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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
How do you do "What If?"
When I say "I don't do what if," I'm normally referring to the kind of hypothetical "what if" that precedes a possible future negative scenario, one triggered by doubt or worry or fear of an unknown future event. "What if we get in an accident." "What if we run out of money before we run out of bills." "What if my child makes a bad decision?" Those kind of "what ifs" are almost never fruitful.
I also refuse to "what if" in response to concerns over the theoretical consequences of a past action or decision. "What if I should have taken that other job?" "What if I shouldn't have said that to him?" "What if I chose the wrong husband?" More useless and pointless what ifs.
These are the kinds of what ifs I try not to give voice to.
Some "What Ifs" We Should Do
I'm thinking that there are times that I maybe should actually do a little more "what iffing." No, not the negative, worry-filled kind. I mean maybe I should do some more hope-filled, promise-motivated, truth-oriented "what iffing."
Maybe you should join me.
Yes, lets go ahead and put aside those fretful "what ifs," and grab hold of a few altogether different ones like these:
- What if God loves you and me as much and as relentlessly as He says He does?
- What if the promises of the Bible are really true and really for you and me?
- What if God's enduring faithfulness really does reach to the heavens and right into our circumstances?
- What if perfect love really does cast out fear, and what if that perfect love dwells right inside us?
A Bit of Marriage "What If"
I wrote the following bit of "What If" prose a few years ago for a marriage retreat the I helped lead. I was reminded of it while writing this post. It's another bit of "what if" that is well worth considering.
- What if marriage is more than simply a convenient social institution for orderly human procreation?
- What if marriage was purposefully conceived by God before all time in order to create a living picture of His desire to dwell in intimacy with you and me?
- What if, when he created the first marriage in the Garden, he already knew that he would ultimately send his Son, Jesus, to be our heavenly Bridegroom, and planned to send Him to His death so that we could live in intimacy with Him forever?
- What if God, who was willing to go to any length to be in relationship with you, made you for the express purpose of loving you unconditionally and not for what you could “do” for Him?
Just Think. What if...?
- What if this understanding of God’s love for you sheds light on the way you are to love your husband or wife?
- What if the primary purpose of your marriage was simply to love your spouse and not so much so that you could get them to do what you want, to meet your needs, or even so that they would love you in return.
- What if love was your only motive.
- What if love was your spouse’s only motive?
- What if you knew that he or she was only after your heart and not your conformance to a set of expected behaviors.
- What if what mattered most to your spouse was to live in intimate relationship with you and not how they could get their own needs met.
- What if you were both able to love each other “as if” your love was already a perfect reflection of the selfless love of God, even when you behave otherwise, in the same way that God loves us.
What kid of marriage would you have then?
What about you? Do you tend to do the negative "what if" thing? Can you offer some alternative, truth-filled "what ifs" besides the ones I listed? I'd love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment.
Friday, February 28, 2014
It's Freebie Friday!! See the end of this post for details!
Every marriage is different. But there are many similarities too. That’s why I sometimes have to smile when I’m talking with a wife who’s heard about my biblical submission experiment when I sent a year intentionally studying and living out what the Bible says about submission and applying it to my marriage.
I smile because there’s usually one of two common responses. The first wife will usually raise her eyebrows, physically step back (just in case this submission thing is catching) and say something like, “Well, that’s good for you but I could never do that.”
The second wife will also raise her eyebrows, but then she will step in closer and whisper (just in case anyone might hear), “Tell me more. I’m not sure I can do it, but I would really like to try.”
A Transformed Mind
I relate to both of those women. This summer, my husband Cliff and I will celebrate 16 years of life together. For the large majority of that time, I wanted nothing to do with “that submission thing.” Those verses in the New Testament where Paul talks about wives submitting to their husbands – some seriously out of date ideas, right? As an independent, strong woman, I had no desire to be a second fiddle, even to someone as caring and sweet as my Cliff.
We were partners, we did life 50/50, there was no need for this Follow the Leader marriage stuff. Besides, Cliff and I both recognized how different our personalities were – mine, Type A, his, Type B. God gave me leadership abilities so didn’t that also include my marriage?
These were the kind of thoughts I lived by until just a few years ago, when God really started to pull me deeper into not just reading His Word, but studying His Word. No longer was I just skimming – I hungrily wanted to apply it. I deeply desired to do what Romans 12:2 talks about – I didn’t want to conform to what the world says is right, but I flat out wanted to see my life transformed by God renewing, or changing, my mind to think His thoughts instead of being content with just my own. To see His plan over mine. To follow through with His will instead of giving into my choices and my wants. My marriage seemed to be where He wanted to start first.
After going through a year of applying some of the principles we find in Proverbs 31, and learning some life-changing lessons that changed my marriage and our family life in powerful ways, I knew it was time to face that word I’d ignored for so long.
