So, this weekend, my wife and I went to a marriage conference. There is something in most men that says: “I’m fine. I don’t need help. My wife and I are doing just fine. Why would we work on anything when we’re doing fine? It’s not manly to ask for any help or care about ooey, gooey, feelings-type-stuff, and romance.” (Note that these feelings are mostly about feeling uncomfortable and about feeling self-conscious.) I confess that there were some of those attitudes were in me when I went.
But I also love my wife, and do want, fundamentally, to have a great marriage. I want that for a lot of reasons. Some of those reasons are for my own selfish benefit (I want to be taken care of – and if I have a happy wife, she’ll take care of me). And some were more noble than that. So I went.
Now, to be manly, (among other things) is to be tough. Being tough means being able to deal with things, being able to endure things. The toughest guy in the world should be able to endure ridicule, exhaustion, failure, financial ruin, walking on coals, laying on beds of nails and so forth. So being a man who’s confident in his manliness, that definition of toughness should counter the issues of “feeling comfortable” and “feeling self-conscious.” Right? At least it should if I’m tough.
But the reality of it is not just that I should be tough (though I am tough enough to endure a conference, right?). I should also be tough enough to hold close the person I claimed to be dearest to me (and I claimed that by marrying her). Also, the reality of it is that I sadly, am NOT tough enough to do that. I want to be that tough. If I value my wife as much as I say I do, I desperately, painfully want to be that tough.
Why am I not tough enough? Because no sinful Christian man is tough enough to hold his wife close to him without help. Why do I say that? Because 1) we’re sinful and sin separates. 2) Because we’re Christian. I don’t think God makes it harder for those trying to follow Him, but I do think the devil wants to do just that. Why? Because when a man and a woman are teamed up, intimate and close, united in purpose, AND living for God, that’s got some power for good behind it. And where things have power for good (and by good I mean: the things God deems good), the devil attacks.
Also, we’re fed a bunch of crap about love, relationships and marriage (not to mention behavior in general) in our culture, most of which our culture believes. Crap like:
- Sex is the most importing thing. Ever.
- If I don’t feel in love with a person, I have no need to back up any commitments based on love for that person.
- If I don’t get my way, I have the right to be a jerk until I do get my way.
- Being right is more important than nearly everything else.
- The word “Submit” means “let yourself be walked on, abused, maltreated and don’t complain about it.”
- The word “Leader” means “Autonomous, cruel, capricious dictator.”
But, if you’re still reading this, you’re probably wondering what I did learn, or how a marriage can hold together. Well, a marriage can hold together when both wife and husband hold on to each other tightly, invest in each other continually, and do these two things with lots and lots and lots and lots of help from their God. Also, just to clarify those myths:
- Sex is important, but really, in the grand scheme of things, not amazingly important, just kinda important.
- If I don’t feel in love with someone, but I made a commitment to them (one based on love or otherwise), I ought to fulfill that commitment. Period. Also, feeling in love has very little to do with real love. Real love is a matter of the will, not of the feelings.
- If I don’t get my way, I have the privilege of appealing to concerned parties, to get things resolved. I don’t really have the right to be a jerk any time.
- Being right is so low on the importance scale that I don’t think it really even registers on the “importance-o-meter.”
- The word “Submit” means “Lovingly follow, with input to the leader”
- The word “Leader” means “Someone who leads, initiates things with, and/or takes responsibility for others.”
Anyway I learned a lot, but I can’t say that I know enough yet. God’s not through (by a long shot) teaching me what He wants me to know. And that, while humbling, is quite encouraging. He’s not through with any person reading this, either.