"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Know When to Fold 'Em

Most of us know the famous lyrics "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em ..." in Kenny Rogers' song The Gambler.  Everyone has a limit - a line if you will - and going over that line will cause exhaustion and exasperation. 

Even Jesus knew when to quit.
 26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[b] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. (Luke 8:26-36)
After He cast out the demons and turned them into pigs, the townspeople told Him to leave because they were more interested in the financial loss caused by the drowned pigs than the riddance of all those demons.  So Jesus left. Just like those people, our spouses and children at times are more interested in their own plans than the agenda God has set in place for our marriages and families.  And just like Jesus, when our wives say "no," we have to honor their decision and walk away.

As husbands it is our job to lead our marriages by steering the ship in whatever direction God has placed on our hearts.  It isn't always smooth sailing.  Often we face resistance, objection, insubordination, even mutany.  Many times it's difficult to maneuver and exhausting to continue on with the task of leading in the right direction.

Many husbands are worn down when they try and try ... and try again, only to be avoided, put off, rebelled against, and told "no."   Some wives use the promise of submission to get their husbands  "off their backs." After their hubbies are appeased, they go back to life as usual.  They think because their husbands have stopped pushing for change, they are happy with the way things are.  The fact is their husbands have given up on that part of the relationship. They have recognized the futility of fighting the battle of marital oneness, and are willing to sacrifice the intimacy and happiness God has planned for them in order to get through life without arguing.

The sad thing is, although there is peace on the outside, there is sadness on the inside because he has settled for an inferior marriage.  He has resigned himself to living with less than God's best.

We are supposed to love our wives as Christ loved the Church.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25) 
Well, there were times when Christ was successful in instructing the church to follow Him, and other times when He gave up and went home, having done all He was willing to do.

Likewise, we husbands must determine which battles are worth fighting.  It's a difficult subject, especially when intimacy is at stake.  The oneness of a couple takes a major hit when one on spouse gives up and decides to make the best of living in a "less than" marriage.

Is there a remedy for this situation?

Yes and no.

  • Husbands must realize that their wives, while commanded by God to obey and submit to their husbands, cannot be forced to do so.  A husband with clear indications and leading of the Holy Spirit can try with all his might to convince his bride to climb aboard ship and sail in a certain direction, but if she is unwilling to submit, there is little he can do to change her rebellion.
  • We must continue to pray for our wives, our marriages, and God's direction.  He will not abandon those who earnestly seek Him. When we are truly in His will, He will direct our paths.  Does this mean our wives will follow us?  No.  But as long as we are walking in the direction God is pointing, He will give us as much grace as we need.  
  • We have to keep working to improve our marriages, even when our brides have drawn a line in the sand. If we truly seek the oneness god intends for our marriages, we have to keep trying to open doors and build bridges.  Sometimes it involves baby steps, sometimes giant leaps.  
  • We must express our feelings.  We must not keep our desires bottled up inside.  Husbands often keep things bottled up as a self-defense mechanism, to avoid rejection.  However, this eats away at the very intimacy that is supposed to be the cornerstone of marriage.  We must let our wives know when we are not satisfied with the state of the relationship.  Then we must lead in the right direction, whether she is willing to follow or not. 

Even so, our wives might not follow.  In this case we must gather the chutzpah to make a difficult decision. The Bible instructs us to live with our wives in an understanding way.

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7).  

Sadly, sometimes to do that we must let go of the potential for a great marriage by walking away from something that has been a point of exhaustion and frustration.

But know that God is not finished with us.  Even if we can not have the marriage God wants for us, we can take comfort in knowing He has a better plan for us when we go home.

For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32)
 Dear Heavenly Father,

I lift up those husbands who struggle to lead through difficult situations.  Please help them be brave and speak up, so they can steer their families toward you and grow their marriages into complete oneness. 
Amen.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

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