Sunday, February 27, 2011

Repenting with my children

I have an anger problem. In terms of when it manifests itself with whom, I'd say it shows up 0% of the time with adults, 0% of the time with other people's kids, and 100% of the time with my two boys. This week, I had a particularly bad round of it. And, to be fair, my boys were certainly provoking me. I yelled at them, calmed down, apologized for yelling, used normal tones for two sentences, yelled again at them (a little louder), calmed down, apologized, used normal tones for one sentence, yelled again at them (louder still), and … well … you get the picture.

Finally after herding cats, I mean boys, into the car (because getting my boys in the car when I'm angry seems so much like herding cats), I told the boys I had an anger problem (actually, I think I yelled it in anger) and told them I needed to pray. So right there, in the car before we drove out the driveway, I prayed. “God help me. I'm angry. Please forgive me. Please help me not be angry.” Then I heard a groan/cry from the backseat, turned around to look, and the four year old was sticking his finger in the 6 year old's mouth and yanking on his cheek. In that moment, I learned what REALLY makes me angry --- boys who don't respect prayer when mommy really needs it. I'm sure I must have literally had steam coming out of my ears at that point. Perhaps a vein was throbbing in my throat or forehead. Suffice it to say that my anger had NOT miraculously dissipated.

My 6 year old seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. He's the one who told me last week that he hated God because he prayed for a TV in his bedroom and God didn't give him one. We've been talking with him a lot about God's love for him and have been trying to cultivate thankfulness for all the many things God has given him. In the car, the 6 year old looked at me sweetly and said that HE would pray. He folded his hands nicely and squeezed his eyes shut. He opted for silent prayer. We waited. And then he opened his eyes. I couldn't resist asking him what he prayed for, and he said something about thanking God for the many things we have. He didn't mention help with my anger, so I'm not sure if that was included or not.

Something about that entire scene was like a big bucket of ice water being poured over my head. The vision of my formerly God-hating 6 year old sweetly folding his hands in prayer for me just did me in. But not in a bad way. I didn't feel shame. I felt grace and mercy. Really, God could have let me back my car into the wall in my anger and it would have served me right. But instead, He ministered grace to me through my son's prayer. He turned a situation ruined by my sinful anger into a moment of spiritual joy watching my son exhibiting child-like faith. It's called redemption. Deliverance. And I'm reminded once again that it is something only He can do.

For the rest of the afternoon, my boys and I had a really nice time together doing things that I had not expected to be enjoyable at all. For a few hours, the Kingdom broke into our sin-damaged reality and it was miraculous to behold. By that evening, we were back to the occasional fits of grumpiness and complaining that characterize us on normal days. But I went to bed with a renewed confidence in God's ability to redeem the worst of what's in me and instead of ruining my kids with it (which is a life long fear of mine), actually use it for all of our good to transform us into His image. Thy Kingdom come, O Lord.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For abused wives

In all of the discussions of submission or headship among complementarians, I haven't read much on what wives should do in abusive situations. Every time I post on being a strong helper, or the value of submission, or respecting our husbands, I always hear from a woman married to an angry jerk who abuses his authority and physical strength. Some women aren't physically abused but emotionally belittled. Many who write me sound so very discouraged, taking God's commands seriously and truly wanting to obey. They need clear teaching on when to endure WITH their husband and when to endure WITH CLEAR BOUNDARIES BETWEEN them and their husband. I am by no means an authority on this subject, but something needs to be said, so here goes my first attempt to write on this subject.

Here is my firm conviction (based in part on ideas I articulated in this post on the Christian's call to end evil in the world). What should you do if you are a Christian wife who loves God and His Word, believes in headship and submission, but is married to a man who physically abuses you and/or your kids? GET OUT.

You may say, “Shouldn't I endure and submit? Shouldn't I try to forgive and love unconditionally?” And my answer would be, “Absolutely!” But you can endure, forgive, and love unconditionally without staying in a place that actually encourages more sin. You aren't enduring with him in love when you stay in a place that invites abuse. We have a term for it now – enabling. If your husband has a porn problem, you aren't loving him by bringing him Playboy magazines, right? He might say, “Go get me a playboy magazine.” Or “I want to have a 3-way.” (Pardon the crude example—but I think we need an example like this to really get a grip on the difference.) We would never counsel a wife to submit to a 3-way because her husband is her head. NEVER! And the same wife who shouldn't bring her husband a playboy magazine should not bring him her children to abuse either.

