Last night, Brandy and I were able to see Toby Mac in concert for the second year in a row. Warren Barfield has been a speaker at both concerts. He doesn’t sing because as he himself points out, he only has one hit. That one hit came as a result of a fight in his marriage. It all started with a pretzel he dropped on his wife’s pristine floor. When she gave him a look, he challenged her by dropping a handful of pretzels on the floor. This set off a fight in front of some close friends who saw the worst of both of them as they threw out every wrong over the past few years of marriage. Barfield recounts what he learned that night:
“Wow, when you think that something as stupid as a pretzel on the floor could end a marriage! I realized I have to fight for this relationship every day. I don’t get to coast through it. I have to wake up every day and give Megan my time and every piece of my energy. If I don’t do that, I can’t expect for the marriage to last or be shocked when it doesn’t. I just think when the big pretzel falls someday and I start to walk out our door, I pray that God will do something to barricade me in…that he will send angels to guard the doors.”
“A psalm of David. Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” – Psalm 144:1, NLT
Sometimes I feel as though I have had to fight from the womb. My mother was a young mother at 17 and had to rely on community clinics for pre-natal care. One clinic, seeing she was a young mother assumed she was not married (she was) and prepped her for an abortion. Had she not spoke up, I would have ended up dead before I was born.
When I got to elementary school, I was bullied for being the smart one in class, which caused me to slack in my studies and try to become the class clown to win favor with my classmates. This landed me in the principal’s office more often than not, yielding a school career of fighting with school administrators.
By junior high, I was fighting with classmates, administrators, and teachers. My fights were verbal with teachers, mental with administrators, and physical with other students. I felt alone and confused. I was angry with everyone because I felt they were all against me. I knew from this time forward that my fight or flight response was definitely fight…
Reaching high school, my physical fighting days were over, but I would mentally and emotionally destroy my enemies. I would cause pain to everyone who crossed my path, and this led to people I cared about getting caught in the crossfire, or in my inability to keep my emotions in check.
A new found freedom in college led to major depression and my seeking any release from the pain, anger, and loneliness I felt. I moved from being addicted to alcohol, to women, then video games, and finally being alone. I hated everyone and burned most friends I made along the way. My fraternity brothers, my campus ministry friends, my wife, and my campus minister were all subjected at various times to these mood swings, and thankfully didn’t shun me.
In the midst of fighting my way through life with my wife, I found that while I thought I was saved, I wasn’t. All the time I had spent counseling people in college, and I spent evangelizing I was fooling myself. I was no more in a relationship with Christ than I was with the President. I was everything Jesus warned against. It was my campus minister, Rob Leonard, who started opening my eyes.
After being caught violating the rules regarding dorm room visitation, a date was set for me to explain to the housing director why I violated the rules and find out what my punishment would be. I ran to the only parental figure on campus I knew, hoping for some sort of intercession or perhaps maybe a character reference. Rob did not sugar coat his words. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was responsible for my actions and that God may not help me at my hearing even with prayer. I had never heard this the way he put it. Then he prayed with me. It was the first time someone told me that everything could go wrong, but God will still work things for good. It was also the only time I can remember someone being so disappointed in me, but still offering to pray with me as a friend.
The day came for my hearing, and I was suspended from going into the girls dorms for a semester and was not allowed to violate another campus rule for the rest of my time there. I met my wife soon after and she moved to campus. We had to fight to get her a place to stay, and when we couldn’t, I would sneak her into and out of my room before curfew. When Rob found out about this, he offered the campus ministry building for my wife to stay in until she could get into campus housing.
Between semesters, my wife and I were married and moving to my home state of Texas. Our first year, we fought constantly. Sometimes, our fights ended with us throwing our wedding rings at each other and staying in separate rooms (really hard to do when you rent a two room apartment). We finally reached a breaking point near the end of the first year when we were evicted from our last apartment just a few months before having our daughter.
My grandparents graciously offered their home and this seemed to alleviate some of the fighting as we couldn’t do it at their house. During this time, something happened in me. I realized that this was not what I wanted in life. I didn’t want to fight everyone and everything. I wanted a happy life. I wanted my wife to be happy. I wanted our daughter to have a happy life. I realized that I couldn’t be this unhappy in life and be in a relationship with Jesus. I talked to our preacher and really accepted Christ as Lord of my life. It made all the difference. My wife and I learned to communicate and learned how to tolerate one another. Our fights turned from each other to finding a way to move out on our own. We looked for ways to work together to make money here and there until we found a way to sign on a house.
Mortgage issues were the next major fight, we nearly lost the house three times, but each time our prayers were answered and God provided a way. Every day it seemed that something new tried to come between us, and at first I tried to hide our issues from my wife, but eventually realized that we could only fix issues together with God.
Now, we have found a new church home close to our house. I took over the media team and my wife then took over the children’s program. I have now taken charge of the drama team and help my wife with any tasks she needs to facilitate children’s church. While making lemonade and acting in skits may seem like nothing, she claims it has reduced a lot of stress in her life.
I learned that family and faith are things worth fighting for. Fighting against those trying to help or even educate me was not the wisest path. I had to find a path to peace and, ironically, that came from God through martial arts.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1 Peter 3:8-12