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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Despite the title, this is not really a post for my women readers. (Oh, OK. I guess you ladies can read it too.)

Listen up, men! I’m talking directly to you, husbands.

Your wife is in a major battle. It’s an important and difficult battle. In this battle you must choose sides. You can choose to fight for her or against her. There is no middle ground, because if you are not fighting for her, in her mind you are fighting against her. 

What is this battle of which I speak? It’s the battle of her self-image. Specifically I’m speaking of her body image. My family is vacationing at the beach this week. As my lovely wife and I strolled hand in hand along the shoreline this afternoon and beheld the vast array of body shapes and sizes, I was reminded of the battle so many women face.

Who is the “enemy” in this battle? Almost every influence around her. Advertising, movies, magazines, television, and books all tell her that her appearance is unacceptable, that her body is unattractive and inadequate. They tell her that in order to be sexy she must be a certain dress size or body shape. They tell her that her breasts are too small or her hips too curvy, her backside too large and her thighs too flabby. They tell her that her hair is too thin or too thick or the wrong color or the wrong length. The barrage of negative messages is nonstop.

As her husband, you are more than likely one of her few allies in this battle, perhaps the only one. At least you should be her ally. But are you really? Or have you bought into the lies of the ever-present enemies as well? And remember, if you are simply silent on this important topic, thinking that withholding criticism is enough, you are as much an enemy of her body image as anything else, and maybe more so.

Regardless of her age or how things may have shifted through time and babies, more than likely your wife has many features to which you are attracted. These are the things you found alluring when you met, the things that struck your heart. The way her eyes crinkle when she smiles, the shape and taste of her lips when you kiss, certain places that you’ve always liked to caress…

I could get more explicit, but there is no point. Only you know the things that you find alluring about your wife. If need be, remind yourself again. If need be, find new things about her body to take delight in, regardless of how long you’ve been married.

You see, your job as her husband is to look through the imperfection into the genuine beauty of your bride. You have to get past petty preferences and unrealistic expectations and let your heart come alive to the truly incredible, amazing, gorgeous woman you are bound to for life. “Why should I?” you ask. Because you are called to be like Jesus to your bride. When God looks at you through the work that Jesus did for you on the cross, he sees you as the spotless, beautiful bride of Christ. Really! He sees you in perfection. Yes, it’s amazing, but Jesus is just that good.

Jesus beautifies his bride, and so must you.

How do you beautify your bride? Quite simply, it is up to you to convince her that she is beautiful just how she is. It is up to you to “make” her beautiful. It’s a daunting task, because the enemies are many and the allies so few. Even if you do as I have, and resolve to tell your wife every day something you find attractive about her, the counter-messages are still at least ten to one against you (and against her). No matter how dedicated and relentless you are to the task, it’s a battle that never ends. Ever. Don’t’ think to yourself, “Oh, she already knows I’m attracted to her.” She doesn’t know. Even if you told her an hour ago, she doesn’t. Trust me on this. It’s one area in which it is difficult to be too vigilant.

What do you do to beautify your bride? What did you do today?



Here are some recent posts and subsequent discussions on other blogs that lend some great perspective on this important topic.

From Lori Lowe at Life Gems:

From Julie Sibert at Intimacy in Marriage:
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Kudos to Stu over at The Marry Blogger, who shared this video of Matt from the Band Sanctus Real sharing the story behind the song "Lead Me."  Go check it out.  Also check out the new video on the band's website where both Matt and his wife, Sarah, tell the story of the struggles and conflict in their marriage.  (The YouTube version here.)

I find it extremely timely given my recent series on headship and submission. 

The short story is this.  Matt had been so caught up in his music career that he was not being there for his family.  His wife confronted him on it, saying that she needed him.  She needed him to be present, to be the spiritual leader in their home, to be strong for her and the family, to be the rock they needed.

Matt chose to respond by turning to the Lord and saying, in effect, "God I need you to lead me so I can lead them.  I can't do this on my own."  This cry was the inspiration for the song "Lead Me."

How would you respond if your wife came to you and told you she needed you to do a better job of leading her and your family?  Would you get defensive?  Would you get angry?  Would you resent the implication that you aren't doing enough?  Or would you respond as Matt did, by resolving within yourself to be the kind of man God calls all husbands to be, to be the kind of man your wife needed?  Would you turn inward with guilt and shame?  Would you turn outward with anger and resentment?  Or would you turn upward, to your heavenly Father and ask him to help you fullfill your calling as a husband?

How do you think you would respond to such a challenge from your own wife?
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The “What-If” series started back here, in case you want to catch the whole series or browse through the entire list of what-if posts.

I’ll wrap up the series with a final real-life issue that often comes up in the context of any discussion on marital order (headship and submission). What if my personality, gifting or natural inclinations aren’t well-suited for the role that The Bible calls me to in my marriage? What if I’m a husband who isn’t assertive, who isn’t a natural leader or who is shy and reserved? What if I’m a wife who is a strong type A, outgoing, or a skilled administrator?

