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.

Advertisements

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.)

Broken, Scared, & Beautiful

Shortly after my last post, my husband, Peter, and I were approached by some very sincere, genuine people asking us hard questions. Questions like:

“How do you do it? How do you make marriage work? Why did you choose each other? How can this be a good marriage when there’s so much turmoil underneath it?”

Peter and I have not hidden the fact that I am frustratingly disabled, that it impacts our marriage, and that my disabilities have been the crux of some beautiful God-sightings in the last year. To-date, I have cerebral palsy, epilepsy, broken heart syndrome, and a blessedly evasive anxiety disorder. It makes for some splendid fun (or somethin’).

Early on in our dating relationship, we had a few, very brutal-to-my-heart conversations about how I couldn’t sugarcoat the emotional and mental price I paid for the body I live in. Originally, I had a plan. The plan was to hide everything from Peter, and lead him to believe having a disabled significant other wouldn’t be hard. After witnessing a seizure which lasted a horrendously long afternoon, Peter gave me an ultimatum:

Tell the truth, trust him, or walk away.

For a woman who had been led to believe men wanted the perception of perfection and nothing else, that gentle demand was a harsh change of perspective on me. But from then on out, he slowly and methodically learned every dot and tittle of what living in my disabled self meant.

Two months before we were married, my strong-as-an-ox, healthy-as-a-horse future husband signed over as my Power of Attorney an hour prior to an emergency surgery which had more risks than we wanted to admit. Peter handled it like the God-fearing man he is, and signed on the dotted line after phrases like, “In the event this patient cannot respond, I the undersigned…”

Whatever dreams we had of riding off into the sunset together as a married couple came with a few clouds. And a horse with a limp. And no money. And… so many things which we weren’t willing to admit scared us.

Regardless, after all that, we thought transitioning into marriage with disabilities included would be a breeze–or at least a low-challenge adventure.

We–were–wrong.

The next season of posts — maybe three, maybe 40, maybe a 300-page book in the making — are thoughts we wish someone had shared with us before we were married. Thoughts about sharing a disability between two people but one deformed body. Thoughts about what it means to give up perceptions of perfection in order to strive for fairness and sacrificial love.

Mainly, you’ll hopefully find practical “You need to think about this” stories and anecdotes which made us shake in awe and wonder at the greatness of our God and how marriage points us to Him. Most of these posts will likely take on a “She-Said-He-Said” approach. We are both authoring these entries. They will all be real. They will all be raw. Some of them will be a bit terrifying.

And if you are like me–Peter–whose life hasn’t been controlled by the challenges of disabilities, I hope and pray you read these stories as things to glean from for your own marriage. Ultimately, I pray this series reminds you that marriage at its core has one design. Marriage was designed by God to be the light of Christ to the world, and though that design doesn’t mean marriage has to look one specific way, His light can be portrayed through different circumstances in different ways.

As the healthier person in this marriage, I have been taken down a road of humility and grace. This journey, designed by God, has now given me the eyes to see people I have never thought about before. So to you, I hope God will open your eyes not only to where you can grow to be a godly, supportive spouse, but to also have your eyes opened to where God is desiring to change your life’s perspective to become more like Him. It will hurt. Give yourself time to grow. Remember, though, He is still with us in those hard times and He is walking us down a road we could have never imagined on our own.

Over the next weeks, months, and years as we tell you our story, we pray this allows you to ask questions about our Jesus which are all answered with one simple phrase:

“Neither one of us deserved love; but Love Himself decided to love us anyway.”

To those of you who asked the questions roughly quoted at the beginning of this post, hopefully you’ll come to understand what we have fallen in love with. We needed Christ more than we needed each other, and we “make it work” by asking God to give us the strength to not ignore when marriage is hard. Because, if we focus on Him, the spirit-deep turmoil and unique challenges of a marriage with disabilities is so very worth every second.

Reviving My Song

The day I stopped singing, people started asking me imposing questions. “What’s wrong?” “Who hurt you?” “Why’d your song die?” Being the ever-ready, people-pleaser, I tried — I really, really tried — to sing just to get the people off my back. I tried smiling while I sang my favorite hymns. I tried faking having a song in my heart. 

I couldn’t do it, though. The song was dead. At 20 years old, I no longer found a reason to sing upon waking up. There was no joy. There was no peace. Jesus felt like a childish figment of my imagination. Every powerful, Christ-centered truth I had relied on throughout my childhood was very much paralyzed in my life. My song had died. I felt helpless in my attempts to act as if it had not. 

