Monday, July 23, 2007

Hindered Prayers and Atonement

Caution, this reads more like a personal entry out of my diary, but since I don’t keep a diary, I’m posting it here.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been increasingly grumpy when I get home. I don’t know if it’s work related stress or the fact that sleep is harder to come by with a newborn and a 18 month old who has been acting like a newborn, but for whatever reason, there is no excuse for sin, I’ve been increasingly sinful in my attitude towards Leslie and the children.

Ironically, God has been doing a work of grace in Leslie’s life over this same period of time. Several weeks ago, Leslie was feeling so overwhelmed by her job as mother of five (two of whom are under 18 months) that she really didn’t feel like she could carry on. After a long conversation late into the night (isn’t it odd how when you are already deprived of sleep, a good all nighter can really help out?), I ended up praying for Leslie that God would deliver her from this spiritual darkness that she was being consumed by.

Well, after two weeks of heading in different directions, Leslie increasing in her sanctification and myself backsliding, we were confronted by an onslaught of the stomach flu. Last Wednesday, Karis and Abigail were throwing up and Leslie was already overwhelmed by caring for Naomi (4 weeks old), the sick kids, and not to mention Isaiah’s feeble state with a broken arm. On Wednesday morning, before the flu set in, Leslie purchased a put-it-together-yourself wardrobe with her birthday money and phoned me at the office with what to expect when I got home (flu and wardrobe for me to assemble).

Well, when I got home, grumpy sinner that I was, I complained mercilessly about the quality of the wardrobe. I’ve never been impressed with pressed fiberboard. Leslie took it in stride and pressed on with her household duties. That evening when we got into bed, she kindly inquired as to whether or not I realized that it hurt her when I complained about her purchase, seeing that I was not providing enough for the family to buy a good wardrobe and even the one she was able to afford was from her own birthday money.

I tried to balance her perspective and mine and came to the conclusion that we were both half right. I should not be complaining and she should not be buying low-quality furniture. So, I laid down the law. No more purchasing furniture without passing it by me first. When Leslie tried to make sure that I understood the ramifications of what I was saying, I rudely cut her off in mid-sentence and reiterated the new rule in the Taylor household. Now since God had been working a miracle of grace in Leslie’s over the past few weeks, Leslie dropped it and we both went to bed.

However, the next morning I read 2 Samuel 21, where David inquires of God as to why Israel has been under a famine for three years and God does not seem to be answering his prayers. God replies that the land is under a curse because of the actions of Saul in attacking the Gibeonites. You may recall that hundreds of years before, Joshua made a promise to the Gibeonites that they would not be attacked. Yet, when Saul was king, he tried to wipe out the Gibeonites and God was now holding Israel to account. So David asked the Gibeonites what he could do to atone for the sinful actions of Saul. They requested that seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to be killed. And David gave the sons over and they were killed. Then we read this amazing sentence,
“And after that God responded to the plea for the land.”
I began thinking about our prayers being hindered by past actions that either we or others have done and it dawned on me that we have a similar teaching in the New Testament. In 1 Peter 3:7 we read,
“Likewise, husbands, live with you wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
As I put these two passages together, I began wondering how we, as sinful husbands, can make atonement for our sins against our wives, so that our prayers may be answered again.

When Leslie and I crawled into bed that night, I apologized to her for my complaining, rudeness, and other sinful actions of the past few weeks. I told her about my reading of the two texts and how I wondered whether or not there was anyway to atone for my sinfulness, beyond just confessing. Without skipping a beat, Leslie said, “You can help clean up some barf.” As she spoke the words, I knew the pronouncement of the Gibeonites had been made and that the channel of God’s wrath was confirmed.

The next morning, I woke up and called into the office. I would not be going into work; Leslie was overwhelmed with a newborn and a sick house and I now knew what I must do to atone for my sin; Leslie had spoken. Little did I know that the fulfillment of the major part of those words would be my own succumbing to the flu. And succumb I did! I’ve never been hit by the flu so hard before. Why is it that losing your lunch as an adult gets harder on the body than when you were a child? Naomi makes it look so easy!

Anyway, after being hit hard with the sweats and losing my lunch, I lay in bed for much of the afternoon. At one point, I felt the need to visit the restroom again so I got up, in the midst of a full flush of sweat and lightheadedness. Sometime later, I don’t know how long, I came to in the hallway, I really was confused at first, I had no idea how I got there. I realized that I must have been trying to make to the bathroom, so I decided to finish that task. This time I was only feet from my final destination and I figured, “Surely I can make it this time.” Well, before I could even drop my drawers, I passed out again. Yet this time I did some damage to the bathroom and my body. As I fell, I busted up the wooden paper dispenser on the side of the sink. I also came out with four large abrasions and many tender spots on my left side. I’m still not sure how my head was protected with each fall. Anyway, as Leslie’s last post indicated, this is when Leslie walked in and the whole world was falling apart in the Taylor home.

I am continually amazed by the grace of God. He tells us that he disciplines those whom he loves. He also tells us that he looks out especially for the weak and oppressed. God, in the same act, disciplined me for my good and he showed his extreme love for my wife. Touch not mine anointed! He also demonstrated to me the extent to which he has been working in Leslie’s life. In the midst of this most severe of afflictions, just after I came to for the second time, when all the world was screaming and coming apart at the seams, I looked up from the floor as I was attempted to crawl back to bed and I observed Leslie gently holding a distraught Naomi, full of smiles and contentment, trying to woe this little one back to a more peaceful state. I dare say, I was amazed. That simply was not in her just a few weeks ago.

So, in a way that I’ve only understood just a couple other times in my life, this text from Hebrews is a great comfort:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:5-7 ESV
Father, forgive me, for I have sinned against heaven and before you. Thank you for not leaving me in my sin, but instead bringing your loving discipline so swiftly. And do always protect my wife if I become so callous again. I know you will because you love her and she is an heir of grace of life.

Above: Naomi at five weeks

1 comment:

David Madeira said...

Great story, Chris, and the lessons involved. I hope all is returning to "normal" in the Taylor household.