Divorce, Inevitability, and Grace

Divorce. Sometimes it just seems inevitable. By the time they get there, most couples feel like it is the only option. But the reality is that somewhere along the way, the divorce could have been prevented. Strong coulpes don’t wake up one morning and decide to end it. Usually it is simply a series of poor choices and misplaced priorities, and not enough effort to repair what is damaged.

That divorce is so prevalent is a symptom “what matters most is getting what I want when I want it” mentality that pervades our society. We don’t give a though to the consequences, we just make choices in the moment, believing those choices to be right because we feel like it.

Now, before you say, “Well, you just don’t get it. You don’t know my situation,” let me just say that you’re right, I don’t know what you’ve gone through. I can’t say if you were at fault or the other person was, what choices you could have made and didn’t. But here’s what I can say – somewhere along the way someone had a choice to either do what was best for the marriage or not, and they chose not. It could have been prevented.

Of course, by the same logic, sin could have been prevented. And it really could have. Adam and Eve could have made different choices. Adam could have been more proactive. Eve could have stopped listening to the serpent. Sin didn’t have to happen. But it did.

God uses the picture of marriage throughout Scripture to help us understand how he relates to us, and I think it’s an apt picture. He had a perfect relationship with his creation. One sinful choice broke the relationship, but God, in his infinite love, was not willing to leave the relationship broken. With firm commitment to doing whatever it takes, God stepped in and reconciled himself to us, restoring the relationship and covering over our sin. Like a husband who wants to be reunited with his estranged wife, God comes to us and says, “I forgive you. Be mine.” Through constant, consistent grace he does everything needed to repair the damage our sin caused.

I think it is for this reason that marriage is the biggest issue our society – or any society – faces. There is no area of our lives where we more clearly see a picture of how God relates to us. There is no human relationship more intimate than that of a husband and wife; there is no spiritual relationship more intimate than that of God to his beloved people. There is no human hurt greater than when one spouse betrays another; there is no spiritual hurt greater than to turn away from the one true God. There is no human love a beautiful as a spouse who forgives the unforgiveable; there is no spiritual love as beautiful as the God of free and faithful grace saying, “I will remember your sins no more.”

When we make a priority of doing all that we can to prevent divorce from ever becoming an option, we both reflect the gracious love of our God, and demonstrate it in micro for all those around us. In light of that, how could we not make every effort? How could we not set aside the “what I want when I want it attitude” and instead adopt the “What does God want” attitude?

It’s February, and if you’re in a relationship you probably don’t need to be reminded that you have about two weeks to come up with something romantic. Maybe you like to make the excuse that Valentine’s Day is just a contrived holiday made up by greeting card companies to sell more product. But let’s be honest – is there a wife out there who legitimately doesn’t like to be given some little gift of love on Valentine’s Day? I’ve never met one.

Make the most of every opportunity. Let the grace of God flow through your marriage. Show the love you’ve been shown.

Marriage Advice from My Kids

Yesterday we were sitting down for lunch and my wife and I asked our boys what kind of advice they would give to a couple going through premarriage instruction. First, P. said, “Stay married, and never get divorced!” Then A. chimed in, “You need to hug and kiss lots. Like, smother the other person’s mouth with yours!” He went on to say, “You should go on lots of dates too.” When we asked what kinds of dates, P. suggested going to church. 

That’s about all the meaningful advice we got out of them before it devolved into strange noises and increasingly goofy suggestions, which is pretty typical with two little boys. But we were still having fun with their initial ideas.

As I walked up to church a little while later to sit down with a couple I’m taking through premarriage, I realized how perceptive their answers were. I mean, they’re really on to something! Robert Sternberg said a lasting marriage needs consummate love, which consists of strong long in three dimensions – passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Think about this: My boys advised that couples should “stay married and never get divorced” (commitment); that they should “hug and kiss lots” (passion); and that they should “go on lots of dates” (intimacy). They even got the importance of spiritual connection by throwing in that a good place to go on a date is church! Though I’m not sure what they imagine a date at church looks like – and I’m having trouble envisioning it myself! Not a bad thought, though.

Is this a glimmer of some kind of intuitive sense inside children about how real love works, like something God has wired into us to understand instinctively? Are my wife and I actually giving them a pretty good example (even though doesn’t always feel like it…)? Or did they just accidentally stumble on something elegantly true?