Sin is not a placid monster to play with. My life had become proof that selling your soul to a lie takes away every ability to experience peace –let alone live in it. My heart’s joy and peace were once upon a time so abundant I couldn’t help but sing everywhere I went. It was in music I found intimacy with Jesus which took my breath away with its beauty. Living in sin killed that intimacy. 

Once, while standing in a empty wooden cabin, my comrade within the sin mockingly told me to, “… sing something and make [him] believe I meant it.” All I knew were hymns, and somehow, all I remembered from my childhood was “Amazing Grace.” As my tongue struggled to remember the words, my heart pled with my mind to treasure the joy.

I couldn’t. It was just a song. It was merely an exercise to test the acoustics in my friend’s cabin. I had wandered away from the Lord, and my song did not follow. 

Yesterday, seven years later, I stood with fellow Christians singing “Come Thou Fount.” 

Prone to Wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above. 

My heart nearly burst with the memory of the dead joy in such a song mixed with the current reality of my redemption. My song is back. My Lord is not dead. God has finally revived my heart’s song. 

These songs hold sweeter truth simply because I understand the price paid in order to bring me Home. 

When the Future Changes

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Or, as one of them clarified, if I did get married without them, they’d act like the marriage was a figment of my imagination until they could reinact the ceremony with their involvement. (I didn’t dare act like they weren’t serious.) 

Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together as far as who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding, who got to kiss my cheek first and who got to harass my groom the best. 

I could never decide if their surrogate- fatherly arguments warmed my heart or added to my anxiety. Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion. I was loved, that’s what I needed to remember. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours (and I mean hours) almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me the hard questions no one else wanted to ask. 

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other.  It didn’t hit me until last night for some reason that neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support this man when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?” 

Even at 16, they warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other nonrelated acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them that they can prepare for a storm before it comes? 

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to immulate the Christ-like characters we focused on the most?

Beautiful Fear, Bearable Pain

I was 16 the last time I witnessed to a nurse in the operation room.

It was 4:30 in the morning and right before he put me to sleep for my third and final brain surgery, he asked me if I was scared. Apparently, when I answered that I “couldn’t be,” that was enough to delay the surgery for a few minutes while I explained the power of Jesus. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he responded to the Gospel truth.

I just remember realizing my pain was a beautiful gateway to Hope. I had to come to grips with the fact that the sleepless nights, tears and unknowns were being woven together not so I could benefit, but so that I could be available for someone who I’d never see again. 

Three days ago, I went in for what was basically a low-end emergency surgery. The implanted technology that manages my epilepsy treatment was as dead as a doornail. The medical team could either replace it now, or I would go without treatment for up to three months due to scheduling complications.

I’m not usually a skittish person when it comes to surgeries. I’m skittish about other things like love, careers and the idea of motherhood, but emergency surgery? Meh. It happens all the time. I’ll be fine. Only this time, my fiancé and I had 12 hours to process the news of the surgery, let everyone know, fill out the paperwork and get to the hospital on time. We didn’t have time to breathe, think, or process.

This was also the first time I was leaning on my abundently-capable future husband for something completely out of my control. I trust him, but can I have a girly honest moment here? No one wants to have a memory of looking at their fiancé and saying, “You’re my primary emergency contact. No big deal. Nothing’s going to happen, it’s just paperwork… but, um, since you’re basically my spouse, you, um… I love you?” (It’s especially awkward when you’re making these statements at 5:30 in the morning.)

Three days ago, fear was incredibly present. 

When the lead technician came to investigate my implant, she acknowledged my tattoos, trying to get me to relax. Somehow, we went from talking about ink to talking about how she wants a tattoo that will remind her not to waste her life. “I’m just sick of wasting everything, ya know?” 

She was a genius medical technician, and she felt as if her life was worthless. Immediately, my fear left me as I reached for my fiancé’s hand. My life wasn’t wasted. My life wasn’t pointless. I was facing unknowns, but my pain had led both he and I into that room that very early morning for a reason.

We were given a very real moment to silently pray for a woman who felt invisible. That gave me hope. My pain has never been more beautiful.  

Feet Showed Me Jesus

I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet. 

Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable. 

But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet. 

She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been? 

Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore. 

Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.” 

I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”

It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.

So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet. 

Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool? 

What if God got it wrong?

Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving?