Praise Her in the Gates
My mother went to be with the Lord almost five years ago. I wish that I could pick up a phone and tell her how much I love her. I wish I could tell her how thankful I am for her godly, gentle and wise spirit. I wish I could let her know that one of the greatest privileges that God has given me in life was such a devoted, selfless and enduringly patient mother. I wish that I could ask her to forgive me for all that I put her through during many years of rebellion. She was one of the most sacrificial women I have ever known. She never wanted to be praised, but she deserved to be praised. After all, the Proverbs tell us, "Let her works praise her in the gates" (Prov. 31:31). As we approach that time of year when our culture praises mothers, I have been reflecting on my own mother and thinking about another amazing and praiseworthy woman--i.e. my wife and the mother of my sons.
After I was first converted, my best friend told me that he was praying for a wife who would be wise, godly, prudent, humble, beautiful, sacrificial (and probably 20 other attributes). It never struck me that I could also pray so many specifics when asking the Lord to bring me a wife. Needless to say, I immediately began to do so. The Lord answered my prayers in less than a year.
I met Anna when I was 24. She was 21. My heart stopped when I first saw her. While her physical beauty first captured my attention, it was her spiritual and inner beauty that won my heart. On our second date, I told her that I thought she would make an amazing wife (maybe not the best thing to tell someone on your second date); nevertheless, I knew that God had answered my prayer to bring me a godly woman who would have all the characteristics for which I had fervently prayed.
You often don't see the true beauty of someone until there are difficult situations in which there is opportunity to shine. Over 14 years, Anna's inner beauty has shone as we've made this pilgrimage together through the wilderness of this world. Though we have been through numerous moves, schooling, the loss of a parent, ministry challenges, difficult transitions and many other trying circumstances, she remains unmovable in her commitment to Christ, to me and to our boys. Anna has exemplified a quiet selflessness in opening our home to thousands of people throughout our marriage. She doesn't lecture others on hospitality; she models it. She relentlessly seeks to meet the needs of others, rather than seeking for others to meet hers.
If there was a need in the church plant, Anna stepped in and met it without any desire for attention. Over ten years of church planting in a military town, Anna endlessly welcomed people into our home and cooked meals for others. She has always had the needs and interests of others on her mind. Whenever I have forgotten about the individual burdens of others, Anna has gently reminded me of them and encouraged me to be praying for them.
Anna knows when to speak hard words to me in seasons when I need to be prodded on to more Christlikeness. If I have become consumed with my work, Anna knows how to lovingly encourage me to fulfill my responsibility as a husband and father. If I have failed to lead our family in worship at home, Anna comes alongside me to lovingly encourage me to pick up where I have left off. If there is an area of my life in which she sees a need for me to grow spiritually, she comes alongside me to encourage me to seek the Lord for more grace in Christ. I have learned, by way of experience, that this is what the Apostle Peter had in mind when he spoke of a Christian spouse being a "co-heir of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7).
Anna is unwavering in her commitment to our boys. She gets us early to take them to school, and stops whatever she is doing to pick them up. She is often at our kitchen table, late at night, helping them finish their homework. Throughout the week, she is shuttling them to music practice or some other school related event. When I am on the road, Anna is singlehandedly bringing our boys up in the training and admonition of the Lord. In addition to all that she does in the home and all that she has done for members of the church during our marriage, Anna runs a side business out of our house. She is, like the Proverbs 31 woman, industrious and strong.
There is so much more about which I could praise the wife and mother of the sons God has graciously given me; however, it will suffice for me to say that while I have often been on the receiving end of gratitude for service in the Kingdom of God, no one deserves this praise so much as Anna Batzig:
"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women have done excellently but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates;" (Prov. 31:28-31).