Before I deal with husbands and wives separately concerning these questions, let me make a couple of general observations.


Each One Unique

I think one reason this kind of question comes up is due to the stereotypical way in which we think of male headship and female submission. We think it has to look a certain way for it to be valid. That’s actually a lie that the enemy uses to accuse you or your spouse into feeling inadequate or to discourage you from embracing your biblical role.

God created you just how you are, with all your quirks and warts, talents and inclinations. He was very intentional about it. Rather than trying to run away from or change who you are, you should instead bring the fullness of your unique self into the mix. That’s not to say that you should never grow and change, for we all need to do that, but you should not start off by disqualifying yourself or assuming that you need to work outside of who God created you to be.

Right Believing Makes For Right Doing

The bridal paradigm is not a set of rules to be followed. It’s not a cookie cutter formula that forces all marriages down the same path. No, the journey to surrender is going to be unique for every couple, based on the distinctiveness of the individuals in the marriage. That is a beautiful thing.

You see, the bridal paradigm is firstly about what you think and believe about yourself, your spouse and your marriage. When you get your head wrapped around the fact that God calls husbands to be Christ-like in loving and leading their wives and calls wives to be church-like in surrendering in love to their husbands, you have come 90% of the way in your marriage journey. What you do, then, will follow naturally from what you believe about your role. Yes, you’ll be imperfect in your execution, but what you do will tend to be driven by a combination of the way you think and by your unique make-up.

Of course your marriage may look rather different from other marriages. I think that OK. Actually, I think that’s fantastic.

For the Men

So, maybe you don’t think you are well-suited to lead your wife and family. Perhaps you’ve disqualified yourself because you are quiet and reserved or because you don’t possess natural leadership qualities. Truthfully, to a certain extent, this describes me.

If you’ve read what I’ve written about the headship/leadership/authority of husbands, you’ll see that very little of what I describe has to do with the way we traditionally think of leaders (making decisions, giving orders, setting direction). You are a leader if you love your wife unconditionally. You are a leader if you lay down your life for her, see her as beautiful despite her flaws, look out for and protect her, nurture her and encourage her in her calling in God. None of those things has much to do with your personality or your talents. They have to do with your heart. These are all things you can do in your own unique way, regardless of your personality.

The second thing I’ll say is that the authority God has given you as a husband does not imply that you should have all the answers. It is likely that your wife is naturally better at certain things than you are. I know it’s true in my house. A good leader knows how to rely on those around him to fill in the gaps in his own abilities. God gave you your wife to compliment you, so act accordingly. Draw on her strengths and work together as a team.

For the Women

Do you think you are disqualified as a submissive wife because you are outgoing, driven, logical or decisive? As it is for husbands, if you view submission through the lens of your scriptural role rather than some Stepford Wife stereotype, you will discover that submission is principally an attitude of the heart.

You are a submissive wife if you maintain a culture of honor in your relationship with your husband, choosing to approach him with respect, even in disagreements. A submissive wife acknowledges the order that God has established in marriage by caring about the things her husband cares about, by believing in his love for her, and by responding to that love with trust and surrender, forgoing rights-oriented thinking for giving-oriented thinking.

There is nothing in this definition of submission that indicates to me that a strong, intelligent or outgoing woman cannot also walk in submission to her husband. She may need to work harder than other wives to resist her inclination to seize the reigns of control or to push her own agenda and priorities without regard to her husband’s opinion. But there is no reason that such a woman cannot join her strengths to her husband’s in a way that makes the two of you together better than either of you alone.

My Own Journey

Through the course of our marriage I have had to adjust my own thinking on what it means to be the head of my home. The fact that I am reserved and tend to be a man of few words doesn’t mean that I cannot effectively lead my wife and my family. I have had to get comfortable with the fact that the way I walk out the authority God has placed on me as husband and father isn’t going to look the same as it might on other people. There is not a single right way. I have chosen to believe that God has equipped me uniquely for the benefit of my wife and family, and as hugely imperfect as I am, I am the one chosen for the task.


What about you? Are you comfortable bringing the fullness of who you are into the role that you are called to in your marriage?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
This is a continuation of my series “What If…” - real-life scenarios in which a wife or husband begins the journey to surrender but their spouse lags behind. Just as a reminder for those jumping in mid-stream, we are examining the bridal paradigm described in Ephesians 5, where marriage is modeled after the love relationship between Jesus and the church. The series started back here, in case you want to catch the whole series or browse through the entire list of what-if posts.

We just covered two scenarios in which it is the wife who is awakened to the bridal paradigm, but the husband isn’t yet on board. This time let’s look at the case where a husband wants to walk in his position of God-given authority, but his wife refuses to give him space to lead. If you’re that husband (or that wife), read on.

