Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we're inclined to do),
I do not need a handsome man
but let him be like you;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius,
or wealthy, Lord, at all;
but let his head be high, dear God,
and let his eyes be clear,
his shoulders straight, whate're his state,
whate're his earthly sphere;
and let his face have character,
a ruggedness of soul,
and let his whole life show, dear God,
a singleness of goal;
then when he comes
(and he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I'll understand that he's the man
I prayed for long ago.
(Ruth Bell Graham)
Ruth Graham wrote the above poem, and many others in her single years, only to look back with mature eyes, matured by matrimony, and say:
"I read my old premarriage poems... with a bit of amusement. I wrote them so earnestly -- meaning every word -- and lived to find them really unfair.
Pity the married couple who expect too much from one another.
It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much form his wife."
There are many things I am slow in learning, this, however, I have learned quickly. O, I forget at times and wallow for a few days at a time when my expectations of Matt reach Savior-Status, then the Lord reminds me, "Come to Me... Abide in Me... Caste your burdens on Me, for I will sustain you."
"Who have I in Heaven but Thee?
And on earth I desire none but Thee.
Though my flesh and my heart may fail me,
You, O Lord, are the strength of my heart,
And my portion forever...
The Nearness of God is my Good!" (Psalm 73:25-27)
And yet we are to remain married to them here on earth, faithful in love to our husbands, though they fail us. Only the Lord never fails us. And so we depend upon God and remain lovingly steadfast in our marriages. We persevere in love when they may not be loving us the way we had hoped- in the way that we do hope. When our flesh and our hearts fail us... let's abide in the truest lover of our souls, that we might not retreat in our earthly loves, but press on.
And when our sails are full of heaven's breath again, a miracle strength occurs.
Suddenly I take hold of my strong man and make him stronger - I set him up TO BE MY HERO... even when he is not acting very Heroic. Instead of shutting down, I open up. Instead of withdrawing, I press in. Instead of retreating... I hire a babysitter, buy tickets to a show, dress up, touch him, and at the night's end... I thank him for the lovely evening. Thank him in every way he most enjoys your thanks. Thank him for the date he didn't plan, the babysitter he didn't hire, the tender togetherness he didn't make a priority! And suddenly he will swell with tenderness and love, back in touch with the Hero He can be to you... by the grace of God.
By the grace of God.
Do not shut down, do not withdraw, do not give up, retreat, or let yourself become bitter. Take action today, tonight, the next time you pass him in the hall. Don't wait to be kissed. Kiss him! Don't wait for him to ask you about your day, touch him.
O, by the Grace of the only one who can ever truly satisfy, press on, fight the good fight, and love well!
There's something magical about the name. The word. The person. Dad. It's true for little girls. Their Daddy is their first boyfriend. A girl's relationship with him, I believe, affects a young woman's relationships with men for years to come. However...
A boy's relationship with his dad affects a young man's relationship with himself, the world, and God.
Himself -- When a father affirms a boy's worth and masculinity, when he reaches out to touch his son and say with words, high-fives, laughter and nods "I'm proud of you," the boy in turn believes it's true and inherits a healthy self-esteem. O Moms, I know we are important in this too, but honestly the kids think of our praise as part of our job because we dole it out liberally. But a Father's praise really means something because, for most young men, a father's affirmation is hard earned.
The World -- When a father models for his son true Servant-Leadership in the home and in relationships with others, the boy learns to esteem others. He sees a man as someone who cares for, supports, and champions the needs of those around him. Likewise, when a young boy is modeled selfishness and pride in light of the needs of others, the boy will have an unhealthy self-esteem, just as his dad doest. As the father demonstrates... so does the son.
Do you see a theme here? Whom do we esteem? If a father esteems a son in a healthy way, the child will have healthy self-esteem. And when the father esteems the needs of others, a son will learn to esteem those around him. But if the father only esteems himself above all others, then the child will suffer; he will learn likewise to esteem himself selfishly, and reject those around him who are in need of lifting up.
My husband and I heard this quote in our Sunday School class last week:"The person who has the most power in the family has the greatest right to be selfish."
When someone at our table discussion mentioned how important modeling selflessness is, I shook inwardly. I've come to see, time and again in families, Mothers who model selflessness, but the result is raising families who learn to be selfish, taking from the mom who simply gives and gives. But when I look back to the above quote I see the words "the person who has the most power in the family..." And like it or not, that is "Dad".
Just like our husband's praise means so much more to our young developing little men, so does his example of service and sacrifice. When our men lay down their power to lift up those around them, our entire family learns selflessness and service.
And God - If a father is good and kind, his sons will come to honor him. In time, the child will not be fearful when he is taught about a loving God. Our sons will learn to trust, love, and honor their Heavenly Father in the same way they learned to trust, love, and honor their earthly father. But if their earthly father is proud and belligerent, never giving praise, delight or affirmation, if the child fears their father, and thinks of him as unjust and selfish, they will see God in a similar light.
I remember our Pastor friend encouraging Matt with this picture: "When your wife and children get to Heaven, you want them to recognize Jesus because they saw so much of Him in you."
