Tag Archives: complementary

For the Men in My Daughters’ Lives

The world we live in suggests, no, demands, that we conduct our marriages as though they are a perpetual power struggle. 50/50 and egalitarian marriages would have us counting beans and tallying scorecards the livelong day.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Real traditional marriage, not the caricature bandied about by its detractors, calls us to a higher place, and a better one. Love does not keep its eye on the balances to make sure my side of the scale isn’t heavier than yours. The Biblical model is one in which I stop defending my own interests and care more about my spouse’s; and care most about the sacred trust we’ve got called Our Marriage.

We are called to care for each other to a counterintuitive and astonishing degree. Self-sacrifice on both sides is the way of life called for in marriage.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

Lest you think this language is hyperbole, and that you probably won’t be called upon to put it into action unless you’re aboard the Titanic II, letting your wife get on the lifeboat while you remain on deck, let me assure you that you are living this every day. Or you’re not.

You are called to lay down your life for her, and she for you, every day.

As a wife I might do this by simply being kind and engaged with my husband when life is distracting and irritating. Or I might pour my effort into creating a warm and comfortable home, managing resources economically, doing my part in raising self-directed and wise children to adulthood, or promoting kind and considerate behavior. If you’re wondering why I call this “laying down your life”, you probably haven’t tried it.

As the man in the equation, one of the ways you can lay down your life is by taking care of your wife. Protect her, defend her. Speak up when she is disrespected. Your wife (or fiancé) is probably tough and tenacious, nevertheless, you ought to take care of her like she’s a fragile and precious treasure.

Protection is not based on the weakness or inability of the protected. We protect what we value. We protect our loved ones because they are ours; unique and irreplaceable.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. I Peter 3:7

If someday you have children together, she will have the minute-by-minute responsibility to oversee your children.  She will be making decisions constantly on the minutiae of managing a household and X number of people all at various stages of development. At the same time, she must keep her reactions to the stress to herself, which requires wisdom, patience, perseverance, energy, selflessness. In practical terms she must think about them rather than herself throughout every day.

That last one is where you come in. Your responsibility is to think about her when she doesn’t have the luxury.  Guard her needs, her dignity, her health. You will look out for her while she looks out for the kids. Keep in mind that you must take this responsibility because she may not. Don’t wait for her to ask for help.

Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

You say she’s the strong one? The one with the ideas? A driven career woman? Your job description doesn’t change.

Let’s not join in with the world’s nonsense thinking. Don’t ask her to do your job and hers.  Did you think managing and physically maintaining a home, and nurturing and raising children was not a full time job? Did she have lots of free time on her hands with nothing to do? Was she not pulling her weight? Or was that job not meaningful enough?

Each couple’s response to economic reality is personal, and I won’t second-guess a working wife’s wisdom.  But neither of you should buy into the new paradigm that leaves unquestioned the premise that women’s lives are only meaningful when they contribute their share to the world of work.

Please don’t ask her to do her job, and expect her to earn her half of the economic partnership. One career added to a 24/7/365 task is more burden than you can carry; why do you expect it of the one God calls the weaker vessel?

Remember in what way Jesus Christ “gave up his life for her”, the church. The Church is us, all of us who believe in Jesus as the Son of God, the Redeemer who died on the cross as a substitute for us sinners who deserve the punishment. He who was without sin willingly became the sin-bearer:

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

He made himself utterly vulnerable; he did not protect or reserve himself.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

He gave his life for her even when she didn’t understand or appreciate it. He did it because he had created her with infinite value and he had a claim on her; she was his. This was no selfish motive…her true home was with him, and to wander from home would be tragic and destructive for her.

He had created Her, yet he died to make her his own forever.

He gave to the uttermost; he gave everything for His Church, his Bride. What does this look like for a guy in his everyday life? How will you lay down your life for your bride?

Reducing Relationship

I have a husband who won’t let me get near the dishes lately. There are always a lot of dishes here, a lot, always. His reasons are clearly excuses.

In 31 years, we have not had Fight One over who works harder, whether he should help with the housework, or whose job it is to iron his clothes, mow the lawn or put the kids to bed. But it’s certainly not because we’re above such things.

We don’t do 50/50 here.

Did other people speak wedding vows which assigned domestic duties, and which spouse was going to be the primary breadwinner?  Because  to hear some people complain about the sorry thing called marriage, you would think that in their vows, they promised to model Ozzie and Harriet in their suburban 1950’s home. And they don’t want to, so away with marriage, that obsolete patriarchal engine of oppression.

We didn’t sign a contract outlining household duties or role requirements when we got married. We didn’t confuse our wedding vows with societal expectations or TV sitcoms.

What did we vow?

“Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”

“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”

What we vowed may have been a slight variation on these words, I don’t remember. We knew what we were promising.

Notice that we both vowed the same things. There wasn’t the Housewife Version and the King of the Castle Version.

You’ll also notice that these vows are not limiting, but rather open-ended, except as to duration–until death. We were promising to love, to comfort, to be faithful.  We were not promising the nuts and bolts, the how we would achieve these abstract states of existence. We were promising to live the rest of our lives committed to and committing to one relationship.