I guess I don’t really know. But for what it’s worth, I think they have some pretty cool advice, and if I had to give someone some really quick advice about marriage, I think I couldn’t do much better than they did:

1. Stick together for life.

2. Hug and kiss lots.

3. Prioritize dates and spiritual connection.

Amen, boys.

(Note: Lest you get the false impression that I’m raising the two most awesome human beings, as soon as I finish posting this I have to go discipline P. for “accidentally” spitting in his brother’s face. Simul justus et peccator.)

The Redemption

The Hero sits on the hilltop and stares into the distance. There he spies the end of his journey… and the place of his enemy’s power. He knows what success in his quest will cost him. But he will not stop. There is no argument that can dissuade him, no appeal that can turn him aside, and now power of man or beast that can stand in his way.

Because, you see, what he stands to gain – who he stands to gain – is worth everything to him. She literally means more than life itself to him. And he will stop at nothing to win her back.

* * * * *

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:51 (ESV)

* * * * *

Ever since the day our first father, Adam, abandoned his bride to temptation, sin, and death, his sons have repeated his cowardice and failure. The record of humanity attests to the weakness of men, more likely to fall prey to lust, to laziness, to drunkenness, to greed and warmongering and powermongering, than to rise up in strength to fight for the girl and lay everything on the line to be her lover and defender.

Yet, within us is the sense that we were made for something more. We love the stories of the hero who gets the girl because we all want to be that guy. We want to rise up, strong and passionate, and claim what is ours. We want to save the day and get the pats on the back and hear the girl say, “My hero!”

But most of the time we don’t. We get disappointment. Heartbreak. Dishonor. Shame. We are not the heroes. And all our longing to be the hero really just serves to remind us that we, too, need to be saved.

But there is a Hero, a truer and greater man than any of us. Knowing full well that it would cost him his life, Jesus went boldly to the cross to offer himself as a sacrifice that paid for sin, defeated his Enemy, the Devil, and shattered the power of death. He did all this to win back the girl – his Bride, the Church. “It is his finished!” was his triumphant cry and he struck the final blow that ended the conflict once and for all.

* * * * *

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:6-7, NIV)

* * * * *

Like every good epic story, as the fog of battle cleared he strode victorious back out of the fight, alive and well. This is our Redeemer, our Hero.

And here’s the twist: He doesn’t bask in the glow of victory alone, but raises us up to victory with him. He makes us heroic. He equips us to rise up with him and set our own faces for the battles we have to fight, not because we must earn our own glory but because we share in his glory.

* * * * *

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22, NIV).

* * * * *

This is redemption.

The Breaking of Marriage and the Promise of Redemption

You had one job, Adam.

What’s that? Well, yes, I suppose you had more than one job all taken with all, but when it came to leading your family spiritually, you had just one job. One rule to follow, and to communicate to your family and your descendants for generations to come. Don’t eat the fruit.

Was it overly complex? Difficult to communicate? Hard to get the point across? When you and Eve were running through the garden, full of the joy and thrill of life and all its perfect pleasures, was there just no time to make it clear what was expected of the two of you?

No, that’s not right, is it? Because at that point you had no faults or failings, and there was nothing to hide. So what was it about that moment, Adam? What happened when it all came crashing down?

There you stood, right next to her, the most beautiful of all creation, a precious jewel wrought from your own body, hand crafted for you and given to you by the maker of the universe. Yours to care for. Yours to love. Yours to protect and defend.

There she stood, listening as a serpent lied to her about God, lied to her about God’s desires for you, lied to her about his dire warnings. Adam, your bride was being deceived and drawn into death right in front of your face. What were you doing?

Were you distracted? Watching the birds while your wife’s wings were being clipped? Or were you absorbed in the lies too, more interested in what you thought you would gain than in how it would harm her?

And what about when she actually reached out to take the fruit? Did you even think to intervene, to speak up? Or did your curiosity just get the better of you?

You had one job, Adam.

Don’t even try to make excuses like, “Her spiritual life is between her and God.” The next detail puts that argument to rest, doesn’t it? What did you do once she fell? Did you call her back? Did you stand up for her, try to plead for her somehow?

