Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Romancing the Authors Week: The Hickmans on Finally Getting it Right

Next week chat with authors from down South about how life as a Southerner--whether born or transplanted--has affected their life and faith!

Today’s a very special day. It’s my first time to invite as my guest my dearest Beloved, my Babe, my hubby Pastor Randall Hickman. Randy is the Lead Pastor of Stonehill Community Church, serving the NC communities of North Charlotte and Lake Norman. We planted Stonehill nearly a decade ago. Since its beginning we’ve witnessed many miracles. We took our three children around in Lake Norman, knocking on doors and started our church with new converts. We invited 33 people to serve the Lord that first year. But we’ve also known tragedy, when in 2001, our daughter Jessica was taken suddenly in a car accident.

Randy and I have been married going on thirty-one years. Our two sons are both studying the arts in college, are scholars, and both of them serve Christ wholeheartedly. But before our husband and wife ministry endeavors, we were a couple called out of darkness into the awesome light of Christ. So we’ve painfully and joyfully known the highs and lows of being in love.

RANDY: I like to think more about those high-high’sJ

PATTY: Yes you do. You’re the most optimistic person I know. Which is why I feel it’s my place to balance that out with practical crabbiness. Babe, you’ve married a lot of couples in your years as a minister. This week, my friends and guest authors have shared about the highs and lows of being in love, and have offered the woman’s viewpoint. To balance that out, I’d like ask you, what advice do you like to give new husbands at the starting gate of a marriage commitment?

RANDY: I like to start with the marriage vows. As for me, I was more interested in the honeymoon’s activities than paying attention to my responsibilities and commitments as a new husband. I had no real concept of what it meant to love, honor and cherish and certainly no idea of how I would fulfill the vows I was making. I have been impressed with young couples who seek out mentors to help them through the first years of marriage. I wonder now how differently our first years would have turned out had I, along with all the passion, also had a mentor to go to for help.

PATTY: Yes, we like to tell other couples that it’s a sign of maturity to ask for help. For me, the biggest turning point in our marriage was when you came home from work one day when you were on the staff at NASA. Do you remember that?

RANDY: Sure, I cried for three days…more tears in a couple of days than in my entire life. I could only pick up one radio station in my basement office and every day at noon the show host would read a page from a book written by a missionary. One day he retold a story about missionary Charles Greenaway. Greenaway’s story arrested me… a selfless life, losing his entire family on the mission field while still keeping the faith. I saw my life flash before my eyes and realized how “about me” my life had been. By the time I stopped crying I knew that my life had to be about something bigger than me and my little world. As you know, I was able to meet Rev. Greenaway a few years later. It was such a privilege.

PATTY: Yes, it was an iconic moment. From my side of your story I remember how contrite you were. I had nearly given up praying for you and for us. I realized how hard-hearted I had grown. My pride over “your sinful condition” was just as toxic to our relationship as your indifference to God. I harbored bitterness, pride, and resentment and was in desperate need of God’s forgiveness too. Pride is just as blinding as apathy. Your newly broken state brought me to my knees. But I was so thankful that God was restoring us. We were on the verge of a break-up back then. From that point on you came home and established a family altar. We were so radically turned on to Christ, we got rid of the TV for seven years. Our evenings were spent praying, reading the Bible, reading books aloud, playing games together. Our kids loved it and they loved their “new” dad and mom. Those were some of the most blessed years of our marriage. Life became nearly effortless, doors opening, miracles walking right up to our door. We had embarked on a new adventure—that of saying “yes” to anything that God wanted for us.

I remember early in our marriage, though, how I came slowly awake to the fact that you had only adopted a faith from your family. You had not surrendered to the Christ they served. And coming from a family where my mom had been married three times, I had no inner guide for anything except survival mode. I would get up at night and pray in the babies’ bedroom. They would stand up in their cribs and I would say, “Let’s pray for Daddy.” I remember Josh, who’s now twenty-nine, dropping to his knees and putting his face to the mattress and praying in his sweet toddler voice for you. I prayed for nine years before this turn-around.