A relationship has the potential to grow and expand, and to build toward almost infinite intimacy. To live under a contract would reduce our love to a pre-ordained set of boundaries.

On another front…

During my tenure as a parent, I’ve been advised by persons who are over The Age of Eighteen, that I ought not to tell adults what to do. All the advice-granters in the world would tell me to say: OK, you’re an adult now, so I’m not allowed to tell you what to do. In return, I give up caring whether you get yourself up for church, school or work. It’s your business and I’m not going to help you anymore. You’re not my responsibility.

There is certainly truth in there. My role as a Mom changes as my child matures and I do have to increasingly step back and let him make decisions, and let him live with the way those decisions play out. I’m fine with Mr. Experience  teaching her the responsibilities of adulthood. And I’m not above feeling a tiny bit of pleasure when an “I told you so” would be a legally appropriate thing to say.

But relationships are not contracts. A contract spells out what I am, and am not, responsible for. Beyond the requirements of a contract one does not go. A contract limits my actions.

When we had a young teenager who was self-willed and apparently in danger of going off the rails, the going advice was to put the relationship under contract.  This is what’s expected of you, Teenager.  And if you commit these crimes, here is a handy list of the corresponding consequences. Now you know what to expect. 

It was an invitation not to be resisted. And because our children are creative people, it was unresisted very creatively. There was no instance in which he/she committed Offense X and therefore was liable for Consequence X.  It was never that simple.

Because they don’t just want to do X and get away with it; the goal is to confound your attempts to be the authority in the first place. They want to mess with you. It’s all about the relationship, and the rebellious child knows that better than you do.

Contracts and legal agreements reduce a relationship to that which is spelled out therein. Do we really want our family relationships lived via contractual agreement?

Relationships are not contractually binding; relationships supersede contracts. My behavior toward those I love aren’t limited by the letter of the law. Or so says The Author of Relationships:

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Romans 12:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

“We love him, because he first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”   I Peter 4:8.

Relationships with human beings are infinitely more binding than legal agreements. We are accountable to love one another. To act on their behalf toward their good, even and especially when they aren’t able to appreciate the help, even and especially when we don’t think we have the strength to do it, even and especially when we feel like doing the opposite.

According to J.Budziszewski, “Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.”

I want to relate to people in my life according to love and grace, not according to a reductive contractual agreement.  At times, I must borrow heavily from an inexhaustible Source to fulfill my part.

I give the Adult a wake-up call because I know he has trouble hearing his alarm, on the morning after receiving the caution not to tell the Adult he should go to bed. Or go pick her up when she didn’t plan for the ride home. Overlook irritating and irritated talk.  Dive in to thankless tasks. Really act as though the person is truly loved, and you couldn’t live without her, because it’s true.

And isn’t the debate over complementarian (no, it’s not in my spellcheck vocabulary either) vs. egalitarian marriage really a hyper-focus on this very thing? They can’t get their eyes off of that simplistically reductive 50/50.

The change agents are so proud of their enlightened egalitarian marriages.  They’ve given us something new, something never seen before in the long millennia of human history: men and women, equal in marriage! Hey, congrats and thanks, guys!

I do hate to tell them that the Bible had this one a long time ago:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21.

And specifically on marriage:

Ephesians 5:33: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I Peter 3:7:Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  I Corinthians 7: 2-5

Settle what job is whose, for goodness sake, and move on.

Of course when you have just now thrown away: what women are, what men are, and what you are; and you confuse Ward and June Clever with millennia-old Scriptural teaching, it makes for a little tiny bit of confusion. If you’re going to set out to right societal wrongs, it would be best to get an understanding of the issue all the way down to its foundations.

My husband does the dishes lately without explanation.  He fends me off and tells me to go relax.  After working all day and then chauffeuring for awhile, then going to a meeting, after working on his own writing, before going to bed much too late and getting up much too early.

It’s not because he’s invented a brand new kind of marriage. It’s not because he’s heard on Christian radio that husbands doing housework get rewarded in the bedroom. He has nothing to prove and no secret agenda. He just understands what he promised.

 

 

Manifesto: The Primal Creation

What makes a marriage a marriage? We need to define it before we re-define it.  What is distinct about it?  What makes marriage…marriage?

I think we misunderstand it, and that is pure tragedy.

Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were created beings who were able to relate to God; sentient and self-aware; in His image because they possessed spirits. Out of all that God created, man is the only being who is able to commune with God.

God called this creation something special. Together they were His joy, His most cherished creation. We were created for this relationship with God, and cultivating this relationship with God is man’s responsibility and his privilege.

God created man. Then woman was made from man. Note that she was not created a separate being or species.  They are two manifestations of the same created being.  She was made from him. So intrinsically was she created to be the one who completed him. They are inseparable.

Genesis 2: 23-25:

The man said,

         “This is now bone of my bones,

         And flesh of my flesh;

         She shall be called Woman,

         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

The fundamental creation was the man and the woman in exclusive, intimate relationship. We call that marriage. Marriage is primal in two ways in terms of human societal significance: it was first or primary; and it was the original creation from which all else followed.

In sexual intimacy between a man and wife, that which was once complete in one being, then separated into two, joins again into one. One flesh, one union.

