Today’s post in the WordWashedWife series on prayer has been written by my lovely daughter-in-law, Sarah. I love her heart for God and I appreciate the story she shares about her marriage to my oldest son, JP. Sarah writes about her marriage to a prodigal heart and I am sure this post will speak to many. Prayer makes the difference! I am so thankful we serve a loving God of second chances! Keep reading, friends.
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it
Some of you may know me as Olive’s Mom (God is faithful) or JP’s wife (Shepherding the Prodigal Son). I am Sue’s daughter-in-law, Sarah. In honor of this month of prayer, Sue has asked me to share a time where my prayers for my husband were answered. This is a story about my path to true submission to God and my husband’s return to Faith.
JP and I met during a time when we were both far from God. My walk with God was distant and he had rejected his faith. We started dating in the summer of 2010 and that fall I transferred and joined JP as an Auburn student. We were inseparable. I was finally at my dream school, I had a wonderful boyfriend who despite my quirkiness loved me completely, and I had a vision for my future that I was pursuing head on.
Despite all this, I still felt the heaviness of baggage that I had accumulated over the years. I realized that even in this serendipitous state my heart was still broken. Months after dating I shared with JP the great deal of guilt and shame I had continued to feel from past relationships and choices. That night he prayed over me, asking God to pick up the pieces. It was a very heartfelt and sincere prayer. We both cried, and he told me that he felt that God was using me to draw him back. It was the beginning of our path to redemption, a path we were taking together.
We soon found a church and attended semi regularly through the remainder of our years at Auburn. I was hopeful of our future together. I eventually got to meet the Creekmore clan and fell even more in love. I saw a family that loved each other and loved Jesus. I saw the way his Dad led his family spiritually and assumed only that JP would lead in the same way once we married.
Fast forward two years and we were newlyweds living in Texas. We attended church there and even joined a weekly bible study. On the outside everything appeared to be great, but I quickly realized that JP was still struggling with disbelief. His façade was only obvious to me. He knew the gospel because it had been written on his heart as a child. He could very easily recite biblical truths in a group of believers; in the most eloquent way I might add. But behind closed doors he became angry and defensive anytime I broached the subject of faith. This discovery caught me off guard. I often responded with disappointment and anger. I didn’t feel capable of growing in my faith alone and feared a future without Christ as the center. I could not fully trust JP knowing his heart did not belong to Jesus. I needed peace of mind but was going about getting it the wrong way. I made it my goal to change JP’s mind instead of trusting God to work in his heart. My prayers were few, but I always had plenty to say. I proclaimed this great faith in Christ, but the fruits of my faith were few, if any. I continued to wrestle with my past. I struggled with anxiety and worry. I had often been critical and unloving towards JP. No wonder he struggled with returning to this faith I was professing. What difference had it made in my life?
JP eventually called out my hypocrisy and I withered. I realized that he was right. What did this faith have to offer? In my fear and frustration, I called a sweet friend of mine who had been a spiritual leader throughout my life. That day we decided to commit a month to prayer for our husbands. And so, we did. We prayed over the phone most every day that month. I remained outspoken, but I was finally taking steps to allow God to work in JP’s life. It would take more time to tame my tongue.
Two years after we said “I do” we were welcoming our son Joe into the world. I believe God used fatherhood to begin to soften JP’s heart. JP finally understood the love a father has for his children. Not long after Joe was born we found out we were pregnant again. With another baby on the way, we were both anxious to be closer to home. JP found a job back in his hometown of Alabama.
It didn’t take us long to settle in. We started attending his parents’ church and I found myself in a women’s Bible study. My study in God’s word would lead to many more conversations of faith. In my Bible study we were reading through Revelation. A book that, despite some harsh realities, showed me God’s grace and love for his children. Feeling quite confident in my new insights, I excitedly shared them with JP. His quick wit and intellectual points of view always seemed to leave me feeling outdone. But I continued in prayer nevertheless. Along with prayer, I had a new boldness for reading God’s word and learning his truths. I was finally taking responsibility for my own walk with Christ. My faith was grounded. I found myself being more gracious and patient with JP. I was slower to speak and quicker to pray. I had given JP’s heart to God but continued to create opportunities to talk about the word.
Finally, one night we found ourselves deep in conversation about a topic that we had visited often in the past. We were talking about the perceived conflicts of God’s attributes. How can God be loving and just? After much debate, I suggested we call his parents for some wisdom. They were more than happy to oblige. That night JP was honest in his doubts and disbelief. His questions were raw and unrefined - his anger and frustration apparent. This was JP in rare form, at least in front of anyone other than me. After hours of back and forth, JP finally surrendered. His parents led him in the sinner’s prayer. Years of prayer were answered that night.
As time progressed, I saw JP’s faith become his own. He now has a beautiful testimony that gives him a platform to speak into the lives of others during struggles with doubt. He now leads our family confidently, relying on the gospel truths that he’s known all along and this new understanding of God’s grace and love for him.
Looking back, I see that God not only used my prayers to transform my husband's heart but mine as well. I learned to trust God’s hand and submit to His will and timing! Months after JP surrendered to God we began the toughest year of our life. He knew that we would need him to cling on during this time. Our faith was tested and grew greatly through that year as it continues to do now.
If you find yourself in a similar situation I would encourage you to believe in the power of prayer and submit to God’s will. The answer is just a prayer away.