There’s this tower in Italy. It leans. Maybe you've heard of it. When construction began in 1173, it looked fine, but over the centuries, as floors were added, the lean became more pronounced. This resulted in countless attempts to stabilize it—everything from adding counterweights to shoring up the foundation—and yet today, even though the tower still stands, it continues to lean.
Recently, there's been a growing conversation about something called “New Wave Complementarianism.” Some
have suggested that this conversation isn’t “new” at all but simply a return to original complementarian positions. Still others
have suggested that this new wave is entirely
necessary because the “old wave” reached too far. And others
have said that it is simply a reaction to what’s happened in some churches in the name of complementarianism, but isn’t really a discussion of its core essence.
But no one denies that the tower is leaning.
Still, don’t take my word for it. Remember that time Bob Yarbrough said these exact things
at the 2012 EFCA Theology Conference. (Remember that time D.A. Carson spoke at the same conference.) The truth is that there is a “lean” in complementarianism, and it is evidenced by what is being taught and modeled in our churches. Our practices reveal our core assumptions better than any talking points ever could and because of this, they end up being the best indicator of whether or not we need to check our foundation.
So for me, the pertinent question is: “What’s been missing from the conversation that has allowed the tower to lean?”
My approach is predicated on the belief that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth and that Christian truth is discovered through paradoxes. Specific to this discussion, 1) Men and women are the same and 2) Men and women are different. But the paradoxes of the Christian faith are more than simply a set of checks and balances; the tensions actually force us to think more deeply and articulate more fully what we believe. The tension forces us to better understanding (and sometimes humbly admit that we don't understand at all.)
Because of this, if something starts leaning (oh, like say our understanding of gender), we must go back and figure out what has not been held in tension that should have kept it straight. Like Tim Keller, I consider myself a “complexifier”
and believe that we must bring ALL of Scripture to bear on these issues, not simply the passages that speak specifically to gender. So for my part, the conversation surrounding New Complementarianism (a.k.a., New Wave Complementarianism, New Wave OF Complementarianism, a group of friends talking among themselves who stumbled across the concerns that others already felt)—for my part, the conversation must not be about simply recovering original complementarianism but about asking ourselves what has been missing, or at least underemphasized, that has allowed the tower to lean in the first place.
Today I’m laying my cards on the table. I’m doing this because we must have this conversation together. It’s bigger than any specific set of bloggers—bigger than any “movement.” I’m also doing this because while I am a writer, I am also a wife and mom, and at this point, my children need a mother and my husband needs an ezer
more than complementarianism needs another blogger.
So in no particular order, here’s what I believe this conversation must entail; we must:
- Develop a robust definition of imago dei.
- Define the differences between men and women in relationship to God’s nature, not simply in opposition to each other.
- Consider the limitations of gender-based discipleship. If gender becomes the paradigm for sanctification, we have unintentionally made gender more significant than Christ. The goal is not masculinity or femininity—the question is immaturity vs. maturity.
- Admit that if we’re going to use the categories of male and female, we cannot begin with them—we must base them on the foundational category of humanness. As a female person, I have more in common with a male person than I do with a female cat.
- Understand that Christianity does not have a masculine-feel or a feminine-feel. Christianity should feel Christlike—it should feel fully-human.
- Recognize that equality must be the basis for headship--not simply the ying to its yang. Headship, whether in the church or home, exists precisely because we are equal.
- Clarify that the goal of headship is union—that Christ's headship results in the uniting of all things in heaven and earth and reconciling all things to Himself.
- Differentiate between headship and manhood as well as submission and womanhood.
- Reinforce responsibility/authority paradigm of headship. Any authority is given in order to fulfill a responsibility; it does not simply exist.
- And while we’re at it, clarify a Christian view of authority—especially if this is the going to be the key difference between men and women.
- Understand that headship exists only in specific circumstances—headship is not unilateral and some men will never exercise headship because they will never hold a position that calls them to.
- Differentiate between headship and leadership as gifting.
- Realize that passages that speak to men and women’s differing roles flow out of deeper doctrinal paradigms. We understand roles best when we start with the doctrine and work toward application, not vice versa.