No, we both know what happened next. What excuses did you tell yourself?

“Well, everyone else in the world has already done it.”

“It’s a personal choice; it isn’t hurting anyone.”

“Just this once, just to find out. If I know, then I’ll know why it’s not good to do in the future.”

“It must not be that bad; there haven’t been any consequences yet.”

You had one job, Adam. And you failed. Miserably.

Worse, when you were called to account, what did you do? Did you man up and own up? No, you blamed her for your failure, as though it was her fault that you chose to sin. Unbelievable. So, what? Her choices are her own, but you aren’t responsible for yours? Are you really going to hold that line?

So now what, Adam?

I’ll tell you what…

I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between the serpent’s offspring and hers; he will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will strike his heel.

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you.

With great compassion I will take you back.

As far as the east is from the west, so far will I separate your sins from you.

You had one job, Adam. You failed. So now I have a job to do.

And I will not fail.

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
    as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
    only to be rejected,” says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
    but with deep compassion I will bring you back.” – Isaiah 54:7

Does Marriage Need Redemption?

Supreme Court decisions regarding the state of marriage in our country are starting to become passe, which might explain why there isn’t nearly the amount of upset about the recent one as there has been with previous cases. Depending on where you fall on this issue, though, you may feel either that the institution of marriage is bleeding out, or you may feel that the state of marriage in our society has never been more hopeful. Or maybe you’re among the growing group of people that has completely given up on caring what the government and the courts say about marriage, and you’re interested solely in making of it what you believe is right.

Whatever your stance on the issues of politics and marriage, there are a few things we can’t ignore:

  • For every two couples that get married today, there is a couple somewhere getting a divorce. While this doesn’t quite imply the often quoted 50% divorce rate, it does amount to the expectation that about 41% of all first marriages will fail. That is a tragedy.
  • The number of couples living together outside of marriage has steadily increased for 20+ years. Virtually every graph you look at will tell the same story – more and more people are giving up on the idea of committing to one another before moving in together, and the number keeps going up.
  • The definition of the word “marriage” is changing. A word we used to think applied to a unique relationship, and required certain specific elements (like one male and one female and all that) now is much less specific, and we are seeing a constant stream of people eager to claim it to describe whatever relationship they feel strongest about. But when you force a word to mean anything you want it to mean, you drain it of meaning entirely.

For those of us who cherish traditional marriage and what it means, these facts alone can be a little disturbing, not to mention what we feel when we pile on things like pornography and erotica, overloaded schedules, and apathy.

I do believe marriage needs redemption.

But I don’t believe that all this is actually a new problem. I think it all goes back to the very first marriage, a marriage that was broken when two people believed a lie and turned away from truth. When a man who was supposed to defend his wife stood back and watched as she came under attack, and then let himself get dragged down as well. When they immediately began to blame each other for their own faults.

That’s when marriage really began to fall apart, when a system designed for perfect people was filled with only broken people.

And yet, I believe marriage can be redeemed. In fact, I believe it has been redeemed. And I believe that we can find that redemption for our own marriages, for marriage in our society, and I believe we can even find redemption through marriage.

How? Well, there’s a lot of ground to cover there. But as this week is leading up to Valentine’s Day, I can’t think of a better time to start the conversation. So during this week – and hopefully several weeks to follow – I want to talk about marriage and redemption, and I hope you’ll join the conversation.

An Uncommon Blessing

Today I spent a couple hours making some major revisions to my family budget. Not because of any major life changes, nor because of some upset or problem. It’s just something I’ve been putting off for a while; we’ve been coasting on a good track that hasn’t accounted for the little adjustments in our fortunes. But I’ve been leading a group through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and it wouldn’t be right for me to urge them to name every dollar while I myself am not.

So today’s effort was all about making a plan to use well the financial gifts God has given me, to honor him for that blessing. Having done so, I took what I had written up and showed it to my wife. We talked for a few minutes about specific items, discussed a few changes she felt would be appropriate, talked the particulars of enacting the new plan, and then we hugged, kissed, and I left to get some things done at church.

That’s it. No arguing. No yelling. No stress and struggles and tears. And I left thanking God for this uncommon blessing.

