Real men are spiritual leaders in their family. At least that’s what I thought they said when I returned from a ministry event for men in the summer of 1994. That previous February, I had been brought to repentance by God: a profound experience of transformation by His grace. But there was a lot of baggage that I carried forward that had to be dealt with before I could even begin to think of being a leader of anything spiritual.
I announced to my wife the encounter I experienced with Jesus that had renewed and transformed me. I expressed to her that I wanted to be a good husband and things would be different. She could experience this too and things would be so much better between us…and on and on I went.
When I finally stopped talking, she said, “That’s just great. Leave me out of it.”
The air went out of my tires. I wanted to be able to say like Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
But the wife and family did not believe the leopard could change its spots. That is when the praying began.
Family cannot be harassed into the Kingdom of Heaven. I tried it anyway. I got to be a real pill and my family and friends thought that I had become as nutty a Christian as when I was a practicing sinner. I felt called to the preaching ministry and I practiced on my wife and sons.
My wife ignored me in that regard and my sons turned up the static noise to drown out the sound of my impromptu homilies. But one thing I am thankful for; both of my sons have turned out to be good Christian husbands.
My father gave my oldest son a Bible for graduation from high school. He read it and came to faith while at the university. He and his whole family are believers and have been baptized. But he has little to do with me these days and I wish he could see the change that Jesus has made. My youngest son is close to me but not as close to the Lord as I wish, but I pray and am hopeful.
The turning point for my relationship with my wife came in prayer when I received a word in my spirit from the Lord.
“She belongs to Me, do not harass her. You do what is right and leave her alone for Me.“
So, I decided to not talk to her about faith towards God; to accept her desire to not come to church with me; to work to be a good husband to her and set a good example.
How the Lord saved her is another story, but He did, and now I believe my wife is growing in faith and practice. God saved her but my part was work and patience.
Learning to be a spiritual leader
I have a certain empathy with Jacob and his relationship with Rachel. He worked seven years for a wife he already had. That is what it took—seven years. I learned in that time of working for my wife what it takes to be a spiritual leader.
Integrity is not built in a short period of time. People will not follow someone who hurt them but only follow those who are trying to help them and demonstrate it with loving actions.
Leading is not driving people along, but rather convincing people that it is in their best interest to follow. It has been a long and sometimes lonely road to be a leader. I am still learning and trying to be a better husband and spiritual leader. God is my helper and I look forward confidently.
George Cargill is a fourth-generation pastor. His first novel, In the Grip of God: Journey into Corinth, chronicles the trials of the early Corinthian church through the eyes of the Apostle Paul. You can read more from Pastor George on his blog at georgecargill.com. Visit his ministry at https://followingthebook.org.
In the Grip of God: Journey Into Corinth
Alone, beaten down, out of money, and pursued by his enemies, Paul leaves wealth, power, and love to bring the gospel to the great pagan city of Corinth. Facing danger and death, he must find a way to survive the laws of both the Jews and the Roman Empire itself. Soon, Paul finds himself no longer seeking God’s will but being inexorably carried along by Divine purpose.