Check Your Own Paradigm

As a husband who feels your wife is not allowing you to lead her and your family like you desire, the first thing to do is a bit of self-reflection. Remember that your focus should be on what you give rather that what you receive. Are you demonstrating Christ-like love toward your wife? Are you caring, compassionate and engaged, showing concern for her needs and desires? Is your motivation for leadership to control or dominate your wife or is it to protect and serve her?

Obviously no husband can claim a perfect record on any of these things. I know I certainly can’t. But when honestly weighed on balance, make sure your own heart is right. If not, seek revelation and guidance from the Lord before proceeding to be concerned with what your wife is or is not doing.


Look Deeper

If your wife is hesitant to walk in loving submission to your leadership, you need to ask yourself why. Reflect more deeply on what might be causing her hesitation. Are there any unresolved trust issues between you? Does she have domineering and/or abusive men in her past (or in the past/present of someone she knows) that have made her wary of surrender? Has she been subject to erroneous teaching, either that subjugates women or promotes androgyny (no difference between men and women)?

Dealing with past issues can be difficult and rather emotional, but the best way to resolve these things is to address them head on. It a worst-case scenario, counseling may be needed. In these discussions of past issues, as with any discussion concerning your wife’s submission, remember…


Approach Is Everything

Remember the old WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) slogan? As trite as I often find such sayings, in this case it’s a valid question. You are called to love your wife as Christ loves the church. He is your role model for leadership. So here are a few things about how Jesus approaches us as his bride that you should wrap your mind around before you and your bride engage in a discussion about submission:
  • Jesus never demands our submission. He invites it with loving-kindness.
  • Jesus laid down his life for his bride, the very model of sacrificial love.
  • Jesus’ only motivation was to do the will of the Father (it was his very food)
  • Jesus did what he did for the sake of the Kingdom (represented by your marriage)

Keeping these things in mind, explain to your wife that your desire is to have a biblical marriage. Tell her that your understanding of this includes a God-given level of authority for husbands. Emphasize that this is not about who is better or worse, smarter of dumber, who is more or less capable, but that it is simply a scriptural mandate. Share with her what you have learned about the bridal paradigm and how it has impacted your thinking. Don’t pretend to have all the answers about what all it means – none of us does – but ask her to help you figure out what it means. Your desire is to take this journey of discovery together.

Start Slowly

Gently let her know the areas where you feel your leadership is being challenged by her in some way, where you feel disrespected or dishonored by her words or actions. Pick one or two areas of your marriage to start on. Don’t shotgun blast her with every way she nit-picks you or pushes you aside.

I’ll pick finances as an example, since that is one common area of martial contention. Maybe you feel she is too tight or too loose with the purse strings. Maybe you want to establish a budget or increase your giving or saving. Whatever the matter is, explain to her your desire and why it is important to you. Your motivation should line up with the bridal paradigm (i.e. to care for, protect and provide for her and your family). Let her know her that you want to work together on it and that her input is very important (this must be more than lip service), but that you do intend address the issue and desire her support.

Dittos

I’ll repeat here some of the advice I gave to wives over the past few posts.
  • Soak these things in prayer and ask for God’s will to be done in your marriage, surrendering your own agenda on the altar of prayer
  • Remember what I said about not pushing on a rope. Look out that you don’t push your wife into submission, but rather gently pull her along on this journey to surrender by being like Jesus to her, full of love and grace.
  • Paint a picture for your wife of the stronger, more intimate, more passionate marriage relationship that you desire to have.
  • Respond with sincere appreciation as she works to relinquish control. Be thankful for every act of submission and every effort in the right direction.
 - - - - - - -

I believe that there are few women, who when faced with a husband who lavishes Christ-like love upon them, will not be able to respond by at least letting go a little. There is a positive cycle that is built into this journey to a surrendered marriage. The more he loves and cherishes her, the more she is willing to trust and surrender, which in turn only deepens the love he has for her, and on and on.

This is my definition of the path of intimacy which is found on the journey to surrender.

Do you have a what-if experience you can share with our readers?

The series concludes next with:  What If... My Personality Doesn't Fit My Role?
Monday, June 21, 2010
This is a continuation of my series “What If…” that started back here, in case you want to catch the whole series or browse through the entire list of what-if posts.

Last time we covered what to do if you are a woman married to a man who refuses to lead, refuses to take up his God-given authority to loving lead his wife as Christ does the church. This time we’ll look at the opposite case, where a husband takes up that authority, but abuses it by acting in an autocratic or dictatorial manner.

In many ways this is the more difficult case for a wife to deal with, because the dictatorial husband thinks he is acting in accordance with scripture by being the head of his wife and demanding his wife’s submission. In many cases, a husband’s behavior may not be entirely overt, but rather may simply entail an attitude of entitlement and elitism that interprets his position as superior and his own rights as more important. He may be overly controlling and/or constantly push his wife to submit to him or he may be dismissive in more subtle ways.

