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Title: Turning A House Into A Home -- “The Marks Of A Godly Husband” Pt. 1 Theme: The character traits and actions of a husband who loves his wife
Text: I Peter 3:7
Author: Dr. William Walson
1. “I just don’t care anymore,” she said, so quietly he almost couldn’t hear her. “I hate this marriage. It’s boring me to death.” Pat heard that as if she’d screamed it in his ear, yet she spoke just above a whisper, staring at the floor. Pat leaned close to look in her face, realizing that she meant it, that Jill’s eyes and even her color signaled something in her he had never encountered. This wasn’t something he could apologize away, something he could patch up with a baby-sitter and a dinner in Philly.
2. “I give up,” she managed. “Jill, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you with what I said this morning. I apologize for that.” But he could tell, as she waved that off with a flick of her hand, that it went much deeper. “I don’t even know if I love you anymore. I don’t even know if I ever loved you.” Pat felt as if his heart had stopped. “Really, Jill?” he said, his throat tight. “What can I do? What can we do?” Jill began a soft litany of countless complaints she had registered for so many years, never having felt she had really gotten his attention long enough to get any response.
3. Pat looked at her sadly and she wondered if he was finally hearing her for the first time. If he had only been listening all those years, the charges echoing in his mind would not have come as revelations now: “You don’t really care about this marriage. Why should I try to be a good wife? You never notice anything anyway. We never do anything together unless it’s something you want to do. Your never share anything with me, your work, your Bible study, your dreams, your goals.
4. Why can’t you remember the little things, the special days unless I circle them in red on the calendar? You talk to me like I’m a Philadelphia sportswriter. Couldn’t you ever come home a little early just to be with me? Or come and pick me up and take me to the game instead of leaving me to find my own way there with friends? You never hold my hand anymore. You never touch me unless you want something more. You never say nice things to me in front of people.
5. You’re okay with the kids only after I’ve asked you five or six times. You never act as if my words are important. You never really listen. You either interrupt or don’t let me talk at all when we’re with other people. I don’t want things. I want you. Don’t give me crumbs. I want the real thing. You’ve never made a one hundred percent commitment to me. You’ve never really given me you.” Pat was listening now. For years she had suggested marriage seminars and marriage books, but he had not really seen the need.
6. To him, his marriage was fine. Sure, his wife was a little moody at times, hard to please, maybe a little spoiled. But they always worked it out. She was rock, always there when he needed her, running a good house, raising the kids… Until that moment, Pat Williams thought he had a great marriage. Even an ideal one. “Jill, how can you say you don’t love me? I love you.” “I didn’t really know you when we got married,” she said. “It was fairly quick. Maybe I made a mistake. How do I know that I didn’t?” I know I didn’t,” Pat responded.
7. But it was as if she hadn’t heard him when she continued with, “Don’t worry, I won’t leave you. I’ll cook your meals and wash your clothes and take care of the kids. But I can’t enjoy being with you anymore. I’ve given up.” “What do you mean, you’ve given up?” “I can’t seem to get you to spend time with me or respond to me, but I know biblically I have to stay with you, so I’ll stay. I can’t promise any emotion. Don’t expect any response or any real feeling from me because I don’t have anything left.”
8. Well apparently someone has photocopied this tragic marital drama and passed it around so other marriages might act out this same play. I’m sure you have seen it acted out in the lives of some of your friends or perhaps you have played one of the parts yourself. I will have to admit that Karen and I are not strangers to these lines as we have worked through our 18 year odyssey of marriage. Just like you, we have paid our dues in the tunnel of marital chaos, learning what it takes to experience what God calls marital oneness.
9. On April 28 my daughter, our youngest, turned thirteen. Now we have two teenagers in the house and Karen was the first to admit that she was going through a grief period. We both recognize that we are moving into a whole new phase of relating to our children and are moving very quickly toward the trauma of the “empty nest.” For a moment I want you to vicariously join in our struggle, so imagine with me how you would respond as a parent if you were standing on an east coast pier, waving good-bye as your eighteen-year-old daughter sailed on a tiny sailboat out to sea marking an attempt to be the youngest person to navigate the world all alone.
10. How would you feel as a parent? Well, you could ask Ernst Abee because a few years ago that is exactly what he did. He watched his enthusiastic, adventure loving daughter sail out of New York harbor embarking on a 25,000 mile odyssey all alone. Knowing what little I do about all the dangers of ocean sailing if I were standing there my heart would be churning. My head would be pounding, and I would be in agony. I would probably be shouting some last words of counsel.
11. Keep an eye on the weather systems, don’t get careless, watch your compass fixes. Make sure you eat and sleep. I’d be a basket case watching my son or daughter doing something as dangerous as solo sailing around the world. They would be all pumped up with optimism and excitement but knowing what I know it would be traumatic for me. In this same way Karen and I will stand on the front steps of a church in the near future and wave good-bye to Chris and Charissa as they climb into the back seat of a car with their chosen partners all bedecked with cheap streamers and tin cans.