Now, I would also counsel a woman in this situation definitely to endure in love, hoping the best for her husband. I would counsel her to pray diligently for his repentance and transformation and to believe confidently that God can do this. She should pray that he would repent to his children. But NOT from a place where she is enabling him to continue to sin against her or her children.

Issues of verbal abuse are a little trickier. But I use the same line of reasoning there. When you sense that your mere presence is provoking a sinful, angry response against you, remove yourself in love from the situation. You are submitting to God's moral law by not remaining in that cycle of anger even if you are not submitting to your husband in that moment. We recognize this hierarchy of submission in other areas. I submit to my government until they require something of me that is directly contradicted by God's Word. I submit to my parents until they require something of me that contradicts God's moral law. And the same goes with my husband. If your husband is abusing you, instead of focusing on the instructions to submit, you may need to start thinking in terms of loving your enemies.

If you are married to an angry man who hasn't physically acted out on that anger, I recommend Gary Thomas' Sacred Influence. He deals with influencing an angry man, and I found his treatment of it, while not exhaustive, certainly helpful. It may be a good starting point for you.

That's a very short treatment of the subject. Gospel grace, enduring love, and eating it are all still quite relevant when faced with the terrible evil of a powerful person using his power to physically wound those under his authority. You can both extend gospel grace and say no to the perpetuation of evil at the same time. But it has taken me a lot of thinking and wrestling with Scripture to get a vision for what that looks like. I have more thinking to do on this and maybe I'll flesh this out more in the future. But for right now, if you are in a physically abusive situation, please don't think you are serving your husband or God by facilitating his sin against you. And please, please, please get your children out and protect them.

**If you know of a Christian organization that helps women in such situations, please feel free to leave the link in the comment section. I know of places in the Seattle area, but I don't have recommendations for other regions.**

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Misnomer Righteous Anger

Who first coined the term “righteous anger”? It's not in Scripture. In fact, the only Scripture that links the term anger and righteousness says, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Why do Christians so regularly call something righteous that God says never accomplishes righteousness? I am coming to absolutely despise the term “righteous anger.” I'm biased. I have baggage. I've watched “righteous anger” used as a justification for some very bad behavior by Christian leaders in particular, and I want to stand up and shout out from the mountaintop to stop it all. I want to exercise my own version of “righteous anger” against their “righteous anger.” Sin against sin. That's the Christian way, isn't it? The last time I wrote about this, I was angry. Oh the irony of it all.

Instead of writing angrily about anger once again, I'm going to lay down my personal sword and attempt to pick up God's. If I can throw off my own baggage and look objectively at Scripture, I think I will be much better equipped to deal with my own anger as well as others.

The Bible does not use the phrase righteous anger. It never prescribes anger, and it never says an angry response was good. The only thing in Scripture that comes close is Paul's instructions in Ephesians 4:26,

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

So you can be angry and not sin. And the way to be angry and not sin is to DEAL WITH IT quickly, before the sun goes down. Note that this does not say you must deal with it and settle it with whomever you are mad. Otherwise, it's an impossible standard because it would be utterly dependent on the cooperation of someone over whom you have no control. I used to think that if I was angry at bedtime with my husband, I HAD to talk it out with him before we turned the lights off. He did not hold the same opinion, and often was not nearly as mad with me as I was with him. And when he didn't want to talk, that made me REALLY mad. He was forcing me to sin, or so I thought. It's taken a while, but I've learned that I can well deal with my anger without my husband's help. In fact, I really must. He and I can talk about the issue underlying my anger once I stop being angry, but it's never once worked for us to talk about it while I am angry.

So far, we've read that the Word says that if you are angry, do not sin. Deal with your anger before much time passes. That passage in Ephesians ends with a discourse on forgiving others as God has forgiven us through Christ. But how do you get from point A (raging anger) to point B (forgiveness)? Thankfully, we do have an outlet for our anger. It is God Himself. And He has left us many examples in the Psalms of believers crying out to Him in their anger and frustration.

Psalms 73 gives us an example of a guy who is vexed at the wicked.

12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

The Psalmist is frustrated about legitimate sins. Why are these evil people prospering?! He takes his vexation to God Himself, and God meets him in it and transforms him.