Why do I say it’s uncommon? Well, I know that even if the divorce rate isn’t really 50%, divorce is still a thing, an unfortunately common thing, and also a horrible thing. And God help us, finances almost always show up in the top five or top ten reasons for divorce when it’s studied. Sometimes number one. And even when couples don’t divorce, they still report that money is one of the top things they fight about.

Money matters more than marriage?

Well, not really. But our use of money represents our values, and our ability to communicate, and our ability to make a plan and a commitment and stick to it. Incidentally, some of the other common reasons given for divorce are “Lack of commitment,” “Lack of communication,” and “Differences in values.” Money may not be the problem, but it reveals an awful lot about what our problems are.

So I consider it a tremendous blessing that my wife and I have managed to build a marriage where money is not a point of contention for us.

I could end this here, kinda tooting my own horn and letting everyone know how awesome my marriage is. But for anyone who’s fought in the last month over money, I venture this would be a little disheartening. That’s not my goal.

My goal is to give you hope. I want you to know that money fights don’t have to be a reality. They aren’t for my wife and I because we work hard to plan well and use our money wisely, and we communicate about it. If you’re going to take hold of that hope, it might involve a change of behavior and attitude. Here are some practical steps you can take to accomplish that change:

1. Agree that you are on the same side. I suspect that in most money fights, there is the underlying assumption on the part of both people that it’s a contest to be won. But when you’re married, there is only one team – your team. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they’re on the same side.” Take the practical step of sitting down together and agreeing out loud, verbally, that you are on the same side. Then, you know, hug and stuff.

2. Make a budget. If  you’ve never done one before, I’m sure it sounds scary and you’re probably about to close this article because you don’t like me any more. But hang on! Look, a budget is nothing to be scared of. A budget is a planning and communication tool. It may seem complicated and overwhelming, but the reality is that 85% of your budget is just writing down the things you have to pay for, like your mortgage and your car payment. The rest is what you get to do with the money you have left. So don’t sweat it. Just work it out. If you need a place to get started, here are some great tools.

3. Talk about your budget together. The coolest thing about talking about a budget is that once it’s on paper, there’s really nothing to fight about. You can’t argue more money into the income, and you can’t argue less money into the expenses. The numbers are what they are. All you can do is discuss the best way to use the money that doesn’t have to go to someone else right away. But by that point, all the stress is gone because the tough stuff is already on the page.

4. Prioritize the things that matter. Where I live, a cable and internet package can easily run you $99 a month or more, to say nothing of movies, gadgets, etc. What about putting food on the table? It doesn’t matter how entertained I am, I need to take care of my home. When figuring out your spending, your priorities should be giving to God, saving for the future, housing, food, clothing, and utilities. After that, stuff like transportation, insurance, and debt retirement are critical. You cover all that, then figure out how to entertain yourself. The thing is, once you learn to live responsibly and let your money reflect godly values, you will find both less draw to spend on entertainment and more enjoyment in what you do spend on.

This is just the beginning, but if you put this to work, you will have the uncommon blessing of not fighting about money. Hey, maybe if more people made this effort, it wouldn’t be so uncommon.

Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage

There are few pastors I’ve found working online as hard to strengthen marriages as Dave Willis. I applaud his consistent efforts, and appreciate his constant encouragement. Today he posted on his Facebook page this helpful list, which as he points out will only take you a few minutes to read, but can have long lasting impact if you just let it affect your actions. Here’s the list for you, but please, check out the rest of his site, and follow him on Facebook!

There are millions of way to strengthen your marriage. In no particular order, here are twenty-one…