Either marriage is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the church is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the nation is created by God, or it’s a human construct.  As such, either God is sovereign over them, or there is no authority over them except whoever exerts and maintains power over them.

The Breaking of It

Marriage has been understood everywhere, by everyone, at all times. Heterosexual marriage is what has been understood as marriage. Even where other sexual relationships are tolerated, monogamous marriage is the standard to which all other relationships are compared, and no society in human history has ever defined non-heterosexual unions as marriage.

Marriage growing from the root of the special sexual relationship is more primal than any law; its violation more basic, fundamental and outrageous. Cultures everywhere know this without regard to their knowledge of Judeo- Christian culture.

Socially and historically, its violation is often perceived as more egregious than murder.

When comparing codes of law across world civilizations, there are very few laws which are truly universal. The one law which is common to every culture is a man’s exclusive relationship with his woman.

In some cultures, this is understood as the man’s ownership of his woman. It is not an egalitarian rule: a man may have multiple women, wives or concubines but the women are regarded as in exclusive relationship with the one man. I’m not defending; only explaining.

And in some primitive societies, it is lawful to kill in order to protect this relationship, and it is lawful to avenge its violation by killing. Murder then is considered a virtue under the circumstance of protection of one’s woman—one’s exclusive “ownership” of the relationship with one’s woman. That relationship is understood to be the foundation upon which that man’s family or clan is built. If he loses her, he loses all.

Everyone everywhere always understood the meaning and importance of marriage. Til the enlightened new age, now.

But What Is It?

We often say that the family is the structure supporting civilization. And it’s so, but let’s look deeper.

God designed marriage first. It was the first human society or institution.  It is before and underlying all codes of law ever invented.  It is fundamental to everything else. This is God’s design.

Not only is the family the tiny society upon which all other social structures are built (such as communities, clans, and governing bodies small and large);

…and that the husband and wife couple are at the foundation of, and are the beginning of that family;

…but that the exclusive sexual relationship which is the signal defining feature of that relationship is the foundation of ALL of it.

There are many kinds of human relationships. Many of them can be intense, close and beneficial.  But there is only one human relationship in which two people become immersed in one another, intertwined, and complementary to one another.  In this relationship, two people become one. This is the male-female marriage relationship created by God.

And this union is strong enough to create other people, socialize them, and teach them to create more families, thus continuing a civilization, with its culture and heritage.

The male-female exclusive faithful sexual relationship lies below the foundation of every culture and society. It is utterly unique.

What makes that relationship so special? That our society has begun to seriously question its specialness is foreboding.

There is only one valid physical way that two people attain that complementarity, that intertwining, that immersion, that real union. It is the “one flesh” union which confirms and consummates that unique union. One male and one female in the physical act made obvious by our complementary anatomies. It is an utterly unique sexual relationship, this “becoming one flesh”.  It is only that specific physical union which signifies marriage in the eyes of God and those who honor Him.

Jesus is quoted in Mark 10: 6-9: But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Two singular people combine and become not a union of two, but a union of one which is greater than the combination of two. One becomes greater than two.

There is only one sexual act which causes two to become one. In the wedded heterosexual union, there is a union which is not only physical; it is emotional, spiritual, and volitional. Two hearts find expression of affection and intimacy which is so intense it defies description. Two wills choose to give selves entirely to the other in mutual trust. And, in the case of two people who understand that their relationship is created in the mind of God, and express their joy in each other and Him, there is spiritual union.

What is Sex?

Our modern world has come to believe that the essence of sexual union is the orgasm. We define sex as the achievement of orgasm, and the person we are committed to experiencing that orgasm is…me, the self.

Any variety of relationship can unite in a variety of sexual acts where each one reaches satisfaction. Several different anatomical configurations are on the menu, and sometimes inanimate objects are needed.  All loving sexual practices are equal, right?

There are problems with this belief. Orgasm can be achieved in many ways with any assortment of partners or alone. (Can one achieve oneness by himself?) One may achieve an orgasm for oneself without any care for the partner, at the expense of the partner, or by using another human being. Sex can be a cold, selfish, sterile act, and often is.

And a loving heterosexual couple may enjoy their oneness without both of them reaching orgasm.

And one may legitimately question whether some sexual practices can be selfless and loving.

So can orgasm be what sex is?

Isn’t sex supposed to be intrinsically meaningful? Is it not an expression of the joy of unique relationship? Then we must look for its meaning elsewhere than the orgasm.

Sexual intimacy as the result of a covenant between a man, a woman and God in a permanent relationship intended to (at least potentially) create family and continue a heritage, sexual intimacy which validates and gives to the other selflessly, sexual intimacy as a powerful expression of emotional, spiritual and volitional oneness, sexual intimacy as physically designed by our Creator…is an entirely unique thing.

Song of Songs 2:16: My beloved is mine and I am his…

For the best testimony on behalf of the unique experience of marital love, read The Song Of Solomon.  It has never been surpassed.

We seek after the sublime and transcendent sexual experience. But it is not a result of the orgasm. The oneness is achieved in the will and finds expression in the act.

