We were young when Nate started his first business. Though trained in trade, young hearts need training beyond the task at hand.
Entrepreneurship was his chisel.
I wasn’t overjoyed at the route God had taken him, but I had enough years logged in marriage to have seen my natural intuition about Nate and his heart run a bit amuck. This had become the question-asking phase of my marriage. In the early years, I had answers. Lots of them. I was full of opinions about both me and him. Most of my frustrations, albeit subtle, came from his unwillingness to bend to who I wanted him to be.
But I exhausted that season (and myself) in the meantime. God was gracious to let me ride it out. He gave me over to it and my attempts to control my man were not only not working but they were sucking the life from me.
So here I was, married to an entrepreneur when I had signed up for marrying a “minister.” Time and the Father’s gentle hand on my back began to teach me that growth would come from more questions and less answers. Thus, I began to ask them.
Who was this man I had married?
Nate was asking them, too. Our twenties were the time to come undressed. Who were we underneath all those layers?
But there was a bigger unveiling necessary to answer this question.
Less than a year into the start of his second business, came the text.
Nate’s strength was not accounting and youth is for learning lessons the hard way. A simple bookkeeping error translated into months of red-numbers appearing black and tens of thousands of dollars of debt for his business. The hole was deep. Debt wrapped itself around our ankles when we — ones who “didn’t believe in debt” — weren’t looking. Down we went.
In days, we went from those living in plenty to those living in want, at least by the scale of our cushioned western world. The business owner is the first one to lose his paycheck when the company falters. We were forced to live off of the money we’d saved for our first adoption with no clear plan for what would happen in just a few months when that money ran out.
Nate was sick and I was full of even more questions.
What happens when you make the mistake of a lifetime? What does God do with the grisly mishaps that leave no one to blame but yourself?
He swallowed shame. Buried it deep and let it calcify against his insides.
And I cried with him over his pain and with God, in private, over my own. I’d barely just begun to trust this man God gave me. I’d taken mere baby steps towards relinquishing the part of my heart that believed I knew what was best for him and for me. And, now, this blow? The evidence on the ground gave me every reason to recoil and attempt to “regain” the control I never really had but fought fiercely to wield.
What does God do when the man He has called to lead me makes a misstep that might just break me?
He answered my question in the months that followed.
Month after month, the bills were paid. A friend wrote a check and sent us on a mini-vacation. Another covered a large chunk of our adoption expenses. We ate well and weren’t in want, though our bank account revealed otherwise. We couldn’t keep count of all the gifts that came to cover over that mistake.
We asked not a soul for monetary gifts — not because we were too proud but because, on this point, it seemed He was clear — we would know His hand, independent of any of our doing or asking. We didn’t speak of this hole we were in to any beyond our few closest friends.
But He whispered.
Less than a year later, Nate got a phone call. The voice on the other end was muffled. He was crying. This friend who had mercifully written a check to cover these tens of thousands of dollars of expenses — as an interest-bearing loan, to benefit both parties — had heard from Him.
“Tear up the note,” he said. “Your debt is paid. It’s no longer a debt, it’s a gift.”
The biggest mistake of my husband’s career, of his life to date — the one that taunted him with words like “foolish” and “irresponsible” and attempted to allure me into believing I’d be better leading myself — in one minute became one of our greatest stories.
And a year later we returned from Ethiopia with our children and an adoption nearly paid in full, without one single (human) ask.
God’s mercy doesn’t require our perfection. It requires a weak lean.
The year which — for a period — was labeled “the year of his mistake” was really the year He was teaching my self-sufficient husband exactly what it is that a Father does. The man who’d gotten the grades and aced the tests and had pulled himself up by his bootstraps, couldn’t climb out of this hole. And had I averted it, in a way we wives are so aptly equipped to do — had I sought to create that covering or carve a way out or make my own manna — I would have missed God revealing Himself to us as the one who provides. Extravagantly. Even when we don’t deserve it.
He is the one who covers over sin and error. Our multitude of sin. He doesn’t ignore it, or casually slough it off (this isn’t about cheap grace), He stares through it and forgives it in such a way that those parts of us aren’t just erased, but they are made new.
Failure has very little to do with what we’re not, and everything to do with what He is doing in us. Our successes don’t unveil who we really are. It’s when He covers over our failures that we learn our identity.
Who is this mysterious God, whose forgiveness takes the shape of redeeming our very worst moments?
This doesn’t stop our Paul-exhorted striving, it fuels it.
Why wouldn’t I run with a new kind of drive towards a God who who promises that His goodness doesn’t require my perfect execution, but that He is, instead, moved by my earnest heart’s pursuit?
And a note to wives: Let him fall. Let him fail. In both the big and the small. His heart is shaped in how he gets up. What you attempt to avert or save him from may very well be the holy chisel against his heart.
My husband’s mistakes — the very big, and the wee-bitty, small ones — have been the hardest for me to swallow and the sweetest for me to digest. Because a man learns the safety of repentance when he’s allowed to break in front of you. And you learn the crazy-beautiful love of the Father when you watch His response to your husband’s missteps.
Live in the place where you call him to an intense pursuit of walking the narrow by giving him dangerous permission to fail in his earnestness.
We want men who lean, weak, and lead out of the place of leaning but our efforts to save and avert them only reinforce the self-sufficiency which keeps a heart hard.
They come alive when He covers over them, not when they cover their own bases.
Your man may be one big (or little) mishap away from stumbling upon a response of the Father that will forever change him.
For Your Continued Pursuit: 1 Peter 4:8 | Psalm 57:10 | Isaiah 45:3 | Luke 7:47 | Isaiah 30:15 | Proverbs 24:16 | Romans 2:4 | Psalm 36:5 | Philippians 3:12-14 | 2 Corinthians 12:9 | Luke 13:24