Ephesians 5:22 reads, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord…” I like how the Message translation words it – “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.”
Of course, this isn’t easy. This isn’t a natural action for most of us – to put someone else first, or to consider his or her feelings or thoughts before our own. Not consistently. Not constantly. Maybe if we’re having a good day. Until we’re not.
Culture doesn’t help. To someone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord, or view the Bible as an authority, this concept sounds ridiculous. Even in our churches, we hesitate to bring the subject up – this isn’t exactly the topic of discussion most want to bring up in your small groups on Sunday mornings. Even pastors who are brave enough to preach about it from the pulpit can spend weeks afterwards recovering from the emails, letters and angry conversations their congregants or parishioners corner them with in the halls between services. How chauvinistic. How anti-woman. Right?
But biblical submission is talked about in the Bible and I believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and can be used, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 points out, to teach us and correct us and inspire us for righteousness. So surely, there’s a lesson, an important truth we need to know and put into practice when it comes to biblical submission.
That’s what led me to the “experiment.” I call it an experiment because that word seems a little less permanent. What I found during that year were some pretty amazing changes in my life and ultimately in my marriage, and the biggest surprise of all were the changes that occurred in my husband –and not just in me.
Early on during that year, I realized my husband had questions and uncertainties about his role as a husband and a dad just as I did with being a wife and mom – I was just more vocal about it. (Yes, that’s the nice way of putting it.) Just like me, there were things he still needed to learn, but quite often, I made it all about me (except for the times I was pointing out what he wasn’t doing that I wished he would).
Some things needed to change if we were to apply biblical submission to our marriage. I began intentionally stepping back from always having the first opinion, or always being the first one to make a decision. I waited (not always an easy thing to do). I showed (most of the time) some patience as he might think over a decision we needed to make, and I resisted the urge to decide on my timetable instead of his. I asked more questions instead of rushing to decide something. I looked for ways to be a helper to him instead of a hounder – as in hounding him to do, say and be what I thought he should.
What I noticed after a little while of doing this is that we made better decisions together, and we were often more on the same page than not. We weren’t making decisions where one person had a very definite opinion (usually me) and the other person just went along (usually him). We talked more things out and came to common resolutions more often.
For his part, Cliff began actively leading our family more. He didn’t just leave things to me that he didn’t want to do. He also listened to my opinions more carefully, weighing them with his to make more informed and hopefully better decisions. I think he felt a lot more freedom to do that when I stepped back and wasn’t so eager to be the one to call the shots.
Love His Way
Biblical submission isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. It’s not an overnight event. First and foremost, it starts with a willingness to obey God. Romans 8:28 has been my life verse for many, many years and can also apply to marriage. “And we know, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” When I show love towards my husband as an act of love towards my Heavenly Father, I know He works for my good. When I show love towards my husband the way God shows love towards me, I love His way.
If you’re a wife, struggling to figure out what biblical submission looks like, don’t start with your husband. Start with your submission to God first. And if you’re a husband, wishing your wife would be more submissive? Don’t start with your wife. Start with your own obedience to God. There is an incredibly strong connection between the two.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Lessons in marriage from an Olympic champion
I've been watching with interest over the past few months as the topic of submission in marriage has made headlines in the mainstream secular press.
Here are a few examples I found as I browsed through my "Post Ideas" folder:
- Actress and former "Full House" star Candace Cameron Bure, defends her views on traditional marriage roles based on her understanding of what the Bible says about marriage in a Huffington Post interview for her book "Balancing It All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose." She explains, " The definition I'm using with the word 'submissive' is the biblical definition of that. So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength."
- Sara Horn, author of "My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife," is interviewed on the Today Show. She explains her views on biblical submission and how she discovered in her year-long "experiment" with submission how to love her husband more selflessly. (Note: On Friday Sara will be guest posting here and I'll be giving her book away as a Friday Freebie. Check back!)
- Former volleyball star Gabrielle Reece explains in an NBC news Today Show interview for her book "My Foot is Too Big for This Glass Slipper," how she saved her marriage by taking a more traditional "submissive" role. She explains, as I do, that submission is real strength, not weakness.
- Then there is this story about a book published in Italy by Constanza Miriano titled simply, "Get Married and Be Submissive." Feminists are outraged, of course, yet it has become a national best-seller.
I watched in amazement as these stories of "submissive wives" (I use quotes because I don't actually like that term used as a label) made significant mainstream headlines. I also watched the violent knee jerk reaction of those who have no grid for what the Bible says about marriage. I wondered to myself. "This is pretty amazing, seeing a more biblical view of marriage being portrayed in the mainstream media, but these are all women. So where are the corresponding husband headlines?"