Consider also Psalm 10.

v 1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

And Psalms 42.

v. 9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"

If God didn't give me these psalms in His inspired word to instruct me, I would never have thought it OK to bring such raw hurt to Him in prayer. Yet, in His mercy, He invites me to pour out my raw emotions to Him. While much of my anger is caused by my own selfishness, some of my anger is legitimately caused by other's sins that deeply wound myself or those I love. I must pour out my frustration, my disappointment, and my fears to someone. And God tells me that, in Christ, I can boldly and confidently pour it out to Him. THAT alone is my hope for transforming it from anger (which God says in James absolutely will NOT accomplish anything righteous) to some other emotion or resolve that God can use for His kingdom purposes.

The great justification for righteous anger is Jesus' cleansing of the temple. We Christians love to go all angry-Jesus-on-the-temple. But here's the problem with that. We don't attempt to forgive other's sins like Jesus did. We don't attempt to turn water into wine or raise the dead back to life. There are a whole string of things Jesus said and did that we do not do ourselves because they were things that were evidence that JESUS WAS GOD. Jesus was Lord over the temple. You and I are not. We are infringing on things that are only His as God when we use His cleansing of the temple to justify acting out on our anger. Again, think through why you would not tell someone that you are forgiving their sins. What is the difference in telling someone that you forgive them of their sins and, say, washing their feet? Well, one Jesus did to show He was God, and the other He did to give us an example of servant leadership. That's the same difference between cleansing the temple and turning the other cheek.

In summary, Scripture teaches that the only righteous anger is anger that is not exercised. The only outlet for righteous anger is God Himself. The only righteous actions that stem from anger are those that come out of the other side of the sieve of God Himself—vexation poured out to Him that He transforms into something else (resolve, burden, compassion) that He can then use for His kingdom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reflecting on a Bad Marriage Gone Good

I am sensitive to the variety of life stages among the readers of this blog. Some of you are married. Some happily. Some not. A lot of you are single—some longing for marriage, some content. Some of you have been abused by your husband. You placed your trust in him and he squandered it, wounding you deeply in the process. Some of you lost a beautiful love, and the pain of that loss is real every day. For all those reasons, I hesitate to post this. Yet, I think, even in light of the variety of our life experiences, it is ok, even good, to admit THIS DAY that God has given me a precious gift in my husband. I am a well-loved wife.

I have not always FELT well loved in my marriage. My experience has confirmed to me the value of Gary Chapman’s assessment of the Five Love Languages. My husband and I both fumbled our early years together. There were many mistakes. Many times, we projected onto each other what we THOUGHT was happening based on our own ignorant assumptions. We each brought our own baggage into the relationship and still must work not to project onto each other latent fears from our individual upbringings. But most of all, we were often oblivious to the other’s attempts to accommodate and serve each other. I need words of affirmation. My husband flourishes under acts of service. He served me well when I was sick, working hard to provide for our family. But it took YEARS for me to recognize that as manifestations of his love for me. He has since learned to speak words of affirmation to me. Tonight, he said some beautiful words to me that made me feel appreciated. Respected. Loved. After a hard day, worn out after house cleaning and child rearing, his words of affirmation and acknowledgement were very meaningful.

We are reaching the witching hours of marriage—we'll be married 13 years this summer. And I am not ignorant of the marriage strains this stage of life puts on us both. But here are some principles that God has worked in my heart over the years to which I am looking for future hope.

1) Andy can't meet my deep heart needs. There is a desire placed in me in creation for God, and the curse is that it gets misplaced on my husband with horrible results. This desire placed on my husband is insatiable. I have needs he simply does not have the resources to meet if he tried nonstop 24/7. And most men are not going to try nonstop 24/7.   Instead, I first acknowledge my very real needs. I really do need to feel loved, valued, and affirmed. I NEED that! And God, in Christ, has spoken over me great words of love, has spoken clearly of my value to Him (it cost Him His Son!!), and has affirmed me by naming me a co-heir with His Son. That is absolutely unbelievable. And in those moments when I do not feel valued or affirmed in my home, I flee to the throne room of God and bask for a while in His great love for me.