- Remember that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Roles are given to enable relationships; relationships are not meant to serve roles.
- Discus how denominational and sociological contexts affect our applications and differentiate between application and doctrine.
- Reclaim an understanding of eldership that invests authority in the office, not the person. When we define authority by cultural cues or personality instead of the process of ordination, we can cordon off areas of ministry that the Scripture does not.
- Consider how we assign value. We cannot simply declare that men and women are equal; we must function in a way that displays this.
- Recognize that this will be difficult in a subculture that elevates pastors and teachers to celebrity status--how do you assign value to women when they will never hold those positions?
- Dismantle the false paradigm of gender vs. gifting. Gender is biological gifting and it flourishes alongside other gifting.
- Embrace a view of the whole person that elevates the providence of God to combine gender, talents, and personality into a unique package with unique strengths and unique limitations.
- Actively pursue women’s unique gifting.
- Consider whether focusing the conversation on “roles” has reduced people to functions instead of agents—do we simply become “workers” in a weird Marxist reality?
- Stop overextending Ephesians 5. A wife is not perpetually in a position to be rescued by her husband. Sometimes a wife will be Christ to a husband in need. (I Peter 3)
- Explore the role of husband as “husbandry”– including the responsibility to ensure that those under your care become all that God has made them to be. Explore the same for "wifery."
- Wrestle with whether or not “complementarianism” should be equated with a conservative reading of gender. Is it possible to have a conservative reading of gender and not be “complementarian?” (If nothing else, we need a new word because complementarian doesn’t spell-check.)
There. I’ve laid out my cards. Feel free to pick them up and play them. None of these ideas are “new”—but they are things that I believe have been missing and have led to the lean in our tower. It’s time for us to figure out why, to revisit established paradigms, and courageously press deeper into the mystery and wonder of God’s good design. Semper Reformanda
(In honor of the 2012 Presidential Election and whatever other controversial conversations you find yourself in today, I'm reposting this piece from October 2011. You may also want to check out this advice from C.S. Lewis about how to argue like a Christian.)
So today’s million-dollar question is this: Can a butcher and a vegetarian be friends? This slightly absurd question has been rolling around inside my head for the last couple of weeks. For whatever reason, all at once, I’ve found myself wrestling through challenges to several close relationships. And while it’s entirely possible that I am just a very difficult person to get along with, I prefer
to think that the issue lies more in the fact that I’m a human being interacting with other human beings. And that my relationships, like everyone else’s, are often interrupted by differing opinions, dreams, beliefs, and values.
I’ve also realized that we human beings have funny ways of resolving these interpersonal tensions. Most of us end up doing one of two things. We either simply avoid the relationship altogether and make friends only with people who like us and affirm our value systems. Or we rally the troops and come out fighting. Either, the butcher and the vegetarian simply never meet or the vegetarian stages a protest outside the butcher’s shop, while the butcher inside makes snide remarks about grass-eating radicals.
I’ll be honest, I’ve done both. But I’m coming to realize that there’s something wrong
with both as well. While these responses are all too human, they are not at all Christian. Because usually the thing that’s driving them, first and foremost, is fear. And the simple truth is that fear is not a Christian virtue
In fact, just the opposite is the case. Our faith actually frees
us from from fear and empowers
us to live lives marked by courage and openness. Our faith looks to Jesus and realizes that if ever there were a relationship doomed by differences, it is His with us. Our faith also recognizes that He made a better way and understands that this way is love.
So it is love that we must bring to our relationships, not only those that are easy for us, but especially to those that are difficult. And lest you, along with the butcher, think me a wild-eyed hippie, I’m not talking about that superficiality that masquerades as love and minimizes the differences between people. I’m talking about a courageous love that looks the differences square in the face and commits to wrestling through them together. A love that says I’m willing to hear and
I’m willing to speak. A love that casts out the fear
that drives us to silence and keeps us from honestly sharing ourselves with each other. Even if--in the end--we don’t agree.