This is what happens in married sex: the two shall be one flesh. God knew what he was talking about when he described the relationship this way.  Jesus, confirming Genesis, said:

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall be one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” Mark 10: 6-8.

The power of a faithful, committed, selfless, affectionate sexual relationship to create a transcendent and meaningful bond between two people of opposite sex is a mystery, a miracle. Those who are privileged to experience it know that they are blessed.  But our world does not understand it, and that is a wide-ranging tragedy.

DNA

Marriage is consummated by sex; sex , as designed by its Creator, defines marriage. Marriage is the context God has designed for that relationship.

Our world, across societies and cultures, across the centuries, everywhere and always, is created with the committed heterosexual union woven intrinsically and seamlessly into its fiber. It is in our world’s DNA.

 

Hebrews 13: 4: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

No matter what you call other unions, they aren’t marriage. They do not consummate the union. They aren’t even having sex.

I am saying that any other arrangement is not legitimately marriage because they cannot consummate their union. Just as heterosexual marriage is not equivalent to any other grouping which calls itself marriage, heterosexual married sex is not equivalent to any other sexual practice.

We have already un-defined sex. When we UN-define marriage, we are at the point of the dissolution of everything. It’s in the fabric of the universe. If we deem other relationships  equivalent to marriage, we are reaching the point of the dissolution of everything.

The Real Forgotten?

Understand that no matter what our society prefers or legislates, real marriage as God created it is untouched; marriage will not be altered by our attempts to ape it, abuse it or to alter it cafeteria-style to suit ourselves.

But society’s perception of marriage matters because if it is undefined, its enormous grace and helpfulness, the variety of familial special relationships it creates…disappear. Future generations will be unable to reap the benefits of an institution of which they know nothing.

The Erasing of It

Gay marriage is a watershed issue. It is dividing the population in terms of public opinion. It is dividing the church between the faithful and the preferential-cultural.

To judge by the rhetoric surrounding the conservation of traditional marriage, even the evangelical church does not understand the true value of marriage. Redefining marriage is absurd and disastrous, but its defenders do not seem to understand why.

We must base our persuasion solely on God’s truth, whether it is believed or not, whether it is deemed offensive or not. Arguments from practicality and from behaviorism may be valid, but they do not convince, and they aren’t the real reasons.

As Christians, we must talk about what marriage is, what sex is, and what they mean. Because no one else knows.

The people of the world don’t really have a chance of understanding the significance of sex, or even of the sexual experience. They are blind and unconnected to its spiritual attributes, and hardly able to comprehend its true meaning and power. They talk about it as though it’s merely a physical rush accompanied by a transient emotional high.

And that’s how we find ourselves fighting the belief that all kinds of sex are equal, that all kinds of “marriages” are equal.

When we forget what marriage is and what it means, as we clearly have, we misunderstand the differences between male and female. We lose the distinction between men and women. And the family disappears.

We lose everything.

Because everything is built upon the male-female distinction and relationship.

We lose marriage completely when we define it out of existence.

We lose the concept of family, and we lose all family relationships.

We lose the significance and the enjoyment of sex.

The Disappearance of It

When marriage by definition is the recognition by God and society of the permanent exclusive commitment between a man and a woman consummated by sexual union as designed and sanctioned by God;

and we re-define it to mean:

the state’s recognition of a semi-exclusive (relative) commitment between any two people of any sexes, defined by non-normative sexual practice,

yet unconsummated by God’s design for sexual union;

when both and all cases are recognized as having equal validity as marriage; we lose marriage.

There is no more marriage. There are only couples of any variety seeking temporary approval and validity from the state.

The logical, inevitable outcome of the legal re-definition of marriage to include gay marriage is that the state is now sanctioning a contractual relationship based on the self-report of an intense emotional state of a couple. Once that is the case, there is no reason why those criteria cannot be applied to any relationship involving any number of any types of persons.

And then that which is sanctioned by the state and society has become a legal contract between any number of persons who wish to enter into that contract for any reasons of their own.

Do you see how we are moving, step-by-step, away from a religious commitment based on a faith promise recognized legally by the state? The state then is in the business of recognizing legal relationship contracts…the state is the solemnizer, the legitimizer, the approver… because the method for solemnizing and (making official) is now only legal.

The state will then cease to recognize religiously solemnized marriages. Recognizing faith based marriage will be outside of the state’s scope.

The real effect, and perhaps the real purpose, of the marriage equality movement is to separate any connection of a religious nature from the societal and state sanctioned approval of marriage.

Thus making religious marriages second class, unsanctioned and “illegal.”  Am I cynical enough to believe that was the plan in some activists’ minds from the start?  You bet I am.

Utopia

Marriage, irrelevant and superfluous, dries up and scatters in the wind. It is forgotten. What happens then?  Imagine a bit into the future, when all the change agents have had their way with our society and taught us their lessons.  What will their utopia look like?

When we knock out the frame of the house, the structure soon collapses. What happens to the family when it only exists as a copy of an outmoded form which has lost its purpose?  Then family no longer means husband-wife-and their children.

We lose family relationships. Everyone becomes an individual arbitrarily connected to people of his choice. Familial roles like fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts become more tenuous and arbitrary.