To tell you the truth, I felt that most of the press's treatment of the brave women was pretty even-handed. Still, to focus solely on submission leaves out half of the biblical marriage equation. We need to see the stories about husbands who love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially, like Christ loves the church. We need headlines about husbands who understand that strength is not mutually exclusive with love and kindness.
Enter David Wise
David Wise's Alternative Lifestyle Leads to Olympic Gold," I assumed it was going to be yet another story about Russia's anti-gay laws.
It turns out that the "alternative lifestyle" they refer to in the headline is one of loving husband and devoted father, which stands in contrast to many Olympic athletes' self-obsessed, party-hearty lifestyle. Hence he lives an "alternate" lifestyle in the writer's opinion.
Mr Wise, with wisdom well beyond his 23 years explains:
“I think my lifestyle — the fact that I have a little girl to take care of and a wife — really takes the pressure off of my skiing, because first and foremost I have to be a good husband and father.”Whoa! What a whacked out sense of priorities for a champion athlete! The article gives the secret away, explaining that David attends church regularly and may one day become a pastor. Yep. Figures.
Now, I have no idea from my brief exposure to David Wise whether he and his wife share my view that the Bible calls a husbands to loving lead his wife with Christlike strength and goodness. Likewise I don't know whether Mrs. Wise would say she submits to her husband "as the church submits to Christ." They may well describe their marriage as more "egalitarian" than "complimentary" (wow, I hate those words, but I don't have better shorthand), as many young people now do.
Regardless, I'm happy to see a young, marriage-minded Christian man who has the integrity to put his wife and child above his own interest in winning an Olympic medal. I'm equally happy to see it pointed out by the mainstream press.Pretty awesome in my book.
Here's where you can help me out. Can you point me to any other mainstream references to popular male figures who hold their wife and marriage in high value? More specifically can you find anyone willing to admit that they see themselves in a biblically mandated leadership role in their marriage?
image credit: NBC News & Instagram
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
How Your Husband Spells Romance: S.E.X.
Monday I wrote to husbands about their need to keep the romance alive daily and not just on Valentine's Day.
Today I am addressing wives in a similar, although slightly different vein.
In the Aftermath
How was this Valentine's Day for you? Did your husband go all out and spoil you? Did he make an effort but fail badly in the romance department? Did he fail to put much thought into it? Did he maybe even forget the day altogether? Did you turn things around this year and rock his socks off? Or perhaps you and he decided not to celebrate the day at all.
Regardless of whether the holiday left you feeling delighted or disappointed, spoiled or spurned, I want to encourage you not to put too much emphasis on a single day. It's just a day, after all.
There is no reason to put all your romantic eggs into one basket!
For Those Feeling Delighted
If Valentine's Day left you feeling spoiled and romanced, why not spend the next few weeks (or months) being particularly attentive to your husband.
The truth is that your husband probably likes to be romanced just as much as you do. It's just that romance usually is defined differently for men than it is for women.
Let me spell it out for you. Women spell romance L.O.V.E. Men spell romance S.E.X.
That may sound a little crass. It isn't intended to be. Sure your man probably likes little gifts, words of respect and affirmation and kind gestures just fine. But if he isn't sexually satisfied, all those things will fall short when it comes to making him feel loved. It has to get physical. Sex says "I love you" to a man.
For Those Feeling Slighted
If Valentine's Day left you with a bad taste in your mouth, maybe even feeling a little resentment on top of your disappointment, let me encourage you to try a little "love as if."
What I mean by that is for you to imagine how you would respond if your husband totally blew you away in the romance department, and respond to him that way, regardless of how he actually "performed."
What is interesting is that when you begin loving your husband as if, then he is much more likely to begin acting as if. So take my suggestions above for "delighted wives" to heart and give your husband some loving - his way.
More Than Duty
If you tend look at sexual intimacy with your husband as more of a duty than a privilege, it may require that you approach sex a little differently than usual. Start by being more playful and flirtatious. Give him an obviously extended kiss goodbye and then text him later and tell him there is another kiss like that waiting for him when he gets home. Change up your sleeping attire to something that is more about his preference than your comfort.
Just as I encouraged husbands earlier this week to be a student of their wives in the romance department, so too you should be a student of your husband when it comes to pleasing him sexually.
You might want to do some reading to get a different sexual mindset. I suggest two blogs written by Christian women who write mostly to women about sex. J's Hot, Holy and Humorous, Julie Sibert's Intimacy in Marriage. There are many others as well, including The Marriage Bed, that offer sexual advice from a Christian world view.
Finally, let remind you to remind yourself that sex is for you just as much as it is for him. It's a gift from God intended to bring pleasure and unmatched intimacy to every marriage.