First of all let me say that it is this attitude in men that has done more damage to the bridal paradigm than anything else. It is precisely the wrong-headed, heavy-handed, rights- oriented actions of men, generations over, that spawned the feminist movement. I also believe it is fear of this kind of attitude and action that has caused the church to shrink back from the biblical definition of marriage and godly authority in the home. The cost of this has been enormous.

So what is a wife to about a husband who sees himself more as a dictator than a sacrificial servant?

1. Conversation

In my last post I started with encouraging the wife of a husband who doesn’t lead at all to start with education. Not so in this case, because generally the heavy-handed husband is often already aware of the scriptures that call for headship and submission. The problem is that he simply isn’t enlightenment to an accurate picture of the bridal paradigm, which calls him to the posture of sacrificial, servant-hearted leadership that nurtures, enables and beautifies his wife.

The place to start is conversation. If your husband is accustomed to dismissing your input and feelings (which many autocrats are) it will be a challenge to get him to really listen. It is important to approach him in a non-threatening way, not as a challenge to him or his authority, but in the interest of a stronger, better marriage and a deeper bond of intimacy. You can begin with your own journey of discovery into what it means to submit to him as the church does to Christ, and then naturally progress into the question of what does he think it means for him to love you as Christ does the church. In this case you are not trying to instruct him, but to get him to ask questions of himself and to challenge his own way of thinking.


2. Identify the Path of Separation

If you’ve been suffering under a controlling husband for a long time, understandably your own heart may have grown cold and distant toward him, and you may have become offended at the notion of submission and authority. You may have felt the need to stand up for your own rights because your husband in not doing so. Perhaps you’ve even slipped into a pattern of trying to take your husband down a notch, knock him off his high horse, so to speak, with verbal jabs, acts of defiance or accusing him to your friends and family. Or perhaps you’ve simply withdrawn from him, giving up hope for genuine intimacy.

This kind of reaction is a natural part of what I call the path of separation, which results when one spouse goes off the biblical path of God’s design for marriage. The path of separation is an increasingly divergent one, wherein each response and counter-response to hurt or neglect pushes the couple into behaviors that are increasing self-protective and/or self-assertive, behaviors that run in opposition to the bridal paradigm. In many instances, the start down this path is subtle, maybe even almost unnoticeable, but the longer this tit-for-tat goes on, the wider the gap between you grows.

3. Choose the Path of Intimacy

In order to reverse this degenerative trend, someone has to break the cycle. Someone has to reach across the gap, which may be large at this point, and extend the hand of love and grace that can put you back on the path of intimacy. If you’re a wife whose husband has initiated the detour down the path of separation, the first step back onto the path of intimacy is to discover whether you have chosen to follow him down this path of separation, either by choice or by natural response.

Once you have made an honest assessment of where you are, then you can choose to take a different path. If your husband is authoritarian, it may seem counter-intuitive to respond with respect and admiration. If he consistently reminds you of your duty to submit, it may seem weak-minded and enabling if you offer him your submission. But in many cases, if you reach across the gap and offer the very thing he needs, you will discover that he has less need to push for his own rights and to use his authority in a self-serving manner.

As challenging as it might seem, when you offer your husband the gift of your surrender out of a genuine desire to love him in the way he wants and needs to be loved, it will break the cycle and pull you both back onto the path of intimacy, wherein he will grow in his desire to do the same for you.

4. Important Caveat

Let me be clear. I am not addressing the case where a husband is abusive toward his wife. Further, I am in no way encouraging a wife to become a doormat for her husband or to simply serve his every whim and dictate. Couples that are too far down the path of separation require qualified, serious marital counseling. If you feel you’ve already been consistently reaching across the gap without meaningful results, it may be time for professional intervention by your pastor or a counselor or even another couple whose marriage you both admire.


 - - - - - - - - -

If you have come to the end of this post and feel disappointed by the suggestions I’ve offered, I understand. It may seem like I’m asking you to simply suck it up and submit, but that’s really not what I’m getting at, not at all. If a husband and wife both love each other and genuinely desire a better marriage, sometimes all it takes to get off the path of separation and onto the path of intimacy is for someone to reach across the divide. As the wife of a heavy-handed husband, I’m asking you to be the one to do the reaching, even if you think your chance of success is small.

Extend your hand with the gift of your surrender and watch him respond with love. See to his (often unspoken) need for respect, trust and admiration, and watch him respond with tenderness, sacrifice and concern for your needs and desires. It may sound a little crazy, but I genuinely believe that your simple act of faith and love in reaching for your husband in this manner can begin to shift the atmosphere in your marriage.

Cover your actions in prayer, season them with grace, and obey the nudging of the Holy Spirit inside you. Then watch the intimacy grow as your husband begins to see the Christ-like role that God has called him to as your husband. It really can happen.