12. They will be heading out on a marriage adventure that statistically is far more dangerous than an ocean crossing. There is a good chance that we will stand with tear-stained eyes and watch a passion filled pair of young people fearlessly embark on a relational odyssey from which 50% of the players never return. Part of what will be causing our emotional outpouring is going to be the unspoken concern as to whether our kids will be survivors or victims. Will they be able to complete the voyage and stay on course or will they get lost along the way? Will they hit a reef, go down in a storm or will they make it somehow?
13. Knowing what I do about marriage and how easy it is to put one on the rocks, I would be tempted to shout final words of counsel from my position on the church steps. If I thought they would listen I would go over, put my head in the back window of that car and I would say as sincerely as I know how “Kids be careful. Please be careful. Watch the pace of your lives. Deal with your differences as soon as they occur. Don’t let them go underground to poison your relationship. Don’t stop courting each other and don’t let it get old. And love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Love Him even more than you love each other.
14. Tend to your relationship with God. You will need His help. I will then pull back and tell them that is all I have to say kids. They will probably look back and say get lost dad what do you know. We are in love and we want to get on with the honeymoon that we figure will last for the next 20 years. The last thing we need is a back seat sermon. We know you mean well but bye dad we will see you later. Don’t worry we will make it. We are in love!
15. Then the driver will squeal away from the curb, the horns will honk, and the tin cans will make all kind of commotion. And another couple will have left the safety of the harbor to test their skill against the squaws of the ocean. The storms, reefs, and cross currents of life as well as time, will tell if they are going to defy the 50% failure rate of marriage. Time will tell and what they will learn is what Pat and Jill had to learn, what Bill and Karen had to learn and what many of you have learned or are learning is that setting a course for a satisfying marriage will require diligent efforts from both partners in order to navigate through the stormy waters that visit every Caribbean Cruise.
17. And let me emphasize the words “both partners” because men it is your turn for the next few weeks to do a little introspection on how you are fulfilling your responsibilities in moving your relationship toward the intimacy that God intended when he designed marriage. Our primary text is I Peter 1:7 but since the woman had to deal with six verses, I think it is only fair that we consider a larger section of Scripture for the man as well so we will also spend time in Ephesians 5:22-33.
18. In reality, this is one of those subjects that has to be looked at in a larger Biblical context to get a clear picture of what the Lord is asking of the husband. Ultimately the Lord’s demands for the husband are as simple as they were for the wife. As we learned over the last couple of weeks the godly wife must learn to practice submission and respect toward her husband. What the Lord asks of the husband is that he learn to lead and love his wife. But as in the case of the role of the wife we need to expand that thought a little more so we can see what it means in everyday life.
19. One man named Jim told his friend that when he asked his wife where she wanted to go on vacation, she said that being married to him was a vacation. When his friend commented that it was a really nice thing to say to him, Jim replied, “Well, actually, what she said was I was the ‘last resort.’” Men we want your wives to give you a higher rating than that when we are done with this series so be sure to fill in your blanks on this first point.
The Mandate of Loving Leadership
1. We are talking here about a key word used in regard to the man’s responsibility in the marital relationship, the word “head.” (Eph. 5:23, I Cor. 11:3) What exactly does it mean to be the head of the wife? I heard a funny story some time ago about all the men who went to heaven and there they were instructed to line up behind one of two signs depending on how they viewed their circumstances on earth. One sign said, “The Head” and the other said “The Hen Pecked.”
2. When all was said and done the line behind the sign which said, “The Hen Pecked” went off into eternity. But there was one little guy standing behind the sign that said, “The Head.” The reporter covering the event went over to check out what was going on and how this guy got there. He said, “Man this is incredible! I mean here you are out of all the men who have ever lived, you are the only one behind the sign that says, “The Head.” And all these other men are behind the sign which says, “The Hen Pecked”
3. How is it that out of all men who have ever lived, you are the only one who is able to stand behind this sign. The guy said with a degree of uneasiness with the interviewers’ question, “Well I don’t know. My wife just told me to stand here.” In being a student of humor, as I am, you find that humor reflects what people really do think. And humor has reflected a great deal of ignorance on the matter of headship and its meaning in regard to the marital relationship.
4. The reason is basically in our culture the man has abdicated his responsibility in the home because he doesn’t know what to do with it. Not because he is a dirty old man but because he doesn’t know how to relate there. So, we ask again, what exactly does it mean to be the head of the wife? In order to understand the appointment of headship to the husband we must first understand the nature of the model for headship, namely Jesus Christ. There are seven pertinent uses of the term “head” in Scripture. I Cor. 11:3, Eph 1:22, 4:15, 5:23; Col. 1:18, 2:10, 19.
5. Eph 1:22 tells us how Jesus became Head. The Father appointed Him as Head over all things. This clearly indicates a position of status or rank. A position of preeminence, of authority and responsibility. There is a confusing, one sided interpretation of headship emerging due to the fact that the term “head” is used in one of two ways depending on context. One meaning is status, rank, preeminence, authority, responsibility. The second means origin, source of being such as the head of the river. This second meaning is the one promoted by the feminist movement who fear dominance.