1. Have more SEX, but make sure you’re ONLY having it with each other!

2. Don’t keep secrets from each other. COMMUNICATE about everything.

3. Argue less. Cuddle more.

4. Don’t get deep in debt and if you’re already there, work together to get out of it!

5. Pray together, find a healthy church and make FAITH a foundation for your life together.

6. Turn off your phones. Talking with each other is better than texting with someone else!

7. Pull the car over and make out more often.

8. Leave LOVE NOTES for each other.

9. Send flowers on unexpected days, not just holidays.

10. Don’t ignore problems in your relationship. Deal with them quickly and aggressively.

11. Be quick to remember each other’s positive traits and quick to forget each other’s flaws.

12. Don’t hold grudges. Forgive and seek FORGIVENESS when you’ve wronged each other.

13. Don’t waste time or energy comparing your lives to anyone else’s. God’s plan for you is masterfully unique.

14. Go on long walks and HOLD HANDS.

15. Make “DATE NIGHT” a priority! Time alone together is vital for your continued growth and health.

16. Give COMPLIMENTS constantly, and never give insults.

17. When you’re happy, laugh together. When you’re sad, cry together. Whatever you do, do it together!

18. Show LOVE and RESPECT to each other even in those moments when you don’t feel like it.

19. Keep dreaming new dreams and making big plans together. Don’t get stuck in a predictable rut.

20. ENCOURAGE each other. Build each other up so much that nothing in the world can tear you down.

21. NEVER give up on each other!

50 Shades of Real Intimacy

This post is addressing the book and soon-to-be released film 50 Shades of Grey. At the end of the post I want to point to something better – a variety of resources for Christian couples who want to enhance their intimacy and sex lives. If you don’t know what 50 Shades of Grey is, or simply don’t care one bit about it, feel free to skip ahead to the resources.

Let’s think of this in a somewhat stark and blunt way. I always feel a good blunt description helps put things in perspective once in a while. Would you rather: a) read a poorly written book about fictional characters engaging in unmarried sex that involves use of force, bondage, and abuse, OR b) read a book aimed at developing godly sexual maturity and intimacy?

I suspect that the average person would look at the first description and naturally shy away. Which is why I’m completely baffled by the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. 100 million copies sold, mostly to women. An entire trilogy of books. And now a movie. And it was originally a Twilight fan-fiction!

On second thought, no, I’m not baffled by it. Not in the least. It is nothing else than a testament to the pernicious nature of sin that all it takes to justify what is essentially pornography, dress it up as literature, and sweep millions of people into it. Including Christians.

That’s the part that’s most frustrating to me – there are Christian women who I know personally who have posted on Facebook about reading it. There are self-professed Christians who have come to the book’s defense when someone criticizes it. Many have tried to justify its gratuitous use of sexual description by claiming that it has a really good storyline (which, from what I’ve heard, is simply not true). But even were that the case, does that really justify it? Try to make the same argument for a movie that has dozens of graphic sex scenes.

What is it that makes this thing so compelling to people? I think one particular woman – Lindsay Marks Harold – hits the nail on the head when she says this:

I think women gravitate to 50 Shades of Grey (and other similar erotica) because they haven’t embraced the proper roles in sex and marriage. Feminism has taught them that they can never, ever, in any fashion submit to a man…unless it’s during sex, if that sort of thing is their cup of tea. Anything goes in the bedroom. Feminism told them that it’s degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family. But having a stranger use and abuse you sexually? Well, that’s empowering, don’t ya know.

She goes on in her blog post about this to point out that our culture has also convinced men that being masculine is bad, which only leaves a void in the lives of many women who want a man to be masculine in the bedroom. The fantasy of a strong and dominating man is attractive because it fills that void, but sin twists and warps that desire into fascination with the idea of dominance.

This is what it all comes down to – sin has twisted and warped the perfect thing God intended with his creation of male and female and the sexual relationship. God’s intended design was that a man would be a man, strong and protective and assertive, eager to initiate the sexual relationship with his wife, and that she would be warm and open and responsive to him. That this was the design is evident in Scripture as well as in psychology and anatomy. But the presence of sin has disrupted the process, leaving us frustrated, lonely, and addicted to that which is harmful to us.

In the end, the only real solution to this is Jesus. It is his love, his cross, his power that redeems us and our sexuality from the messed up world around us. I think it would be very hard to have a deep devotional life and also deeply enjoy reading something like 50 Shades of Grey, because when you see how much Jesus loves, values, and demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, 50 Shades becomes nothing more than a pale imitation of true intimacy. Those who know the spiritual intimacy of Christ will long for a reflection of that kind of intimacy in marriage.

So, if you’re sitting here reading this and saying, “Yeah, but I kinda like that book (or others like it)!” Here’s my advice: spend more time with the Gospel. Sink into what it means to know Jesus and his love for you. Dig into his death and resurrection, and then keep digging into all the riches the Word has to offer.