And yes, I’ll quickly recognize that differences between people can at some point preclude them from traveling through life together. (As Tevye
reminds us, "A bird may love a fish, but where would they make their home?") Still, this is a far cry from having simple love-filled relationships with people who are different from us. In the end, we may not be able to agree, we may have profound and honest objection to each other’s choices, but as Christians, we will always be able to love.
(This last weekend, we traveled to Pennsylvania for my baby sister's wedding. This is part of a letter I wrote to be read at her bridal shower last month.)
It’s funny to think of you getting married—not because I didn’t think that you would, but simply because baby sisters, by definition, are never old enough to get married.
I remember life before you ever existed. I was the only girl wedged between two brothers and while this was beneficial when it came to things like playing baseball and learning to wrestle, it left a lot to be desired in the realms of dress-up and fairy princesses. My solution was to pray for a sister, and so I began my personal crusade to convince God that an addition to the family was in order.
He agreed and you came along.
But I soon learned that the compliant, accommodating sister that I had planned to lead in playing house and dressing up had her own plans. Eventually, you and I found a way to bridge the personality and age differences and one night, before I left for college, I found you crying because you didn’t want me to leave. I tried to comfort you, to convince you that nothing really significant was changing, but with a perception beyond your ten years, you knew that family life would never be the same for us. There would be fewer and fewer dinners together, fewer and fewer television shows to fight over, fewer and fewer vacations, and ultimately the rhythms that had marked your young life would be gone entirely.
Life has a way of never staying what you want it to be. Just as you are savoring the moment, just as you get comfortable, it flies away and you find yourself entering a new normal. Soon you will enter one of those transitions. You will be married. I’m only eleven years into that journey myself, and while there are many things that I have yet to learn, let me take this opportunity to give you some advice. (I am your older sister after all--so just sit there and take it or I’ll tell Mom.)
The first thing that I want to tell you is that, despite what you think, you are not marrying Prince Charming. None of us do. Instead, I’ve discovered that you often marry someone better. And you learn this, not through candlelit dinners or romantic cruises, but through moments when
>He doesn’t want to you to make a big dinner when he comes home because he’d rather just spend time with you...
>He buys you your favorite candy, just because…
>He helps you fold the laundry while he’s watching the Steelers’ game...
>He walks through the ups and downs of pregnancy with you and still thinks you are beautiful...
>He packs school lunches at 9:30 at night because that’s when kitchen is finally clean enough to have the space to do it...
>He gives you room to continue to grow and change as the years pass even as he grows and changes himself...
>And through it all--despite the changes--he stays by your side for a lifetime.
No, you’re not marrying some storybook character. You are marrying a man, a good man. But even in this, you must remember that he is a man--a man with feet of clay, made from the same pitiful, earthy dust that you are. Because know this: whatever weaknesses you have, he will have them too.
And really, that’s one reason why we get married. It’s not because we’re perfect people, but precisely because we are not and God knows that we need all the help and support we can get to make it through this life. And ultimately He uses marriage to make us better people. Through every fight, through every disagreement, through every time that you humble yourself to ask forgiveness and every time that you extend forgiveness.
Some people think that the gospel is best displayed when we are doing a good job at being a wife or a husband. But I’ve come to learn that often, the gospel is best on display when we’re not. When you’re weak and selfish and he loves you anyway--just like Jesus does. Or when he’s stubborn and frustrating and you forgive him anyway--just like Jesus does. And when you spend a lifetime sacrificing for the good of each other, dying daily to your own desires, your own preferences, your own wishes—just like Jesus did. Because when you love like this, you can’t help but be changed and then the gospel will truly be on display through both of you.
But this is not an easy thing. So when you stand before us and make vows to love and care for each other for the rest of your earthly lives, understand this: you are not capable of keeping those vows. You need Someone bigger and stronger and more faithful to keep them for you. And He will.
Because even before you ever thought to make promises to each other, He had already made some of His own. He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you. He has promised to uphold strengthen you and to give you joy and laughter along the way. And He has promised that even when things look darkest—when despite your best efforts, you still end up hurting each other—He will be there to pick up the pieces, offering grace and resurrection.