2) God's most general instructions are the ones to which I need to flee when stress or conflict arise. Help. Love. Really, if I can't figure out what to do or am stressed by conflicting obligations, I flee to the characteristics of the great Helper and I Cor. 13. I often get caught up in the details of life, and the more the details suck me in, the more pressure I feel in my marriage. The healthiest thing for me in those moments is to force myself to zoom out. Forget getting the laundry done and the kitchen cleaned. What does I Cor. 13 love look like right now? Kindness, patience, giving the benefit of the doubt, never giving up on him. How does being a strong helper created in the image of God inform what I do and do not do in this moment?

There are probably more principles that I could put forward. But these really are the two biggies for me right now. Poured over and flowing through every other response is great confidence in Biblical grace. Grace and love are the oil in the engine that keeps every other working part from friction. Grace gives me confidence that laying down my sword in a conflict, enduring in peace, and returning good for evil (real or perceived) is not a prescription for continuing abuse but God's great plan for ending sin, conflict, and evil.

I'd like to end with the disclaimer I gave at the beginning. If you are not a well-loved wife, I hope these ideas still encourage you at some level. And remember that God has spoken the same words of belonging, love, and affirmation over you that He has over me. Whether you are loved on earth this way or not, you are most definitely loved this way in heaven.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grace Based Libertarianism

A few weeks ago, I read an article on child rearing by a somewhat reformed, conservative evangelical in which he distinguished gospel centered parenting techniques from what he called “grace based libertarianism.” It was a classic example of what my pastor calls being “suspicious of grace.” Here was an author who was learning the doctrines of grace, enamored by the concept of gospel centered living, yet still suspicious of the core value of the gospel – unmerited favor. Better known as GRACE.

We are all growing in our understanding of gospel grace and how it applies to the nooks and crannies of our lives. But I will say boldly that you and I haven't understood the gospel in its truest, purest sense until we stop being suspicious of grace. Or maybe I should say the converse. We HAVE started to understand the gospel in its truest, purest sense when we begin to recognize our suspicions with grace and subsequently start to put them to death. And our children are an excellent training ground for this very thing.

Remember how Jesus defines grace? Luke 6 is the best example. He uses the Greek word for grace, charis, repeatedly here.

... as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

I need to read this again and again, because I leak grace. I get filled up with confidence in the power of grace, but it seeps out as the day goes on. I need this reminder of what I'm called to do particularly with my kids very much this day. I worked through this in depth writing By His Wounds You Are Healed. I've led a Bible study on it twice in the last year. And STILL I leak grace. So, once again, because I need to meditate on it anew, here are thoughts on Luke 6 and grace from By His Wounds You Are Healed.

“When you give back what is earned or deserved, it is not charis—it is not grace. It is not favor or benefit, and it is not credited toward you as anything other than exactly what you are expected to do. Instead, grace does what is unexpected, undeserved, and out of line with reasonable responses. Grace is an unreasonable response—unreasonably good, but unreasonable nonetheless. When we give grace, this undeserved favor that does good to enemies and lends expecting nothing in return, then we give evidence of our relationship with our Father in heaven, because this is his calling card. He is kind to the ungrateful and evil. He is full of grace.”

I think, “Really?! I'm supposed to treat my children as I want them to be not as they actually are acting right now? I get that I'm not supposed to give an unreasonably bad response. But what about a reasonably bad response? Shouldn't they get what they deserve for acting out? But God says instead I'm supposed to give an unreasonably GOOD response. What does that even look like? And why doesn't that make my children's sin increase?!”

Here is my suspicion--if I really treat my children with grace instead of punishment, they will sin more. It's not natural for me to envision a scenario in which a grace filled response to them in their sin and failure actually helps them overcome their sin. First, I have a mistaken perception of what grace looks like. Grace doesn't mean simply being polite or diplomatic. And most of all, grace doesn't suggest we ignore sin. In fact, grace is meaningless apart from a stark understanding of the sin in question. Grace engages over the sin. But not with punishment. Grace is what moves us from returning evil for evil with punitive measures (a hit for a hit) to returning evil with good by discipling their hearts and training them in new ways to respond to their own issues.

Second, I am suspicious of grace because I have a shortsighted view of the future. I think if my children don't immediately change their behavior the moment I engage them over their sin issue, I have failed. If I don't reactively punish them, I think they'll abuse my grace. And maybe tomorrow, they will. But God's view for them extends well past tomorrow. It is of eternity. Every adult Christian friend of mine who gives positive testimony of a parent universally tells me of how their parents ENDURED with them through their hard seasons and how that perseverance drew them to repentance.