What does this have to do with us, Moms? I'm not suggesting we start a comment-line below listing our complaints, instead I encourage us all to PRAY! Pray for our husband fervently... as though the lives in our home depend upon it. Pray specifically and heartily for the hurts in his own upbringing; pray that generational sins passed down from his own father would come to the surface and that God's Spirit would be near to our beloveds, granting them freedom and joy in the present. "Pray for me", has always been my husband's chief request of me.
Other than that... respect him, forgive him, respect him, forgive him, and then respect and forgive him again. And then pray for him some more. Remember ladies, that they receive the same measure of grace in their weakness' that we do in ours. And Fathers of the world, I share in your Joy that we've received forgiveness and help in our frailties, both in parenting and in every other aspect of life. Press on!
More on Amazing Grace here.
In his book, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy, author Gary Thomas likens marriage to a laboratory for Holiness. I whole-heartedly agree.
You may recall that I began reading through The Respect Dare by Nina Roesner a few weeks ago, and have to confess that I'm only on day 7. My confession isn't that I've been lazy, but that I have been actively busying myself with the business of respecting my husband. And it's been a full time job here in the laboratory of our marriage. I had purposed to take my daily challenges one at a time, making sure I truly understood them before moving on to the next one... and there have been a few dares in the first week that I've really camped out on and exercised.
The two biggest challenges for me thus far have been, first, how my home making and mothering is a way for me to esteem my husband - If the house is a wreck when he gets home and I'm constantly crying over the boys' behavior when he walks in the door, he won't feel he's entering a safe and welcoming place after his own long day. The real conviction came in my quiet time thinking more about this idea. Matt never leaves our home or comes home complaining about his responsibilities at work, and I trust him as our provider largely because of that. Does Matt's heart trust in me as a homemaker and mother as I grumble grumble grumble?
Secondly, I have needed some extra days to stop expecting him to notice all the stuff I'm doing before moving on to day 8! Sounds simple enough, right? But the extra special dinners, organized junk drawer (where he always gets lost looking for a pen or stamps), clean clothes all folded and put away by the time he got home (rather than heaped upon our bed), stopping what I wanted to do in lieu of sitting with him on the couch to watch yet another episode of "the office." Little things, but they were little expressions of my love and respect for him, and I had to stop waiting for his praise and applause. Once again I have to come back to my original reason for doing this dare... it's my job. And I'm not in charge of his job, to love me well, only my job.
When the book The Love Dare came out, one of Matt's friends bought him a copy and challenged him to do the dare. (Insert pregnant pause here...) It sat on his bedside table untouched for months.
Based on the film "Fireproof", The Love Dare is also a 40 day challenge, intended to help married people better express love towards one another in small and large ways each day. Now since I knew what it was all about, it was hard to not feel bitter as it sat collecting dust. Eventually I realized I was harboring hurt feelings and made the decision to stop waiting for Matt to pick up the book, and instead picked it up myself. I took it with me everywhere I went. As with my recent dare I didn't confine myself to one dare a day, but one dare at a time, until I understood how to make the challenge a life-style choice in our marriage...
Today, 7 days into this new dare, I wanted to share with you that I'm thankful. I'm thankful for my husband. I'm thankful for my home full of the stuff I get to pick up all day. I'm thankful for the children I get to love on and train up. I'm thankful for The Respect Dare. And, I'm even thankful for the hard in our marriage - the laboratory where Holiness is produced.
If you haven't bought a copy of this book yet, do it now. What a powerful challenge. I dare you!
I'm a natural submitter, if that's a word. I mean I submit rather easily. And the fact that my husband is a natural leader makes for a perfectly symbiotic relationship. At least it did for the first few, child-free years of our lives together. Then came the stressors that children bring; the house, the kids, the sleepless nights and unending days full of messes to be cleaned and behavior to be corrected. And what little remained of me after pouring out to little ones all day long, I started holding covetously to.
But my role as his wife hadn't changed, my circumstances had. He still needed me to help him and support him, to give him physical love and tenderness, as well as emotional stability and peace within the home. Goodness gracious, even as I write those words, I can hear the disgusted grunts from some of the ladies reading this. And given the culture we live in, I know my ideals sound antiquated if not archaic.
We live today in a world that teaches us we deserve great gobs of help around the house from our husbands, we deserve waxed legs and weekend getaways and more money to spend, in the midst of these intense child-rearing years. I think of the verse, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)
When I begin feeling bitter that he's not meeting all my needs, more hands on with the children, or loving me well enough, I have to literally and physically turn off the world's speakers and plug into the truth that can be found in God's Word. I need to be transformed when I am tired, not conformed to the bitterness and entitled tendencies of the world around me.
And these are the verses to which I go:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Yes, I know there's a lot there about what our husbands are supposed to be doing for us. But it is not our job to teach them. It is our job to to do our job, in the many seasons of our lives together. Some seasons will be easier to submit and love and respect them than others. This is a harder season for most of us, for, like I said before, we have so little left over to submit and pour out at the end of our weary days. But I love that God wrote our job description down before he penned our husband's. I think he did it so that we might not wait for our husbands to "love us" (in all the ways we think they ought to when we are raising their children,) before we are willing to give them what they so desperately need. They need us to submit to their lead and to respect them, if they love us well of not.