So will you take up my post-Valentine's Day challenge and focus on loving your husband with increased physical affection? If you do, I believe you'll see tremendous fruit in your marriage as a result.
Postscript: I know that there are plenty of wives who are the high drive spouse in their marriage. For you this post isn't all that helpful. I plan to address that topic in a future W.o.W post.
Here is some suggested post-Valentine's Day reading from other blogs:
- From Marriage Gems: Do You Wish Valentine's Day Never Existed? Lori reminds us that romance is for both of you.
- From the Happy Wives Club: Take the 21 Day Valentin's Day Challenge - This challenge focuses a bit more broadly than mine.
- From Up With Marriage: The Day of Lovers - Valentine's Day should be more about giving than getting.
image credit: ferlie / 123rf.com
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Now that the big day has passed, it's time to focus on the other 364 days.
You searched the racks and selected just the right greeting card or perhaps even wrote your own. Maybe you expressed your devotion in a traditional manner with flowers or chocolates or perfume. Or instead you may have focused more on the time you shared together and came up with a fun and romantic date.
Congratulations. You made it. And now you can relax for another year. You are off the hook.
Except, actually, you aren't.
There are couples who completely forego the celebration of Valentines Day because they feel that it places an inappropriate emphasis on love and romance for a single day.
I get that.
However, I have a slightly different take. I say, why not go ahead celebrate the day of love, in your own way, but also don't be fooled into thinking that one day a year is all it takes.
The Other 364 Days
However you "performed" this Valentine's Day, or if you didn't observe the day at all, let me encourage you not to relax or relent in expressing your love and devotion to your wife.
Here's the truth: your wife needs a daily dose of your love. Really. Every. Single. Day.
The good news is that it doesn't take flowers or candy or perfume to show your wife the love and affection she desires. Of course there is nothing wrong with gifts, especially if that is her love language, but real romance, the best romance, happens amidst the daily reality of doing life together.
I hear husbands give the excuse that they just aren't romantically inclined. Actually, I hear more wives make that claim about their husbands. Either way, that excuse just doesn't work for me. Just like anything else you become skilled at, you can develop your romantic skills.
How, you ask?
Well, how do you go about developing your golf or tennis game? It starts with desire to play better. You study the game by watching what others do and reading up on tips and tricks. Ultimately, however, you improve your game the most by playing frequently. And if a round or match goes badly, you don't give up, you redouble your efforts.
It works the same way with your romance game. Could you really expect to play any sport well by playing once a year. No way!
The Little Things
Let me take some pressure off of you. Continually romancing your wife doesn't mean always coming up with bigger and more extravagant expressions of love. In fact, let me encourage you by saying that the little things, done constantly and consistently, are much more important than big surprises done annually.
It's really about being aware and being intentional. The word I use is watchfulness. Being watchful means keeping your marriage off of autopilot. Watchfulness is a mindset. It doesn't actually require that much effort except inside your head. Once you begin to watch your wife and your marriage carefully, you'll see lots of opportunities to love on her in ways that don't actually require all the much effort.
pursue each other regardless of how long you've been married. Here are a few tips from that post to get you started thinking in the right direction.
- Pay extra attention to your appearance. Shave your face again before bed or going out together or leave it scruffy it she prefers the rough look.
- Dress up your wardrobe and pick things you know your wife likes. Ask her to pick your shirt for your next date.
- Put a little extra planning and thought into your dates (heck, have dates in the first place!).
- Wear cologne that is your wife's preference, whether it is yours or not. Freshen it up before you hop into bed.
- Write little notes, texts, or emails to let your wife know you are thinking of her. Make it sweet or sexy as your wife would like.
- Next time you are in a store for something else, pick up a little treat, snack or other surprise that you know your wife likes. Tell her, “I saw this and thought of you.” Even better, “I was thinking of you, so when I saw this I just had to get it for you.”
- Let your hello or goodbye kiss linger another 10 or 20 seconds longer than it would normally. Hold her tight while you kiss.
- When your wife is across the house or outside somewhere, when you are both in the middle of doing something else, go find her, give her a deep, luscious kiss, and walk away without a word. If she asks why, just say, “I just needed that.”
- Draw your wife a bath, pour her a glass of wine and light some candles by the tub. Lead her to the bath, give her a kiss and say, "relax and enjoy while I put the kids to bed." Surprise her by not pressuring her for sex, so she knows you did it just for her.
The other part of watchfulness is to see which love expressions seem to mean the most to your wife. Every woman is different. And truth be told, the things she loved last year (or even last month) might not mean as much this year. That's why I say it's important to be a student of your wife. Study her!
Okay, here's where you can help your fellow readers. Do you have some additional suggestions for little ways to love and romance your wife all year long? We'd all love to hear them, so leave a comment!
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