Next time: What If…My Wife Won’t Let Me Lead?
Friday, June 18, 2010
There are really two ways in which a husband can fall short in leading his wife on the journey to a surrendered marriage, in which his role is to be a reflection of Christ’s loving leadership of the church. He may refuse to accept the authority that God has given him as a husband or he may actually abuse that authority. I’ll deal with the former in this post and latter in my next one.

Whether from ignorance, neglect or insecurity, a husband who doesn’t see it as his responsibility to lead his wife and family typically defers to his wife in most matters, pushing responsibility her way and minimizing his own role in the marriage. He may even think that his duties end when he brings home a paycheck. Perhaps he’s simply bought into the common (though inaccurate) societal norm that says husbands have no special authority in “modern” marriage, or maybe even that it would be wrong to think so.

A wife who finds herself in such a marriage may feel neglected, unloved, overwhelmed, resentful, frustrated or some combination of these. What can she do?

Before I discuss some specific ways you can help move your marriage forward, first a word of caution. In all you do and say, be aware of and preserve his need to feel respected, trusted and admired. As a woman you may not see the importance of these things to your husband, because these are not necessarily important to you. But let me assure you that they are important to your husband. So let love prevail, but let it be expressed in ways a man needs it expressed.

Second, remember my admonition to pull instead of push.  Create an atmosphere that invites his leadership rather than trying to directly push him into it with complaints or guilt  Despite the title of this post, remember to stay focused on what you can do to improve your relationship instead of on what your husband is or isn't doing.  If you want your husband to step forward in godly authority and Christ-like leadership, work to keep yourself in "church-like" submission to him.


1.  Education

Share what you understand about the bridal paradigm in a respectful, loving way.  Don't come at it like you have all the answers and he needs to get a clue. Explain what you've learned about how headship and submission go hand in hand to build a great marriage.  Invite him to join you on this journey toward understanding what it means to have a surrendered marriage.   Explore what The Bible says about marriage together, and discuss what you think it means and how it might apply to your relationship. If you find my writing on this helpful, point him to stuff I’ve written here.

2. Motivation and Inspiration

Make it clear that you are not trying to just manipulate him into doing more.  If you are, then deal with that issue in yourself before you begin this discussion!  Tell him that your motivation is in a better, stronger marriage and deeper bond of intimacy between you.  (If you are feeling particularly bold, you could also mention that this includes sexual intimacy.)  

Express your needs in non-demanding and non-threatening terms. A shout of “I need you to get off that couch and take out the trash” might get the trash taken out, but probably won’t affect any lasting change in your relationship, at least not for the better. “I’m feeling overwhelmed with my responsibilities right now and would really appreciate your help. Do you think you could take the trash out for me tonight?” would be a better approach. Let him know how much you need him.

3.  Appreciation

Make sure to express how much you appreciate each small step he takes toward leading. My silly little example of taking out the trash is not much of a step toward assuming more leadership responsibility toward you and the family, but if you respond with appreciation and affection, he will begin to see your need for him and will likely be more responsive next time. You might be asking, “Why should I make a fuss when he’s just doing something he should be doing in the first place?” The answer is, “Because you want him to do more of it.”

Whenever he acts in a way that is consistent with the role The Bible defines for husbands, reinforce it. Each time he takes a step of self-sacrifice, of showing affection, protection, or concern, whenever he takes responsibility or initiative to lead, let him hear your thanks.
  • When he comes home early from work because you aren't feeling well, say, “It makes me feel so good when you take care of me this way.”
  • When he agrees to sit down and work up a family budget with you, say, “Thank you so much for helping set our spending priorities. I really appreciate the hard work you do every day to provide for us. Thank you for doing this budget for our financial well-being.”
  • When he decides where to go on a date and makes the reservation, say, “I appreciate you making our date night arrangements. It really tells me I am a priority to you.”
  • When he pays you a compliment about a new outfit/hair cut/lingerie, say, “Thank you. I love knowing that you find me beautiful/attractive/sexy/desirable.”

Even if his attitude or actions fall short of wholehearted leadership, let your words affirm every step in the right direction. This is what I call speaking to what you want to see rise up. Even if my examples seem a bit contrived, hopefully they convey the idea that appreciation can work wonders.

Concluding Thoughts

Keep in mind the general pointers from yesterday’s what-if post about the power of prayer, the importance of keeping your heart in the right place, and the fact that a healthy dose of grace is essential. Don’t expect too much too soon. Treasure the small steps forward and don’t fret too much over backward stumbles on this fascinating journey to surrender.

Next time:  What if... My Husband Acts Like A Dictator

Related:  How Would You Respond if your wife asked you to step up and lead?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
This is the “what if” that started me on this series, so I’ll begin with it.

I posted back here on the importance of focusing on what you give instead of what you get in your marriage relationship. I emphasized the that we should examine biblical instructions on marriage with an eye to what it calls for us to do (what you give to your spouse) instead of what it calls for our spouse to do (what you get form your spouse).  This is without doubt the scriptural intention and the best way to build intimacy and trust in your marriage, as you both discover the joy of giving and meeting each other's needs.