Now, if you’re already sick and tired of what the world has to offer, but you want to some guidance when it comes to enhancing your sexual relationship in a godly way, here are some resources that I consider worth checking out:

  • Sheet Music by Kevin Leman: Dr. Leman is a fabulous writer. He’s funny, he easy to read, and he’s incredibly practical. I’ve enjoyed all of his books. In this one he addresses many of the issues that married couples tend to face in their sexual relationship, but does so in a way that is so easy to read and grasp.
  • The Song of SolomonYeah, reading the Bible is kind of a no-brainer here, but specifically the Song makes it evident that God is no prude. It is a good encouragement to be romantic.
  • The Marriage BedA website put together by a Christian couple seeking to help other Christian couples develop deeper sexual intimacy and overcome the many obstacles sin puts in the way. It contains dozens of helpful articles, tastefully written and (mostly) Biblically based.
  • For Women Only and For Men Only by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhaun: While these books aren’t primarily about sex, they shed light on a lot of the issues between men and women, most of which do contribute in some way to the sexual relationship.
  • Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray: All of the books in John Gray’s landmark series are worth reading. While they generalize a lot about the nature of men and women, for many couples the things he says hold true. This one addresses the differences between men and women in the bedroom.
  • The Gift of Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner: The authors are Christian and the book addresses sexuality from a Biblical perspective. It is a bit more clinical than others, which can be both good and bad. If couples are trying to address issues relating to physical or psychological issues, this one might be especially useful.
  • Laugh Your Way to a Better MarriageThis is a video series presented by a pastor about how men’s and women’s brains operate differently, and how it impacts everything from dealing with stress to how we approach sex. Funny, insightful, and just plain entertaining, it’s well worth watching. Pro-tip: you can find most, if not all of it, on youtube.
  • Covenant SpiceThere is nothing wrong with a husband and wife acquiring products once in a while to assist their sexual relationship, especially when trying to overcome specific challenges. But it is hard to get those products without being exposed to all kinds of shameful advertising. The folks at Covenant Spice are Christians who wanted to help other Christians by offering an online shop without the smutty ads and images. They ship stuff in discrete packaging and are very respectful of the intimacy that exists in marriage. ‘
  • Hot, Holy and HumorousThis is a blog run by a Christian woman who wants to encourage other women (and men too) in god-pleasing sexual intimacy. I have often found her stuff to be some of the best written available online.

 

 

 

The other side of the story

I’m not usually inclined to pay a lot of attention to the shenanigans that take place on Reddit, a site that, as far as I can tell, is devoted to sharing with anonymous strangers all the things you find interesting, amusing, entertaining, or inappropriate. So, basically like Facebook, only they aren’t people you kinda sorta know/have met once/are related to.

But today someone posted something on Facebook about something that happened on Reddit (how’s that for going down the rabbit hole?) that really caught me. It caught me because I think it is illustrative of a much too common problem in our culture. Several problems, really, but all related, and all have a major impact on marriages.

I’ll explain what I mean in a moment. First, here’s what happened: A woman was on her way to the airport to go on a business trip. While in the taxi she received an email from her husband, a somewhat sarcastic rant about the fact that their sex life had become nearly non-existent, along with a spreadsheet in which he documented 7 weeks worth of his attempts to initiate sex and her response – usually excuses not to do it. The article that explained this presented just the facts, mostly in the form of quotes from the woman. But that is, of course, part of the problem – we have only her perspective on the issue. There’s no clear information about how long he’s been frustrated, how many times he’s brought it up, how she responded to his attempts to talk it through. All we have is the story of his – admittedly – terrible approach to dealing with the issue. So everyone can point the finger at the puerile and inconsiderate man.

I feel like I see this more and more, and it really bothers me – a husband and wife come into conflict, somehow the details become public online, and all we really get is the wife’s perspective on how awful her husband is. And I’ve seen this everywhere from friends posting about their own issues on Facebook to articles posted on sites like Huffington Post. Almost universally, the wife receives all manner of love and support and people join her in bad-mouthing the husband, and meanwhile we never really hear his side of the story.

The thing is, with this Reddit story I’m not sure I need the husband’s side of the story to have some serious questions about the woman’s character.