Perhaps in another eleven years, I can give you more insight—maybe you can give me some as well. But whatever road God leads you on, whatever path you take together, remember that I love you and I’ll be rooting for you all the way. And then maybe sometime, after the dishes are done and the children are grown, you and I will have time together once again. Time to catch up on all the years we’ve missed and time to play fairy princesses like I’ve always wanted.
All my love,
I didn’t have a mother’s day post this last week because like most mothers I was busy… mothering. The funny thing about this holiday—especially when you have young children—is that you really don’t get a break. The funnier thing is that you can’t really imagine taking one.
Because mothering is the kind of work you celebrate by actually doing it.
It took me a while to figure this out, but I don’t think I’m alone in this. On Sunday, after I had fed, dressed, and dragged three children to church--only to have one of them wildly run down the hallway screaming “NOOOOO!!!!” as I tried to deposit him in the nursery--I found myself talking with two friends who are also mothers of young children. I asked what they had planned for the day and the first said she was hoping that the ground beef had thawed out because she was going home to make dinner; the other had a sick husband and child, was juggling two other children, and trying to figure out how to attend a family funeral over two hours away.
But no on seemed to care. None of us seemed put out that our Mother’s Day was spent mothering.
Don’t get me wrong—we were all tired. We would have loved to have had breakfast in bed, a spa retreat, or even the day to ourselves. But somewhere on the road to becoming the mothers we were, we had learned something. As wonderful as those things are, they really aren’t the point. You don’t mother to be praised, you don’t mother to be rewarded, you don’t mother for the recognition. You mother because you love.
But unlike common wisdom, this love doesn’t magically appear when you hold your first child. No, becoming a mother that loves happens incrementally, it happens through the sleepless nights, the temper tantrums (yours and theirs), and shared joys. It happens through the daily grind, from changing out winter wardrobes for spring, and extracting chewing gum from baby-fine hair. And through it all, motherhood changes you—in the sacrifices, you become braver and in the loving, you become kinder.
My sister-in-law and I were talking about this a couple days ago—we’ve been friends since college, friends before husbands, friends before children. So we’ve seen a lot of changes in each others lives, and we definitively, undeniably agreed that being a mother has been the most excruciating, most productive spiritual exercise either of us had ever experienced.
I think it's because mothering forces you to recognize things about yourself that you’d rather not have known: your helplessness, your inconsistency, you selfishness. All in one typical day, you discover that you can't make the fever break, you can’t make this child obey you, you are feeding them chicken nuggets while reading the blog post telling you how terrible chicken nuggets are, and you routinely think about all the things you’d rather be doing than cleaning up poop.
And in these moments, you have to cry out for something bigger and better than your own ability to be a “good’ mother. You have to cry out to Him. You have to find His strength and His patience and His love. You have to have His courage and His determination in order to parent like He does.
And that is what changes you. He changes you. He uses this temporary relationship with your children to produce eternal and lasting joy. He uses it to make us like Himself. So that in the end, I don’t know if I can guarantee my children will be better people because of my mothering. But I do know this—mothering them has made me a better one.
Well, the wedding season has begun. Already I’ve gotten three invitations, attended one, and listened via webcast to another. (Who knew, right?
I have to admit to having a funny relationship with weddings. Growing up, they were a significant part of my extended family--my grandfather was a minister, my aunt made wedding cakes and even perfected the art of the cheesecake
wedding cake; my brother's been a wedding photographer; and not to be outdone, my grandmother ran a business selling engraved wedding invitations. To this day, she looks askance at those invitations (so-called) that are the product of desktop publishing and laser printers. (If I remember correctly, she had ours chiseled out of marble.) So weddings--and the proper execution of--have been a part of my life for a long time. Still as much as I love the satin and seasonal flowers and string quartets, I have a hard time sitting quietly through the ceremony.
It takes everything in me to not jump up and scream at the top of my lungs, “You have no idea what you’re doing!”
