that, but every disabled person struggles with not believing the lie. (My dear friends, it is in fact, a lie.) Every time their body leads them to a hospital, sleepless nights, scary conversations, backing out of responsibilities, or even merely asking a friend to help in an otherwise simple task, their tears can be summed up in one word:

Shame.

It’s hard to understand the shame; as it should be. When loved ones whisper to their disabled family member, “You did nothing wrong,” all that’s said in return is, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry.” Sorry for inconveniencing, sorry for causing worry, sorry for being a burden…

The shame leads to fear. I wish it didn’t, but it does. Questions like, “Why do you love me?” become mental thermometers to that person’s value because, well, obviously no one would want to be be coupled with the “perceived shame” of a disabled person. The best effort is made in making sure the discrepancy is never seen, or if it ever is, only through the veil of humor and lighthearted playfulness. 

Battling that shame as a Christian is a minute-by-minute battle. I cling to passages like John 9 when Jesus declares that the man in question was born blind in order to show God’s glory to those watching. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. Somehow, God uses those imperfections to make His name famous. He doesn’t make mistakes.

… I’m not a mistake…? When my body forces me to need my closest companion, I sure as heck feel like a mistake. 

1 Corinthians 12:22-25b says, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

No one wants to be the “weaker link.” We often laugh at that concept because we want to tell ourselves we aren’t the “weaker one.” But when we are… this passage becomes simultaneously comforting and terrifying. 

It’s comforting because we’re constantly reminded that God sees us. Its terrifying because we have to come to terms with the fact that our  “discrepancies” are more for the benefit of someone else rather than ourselves. If God gave us these limitations in order to sow the body of Christ together in a more genuine way…

How dare we feel shame?
 

Pain Helps Me

“Wait, my friend told me you have a pacemaker? I have a pacemaker!”

I’ll be honest, that was the last pick-up line I ever thought I’d hear anywhere. Subconsciously, I put my hand over the scar above my collar bone and made eye contact with the inquirer. I call my Vegal Nerve Stimulator a “pacemaker-like thing” to nonmedical people because most people couldn’t care less what epilepsy-related operations I’ve had.

What the heck was I supposed to do with someone who has an actual pacemaker?

Living in a small town affords for random people hearing my medical story from other super random people. Too often, self-made storytellers get my story wrong, though. I come to my quiet coffee shop in the mornings to get some alone time, but there has been more than one occasion where God whispers to my heart, “You and I have all morning. This person needs you.”

Sometimes, I act like I don’t hear Him. That’s when I discover God has a sense of humor as He throws me into super awkward pick-up conversations.

Twice I’ve been set up to chat with people who are still getting their minds around the fact that they need hardware in order to survive. Once, the man had only had his pacemaker for a month. This morning, my random new friend was processing having a pacemaker for a year and still facing complications. 

My story doesn’t feel similar. I’ve been post-operation for eight years now.

If it was up to me, I wouldn’t talk about my pain with these people. First off, I don’t know them. Second off, my pain is regulated and in the background. Their pain is most assuredly in the foreground. It doesn’t seem fair to them to be lumped in the same category. My pain means chest-pain and thirty seconds where I can’t control my head movement. Totally different from people who can’t trust their heart to keep beating.

But, it’s interesting how God shows up despite the fact that these strangers’ facts about my life are inaccurate. I’ve learned to chuckle when I’m asked about my “pacemaker scar” from someone I don’t know. Then, without much effort, I ask the only question I wish people asked rather than asking me if I was, “doing okay, today.” 

“What’s your new normal and how has that new normal made you look for Jesus?”

I sat with a total stranger today and discussed how pain is a conduit for God’s grace, rather than a cause for depression. As I walked away from my newest comrade, she smiled and asked a question I never thought I’d hear.

“Isn’t it weird how our pain makes Jesus’ love show up in a deeper way?”