While I do believe in this the ideal concept, it begs the question:

 What happens when only one spouse takes a surrendered marriage to heart and therefore does most or all the giving/surrendering in the relationship?
I have several responses to this particular what-if.

1.  You can’t push on a rope

Ever hear of the expression, “You can’t push on a rope?” It is used to describe the fact that some things only work in one direction. Pushing a rope only ends in frustration and you might just wind up with a tangled mess. Pulling it, however, will cause the entire rope to move smoothly in the directly you want. In a surrendered marriage there is a definite push-pull dynamic.

It can be tempting at times to push your spouse toward their appropriate roles and actions in your marriage, using the biblical bridal paradigm principles as a club to get what you want. At times he may want to push her into submission or she will want to push him to lead, either more strongly or more lovingly. The fact is, however, that as with a rope, pushing your spouse rarely works. Truthfully, pushing often has the opposite of the desired effect.

So how do you pull instead of push your spouse to engage more fully in their part of the bridal paradigm?
  • Speak into that which you want to see rise up, rather than complaining about what you see as missing or wrong. 
  • Use appreciation and gratitude for every small step in the right direction.
  • Ask yourself if there is anything you might be doing that is pushing your spouse and possibly causing an undesirable counter-reaction
  • Look for unmet needs in your spouse. Most men need to feel respected, admired, trusted and desired to be “pulled” toward their position of loving leadership. For a woman, things like affection, attention/time, genuine concern and romantic engagement will draw her toward more fully offering her submission.
 2.  One-sided Giving Is Not Sustainable

A husband can lead his wife with Christ-like love, concern and affection without her walking in surrender to his authority, but it’s unlikely to be sustainable for the long term unless she eventually moves toward proper biblical alignment. Likewise, a wife can be submissive toward her husband, respecting and affirming him, showing deference toward him, but unless he eventually begins to place himself in proper biblical alignment by lovingly leading her, eventually her submission will wane.

Even with the best of intentions, a one-sided bridal paradigm marriage is unsustainable. Frustration and resentment will eventually get a foothold and inevitably cause problems down the road.

So what do you do if you find yourself in a one-sided situation? First of all, go back to number one, above. Do all in your power to create an atmosphere that inspires your spouse toward their biblically dictated attitude and actions. Work to pull and not push. When that fails, you have to move on to number 3, below.

3.  Personal Integrity

Having just spoken to the lon-term unsustainability of trying to do the bridal paradigm alone, nevertheless let me encourage you to be true to who you are and to what you believe. If you believe in the bridal paradigm, that there is a God-designed order to marriage, that the love relationship Jesus has with the church is the best template for marriage, then don’t let go of that belief. Whether your spouse “gets it” or not, whether they are actively pursuing a surrendered marriage or not, don’t give up on what you hold true.

I call this the pursuit of personal integrity.

I understand that it can be difficult to stand strong in the bridal paradigm if you don’t have the support of your spouse. Here are a few thoughts on things you can do to do when the going gets tough on your own.
  • Pray. Really. I believe in the power of prayer. Pray for your spouse. Pray for divine insight. Pray for your own role in your marriage.
  • Realize that God is mostly interested in the hearts of those involved not the actions (this is true for you and for your spouse). Yes, what you do matters, but most of all God wants you stay close to him and to keep your heart in the right place, to keep your integrity intact.
  • Realize that there will be ups and downs in the journey to surrender. Appreciate and be thankful for progress and don’t beat yourself of your spouse up over struggles. Let grace abound, and realize that it will all help build a stronger marriage in the end.
  • There is no room for abuse of any kind. Period. By encouraging you to keep your heart surrendered, I’m not talking about making yourself a doormat either.
In my next two posts I’ll separately address what you can do as a husband or wife whose spouse hasn’t yet joined you on the journey to surrender.  And don't forget to ask your own "what-if" questions by comment or email.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
In her discussion on authority and submission, Kathleen at Project M relayed something the pastor who married them said.(You can read all of what Kathleen says about this topic,  part 1 here and part 2 here)
Only look at the parts that are directed towards you.
I love that notion.  It goes right along with my last post about focusing on what you give rather than what you get. In reflecting on what I’ve read and written around this idea of being “other-focused”, it struck me that some, if not many may respond with the following concern.
What if I do all the giving and my husband or wife doesn’t ever give in return?  What if I do what I can to meet my spouse’s needs and desires but he/she doesn’t show the same concern for my needs and desires?
When I describe the roles of husband and wife as modeled for us in the relationship between Jesus and the church, I have a tendency to describe it in ideal terms. While I think it is good to understand and strive for the ideal, I also know that there is no such thing as an ideal marriage, not when flawed human beings are involved.    
So, in an “ideal” marriage, a husband should be focused on loving and leading his wife like Christ does the church, sacrificing for her, protecting and providing for her, doing all his power to see that she is healthy and happy. He should stand strong on her behalf, being vigilant in looking out for her, taking up her cause at every turn, and leading her with integrity.
In response, it is also ideal for a wife to be submitted to her husband, as the church is submitted to Christ.  She should show him respect in all things, support him, affirm him, and honor him with the gift of her heart-felt surrender.  She should see that she stays “arranged under” (literal Greek for submit) her husband’s loving, protective authority, because God has chosen to set it up that way, not because she is any less capable than he is. 
But…
What if my wife refuses to respect my authority and won’t give me any space to lead? What if she questions all my decisions and is constantly brow-beating me? What if she doesn’t think submission is really called for in this modern day?
What if my husband doesn’t love me in a Christ-like manner? What if he is too dictatorial and domineering and tries to force me into submission? What if he doesn’t seem to care very much about my needs and feelings?  What if he’s just ‘checked out’ and doesn’t care about being the leader of our home?
What if we’ve drifted too far apart for this to work for us?
These are all valid what-if scenarios, and there are many others.   Any real marriage will be filled with shortfalls and disappointment, of mis-steps and conflicts.  It’s no less true when it come to trying to walk out the bridal paradigm.  
So, I want to take some time here in the next few posts to reflect on some of those what ifs. If you’ve got a what if that you want me to address, drop me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll take a shot at it.