I’m a great advocate of marriage (see here
) but married life holds a lot of surprises. It’s much harder than it looks, some days it’s more struggle than gift, and just like war, no amount of boot camp can properly prepare you for what happens in the field. And that’s a good thing, because if we really knew what we were getting in to, few of us would. At the same time, I also find myself quietly smiling when a bride or groom says things like “Today I marry my best friend.” And again, all I can think--this time with a gentle confidence—is, “You have no idea.”
On my wedding day, I thought I was marrying my best friend. And in one sense, I did. There was no one I liked spending time with more, there was no one I had invested so much emotion in, and there was no one who knew me as well as he did. But when I look back on that friendship--as it was the day that we gave our vows to each other--it seems paltry and immature compared to the friendship that we have now. True, nearly eleven years ago, I married my best friend.
But today we are better best friends
And it’s the kind of friendship that can only be gained through laundry and bills and moving boxes. It’s the kind of friendship that is strengthened by arguments and flourishes in reconciliation. A friendship says I still love you when you mess up—and better yet, I still like you. And ultimately it’s the kind of friendship that only comes from committing to live life together.
Fifty years from now, I’ll probably look back on my thirty-something self and laugh at even my current naïveté. Because by the time we reach that milestone, by the time we have grown old together, maybe I will have finally learned that even the best is yet to be.
So to myself and all my newly and soon-to-be married friends, I have just this word of advice: you have no idea what you’re getting into.
Hallelujah, you have no idea.
"A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." --William Shedd
Yesterday my youngest son turned 3.
Our Peter has lived these last three years the same way he came into the world--bold, loud, and larger than life. He’s the family clown willing to do anything for a laugh. He refuses to let his age or size leave him out of what the rest of us are doing. And at three, he already knows two-column addition… as long as the answer is always “69”. Peter: Mommy, let’s do numbers. Mommy: Okay, Peter, what is 5+64? Peter: 69! Mommy: Good! What is 33+36? Peter: 69! Mommy: What is 27+42? Peter: 69!
I have to admit, it’s pretty rewarding for everyone involved.
And while these last three years have often been tumultuous for us as a family, our Peter has always been a source of joy and comfort. Even in those moments of colic and RSV, he has forced us to take our attention away from external pressures and focus on what really mattered. And in these last three years, he’s stolen my heart just like his older brother did.
There’s a bond between mothers and sons that’s hard to codify. The closest I can get is the memory of breaking down and crying the day after my first son was born nearly six years ago. Blame it on hormones if you like, but I felt a distinct desolation at looking down into those blue, blue eyes and realizing that one day he would love another woman more than he loved me.
Then there’s what happened just a couple days before Peter’s birthday. A close friend got news that her son’s platoon serving in Afghanistan had just lost two guys--her son was okay, but he lost two strong, brave friends. And two mothers lost their strong, brave sons
. When I initially heard, my heart was heavy for them but it completely broke in two when Peter came rushing into the kitchen a few moments later to retrieve a toy car he and his brother wanted to play with. In the moments that followed, all I could do was stand my kitchen bawling and thinking how only twenty-odd years earlier those sons had probably been doing the same thing.
People often say that if women ruled the world there would be fewer wars. That somehow our love for our families and our ability to talk through a problem would supersede the testosterone-laden response of military involvement. Apparently those people didn’t go through junior high. But I think this sentiment misses something else as well.
Women already rule the world.
We rule the world every time we love and correct our children. We rule the world every day as we guide them to who they will one day become. We rule the world when we teach them to love others and fight to protect the weak. We rule the world right from inside our own walls. And that’s why despite the politics and the questions surrounding this current war—trust me, I have plenty—I’m grateful for these kinds of moms. I’m grateful for mothers who have raised their boys, not to go looking for a fight, but to have the courage and fortitude to stand their ground when the fight comes. Mothers who have raised their boys to serve and not simply to be served. Mothers who have raised their boys to sacrifice for the good of others. Even if that means losing themselves in the process.
I don’t know what God has planned for my boys— at a three-year-old birthday party, I like to imagine a bright, pain-free future full of joy and dreams fulfilled. But realistically, it’s probably not going to be that way. Probably throughout their lives there will be many times that a sword will pierce my heart
too. Especially if I’ve done my job well.