We lose the concept of permanent commitment.

We lose any understanding of what sex is, what it means, what it is for, how to enjoy it. It loses its significance and becomes a recreational activity. And disconnected from meaning, it becomes dull and pointless, merely a pressure valve to let off steam.

Ironically to some, it might be the seriously religious, the fundamentalist Christian monogamous married couples, who keep the treasure of authentic sexual intimacy safe for a waiting future, while the hordes sweep civilization’s memory of it away and replace it with a crass caricature. Like a handful of Irish monks who kept safe the secrets of literacy, culture and faith for the revival of western civilization.

Ridicule

It’s so refreshing to hear a woman spontaneously praise her husband. That’s because it’s extremely rare. Even those women who genuinely admire their husbands feel a bit embarrassed to speak up. It’s just so counter-cultural.

I’m supposed to be a bit disapproving about some aspect of my husband’s behavior, and I’m expected to share it with a laugh or a roll of my eyes. Otherwise I’m a vapid Stepford Wife.

Our culture is saturated with this attitude. It’s even parroted in our churches. You don’t need me to rehash the many ways we belittle men in our world. Did you manage to miss the Facebook memes today about the superior intelligence of wives, or was it about the selfish stupidity of husbands? That new joke? I’m still laughing.

Actually we’ve been working on the humiliation of men for a long, long time, and the origin is infinitely more unsavory. The first set of judgments from Eden predicts that the besetting sin of womankind will be to resent the place of mankind, and particularly her own mate. To lord it over him, to choose to live in a state of conflict with him.

One of the ugliest things I have seen is a wife who ridicules her husband in front of others and passes it off as a joke. But it’s such a good joke, every single time, am I right?

Is it ever pretty when someone makes herself look good by making someone else look bad? The one-upsmanship can take many forms. It is easy for us women to manipulate before we realize what we’re doing. Do you know why it’s easy? No resistance. Because, usually, he is gracious about it. Because when you are using your power over your husband to manipulate him, you are counting on him to treat you with grace. How does it feel to use your husband’s own kindness against him?
Then there’s the compulsion, like a habit, to put him down. Sometimes it’s subtle. You may put down something he cares about, remotely, as if it’s not a personal insult. I guarantee that he knows he’s been slighted.

And then there’s the outright ridicule. It’s always so funny when a woman points out that the one person in her life whom she had the option to choose is an idiot. But I don’t understand how that makes him look bad.

A woman who makes jokes at the expense of her husband, or who eye-rolls or smirks while he’s talking, is missing something very fundamental about being in a marriage. More so if she believes she is part of a union comprised of herself, her husband, and Christ.

Ridicule is contempt. It’s betrayal. It’s embarrassing to everyone present. It puts her to shame far more than him. I don’t know what response she receives from her man, but others who hear her jibes are inwardly wincing. The person who is looking unfavorable is not the husband.

We women forget how much power we possess.

We possess the power to cultivate or to poison our own sexual relationship. How emotionally close to your husband would you feel if he made it clear to all your friends that he was embarrassed by you? Would you be able to be trusting, without barriers? It’s hard to really trust someone who hurts you. That’s rather important in sexual intimacy.

We possess the power to make or break a home.” The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1. This is exactly what a ridiculing wife is doing to her husband, her children, herself. How you value and respect your husband, or how you don’t, will become a heritage that your heirs will build upon.

We have the power to make or break our society. Ladies, we set the tone, we drive the future. We rock the cradle; we teach the next generation more important things than potty-training, manners, math and reading. We teach them how to navigate and cultivate relationships, how to navigate adulthood in a hostile environment, how to become responsible adults.

Whether to love or hate. Whether to take or give. Whether to value or dismiss. Whether to respect or humiliate. Whether to build or destroy. Whether to serve or use.

We have all the power we dare to exert. We have power we never use. I have no patience with the supposed oppression of women in modern first-world western society. I think we’re afraid of the responsibility if we should dare to righteously use all the power God has given us.

If you want to re-orient your attitude, it might be best to study up on what a man was designed to be. I suggest going to the resource written by the One who invented men.

Once you’ve gained some understanding of what a man is, you may not need my suggestions. But here they are anyway:

Encourage him to be a man. If he knows you support him in being who God means him to be, you will receive the true man God wants for you—and you will be amazed at who he is and what he can do. Your children for generations will be blessed.
And because he is a fallible human being, he will need your support in reaching for who he is meant to be. We all need encouragement for the task to become more than we are.

He has been given talents by God. Be careful not to criticize something which is an expression of his gifts. Heaven forbid that you should belittle how God has gifted him. But you are supernaturally gifted with the gifts of the Spirit, so you can do this.

Treat his thoughts and opinions with seriousness and respect. Don’t only do this only outwardly.

Most importantly, encourage him to lead by respecting his decisions. Give him deference and trust. I sometimes wonder why women have chosen to be in relationships with men who they are unable to respect.

The best men I know are also the most graceful, meaning they treat others with grace. ( Grace= treating someone with more kindness than is deserved or necessary). They are not petty, as we women are apt to be. They humbly return kindnesses for slights. Do not abuse this awesome grace or take it for granted.