First up,  What if... My Spouse Doesn't Give in Return?

Also in this series:



Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Lori Lowe, who has one of the best marriage blogs of the many that I follow, has a fabulous current post about the importance of pouring love on your spouse. Here’s part of what she wrote:
When you act in a loving—even sacrificial—manner, you experience “The Paradox of Giving.” This is the secret your grandparents knew about: It is in giving that we receive. The joy and love you give returns to you. Yes, it is risky to invest yourself fully. If you have chosen your partner well, the return is often much higher than expected. A couple who focuses on the other’s needs experiences joy and deep satisfaction that makes fleeting happiness look like leftover casserole—fine, but nothing to write home about.
Her post goes right to the heart of something that I’ve been writing over the past few days. It has to do with expounding on a statement I wrote toward the end of my Brief Summary of Surrendered Marriage:
The beauty of the bridal paradigm lies in what it calls you to give rather than what it permits you to demand.
Stop and read that again. Let it sink in. It's really important.

When you read what The Bible says about marriage, as in Ephesians 5, what are you looking for? Do you focus on what it says about your spouse’s role, about what you can ask/demand/coerce/expect from him or her? Do you mainly look for what you get? Are you seeking after your rights? Or do you instead look for what you are encouraged to give?

The bridal paradigm, the mindset that marriage should be modeled on the love relationship between Jesus and the church, calls you to focus on what you give rather than what you might receive. It’s an invitation to self-examination and self-sacrifice, what Lori calls sacrificial loving. I’m not talking about the kind of giving that one might do reluctantly or out of some sense of obligation. No, I’m talking about the kind of giving that Lori describes so well. It’s the kind of giving that overflows from a heart full of love; the kind that finds joy in “seeking not its own way” and finds delight in bringing happiness and fulfillment to another.

This is really the only way the bridal paradigm works.

The truth is, a husband who demands submission from his wife actually has no chance at all to obtain it from her, because true biblical submission can only be given, not taken. When he demands or coerces submission from her, it might result in her reluctant acquiescence or resentful compliance, perhaps even her fearful obedience, but certainly not her loving surrender and trust. Unless a wife makes it her choice to give her husband the gift of her surrender, unbidden, it will be fruitless and unsustainable. A husband can certainly play a part in this, enticing her toward surrender by his expression of unconditional love, showing her that she is cherished and adored, and by showing her that he is trustworthy. Surrender is invited by being Christ-like toward your wife. When a wife chooses to take the path of surrender for herself, amid this kind of atmosphere, her freely given gift of submission grows over time into a thing of lasting beauty.

Likewise, a wife must not coerce or attempt to manipulate her husband into a taking up his position of loving leadership. Her very act of trying to force him to step forward and lead puts her in charge. No, a husband must offer his leadership to her by willingly taking up the authority that God has placed on his shoulders, as a call to lovingly and sacrificially lead his wife and family. He must choose to be engaged with, involved in and concerned for his wife in an active and visible manner, not because she has manipulated him into it, and not because he has a thirst for power and control, but because he sees it as a God-given privilege to model the love of Christ to his bride and to lay down his life for her. How can a wife foster leadership in her husband without pushing or coercion? If a wife will show her husband genuine respect (at all times), express her confidence in him, and tell him she is thankful for his abilities and strengths, it will create an atmosphere where his leadership can naturally thrive.

The journey to surrender is a step-by-step journey toward the surrender of self, but more to the point, it’s a journey into discovering the joy of giving. When you both give yourself wholly to each other without precondition and without the expectation of a getting something in return, you begin to realize the beauty of the bridal paradigm.

