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.)

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.

Clashing Cultures

For me, being “one of the guys” used to be a treasured status symbol as a female teenager. There was something affirming about football players bringing me into the crowd, and wrestlers bringing me into practice just because it “made sense” to have me there. Somehow, my 4-foot-11-inch frame and spitfire personality afforded me rarely understandable respect and leadership among the “in-crowd.”

(The one time I laid aside my jeans and t-shirt to put on an evening gown, curl my hair and go to Prom, one of the guys memorably told me it was, “…weird to see [me] as a girl.”)

Fast forward a decade, and I find myself married to my best friend, learning what it means to be a wife, preparing for possible motherhood, and not being a “to-heck-with-estrogen” female. I’m still a strong-willed leader, but I’m learning to let myself be led.

It’s not a rare switch, but spiritually, it’s an awkward one.

This last year of marriage has shed light on so many soul-deep realities of why Christianity clashes with my American Culture. As a woman, I’ve dedicated my life to creating a persona of independence, leadership, responsibility… all of it. I’m good at what I do, and I know what I want. Though it goes against everything within me, somehow my audacious spirit makes people listen to what I say.

But as a Christian, I’m asked (commanded, actually, but that doesn’t sound as easy on the ears to we Americans) to lay all of that at the feet of Jesus and let Him designate where I lead and when I follow. To the culture around me, it seems debilitating because I seem to give up without a fight when I hear God whisper, “Let go of this one. You’re not in control; I am.”

I know how to be a strong, independent woman. Yet following Christ calls me to depend completely on Him and thrive within my weaknesses–not in spite of them.

I’ve given up power and status to sit at the feet of a Man who led by being a sacrifice for people who didn’t deserve it.

No wonder the world calls me a fool.

More Than a Dishwasher

I can learn how to wash his dishes with joy… I think. 

I live life big. After living on the edge of my seat with crazy adventures and scenarios for 28 years, I’ve learned I don’t know how to live life halfway. I’m either all-in or not in at all. When I say I’ll do something, I either do all of it or I hold on long enough to hear the Spirit question, “Were you seriously made for laziness?” 

And then I hit married life to a dreamy dude who asked me to join him in the one dream that made me slightly nervous. When I married him, I knew I was marrying a ministry-worker. I had no comprehension of the seasons that would require us to live through as a young married couple. 

However, as I say often, Jesus giggled, and Peter’s ministry vision became my vision. My heart aches more for the mainstream students we work with than it ever ached for overseas ministry. I love what God has called us to as ministry workers. It’s not just Peter’s heart… it’s mine.

But then, we entered the season of seminary. Three years of books heavier than a healthy newborn and writing papers so long, I imagine I’ll reread them four times just to keep up with the theme. Seminary is Peter’s job, though. Not mine. He has 195 pages to read by tomorrow. I have three novels I’m half-heartedly reading which no one cares about. 

He’s in seminary. I’m a wife on the sidelines of seminary. I’m not doing much. But this adventure is asking me to give parts of myself I never found important in the other life changes I’ve experienced. 

During our dating life, being intentional with him meant telling my girlfriends I had to leave a bit earlier than normal to walk him to work. Now, while our marriage is shared with seminary, being intentional means sitting near him so he knows I’m present but letting him work on a paper I’ll struggle to understand. 

I’m still that chick who lives life big. But now that means doing my part to support the journey of our marriage. So, doing dishes isn’t glorious. Making appointments and researching insurance is tedious. But I’m doing those things so that when someone sees our marriage as a whole it’ll be easier to focus on one main thing: 

That Christ was the center pursuit of our time preparing for – and living in – ministry.

Unlikely Megaphones 

His cerebral palsy made mine look like a cakewalk. His hand wasn’t simply weak or lame, it was so twisted you only shook his thumb, not his entire hand. His speech was perfect, but he could only smile with one side of his mouth. His gate was jolted, unsteady and scary to watch.

I was 10 the first time I realized he was married; 12 when I met his wife for the first time. His wife never stopped talking about how happy she was and it was obvious they both loved each other and loved life. If anything, at my young age, I was a little grossed out by how “newlywed-ish” they were. 

But, regardless, I couldn’t get over it. He was married and he and I had the same disability. He was proof that disabled people could not only make marriage work, but make it work incredibly well. As a kid who struggled with being accepted because of my differences, the idea of ever being married was an impossible dream.

Over a decade later, with my own marriage as an example, I know the truth. My friend and his wife were not blessed with Pollyanna optimism. They both had to choose Christlike joy no matter their circumstances on a daily occurrence. But it came at a price. Almost always that price was steep, and equally worthwhile.

He had to give up his pride; she had to learn how to serve.

He had to trust her; she had to affirm him.

She had to learn to see beauty when other’s saw awkward; he had to learn how let her.

They had to work together to find fulfillment despite the daily hurdles they faced. 

They both had to learn to laugh at the unknowns and giggle at their differences.

They both had to ignore what the world said of their marriage and focus on what Christ called them to: Serving Him together and giving the world a picture of love.

Personally, I cringe every time I have to ask my husband for help. Memories of my mother entrusted with the same tasks and doing them alone taunt me on an hourly basis. But asking for my husband’s help gives me a chance to sacrifice my pride, and gives him a chance to serve like Christ. In return, I have a chance to prove God never wanted us to fulfill His glory alone.

In Sunday School, kids are taught the mantra and Bible verse, “In your weakness, He (Christ) is made strong.” Physical disabilities are proof of such truth. Marriages which involve disabilities are megaphones of that truth to the world. 

This disability is no longer my disability — it’s our platform to show Christ. What a glorious opportunity to be entrusted with… together. 

Laughing at Adjustments 

The “how’s-adjusting-to-marriage” questions crack me up. My dear husband of 20 days, in his insightful and sweetly introverted way, says what he always says. “It’s going well.” Only his family and closest friends know that it’s all in the inflection in his voice as to what’s underneath that statement. I find it funny, while quite a few others are left oblivious.

“It’s going well” = I’m tired, don’t know why you’re asking but I’m trying to be polite. I love my wife, it’s why I married her. So, yes. We’re good. Also, like everyone else, we still have no idea how to do this thing called marriage, so I don’t know what specifics you’re looking for. Need I say more?

“It’s going… well…?” = Help. I just discovered my wife’s hormones don’t magically turn nice when I tell her I love her. She’s crazy, a morning person, and went from laughing and crying four times today but I don’t think it’s my fault. So yes, we’re doing… well… just adjusting, that’s all. I still love her. I can just now fully confirm she’s human. 

“It’s going really well.” = We just somehow worked our way through yet another last minute crisis, and didn’t kill each other in the process. Also, I was just informed we’re somehow staying in-budget for the month after the 20th trip to a retail store. We’re good, just adulting and trying to remember that we live together now. Also, crockpot meals are awesome.

… My answers, on the other hand, prove to anyone wondering that I’m the chatty one in the relationship. In my late twenties and married for the first time, I laugh more at the little adjustments than he does. I’m independent, strong-willed, and sarcastic which means everything about marriage has been an amazingly fun, yet slightly awkward, adjustment. 

But it is going well. Not because we have it down perfectly, or because we don’t annoy each other at times. Marriage is going well because of the best adjustment of all: Peter is my reminder of Christ’s constant forgiveness and redemption and I am Peter’s. It makes life so much more fulfilling when we see Christ in each other. 

That’s the adjustment which always makes us laugh with joy.