Why do we fear ceding too much power to our husbands? Do we try to live down to the canards that a husband “behaves” so as not to risk his wife’s petty wrath?

Your husband will not dismiss your wisdom, your opinions, your convictions, your feelings or your intuitions because he already loves you for those very things. He will value and respect your views and will be guided by your intelligence and your convictions. You need not fear submitting to a loving husband who knows your worth.

You can trust his “final-word” because he is basing his decisions upon your guidance added to his own. And GOD has given him his own portion of wisdom. In trusting him with final authority, you are trusting God.

What kind of a husband do you want? Do you want a man who is afraid to irritate you? Do you want one who obeys you? One who slowly learns to adapt to your spoken criticism, who learns to be what you say about him?
Or do you want a MAN—a man who feels free to become all that God intends him to be?
A man who respects the power structure. He answers to God, not to you. He knows who he is. A man who does what is right regardless of the reactions of the people around him is strong, admirable and noble. You can see by now that you are putting down more than your husband.

Always be the kindest person in his life. Who else if not you? A marriage can endure against many threats. But no relationship can survive unkindness.
The vital importance of simple kindness cannot be underestimated. Just be kind—it’s so easy to know when you are and when you are not being kind. Be kind to him at all times. Be kind when he deserves it and when he doesn’t. Be kind when it’s not necessary. There is no downside; you will receive a better relationship and more love in return, and you will have become a kinder person. You lose nothing; you gain a lot.

If you still find yourself truly being embarrassed by your husband’s behavior, if you think one day that he is actually being foolish, then take a look in a mirror.
You are the one person in the world who has chosen, of your own free will, to be identified with this foolish man. You have stood before witnesses to declare your willingness to be one with him. You picked him.
Then have a laugh on yourself.

Bored with What?

It seems my recent post The Waning of Desire: Thoughts on Modesty and Its Opposite  is in danger of being summed up by a familiar phrase:  “Modest is Hottest.”  My fault, I did put “modest” in the title.  My main aim was not to focus on the dangers of improper dress, although it was a piece of the story.

On the  “M is H” social campaign, I find the phrase irritating, the sloganeering insulting, and the reasoning confusing…To dress modestly is hottest?  Then are we aiming at being “hot”, sexually provocative, after all? But to do this by covering up is OK? It’s alright to want to turn on our observers as long as it looks like it’s unintentional? As long as we don’t technically break any dress code rules?

I don’t think that’s what they mean to say either. Must remember to think about popular slogans before we repeat them.

My real point was that a lot of people in our society have lost their connection to something primal and instinctual, so much a vital part of our glorious design, that it is intrinsic to being human and being alive. It is the natural drive to desire and seek sexual satisfaction.

It would be almost impossible in a given day to completely avoid not only explicit sexual images and situations, but even remotely suggestive sexual ideas. We are washed with waves of generic public sexuality almost everywhere. And our media culture no longer arranges its schedule so as to spare children from things they won’t understand. There can be little doubt that children are indeed the object toward which much sexually-infused content is aimed. Just trying to create an uncritical and trusting market.

But the result of all this constant sexual stimulation is not what was intended. There is evidence that some young people are bored with sex.

It is hard to believe possible. Some documentation needed?

The day after I posted, I read this article: Bearing New Images about iconic acclaimed anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. He has been writing for years about the condition of popular culture in his beloved Japan. There are people under the age of 25 in my life, so I read it. Miyazaki has been sounding grave worries about Japanese culture and its effects on Japan’s society. And here is the notable piece:

“…on one point he is surely, but sadly, right: Japan is in peril. Indeed, it’s dying. In its 2013 survey of the sexual habits of Japanese, the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) discovered that a catastrophic number of Japanese teens and young adults, aged 16-24, have lost the desire for sex. A quarter of Japanese young men were “not interested in or despised sexual contact”; 45 percent of women reported the same.”

This is astonishing. These young people are bored not only with media-image sex, but are bored with real sex.

I believe we are seeing evidence of similar things right here. Young people flirt with one another by very graphically mimicking sexual situations. Dancing consists of a variety of pantomime sex acts. Near nudity is the only way to dress, and embarrassment over very personal contact has been lost.

To do so is still thought rebellious. Naughty, bad, cool, whatever. But it might just be a habit without a reason. It’s an act. The champagne cork doesn’t seem to pop. All that simulated stimulation leads nowhere. The normal human response doesn’t seem to follow.

Did you think it was possible to make young, healthy people uninterested in sex?  I did not.

I could be wrong. Maybe all that focus on sex is real. Maybe there’s lots of it going on. But maybe it’s just a self-assuring pose.

Our young people are saturated in the popular culture to a degree not seen before. We could turn the TV off and leave the living room. They carry all TV, all media, all of human information, in their hands in one slim device. They have media coming at them from everywhere, all the time.

Add anime culture. Surround them with hero tales, romances, ghost stories, horror, all fractured and rearranged via postmodernism. Then remove all real human beings and replace them with cartoons. Imagine the possibilities. Heroes and villains drawn to order.