The techniques we teach for child rearing are as good an indicator of our understanding of gospel grace as anything. It is interesting how reformed Christian teachers and parents who really should know better still embrace the very techniques that God called ineffective at transformation—law, punishment, and penance—and disdain or mock (as did the author in question) the methods our Father in heaven embraces in His plan for His children—a wooing with grace and kindness that draws us to repentance. We do this because we really don't believe Biblical grace works. We have for the most part graduated from a performance based Christian parenting model to a heart based Christian parenting model. Almost everyone in my Christian circles (which are varied) over the last decade or so has gotten that external conformity apart from internal heart change is of no value. But we still often attempt to change the HEART by external pressure. Through guilt, manipulation, or shame. “Look at ALL God has done for you! Why don't you love Him? Why aren't you obeying Him? He's so wonderful and you're just a worm. Your heart is wicked.” We're trying to get to our kids' heart, but we're using the same old tactics legalists use to change externals. Guilt. Shame. Manipulation.

If you feel threatened by what you view of as grace based libertarianism (which actually is a meaningless term), it's likely because you don't really believe that grace works and that it's what is required by you. If that's the case, go reread Luke 6 and ask yourself if it's relevant to your children. But even if you are convicted that you do need to parent with grace (as I am), it doesn't mean you do it consistently in the moment.

Perhaps you simply failed in the moment. You very much wanted to patiently disciple your children in the direction that God is taking them, but instead you got angry at where they were in the moment. I'm there on a regular basis. I am learning that the gospel equips me to deal with this without shame or condemnation. I face it and correct it.  And I have hope that this response won't always characterize me.

Maybe you did it right, and it still fell apart. Or there wasn't any perceptable change at all. You're not sure if your reactions were right or wrong, and you see no noticeable good results one way or the other. What is the point of responding patiently in grace if it doesn't fix the problem immediately? God's long term view for His children equips you to deal with this without bitterness or the loss of hope. The gospel gifts you with perseverance and confidence in the eternal results.

I Cor. 13:7-8 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Short Man Syndrome

In a recent sermon from I Corinthians on our bodies, one of our pastors gave the most honest assessment I have ever heard of the struggles we face when we can't reconcile ourselves to the body God has given us.

“I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys, and the way you gained respect in my neighborhood was through physical prowess. You had to be the strongest, the most athletic, and because I was smaller, not only because I was younger but because of genetics, I was often ostracized. I was made fun of, and I remember those moments. … I at an early age decided the way I would deal with the pain is by becoming someone who is more athletic than you, smarter than you, who is better than you. That has defined my life and brought all kinds of chaos and trouble.”

In his case, the issue was height and stature. But this struggle can be generalized to a myriad of issues, real or perceived, we have with our bodies--weight, height, shape, fertility, or whatever.  For my pastor, this wasn't a perceived problem. It was how he was really treated by his peers in his neighborhood. And women know too that we regularly get treated better or worse based on our appearance. Not long ago, I went to a fast food restaurant with a trim, attractive blond girlfriend. The same cashier waited on both of us, and the night and day treatment when he switched from my order to hers was about the clearest demonstration of it I've ever seen. Um, wow! That was … clear. I wasn't bothered by it, but it did strike me and cause me to ponder these things.

In his sermon, my pastor pointed out that issues with our body are carried with us at all times. We have moments away from spousal problems, kid problems, or work issues. But we carry our body with us everywhere we go all day long. In response, we develop all kinds of coping mechanisms to deal with our perceptions of our bodies which, as my pastor put it, can bring all kinds of chaos and trouble. In contrast, the gospel equips us to view our bodies in a totally different way, NO MATTER their shape or size, strengths or weaknesses.

I Cor. 6: 13-20 ... The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! … 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. ... 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The specific issue Paul is addressing involves sexual immorality. But consider how the principles he teaches transcend just sex and create an all-encompassing view of our bodies.

First, in Christ, our body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. There are all kinds of implications to that teaching that I am only beginning to comprehend. “What?! God, I know you are FOR me, but you are also FOR my body?” This implies that me and my body aren't distinct from one another. That what's good for me is good for my body and vice versa. This challenges a monastic view of our bodies and desires that marks them as bad and the squelching of desire as the necessary path to superior Christianity. The good feelings I get from a pedicure or time in a warm jacuzzi are not opposed to godliness. I can and should worship God even then. Especially then.

