I confess I’m not much of a poet or even lover of poetry (much to my detriment, I suspect), but my thoughts turned today to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous Sonnet 43, as I think of the love I have for Nancy.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Missing from the all in those last three lines of how I love my wife, I must all too painfully admit, until of late, would be prayers. Breath, smiles, tears, and prayers, of all my life.
The conviction of this lack came strong from God at the Desiring God pastor’s conference a couple of weeks ago with Joel Beeke’s message on family worship. In the panel discussion the day after that message, someone asked the speakers how well they fare in applying the principles Dr. Beeke taught from the example of the Puritans. Beeke himself claimed to have never failed in one day of 22 years of marriage to have prayed with his wife, even from the road when he travels! I felt about two inches tall.
Francis Chan, on the other hand, brought things back to the reality for most of us, I suspect, when he admitted he might pray with his bride once a week at best. He admitted that Beeke’s message hit him hard. No duh.
Then John Piper chimed in with his admission that he finds it easy to pray in public as a pastor but hard to pray in private with his wife. He added, “If we show in public an intimacy with the most important relationship we have vertically with God by the way we pray, but fail to demonstrate that in the most intimate relationship we have horizontally, something is amiss.” He got that right. Knock me down another inch.
So I came home from Minneapolis determined to do differently. Have to admit, last night, I dropped the ball again. Praise God for the gospel. But by and large the Lord has helped me take a different tack in our home and I am grateful.
How do I love thee, dear Nancy? Lord, help me to repent in the most grievous way I do not.