Because if by God’s grace, these boys become strong, good men, they will
chose to sacrifice themselves--both in little and great ways--for the benefit of those around them. They will stand up for the weak and suffer because of it. And they will serve others, not because they are forced to, but because they understand that this is what real men do.
And then, if our boys grow up to be men like that, we will have changed the world.
Here's some helpful advice for those moments when you feel like blowing your top and screaming at a person you disagree with. Remember..."...there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner--no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment... your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden."C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
In church yesterday, our pastor was teaching through Exodus 33 and 34. Towards the end of his sermon, he stopped on Exodus 34:6-7 where God reveals His glory to Moses and describes the kind of God He is. The verses read this way:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.
Our pastor shared that this particular description of God, sometimes even the exact phrasing, is one of the most repeated texts in the body of Scripture. It’s found in as disparate places as the Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans. As an aside, he challenged us to see how many other places we could find it.
So as he was speaking, the wheels started turning. My brain does that sometimes – just starts moving entirely of it’s own accord and I’ve learned that I pretty much have just hang for the ride until it’s decided it’s found what it’s looking for. (I suppose having admitted this, I should cut my daughter some slack when she responds to me with that same starry-eyed look and says, “I’m sorry Mommy--I just keep getting distracted!”) Anyway, this phrase in Exodus echoed something for me yesterday. I could sense it in the back of my mind… and yes, it was coming… if I pause long enough….. and…. There! I had it.
All those attributes strung side by side--like pearls on a necklace--reminded me of I Corinthians 13.
Now probably like you, I am no stranger to the “Love Chapter” as we call it. But yesterday, for first time in my life, with Exodus 34:6-7 in one hand and I Corinthians 13 in the other, I finally saw it for what it was. For too long I had been reading it simply as a standard to be lived, an expectation of how I should relate to other people; and all along I had been missing that it could only be that because it describes how God already loves us. Of how He loves me. And how He loves you.
So with apologies to the ESV, here’s something of what Moses heard when God passed by:
God is patient and kind;
He does not envy or boast;
He is not arrogant or rude.
He does not insist on His own way;
He is not irritable or resentful
He does not rejoice at wrongdoing
He rejoices with the truth.
Your God bears all things.
Believes all things,
Hopes all things
Endures all things.
And He never ends.
Not bad for a Sunday morning. Not bad at all.
Several weeks ago Wendy Alsup wrote a striking post
about how complementarians (folks who believe that men and women have differing roles in society, the home, and the church) are shooting ourselves in the foot with faulty reasoning and extra-Biblical teaching. It seems that on our way to understanding manhood and womanhood, our generation has started taking some shortcuts--shortcuts that are going to have significant consequences on whether or not we develop a fully Biblical understanding of gender and human relationships. In this sense, the things she mentioned are serious; but even more so is her overarching point: while we may have a seemingly noble goal, if we don’t reach that goal in an authentic and legitimate manner, we undermine everything we are trying to accomplish.
This is not a new problem for us humans. Whether it’s yelling at our kids to be quiet or speeding down the highway to avoid being late to an appointment, we regularly--although often unintentionally--conduct our lives under the assumption that the end justifies the means. Wendy’s post also got me to thinking about how this kind of pragmatism can invade our relationships, specifically our marriages.
Is it possible that in our attempts to reach an ideal, in our progress toward becoming “good” wives and husbands, we could actually be harming
each other? I think it’s more than possible; I think it’s very common. And like so many areas of Christian living, the danger is not so much in what we’re doing, as what’s happening in our hearts and revealed through the process of doing them. And while I can’t speak for the men, here some problematic tendencies I’ve observed among Christian women—they are simply things I’ve heard, things I’ve seen, and truthfully, things I’ve done myself at times.
Let’s just file them under: “It’s a bad thing when… 1) You encourage your husband to be a leader… the same way you encourage good behavior in your child or pet.