Second, as God raised the Lord, He will raise up our bodies. Implied is the acknowledgement that my body right now is broken and missing the mark of perfection. And yet I KNOW it will not always be so. It's helpful to think of myself not in a completely different perfect body, but in the very body I have now in its own perfected state. It may seem weird, but it is very helpful to me to think of what my very own body, hair color, and shape might be like in the resurrection.

Finally, my body is a member of Christ and the dwelling place of God Himself. My BODY. However I perceive my body and its flaws, God has spoken something over it altogether different. His good word to me through Christ encompasses all of me, including the parts of me physically that bother me the most. And just as His lavish grace gives me a new perspective on my soul and emotions, it does so for my physical appearance and limitations as well.

This is a good word to me right now because my body is letting me down. I want to despise my feet that continue to pain me day in and day out and affect my ability to serve my children. The things to help my feet hurt my back. My attempts to lose weight and get back some semblance of a waistline hurt my neck, which affects my sleep, and so forth. Turning 40 was rough on me physically. But right now, I'm meditating on the promise that THIS body of mine will be made new in perfection. These ankles won't turn in. This neck will stop hurting and start feeling strong to carry me upright. I'll pull my insulin pump out of my stomach and throw it into the abyss never to be needed again (and I'm thinking I will no longer have a saggy chin). Most importantly, in the meantime, the God of creation is living in me and boldly declares that He is for both me and my body.  He has said a very good, sustaining word over my body that transforms how I think about it.  

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Discovering Jesus behind the Trash Can

This excerpt from Paul Miller's, A Praying Life, was poignant to me, both in terms of marriage and raising my children.  

Imagine that Sue's husband, Joe, takes out the trash every Tuesday. It's his job. Last week he forgot to take it out , and then again this week. He's usually good about taking out the trash, but Sue tells him, “Honey, you forgot to take the trash out agin.” She says again with emphasis and more than a little irritation.
What's behind her irritation? Why does she feel compelled to add a twist to the word again? Because it is a hassle to take out the trash. It makes her late for work. If she doesn't say again, then her husband will keep forgetting. If he doesn't see that this is becoming a pattern, she'll be taking out the trash for the rest of her life.
Notice Sue's underlying assumption: “It all depends on me. If I don’t show him, no one else will.” God is absent from her thinking: consequently she believes it's up to her to make her husband hear her words. If he doesn't, she fears she'll be swallowed up by his forgetfulness. ... She refuses to accept the possibility of endlessly taking out the trash on Tuesdays. It is unacceptable.
Sue is in charge of her life, determined to make her kingdom pain free. Even if she prayed, prayer would just be another weapon in her arsenal of control. God would likely disappoint her, and she'd end up bitter at both her husband and God. Ironically, self-will often becomes a self defeating prophecy. The berated spouse pulls back; he not only stops taking out the trash, but he also stops opening up his heart.
Self-will and prayer are both ways of getting things done. At the center of self will is me, carving a world in my image, but at the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son's image.
It never occurs to Sue that God might want her to take out the trash for the rest of her life, because to do so would mean she is letting her husband take advantage of her. But isn't Jesus endlessly taking out the church's trash? Isn't this action another way of loving an enemy?
What would happen if Sue puts off self-will? She doesn't know.  How will God intervene in her husband's life? What does God want to do in her life? What beams will she discover in her own eye? Forgiving her husband would mean losing control.
If Sue surrenders her self-will, she will join Abraham walking up Mount Moriah with Isaac. She will join David as he puts down his knife when Saul is within his reach in the cave. Sue is abiding. She has lost control of the story.
When Sue shifts from self-will to a prayer fellowship, it feels scary, as if she is jumping over air. In fact, she is leaving the unstable foundation of her own self-will and entering the stability of God. She is living out the prayer, your kingdom come, your will be done. Instead of trying to create her own story, Sue will be content to let God write his story. If her husband's forgetfulness turns into a habit, she'll be drawn into deeper prayer fellowship. The trash is likely the tip of the iceberg in his life. He might have issues of self-will, laziness, or just plain selfishness. Sue will have fewer words for her husband and more words for God. She'll also reflect on her own heart. Are there any areas of her life where she does the same thing? She'll discover Jesus on the other side of the trash can.