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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Something" Was Wrong

What would cause a man to take leave of his senses and abandon the woman he promised to love for the rest of his life? 

Why would a husband and father throw away the most important relationship God gave him on earth? 

How does a marriage get to the point where a husband leaves his wife and children? 

Each year millions of husbands leave their marriages and strike out on their own, leaving their devastated families to fend for themselves.  These men give various reasons for such behavior, none of which generally involve an admission of fault on their part. 

Many of them recount times when they felt unloved or disrespected in their marriages.  They think they will feel better when they are "free" from the constraints of marriage.  The real problem is that many of them don't "feel the love" anymore, but they don't know how to express those feelings.

*NOTE - marriage is a covenant between a man, a woman, and God.  Husbands who enter into the covenant of marriage, then abandon the very relationship that was brought together by our heavenly Father, are living in sin, make no mistake about it.  There isn't an "out clause" in the marriage covenant.

According to Leslie Cane, "Husbands Leave Because They've Lost A Feeling, But This is Usually Less About How They Feel About You, And More Of How They Feel About Themselves: More than anything, men want to feel admired and loved, and they want your attention to prove this. It's very likely that when you were first dating, you hung upon your husband's every word, lavished him with attention, and looked up at him with big adoring eyes." (Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1324637)

Wives often are unaware of the great amount of admiration and attention their husbands need from them.  However, it isn't in the nature of an average man to express his need for "more __________," or "different _________," or "deeper ___________."  Women, therefore, are often blindsided by a husband who suddenly slaps them into the reality that there's a problem.  A BIG one.

But .... Is that always the case? 

When a wife experiences the shocking reality that her husband is leaving, the most often heard comment is, "I had no idea.  It came out of left field."

While I am not a woman,  nor do I presume to know everything (or anything) about them, I have been on the raw end of a few break-ups. That said, every time it happened, I reacted the same way; with shock and disbelief.  But if I were truly honest with myself I would have admitted that there were clues - little things that nagged at my mind and tore at my gut.  There was ... something ... wrong.  I wasn't sure what, but there was ... something.

The big trouble happens when that "something" goes unexpressed.  An unmet need ... an  ignored request ... a disrespectful attitude.

Whatever the "something" is, both sides of the couple feel it.  They don't want to admit it to themselves or each other, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The key here is communication

Husbands - you must express your feelings.  If you are unhappy about something, say so. If you are feeling unwanted, tell your wife about it.  If you keep it bottled up inside, you will blow your top, and it won't be pleasant.

Wives - when you get that "feeling" that something is wrong ... something is wrong.  Don't ignore that feeling.  talk to your husband.  Ask him if there are things he would like to be different, better, deeper, etc.  Then, listen to what he says\ and don't dismiss his words just because you don't like what he's saying.

Both of you - Communication.  Prayer.  Communication.  Sex.  Communication.

Talk to God.  Talk to each other with your words and your bodies.  Glue yourselves to each other inside and out.  Be genuine and honest.  Give and do for your spouse, even if it's uncomfortable. Even if you don't want to. be diligent and do not give up.

Your marriage depends on it.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Work Heartily!

Some men work hard and some hardly work. Some fall squarely in the middle, neither working hard nor being slothful. I've been spending time in Colossians lately and found the following passage repeating itself over and over in my mind. 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Why am I stuck on these familiar verses? 

Maybe it's because they motivate me to do better in my job and my marriage. Or maybe they make me feel guilty because I don't do a good job with either. Maybe a little of both.

Hmmmm ...

Let's examine it one piece at a time.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
Paul is saying that we should do everything as though we are doing it for God, not for people. If we look at it in context, we see that he is actually addressing with regard to serving their masters. However, the same holds true for everyone doing any kind of work.

As a husband, I must serve my bride as though I am working for the Lord, because He is precisely Who I am serving. All the work I do here on earth is to be done for His glory. When I work around the house, I am being obedient to God, even though I'm just fixing something, cleaning something, or making dinner.

knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
I may not be rewarded for my work while I am still living on this earth, but I will receive an amazing inheritance when I leave this world and enter into glory. If I remember what God did for me and the sacrifices He made for me, I am willing and eager to do my best work for Him.