I’ll close with a last quote from Lori’s insightful post. Just imagine a marriage where both husband and wife are living a lifestyle of giving in this way:
Give your respect, vulnerability, time, undivided attention, intimacy, patience, fidelity, commitment and devotion. Do it without keeping score. Do it without stopping. Do it with love.
(You can read the rest of Lori’s post on her Life Gems blog here.  I posted a while back about the ebook “Love Everyday,” Lori’s post was also her contribution to that project. You can download your own copy here. Almost 38,000 others have to date. Get it. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.)

But before you do that, answer this question: In what ways can you focus more on giving to and less on getting from your spouse?
Sunday, June 6, 2010
A short time back, as we were driving back from a trip to Alabama where Jenni had gone to do some training in Children’s ministry (she rocked it btw!), I asked her to review something I’d written as a summary overview of a surrendered marriage and the bridal paradigm. Given my previous post on the truth in tension, I found it pretty ironic that my wife and I were given the opportunity to struggle a bit with some of the tension of the bridal paradigm as we struggled to gain clarity over what I'd written.

We’ve been on our own journey toward a biblically surrendered marriage for many years, but what I’d written somehow struck her wrong. As she re-read aloud what I’d written I could see that maybe I hadn’t chosen my words as carefully as I should have, but I couldn’t see what exactly what she was concerned about.

We’ve come back to that discussion several times in the few weeks since then. Each time we’ve talked about it I felt my understanding of her perspective grow, yet I wasn’t quite able to completely grasp the nature of her concerns. In the end I’ve decided that it comes down to the difficulty of adequately describing in a few words what is really a lifelong journey of discovery. The problem with laying out the end goal of a surrendered marriage is that it can be a far leap for anyone who hasn’t gained a bridal paradigm mind-set, who hasn’t yet understood through personal experience what it means to live your marriage as a reflection of the love relationship between Jesus and the church. The challenge is that when trying to clearly define any one aspect of this new paradigm there is a risk of misinterpretation unless the entire context is clear, unless the many biblical truths on marriage are all held in the proper balance and tension. That's just hard to do.

I deeply value the discussions we’ve had, even though it hasn’t been easy. I value my wife’s honesty and her willingness to engage the ambiguity and tension. I appreciate hearing her perspective, which, as she explained, also comes partly through the eyes of the other wives that she talks with.

These conversations challenged me to more clearly and correctly describe the principles I espouse here. So I’ve taken another stab at my “Quick Reference on Surrendered Marriage,” in which I summarize my core principles on marriage. It has been substantially rewritten and significantly expanded. Please take a minute to read the updated version by cliking on the link above.

I’d appreciate hearing from you, especially the woman. What do you think of the way I’ve described the roles of husbands and wives in a biblically surrendered marriage?
Thursday, June 3, 2010

I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since my last post. Humble apologies for the long absence. Things have been a bit hectic around here. Truthfully, more than a bit. I’m working on a tandem post to my previous one (can you remember back that far) about the truth in tension. Hopefully it’s coming soon. In the mean time a headline caught my eye today. Here’s the Washington Post headline (click headline for full article):

Al and Tipper Gore's sad love story: Where do we begin . . . to express our sadness?

Even if you abhor Al’s politics (like I do), you had to admire the seemingly model marriage the he and Tipper shared. Clearly they were in love, even after many years of marriage. They supported each other through good times and bad. And, as The Post article put it, they were the couple to incite jealousy, “The pair who make you nudge your husband and say, ‘See, I want that.’ “

The article then poses this question: “Hasn't the finish line been crossed by the time you reach 40 years together?”

I don’t pretend to know the inner working of the Gore’s relationship, but I wonder if that isn’t exactly the kind of thinking that ends up taking down a long-lasting marriage like theirs. You see, there is only one marriage “finish line” and that is the death of your spouse. Yes, I understand that statistically, after 40 years, less than 1% of marriages end in divorce, but this is not a mathematical question, it’s a mind-set question.

In many ways their story is our story: they were high school sweethearts, they had counter-balancing personalities and each saw the value the other brought to their relationship, they occasionally did a bit too much PDA, and they were looked to by others as an example marriage.

The dissolution of Al and Tipper’s relationship challenges me to again renew my commitment to never mentally cross the finish line in my marriage. I must never take my sweet wife or her love for granted, assume that I know all there is to know about her, or treat her in any way that disregards the fact that we are on an ever-continuing journey together. I must realize that a perfect marriage is to be continually sought after but is never actually fully attained. There’s always more.

Stories like this can cause one of several reactions. It can cause you to lose faith in marriage as an institution. It can cause you to doubt and fear for your own marriage. Or it can stir up your sense of resolve, causing you to work toward making every year of your marriage stronger and better than the year before.

What reaction does this story provoke in you?

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