Just as I need love and a relative amount of sleep to survive in our home, my husband needs the respect I had showed him in the early days of our marriage. Slowly I began to hear the dwindling strains of respect in my voice and sensed it's absence in my heart... something had gone array in our marriage. Not enough for others to see, possibly not even enough for my dear husband to notice, but I was becoming aware of the change... in me.
I'm writing this post today because I see that I have been off in this regard. I didn't know where to turn for direction until I came across the book "The Respect Dare," by Nina Roesner. It's a 40 day challenge that takes women through their own lives, where their concepts of respect first took root. It gives examples, prayers, and challenges for us to apply in our own lives. It is allowing me to see (for I am still working through it as I write this) that respect is much broader than the words I speak. For each woman and her individual husband, I think, it will look slightly different. But the heart, from which respect flows out, is where the work begins in us all.
When I started upon this journey I texted one of my friends, asking if she'd like to work through the book at the same time so that we can encourage one another and compare notes. She wrote back, "Respect? Them's fightin' words!" Respect is almost as dangerous a word as submission. They smack of weakness and servitude. But I challenge you, to think of respect as a gift to be given away.
That said: Many woman don't have a respectable husband to give this gift to... oh how hard these words must be for you. But the charge is the same for us all. The introduction in "The Respect Dare" reminds us that Jesus called Silas, "Peter", which literally means the rock, before Peter was rock solid. But Jesus spoke these strong words into his oft times weak follower, and Peter in turn lived up to the challenge.
If your husband is not loving you well, and you have withdrawn your intimacy and friendship from him; if he is disrespect-able, causing you to remove your respectful heart far from his own; if he has shown himself not trustworthy, and you've made your lack of trust in him clear time and time again... I challenge you to stop. Making a U-turn when the road has been so treacherous may seem impossible... but your calling remains the same.
It's easy to think we're perfect when married to a flawed man. Can I get an Amen? But the only perfection we bring to the marriage is another perfectly flawed human in need to grace. Let's be the first to extend such grace to our spouse and begin the healthy love and respect cycle in our homes.
Read through the dare with me, if you dare, and tell me what you are learning along the way.
by Grace Paley
Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face
how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be
at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandsom
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips
Ten years ago right about now, I was picking "my old man" up from the airport. We headed straight away to a local park where a city symphony was tuning up for their evening Summer concert. Our family was waiting for us with a picnic dinner. His folks, his brothers and sister, and my mom and step-dad, my Aunt and Uncle and Cousins, my Brother and his wife, all together for the first time. It was two days before our wedding.
The whole weekend was one big love fest! Friends and family flooded back into our lives from important times in our past, to celebrate the future we were committing to spend together. And we have spent these past ten years together faithfully.
The first 18 months were euphoric for us. While many newlyweds suffer tremendously in their early days of marriage, we were giddy! As an actress I had auditions and sporadic jobs I'd book, but most of my days were spent looking through bon apetite magazines, and coming up with fun menus or new ways to arrange the furniture. I grew an herb garden and made all sorts of flavorful sauces from scratch. When Matt came home he'd find the bbq fired up and his wife swimming (sans her suit) in the pool. Life was bliss.
Then we moved from Texas (where Matt is from) to California (where I am from) for a new job. We were back amongst my family and the welcome perfect climate. While at my mom's house, for the two months before we found a home, we conceived our first born baby. This next season in our lives was thrilling. Watching my body grow, knowing that a baby would be ours, but not knowing a thing that would entail... absolutely thrilling. And then our son arrived, one splendid December day.
I took him out to Mom's groups at local churches; we went to the park before he could sit on the grass, let alone sit up in a swing; we did mommy and me swim lessons; and played each Tuesday with a precious group of children his age. By the time he was 14 months old, I was pregnant with our second born Love. Then two years later along came our third son.
Life got messy at this point. I'm not referring to the spilled milk, or my painful attempts to nurse my newest baby, I'm not talking about the poop that found it's way out of diapers and onto the furniture... Life got messy because I couldn't seem to manage it all. The cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, the park dates, sleep deprivation, the trips to the doctor for baby number three... needless to say my sweet man and I ceased spending good time together.
Oh, we have been so blessed to have my mom and his take the children every now and then so that we can get away together, but in our day in and day out existence, we were simply surviving. And I began to miss him. Even as I write those words I sense the miracle of our experience. So many couples "grow apart" during these years with young ones underfoot, but we missed one another. We longed for our friendship and the laughter, even when we were too tired or grumpy to delight in one another.
We are not quite out of the woods yet, but I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. One day soon I will have my man again by my side; not running to the left to grab one little hand as I run to the right to catch hold of another.
I want to live "Here," in this moment, rather than wishing the days away. I know that when I get "there" at the end of my children's growing up years, I will have my man by my side 'til we're good and old; but I will miss their popsicle kisses, their declarations of love, and their promises to marry me. And so I purpose to live "Here" today, and find as many moments as I can along the way to taste tomorrow in my man's sweet kisses.