1. Why is a young wife with no kids withholding sex from her husband? This is actually a significant problem in marriages today. Marriage researchers estimate that about 15-20% of marriages could be defined as “sexless,” where the couple has sex 10 times or fewer in a year. But an anatomist will tell you that the average man needs a sexual release about every 72 hours. Which means that the ideal total for a year should be more like 100+.

2. Why is his frustration and record keeping such a surprise to her? Her husband regularly tried to initiate sex with her. She regularly rebuffed him. It’s one thing for sex to not be on a woman’s radar – for many women sex is only on the radar a few days out of the month unless she makes a conscious effort. It’s one thing for her to not be entirely aware of how infrequent it is – most women believe they make love with their husbands more often than they actually do. But she should have had at least an awareness that him asking for sex and her saying no was becoming a pretty common scenario.

3. Why is she sharing about it on Reddit!? I mean, really? Don’t wait until you can address it with him, just hop online and give everyone you don’t know the scoop? How is this a wise way to address the problem?

4. Why doesn’t she see herself as at least partially responsible? When a person feels they are in the wrong, it is not typical to go and smear the other person. Usually this kind of behavior is reserved for those who are oblivious to their own faults. It seems a little strange that she couldn’t look at something objective like a record of the high incidence in which she has said “no” and say to herself, “Gee, I kinda caused this, didn’t I?”

Here’s where I think all these things tie together: They all are a natural outgrowth of a growing culture that emphasizes female empowerment and female value while simultaneously devaluing male characteristics and roles. As our society lurches away from the traditional like it’s a bad small, it is naturally going to stumble into exactly this kind of problem – a marriage in crisis with a wife unable to see her role in the problem, looking instead to the world around her for validation and affirmation.

The problems with modern feminism and progressivism are points for a different day. But it is important to see how they have a tendency to hamper perspective. They make assumptions about who or what is at fault, and refuse to examine their own motives critically.

What if instead of viewing this through her own lens, and instead of giving it up to the people of the internet to look at it through their lenses, she had instead tried to look at it through her husband’s lens? What if she had made herself consider it all from his perspective? What if she had done so weeks, months before? Wouldn’t that have gone a long way to making this better?

We’re all a little myopic, though. We all have the tendency to only look at our own side of the story. We think we understand the situation perfectly already because we’ve examined it from our own perspective. But this story demonstrates two very important things:

  • We cannot afford to look at things only from our own perspective. Only God is omniscient and truly understands all things. We have to force ourselves to look at it from other ends. When we don’t, we’re likely to not realize that there’s a beam of wood sticking out of our own eye.

 

  • We cannot afford to listen to the world’s doctrine of who we are. In the case of this story, a negative outgrowth of progressive feminism seems to be at the root of the problem. Maybe in another case it is the libertarian approach to sexual activity that poisons a marriage. Or the addiction to entertainment or work or success that pull a couple’s focus from each other and onto other things. Whatever the case, Paul’s instruction remains valid, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.”

How do we avoid these two big problems in our lives and in our marriages? Actually, it’s kinda simple: Gain a deeper understanding of the Gospel. Dive into what it really means that you are a sinner in desperate need of salvation, and that completely out of undeserved love God became that Savior for you. When you understand you are a sinner, you know your perspective cannot be 100% valid. When you know your Savior’s voice, you hear the falseness in the world.

I say this is simple because the Gospel is not a murky thing. The real murky thing is trying to get through life in this world without the Gospel. Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Who is right about what is right? How can that offer any perspective? Life without the Gospel is like, well, only seeing one side of the story – we can only see our failure, but not the solution.

The Gospel – the other side of the story – is crystal clear: Jesus saves you.

Male Headship is about the Gospel

It’s Thursday, time for a little theology.

Recently Sheryl Sandberg, the Girl Scouts, and Beyonce teamed up with a few other high profile women to launch a campaign against the word “bossy.” Their idea is that the word is only really used in reference to girls and women who assert themselves, and thus it is a pejorative sexist term that should be eliminated from our language. After all, in their view of the world, women should be encouraged to assert themselves and rise up as leaders among their peers.

There are social and political implications in all of this that I’m not necessarily interested in addressing right now. But I would like to address one of the big, troublesome notions that comes along with this kind of progressive feminism, which is how it impacts the family and the church.

Continue reading “Male Headship is about the Gospel”