Many women I know are not truly satisfied with their husbands, but they are “gracious” enough to give them time and space to develop. Much like they are gracious enough to give their children time and space to mature. While waiting, they offer false praise or over-praise them for small acts of kindness or what they consider to be “growth.” This is dangerous for two reasons: First, it is fundamentally condescending. And second, people know when you are not being truthful. What your husband learns is the same thing that any of us learn once we realize praise is false or overinflated: he learns that he cannot fully trust you or worse, that you didn’t think he was capable of success in the first place. 2) You heap massive expectations on your husband to be the god-figure in your home… and then are disappointed when he isn’t perfect.
Perhaps worse than underestimating a husband’s potential is over-estimating it. When a wife looks to her husband to provide what only God can, she sets him up for failure. And there is nothing more damaging to a man’s spirit than failure—especially failing those he loves. When you expect him to be what he in his humanity simply cannot, you set a trap for him. He never even has a chance.
Instead recognize who your husband is and who he is not: he is your fellow traveler, your fellow sinner on this road to glory. Celebrate his strengths; accept his limitations. And love him regardless. 3) You don’t disagree with him… because privately you don’t believe he can handle it.
On the surface keeping quiet when you don’t like what someone else is doing can pass for deference when in reality it can be arrogance. Some women don’t disagree with their husbands simply because they don’t really believe he can handle it. They see his manhood as fragile, so much so that he is in constant danger of emasculation. The irony of this is that refusing to disagree with him has less to with respecting him than it does with feeling superior to him. Of course there are ways to engage in debate that can
belittle and harm another person—but that’s true regardless of gender or marital status. In the long run, disagreeing with your husband (with kindness and a keen sense of timing) may be the best way to respect him because it says that you see them as the mature human being that he is. 4) You pray for your husband to be a better a) father, b) husband, c) leader, d) all of the above… and ask others to pray as well.
Now of course, you should pray for your husband, but there are ways of praying that are actually harmful. (Just ask the Pharisee and the publican.) If you pray for your husband out of a heart of discontentment, you are fundamentally praying a prayer of judgment. You are telling God (and anyone else who is praying with you) that your husband does not meet your expectations, that he is not performing well enough, that he is a disappointment. Instead your prayers for your husband should be like Christ’s prayers for you – prayers of unconditional love, protection, affirmation, and support. They should be prayers directed toward what GOD is doing in his life, not where HE needs to pick up slack. If you are really struggling with a behavior or habit of his, love him enough to actually talk
to him about it. Love him enough to engage him instead of whispering behind his back—even if it’s only to God. 5) You don’t confront him when he sins… and then taking it personally when he fails.
While wives must accept that their husbands are human, they must also accept that God has providentially placed them alongside them as helpmeets in their struggles. Sometimes when a husband sins, his wife won’t approach him out of fear that doing so will somehow usurp his spiritual headship. And so instead of being the first line of defense against spiritual attack, she stands by and watches as her husband gets pummeled. Worse, she takes it personally and feels like he
is somehow failing her.
But our husbands are just as much flesh and blood as we are, and we are best their helpers when we actually…. help them. This is something of what Solomon was referring to in Ecclesiastes 4: Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up... And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.
Ultimately, we have to remember that simply aiming to be a “good” wife will never accomplish all that God has ordained for us in marriage. It will never make us more unified, it will never make us more sanctified, it will never make us one. That road is a lot harder and there are simply no shortcuts. And it is a road we walk--one day at a time--through honest communication, unconditional love, and large doses of grace.
It's hard when 1) you blog, 2) it's a holiday, 3) you have an obsessive personality that NEEDS things to come together in nice packages, and 4) you have writer's block. Today's that day. And try as I might to come up with a neat, heart-warming, tear-jerking post for Valentine's Day, it simply wasn't going to happen. So around 3:30, I gave up and decided to do something perhaps even more romantic, something that would shout "I love you," something that would communicate my undying affection to my husband: I cleaned the house and made dinner.And after all that, I saw this: it's a story of love, a story of faithfulness, a story of life taking a different turn than you thought. And ultimately it's a story about a good God who despite our best promises to Him, knows what we really need and sometimes releases us
from our vows to Him because He has better plans for us than we had for ourselves.