For wives who continue to pray that their husbands will take on the “shared yoke” of the family priesthood, how would you encourage them?

RANDY: For me it was all about grace--unmerited favor. You gave me the “benefit of the doubt” that when I said that I was going to begin taking the spiritual lead, you stepped back and let me go—even though I knew nothing about the Bible. Though I had never done anything to prove I could be the spiritual head of the family, knowing you believed in me gave me the will and confidence to try.

PATTY: Yes, but I was arrogant having only a small knowledge about the real truths of God’s Word. We both had to become students of the Word. Even our past church teaching wasn’t enough. We had to pursue maturity. In my novel, Painted Dresses, it's a story of painted over lives. We probably looked like a stable couple to the outside world. But it's that tendency to paint over, something I learned from childhood, that leaves us withdrawing from God what he's already seeing anyway.

RANDY: In our counseling sessions now, I often hear women who have had to fill the role of spiritual leader in the home confess how difficult it is to “loosen the grip” and cooperate with their husbands in a transition of power, so to speak. However, what we’ve seen in the past is that until the wife finally let’s go, the husband never really assumes the role God intended for him to take.

PATTY: It’s that shared mutuality that Paul told the Philippians about. We had to learn to live like soldiers, back-to-back, protecting each other while resisting the enemy. In that situation, we ladies are afraid to fully trust. But it’s such a testament to the husband to see the wife’s example of full surrender to God in practice. We have to trust that there will be benefits beyond our wildest imaginations. And, yes, even benefits to intimacy. What I found as a wife was that our intimacy grew deeper after your surrender to God. I think that some men think that they’re love life is enhanced by unhealthy practices like viewing porn. It’s just another lie of the enemy. You often speak to men about unhealthy addictions and how damaging they are to a couple’s love life. That in mind, why is it that a man who surrenders to Christ suddenly finds his mate more responsive?

RANDY: I can remember the day when my lust turned to love. In the beginning, I don’t think I really knew the difference. (You’re just sending this letter to a friend, right?)

PATTY: Sure, Babe. Only one person will read this. =D

RANDY: Many men, like me, were introduced to porn at an early age. Growing up in a culture where the “s” word was not spoken, we were only informed by the photos we had seen and the “great advice” we got in locker rooms at school.

Take all that “toxic knowledge” into the marriage bed and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Pre-marital counseling, which most couples don’t receive, should encourage a couple to talk about what the other is looking for in all areas of marriage including their sex lives. Disaster happens when we leave something as important as intimacy up to locker room chatter and dirty books. And now the accessibility includes Internet play lands for adults and teens. Porn has taken on an incremental danger compared to when we were children.

I’m not saying that women never respond to lust, I’m just saying that “responding to love” seems to have a much better “shelf-life”.

PATTY: If I may interject, the bitterness that comes from that type of oppression simmers until it one day spills over in a big toxic wasteland of emptiness. The wife wakes up one day, fed up, used up, and desperate to fill the void left behind by empty intimacy instead of Christ-honoring love.

RANDY: But I will tell you this…as your husband I am committed to trying this “love thing” over and over and over, till we get it right. You could call it a sacrifice for love.

PATTY: You are so funny. But this has been very courageous of you, Babe. And I want to thank you for sitting in a place in cyberspace highly inhabited by ladies. I know this was a sacrifice of your chaotic schedule to do this.

RANDY: I hope it’s helped.

PATTY: I’m confident that it has. Tomorrow, we’ll chat with two novelists who also happen to be married. Stephen and Janet Bly will share their story of how one romantic get-away dissolved into the shock of a diagnosis that no couple ever wants to hear.

Remember that your posts are entered each day this week in a Romancing the Authors Book Give-Away on Friday following our Mystery Guest Friday Special Valentine’s Day chat.

I pray that your love life has been greatly blessed by the authenticity of those who’ve gone on ahead and learned from their mistakes the joy of surrender to Christ who sets us free.