I have two male Christian friends who are single. Both would like to marry. Observing my marriage, one of them asked me if I’d considered doing marriage counseling. While I wouldn’t reject doing such a thing outright, I consider that the success of my marriage has at least as much to do with my wife as with me.
I have some understanding of why my marriage is successful and I’ve heard my friends say things that really should be addressed. I decided to write to them, because what I have to say is generally applicable to both.
I found these words very difficult to write because I don’t like to put myself into a position where my words, and perhaps, myself, may be judged or rejected. Nevertheless, brotherly love requires that I share what I believe that God has taught me.
As you ask the Lord for a wife, immediately a question comes up. Why should He answer your prayer? What are your reasons for making such a request? An obvious, and very general, answer might be, “To meet my needs.” It is true that God created man to need a wife, but is this a good enough reason for a Christian man to request that His Lord give him a wife?
To ask this question another way, consider the admonition in Ephesians 5:25,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,…
“Lord, give me someone for whom I might lay down my life.” Can you, from your heart pray this prayer? I might remind you (for you’ve already been taught this), the admonitions of Scripture are not suggestions; they are commandments. I, as a married man, am subject to judgment in ways that single men are not, and I tremble, for I know my failures. (My wife does, too.)
I saw a cartoon when I was young, where a teen-aged boy was boasting to a girl, “I’d die for my faith!”. To which she replied, “Then why don’t you live by it?” One of the things that made this exchange memorable is that time has shown me just how very good women are at reminding men of their shortcomings.
One of the things I’ve noticed about those admonitions in Scripture that relate to Christian maturity is that they seem to tell people to do the opposite of what our sinful, human nature would direct us. The natural thing to do is not necessarily sinful in the normally accepted sense, but it causes us to fall short of what our Lord would call on us to do, which is the Biblical definition of sin. Here are examples:
It is the natural tendency for men to find their interests outside their homes and to use their homes as places of rest and refreshment before going out again. Most men do that. But, if a man is going to love his wife, giving himself for her, he’s going to have to focus much more on his home for that is her primary sphere of interest. He’s going to have to be pro-active in showing his love, i.e. in cleaning up messes and taking out the trash. Women are wierd, I know, but they actually see those things as expressions of love.
Remember the cartoon where a hubby is reading the newspaper and his wife comes down the hall behind him asking, “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” Without taking his eyes or mind from the paper, he answers, “Yes, dear.” As he digs his way out of his crumpled paper, he asks his furious wife, “What?” You must not do that.
Women need communication. Sharing information at the emotional level is something that is a part of female human nature. She wants to talk with her husband. She needs to explain her viewpoints even when she and her husband are agreed. She needs him to listen to her and to engage her sincerely.
Conversation is something that men are almost universally poor at. Can we do it? Yes, but it’s easier to say that we can’t, for if we can get our wives to accept that as a fact, we can park in front of the TV or computer and forget our homes and families. Let me ask this: You are church and you need to share your heart with your Lord and Saviour. Our faith tells us that He is always there to hear our prayers. Suppose He was available for us in the same way that most men are available for their wives. Would your faith be the same as it is now?
Brothers, I’ve suggested that you write blogs to get practice in sharing what is on your mind and heart. To say that you can talk about the Lord, but not about yourself, doesn’t cut it for that makes you a lecturer, not a communicator. If you cannot tell people of any practical experience you’ve had with the Lord, how can you convince anyone else that our Lord is ready to minister to them? One thing I know. If you keep your thoughts and feelings bottled up now, you are not going to open up to your wife as soon as you stand before the preacher and say “I do.” I’m certain that it is more difficult for some than it is for others. You cannot meet your wife’s need if you refuse to make the effort. The question that you need to answer is how important it is to you that you meet the needs of the wife you want God to give you.
Some men, when considering a woman that would be acceptable to them as a wife, eliminate from consideration certain categories of women. I once said that I’d never marry a woman who was older than I. The Lord gave me just such a woman and our marriage was a Heaven on Earth, thanks to her. Had I stuck to my guns, I’d have lost so much! (I lost her to cancer.) Do you not want any woman who already has children? It could be that the woman the Lord has for you does have children and by refusing to consider her, you eliminate God’s choice. Will you examine yourself and see whether your refusal of such a woman might be because of what such a marriage might cost you? If “self” is the reason, why would you expect God to give you anyone?
The English word “husband” is loaded. To suggest that I am my wife’s husband is completely different than saying that I am her man. Those familiar with the Authorized (King James) Bible have seen the word “husbandman” and understand it to be “farmer”. Observe the farmer at work. He does whatever is necessary for that over which he is responsible, be it crops or cattle, to become the best that it can become, sometimes at great cost to himself. So is the husband to be toward his wife. He is to do whatever is necessary so that his wife and family might become the best that they are able to be. Will they always cooperate? As one who has cared for goats, I can affirm that they do not.
As I was growing up, I often heard Ephesians 5:22-24 preached:
Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
I have heard men excuse themselves from loving their wives as they ought because their wives were not subject to them.
The fact is that most women today see the whole concept of submitting themselves to their husbands as some sort of oppression and respond with an implied, “Dream on, big boy.” I had a wife once who declared that she could not be subject to me because she judged me to be an inadequate husband, so this is a two way street. (That marriage didn’t last.) Are there any women who practice a life of submission to their husbands? I can say unequivocally, “Yes.”, but it takes a special grace for a woman to be one, just as it takes a special grace for a man to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Would we want our Lord to excuse Himself from caring for us because of the degree to which the church is, in practice, subject to Him? My question for guys is, “Dare you ask God for a wife who will be subject to you, if you will not love her as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her?” Mind you, if you can declare that you will be a Christ-like husband by creating your own definition of what that means, then your wife is entitled to create the definition of what being in submission to you means. To have a wife that will bring you joy, you must be a man who will bring her joy.
When God brought Pirjo into my life, it soon became apparent that He had been working for a long time to prepare us for one another. We needed to do very little “adjusting” to one another’s ways, for we fit each other as though we’d been reared in the same village, even though we had been reared one third of the way around the world from each other. These “ways” include some very important things, but also many little things that make life together pleasant but would not make or break a relationship.
Now, go and tell God why He should give you a godly wife.