Imagine being totally submerged in this popular culture, cosplaying all the time.You identify with anime characters. You are someone else, and that person is digital, two-dimensional and totally imaginary. Imagine how boring cultivating real relationships with real people must seem.

We might have a generation, at least, whose ideal of masculinity and femininity is truly imaginary. Are young men learning what to seek in a partner from the anatomically-impossible standards set by anime women? How many times have you heard a young woman pining wistfully for a man like the hero in her favorite Disney movie? Our kids are looking for cartoon people to build lives with.

They may be disappointed.

The same article goes on to explain why it matters:

“Not surprisingly, in 2012, fewer Japanese babies were born than in any other recorded year. The consequences are clear: JFPA director Dr. Kunio Kitamura warns that Japan will ‘perish into extinction.'”

Will large numbers of young people lack the motivation to build enduring connections with other people, to work hard to support others, to build, to produce, to cultivate? Will they inhabit little solitary islands of self-interest and constant entertainment, wistfully looking for meaning? If so, we all lose.

Not so long ago, it was not considered crass or utilitarian to expect that young people would naturally be driven to seek marriage partners at least partially because they wanted a sexual relationship. Social consensus still agreed that sex was most honorable inside marriage.

And as I pointed out, when we attain a reliable sexual relationship in marriage, we get much more than we thought we were getting.  The drive that motivates us to seek sex is also  the drive to find faithful connection and sublime oneness with another human being. And then we get so much more than we asked for.

Sexual desire is meant to compel us toward important things like finding permanent mates, reproducing, creating families. Families and children need financial support, so people pursue careers and create homes. They cultivate unique cultures in their homes. They build an interdependent society. They pass on a heritage.

Sex (in marriage) requires you to be the right person, work hard and sacrifice, and maintain a committed loyal relationship. I need hardly point out that the formula marriage= sex has been lost, gone out of fashion like spats. Sex is no longer treasured as something special which only happens in the context of a unique commitment.

And when it’s regarded as common, easily obtained, meaningless…who is going to work for that? And why should you be excited about it?

We’re losing marriage. Maybe sex is going next. Maybe there was a real connection between the two? There’s a thought.

 

Love and Respect

It’s often repeated, but I think this one is true.

Women need love; men need respect.

No one can deny that both men and women need love and respect. But there is a difference between the awesome design intrinsic to being a man, in contrast to the beautiful design intrinsic to being a woman.

     At his core, a man has a basic need to be valued by being respected for who he is.

     At her core, a woman has a basic need to be valued by being loved for who she is.

What a woman feels is her most basic and essential need is love—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

protective,

lifelong

love.

 

What a man finds to be his most essential and basic need is respect—

unconditional,

affirming,

validating,

supportive,

lifelong

respect.

 

Maybe love and respect are slightly different perspectives on the same thing. Isn’t love respect? Isn’t respect love?

Can you truly love without respecting? Can you truly respect without loving?

You may have noticed that there was a one-word difference in the list of qualities. I said men need supportive respect; women need protective love.  Women need to be protected. Men need to be supported. Here is one place where the designed differences manifest differently.

A man and a woman in a marriage or in a relationship headed for marriage, complement each other.

When she supports him by respecting him, hoping all things for him, she is the missing element he needs to be a truly noble man. He can so much more easily lead when the one to whom he has been vulnerable shows confidence in him.

He values her mind and insight more than anyone in the world…she knows him better than anyone in the world…and she trusts in his judgment and decisions. That trust is powerful.

If he loves her, he protects her. Protectiveness is a beautiful and noble expression of love which does not depend upon the weakness of the protected. The impulse to protect is an expression of tender care. It is an expression of the high value placed upon its object.

Why do any of us need anything; why aren’t we self-contained?

An honest godly man knows he’s fallible. His default identification is self-doubt. That’s why he needs supportive respect from the person he trusts most. It’s objective confirmation that he is ready to lead; that he is a good leader.

We are designed with those lacks. We are made to need what our mate brings to the relationship. As human beings we need to need. It humbles us; it compels us to reach out to others and build deep relationships. It awakens us to our need for God.

And we are all fallible, not lovable, and we know it. We women doubt our value–we doubt our worthiness to be loved, until someone loves us in such a way that we believe it. A woman believes it because she has been vulnerable to him and he knows who she really is, and still loves her. He protects her not only physically; he places high value on her whole being.

Can a marriage survive without mutual respect? Can a marriage survive without mutual love?

As I have said in Submission is Good, the definition of survival is not the tenacious unwillingness to let the spouse go when you’re living in a train wreck. Unwillingness to divorce does not win the successful marriage prize.

What I mean by survival is thriving… both spouses benefitting each other, intentionally supporting and caring, cultivating and growing the relationship.

Have you ever seen a successful marriage with only one partner who loves? Or with only one partner who respects? I never have. A relationship  thrives on mutual love and respect.

 

Love is as Strong as Death

(My husband and I composed this as a testimony about marital intimacy, to be delivered at a recent marriage conference at our church.)

Please forgive us if we do not give a personal testimony on this topic.  I’m sure you are as relieved as we are about that.  But we would like to tell you how we see God’s vision for the intimate relationship in marriage.

