Unity Takes a Wholehearted Effort

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“I, therefore, as a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” — Ephesians 4:1-3

As I sat at the kitchen table this morning, bitter and frustrated, I began to unpack these verses in my D28 study. On Saturday we went to the Virginia Tech Homecoming Parade, hung out around the house, and caught up on chores and family time. Sunday morning, we were in church and spent the afternoon celebrating my Mom’s birthday with my entire family. It was a great weekend, really. Sunday night, as we laid Marlee down for bed, I noticed that her head felt hotter than normal so we took her temperature and, sure enough, she had a fever.

The rules of daycare say that she can’t come if she has a temperature higher than 100.1 and she must be fever-free for 24 hours before she is allowed back in. At this point, I wasn’t sure what Monday would hold. When 9:00 a.m. Monday rolled around and she was still asleep, I decided that it would be best to stay in for the day. We spent the day resting, playing, and fever free. By bedtime, the fever returned and, at 2:30 a.m., I woke up to Marlee crying, which is very unusual. When I went in to check on her, there was no obvious reason for her to be upset, so I got in bed with her and we snuggled until she fell back asleep.

When I woke up this morning, there was no denying that she would be home again. John and I discussed our plan for the day as he was headed out the door for breakfast with a friend. He was going to go to work for a few hours after breakfast and come home around lunchtime so I could meet up with a friend for lunch and then go to work. As I was showering and getting ready, I just felt this bitterness, even resentfulness, toward this entire situation and John. It seems like, whenever Marlee is sick, I am always the one missing work, or meetings, or workouts. It seems like I am always the one who is getting up in the middle of the night to check diapers, take temperatures, give medicine, and snuggle her back to sleep. The thoughts swirling around in my head focused only on me.

During my quiet time, I was convicted by Paul’s words to the Ephesians. My bitter, resentful heart was not walking in a manner worthy of my calling. I was focused on me and not on showing the sacrificial love of Christ to my husband and daughter. I was not being humble or gentle. I was fighting because I felt weak and I could not assert dominance in this situation. I was being judgmental and harsh. I was not eagerly seeking to be unified with John. In fact, I had made him the villain of this whole situation.

In Scott Duvall’s workbook, Getting the Most Out of Ephesians, when talking about unity, he writes that “the word translated to ‘make every effort’ carries the idea of working with determination even when the task is difficult,” and that “preserving unity demands a wholehearted effort from the whole person.” Ouch.

As I read those words, my heart began to soften. I was reminded that the unity in my marriage was not built on who worked more, who made more money, who tended to Marlee’s needs, or any other circumstance of this world. The unity in my marriage was built on Christ. I was reminded that I am not asking God to join me in my mission, but He is asking me to join Him in His. I realized that I am weak and that is okay. I realized that I was not making any effort at all to keep unity in marriage and, in doing so, I was being disobedient.

If you are reading this today, and you are struggling to make every effort to preserve unity in your marriage or other relationships, pray this with me…

Father, thank you for the new life that you gave me in Christ. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent Jesus to rescue me from my sinfulness. I confess to you that I don’t like feeling weak and I have not been walking in a manner worthy of your calling. I ask that you would guide me in being humble and gentle, patient, and bearing others in love. I pray that you would continue to remind me that my relationships are unified in you and you alone and that you would give me strength to give a wholehearted effort to preserve that unity. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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