Sometimes I struggle with knowing the stuff I do day in and day out may not be noticed by those I serve here on earth. When my wife and family seem unappreciative of the effort I put in working to pay bills, preparing meals, and dealing with those ever-present emergency fixes, I have the potential for feeling like I deserve some sort of praise for my hard work, when in fact I haven't worked nearly hard enough.

You see, I'm a bit on the lazy side, especially when it comes to physical labor. There is a list of unfinished project around the house that make me weak just thinking about them. In my heart and mind know I should be doing a lor more around the house - things that will bless my wife in a way that she understands.

You are serving the Lord Christ.
In all things, I must remember that I serve Jesus Christ. When I do things for my wife, I'm serving Jesus. When I go to work, when I come home and cook dinner, when I fix the vacuum cleaner for the fiftieth time, when I mow the lawn shovel the snow, everything I do. I am serving the Lord.

As a husband it's easy to feel tired and want to kick back and relax, especially when it's been a rough day at work. But with God's help, I can keep going and keep working for Him, for my wife, and for my family.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Power of "No"

“What do you think?”
“I don’t know.  What do you think?”
“I think we should buy the green one.”
“Okay. Whatever you want” 

It happens all the time.  A wife asks her husband for his opinion and his forehead begins to bead up with sweat as he figures out the best way to answer, only to come out with the safe, default answer, “whatever you want.” 

Why does he answer this way?

It’s generally the only logical response to his wife’s default answer.  “No.”

The word “no” has a special power over men.  When used consistently over a period of time it changes a man from a leader into a follower.  It turns him into a “yes, dear” kind of husband who shakes in his boots when pressed for an opinion or a decision.

This isn’t the kind of thing that happens overnight.  Rather, it’s a slow, steady path that chips away at a husband’s confidence until one day he wakes up and realizes his wife and children don’t respect him.  Worse yet, many husbands find that they are subject to their wives’ authority, submitting to their wives, rather than the other way around.

How does this happen?  A wife who uses the power of “no” doesn’t always utter the word “no,” but the negative answer is implied by her, and understood by her husband. 

For example ….

Example #1

Husband:          “Let’s buy the red station wagon.”
Wife:                “I don’t like the color.  Besides, it doesn’t have enough room for an extra child.”

Translation: “No.”

Example #2

Husband:          “We need to get on a budget.  There isn’t any money left at the end of the month.”
Wife:                “Are you sure you’ll stick to it?  Remember what happened the last time?”

Translation: “No.”

Example #3

Husband:          “Let’s try something new in bed tonight.”
Wife:                “Maybe we can talk about it later.”

Translation: “No.”

The implication in each of these examples is that the husband isn’t going to get his way.  He knows it and so does his wife.  As a result he is forced to comply with his wife’s wishes to keep peace in the marriage. Moreover, Christian husbands are commanded to sacrifice for their wives, loving them as Christ loved the church, giving up His life for it (Ephesians 5:25). 

After several years of hearing “no,” many husbands give up trying to express an opinion.  They keep their feelings and desires to themselves because they already know the default answer.

Voila!  The power of “No.”

How can we counteract this situation?  Is there a way to turn it around so that husbands can reclaim their respect while at the same time loving their wives with sacrificial, Christ-like love?  Where is the line between loving your wife sacrificially and being a doormat?

First, husbands need to make decisions and stick with them  If you have reasons for making a particular decision, (buying a particular car, for example), tell her your reasons.  After all is said and done, if her reasons are legit and outweigh yours, then by all means go with her choice.  However, if after prayer and consideration you still feel your decision is the best for your marriage, then go ahead and do it.  Stand firm on the knowledge that your position is that of leader.

Also, you need to express your opinions, needs, and desires to your bride.  If you need things to be a certain way, say so.  Most wives I know speak up when things aren't right.  We husbands must do likewise. We are doing our wives and ourselves a serious disservice when we deny our genuine feelings and go along to get along.  It eats away at us until the roles are reversed.  NOT what  God intended.

Wives, if your husband has stopped taking the lead, ask yourself how many times you've allowed him to lead.  Have you said "no" to him a little too often?  Have you made it difficult for him to be in charge?  Do you accept or disregard his authority? 

Let him lead.  Say "yes" more often (unless he's going to do something outrageous like sell one of the children or something).  Be supportive of his decisions and don't question his authority. 

And above all, let the Lord be in charge of your life and your marriage.

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. 

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