Place me like a seal over your heart,

like a seal on your arm; 

For love is strong as death,

its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

it burns like a blazing fire,

Like a mighty flame.

  Many waters cannot quench love;

   rivers cannot sweep it away.

   If one were to give

   all the wealth of one’s house for love

   it would be utterly scorned.

This passage is from a book of the Bible, Song of Solomon, a poem by the wisest man in the world.  It doesn’t describe someone’s experience.  It declares the actual reality and intensity of love.  Like intimacy in marriage it can’t be reduced to explanation.  We can’t fully grasp it through reason or instruction; we can only learn to open ourselves to it.

Like a seal expresses exclusive ownership.   I belong to my beloved, and my beloved belongs to me. (Song of Solomon 6:3)

Place me like a seal over your heart, so you know, on your arm, so everyone else knows.  Why?  Because love is as strong as death.

Solomon says it is like a mighty flame in intensity. It is unquenchable.  Our drive for intimacy in marriage is not simply a physical, biological urge.  We are made with an intense, relentless need for emotional and spiritual connection.  We are made for this kind of love.

JOY

There are three things that are too amazing/ wonderful for me,

     four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,

     the way of a snake on a rock,

the way of a ship on the high seas,

     and the way of a man with a maiden.   Proverbs 30: 18,19

God’s Word suggests that this sublime  experience is not a temporary altered state of mind , or an overpowering feeling which passes; it’s not a chemical-physical automated response.  It is the truth. It’s how it really is.

God wants me to have this joy. And out of all human relationships, He chose this particular relationship to best illustrate His love for us!

PURE

What you have within your marriage is NOT what you see out in the world.  In our culture we see sex relentlessly depicted as “forbidden fruit”.

God invented it!  It is from a good God who loves you. It is pure, undefiled, holy, selfless, a celebration.  Sex as God designed it is pure affection.

DIFFERENT BUT COMPLEMENTARY

It is a union of different but complementary beings.

He created  male and female to complement each other, to literally fit together. It’s a physical demonstration of what’s (supposed to be) going on in the hearts, and the spirits.

Because men and women sometimes have differing expectations, we can make the mistake of thinking that there’s something wrong; that we aren’t connecting.  But we believe God designed this difference, as a way for us to have to reach outside ourselves . The woman must exercise unselfish giving; the man must exercise unselfish patience. It’s an ongoing process of choosing unselfish love for the other person. We need to develop our communication and have understanding for each other.

He’s worth the effort; she’s worth the wait.

COMPLETE EQUALITY

The Bible describes our intimacy as a relationship between complete equals. The husband and the wife are always given the same advice.  An example:

Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  I Corinthians 7: 2-5

HERITAGE

Sexual intimacy builds in two ways:

First, it builds your relationship with each other:

Intimacy builds our relationship in a unique and powerful way that nothing else can.  Without it we remain two separate people.

It shows spouses how deeply we are valued when we are at our most vulnerable.

Sex reminds us that we are ONE.  It makes us need to exercise all the best virtues toward each other.

It keeps putting us back on track, repeatedly drawing us away from the mundane, the busyness, the responsibilities of everyday life.  It re-focuses our attention upon each other.

It’s good for you. It’s good for your marriage. God is pleased when we utterly enjoy this gift.  It produces a future…there is no downside.

Second, intimacy builds the future God planned:

Intimacy in marriage provides our only connection with the future.   Every other experience lasts as long as it lasts and is no more but God ordained a legacy, a heritage,  to be left through the experience of intimacy.  He did this because He is a God of joyful abundance.  Our God loves people so much that He gave us the privilege of producing more of them and raising them to His glory and their eternal joy.

Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.  Malachi 2:15

Procreation is not one of the purposes of sex any more than having two wheels is one of the purposes of a bicycle.  Building a family is meant to be the inevitable, glorious, natural outcome of the mystical union of a husband, wife and God. The oneness, the pleasure, the potential for God to work procreation–all of one piece.

To our understanding, the Bible presents a vision for intimacy in which all those purposes are an inseparable ONE purpose, over which He is sovereign.

Think about the tremendous potential that God has implanted in the relationship of a couple. They have the power to create life and raise these new people to invade the world with God’s presence and power.

Your relationship has influence because you are modeling God’s design for marriage to everyone you know. Your marriage can be a testimony to God’s awesome work, love and presence.

REWARDS

Those who stay faithful in a marriage for a couple of decades find that there are rewards waiting.  You would never have suspected that such joy was waiting after all that time.  It gets better.

You’d never have suspected it because the whole world has been telling you that marriage gets boring, that you tire of being with the same person the rest of your life.

But boredom is not what God designed!  It’s about knowing, understanding and caring more and more.  It’s about two people having thrown away all other options all those years and cultivating their hope and affection on each other.

We’ve been married for 30 years. I knew I was going to marry him 8 years before that. We always knew our marriage was a gift. It continues to be a gift, but not like a fine item you put on a shelf.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. That’s because the Giver is living, dynamic, generous, and full of concern, love and kindness.  Our marriage gives us new possibilities every day; continual love and goodwill; opportunities every day to live for Him in real ways; the future, a heritage ….

God gives gifts which sprout and grow into more gifts.