6. There are two passages that use the word “head” to indicate origin or source. Eph 4:15,16 Col 1:18; 2:19 But the emphasis is not just of the fact that Christ is the source from which the family of God called the church has begun, but He is the one whole holds it together and prompts it forward into growth. In other words, He gives the necessary leadership to the family of God, the church, His bride to bring about a growth and maturity. And He did it according to Ephesians 5:23 at the expense of His own life. It took major sacrifice.
7. The meaning of headship for husbands flows out of Christ’s example. The emphasis is on giving leadership, implying authority and responsibility, in order to bring about the growth of your wife and family into maturity. Historically, in a global sense, men have greatly misunderstood and abused the idea of headship. They have assumed that it means they are boss and any kind of boss they please to be. Turning headship into a self-exalting position of domination over their wives. Which is exactly what the curse in Genesis 3:16 implied was going to happen.
8. While we wish to eradicate all traces of these kinds of attitudes and the behavior it creates, the solution does not come in rejecting the Biblical concept of headship. Actually, the true concept of headship, gives the husband significant reason to be in subjection to Christ. (Eph 5:18) It is only as a husbands’ authority over his wife grows out of his own subjection to Christ, and only as he is accountable to Him, that his headship can function authentically and in a balanced way in the home.
9. But sin has defiled the original intent of God and now headship is distorted. We communicate our distortions with words like master, boss, tyrant, and authoritarian. Headship is not control or restriction, the husband being assertive, and the wife being suppressed. It does not mean that the husband has greater virtue, intelligence, or ability. It does not mean that he is active, and she is passive, he is the voice, and she is the silent partner. It does not mean being the tribal chief, the sole family manager, the one who has superior rights and privileges.
10. It does not mean that he is the only decision maker, problem solver, goal setter or director of everyone else in the families’ life. These thoughts are far from what God originally intended. But let’s examine some of these leadership inadequacies in more detail by looking at some familiar patterns.
Pattern 1 -- The Overbearing Husband
1. This is the husband who puts his wife into subservience. He makes all the decisions without consulting her as a partner, treating his wife like a slave or a child. From his vantage point the place of the wife is in front of the kitchen sink, barefoot and pregnant. She exists only to do his bidding and meet his every need. You might be saying that is certainly not my pattern of leadership. But there are other dimensions that qualify as the overbearing husband.
2. One leadership bent is to be the “Water-Walker” husband who believes he has to be more perfect or is more perfect than his wife. He has got to have everything under control, and I mean he is committed to perfection as he defines it. You probably heard about the newlyweds. On their honeymoon, the groom took his bride by the hand and said, “Now that we’re married, dear, I hope you won’t mind if I mention a few little defects that I’ve noticed about you.” And the bride replied with a deceptive sweetness. “Not at all! After all it was those little defects that kept me from getting a better husband.”
3. This husband sees it as his calling as leader to change his wife into his image. So, he fills his little black book with a fine detailed listing of all her failures and takes every opportunity to remind her how far short she falls in comparison with the glory of his perfection. Let me tell you a secret men God has not called your wives to be molded into your image but into the image of Christ and that will not be accomplished with a spirit of condemnation and accusation. The Scripture tells us that it is Satan who accuses the children of God night and day before the throne of God. He is the one who constantly whispers condemning words in our ears.
4. “See how you failed here. You don’t measure up on this one. You are not worthy to call yourself a Christian wife. You never follow through with what you say you are going to do.” Personally, I find that those words of condemnation and accusation only serve to demotivate and destroy me. What do they do for you? God’s way is through love, encouragement, forgiveness and constantly reminding us of our great worth because of being related to Him through Christ. Since He is our model for leadership, then maybe setting aside our Black Book men might better serve the cause of Christ and more clearly communicate His love and leadership to your wife.
Pattern 2 -- The Pleaser Husband
1. This is the opposite end of the spectrum. The husband is there for his wife’s bidding. “Honey, whatever you want is fine with me. You want a new living room-set? I’m not sure if we can afford it. Oh, what the heck, sure let’s get it.” Underneath the man is afraid to assert himself for fear his wife will give him a hassle. Perhaps he has tried to give leadership to the wife before and only got bucked. Or perhaps he watched this pattern in his parents as a child. The pleaser will do almost anything to avoid hassle. Be assured that the man who is constantly giving in to his wife’s demands is not loving his wife, rather he is protecting himself from her.
Pattern 3 -- The Indecisive Husband
1. In this pattern the husband does not want to make a decision on the tough issues, especially in those areas where the partners are not of one mind but a decision must be made. Perhaps he is insecure and does not want to be charged with making the wrong decision. It is true that a loving husband will regard his wife as an important part of the equation in everything that concerns their life together.
2. She should have the attentive consideration of her husband in areas of decision making, conflict resolution, family planning and daily family management. Whether it concerns finances, child discipline, or social life, whatever it may be her input is to be considered of tremendous value. Loving headship affirms, defers, shares, encourages, and stimulates. The practical truth is that the husband is charged with the responsibility of leadership, but not with providing all the answers, directions, and implementations.
3. He is responsible to see that decisions get made, not that he as an authoritarian makes them all on his own. He is responsible to see that the relationship stays healthy and grows as it should, especially in spiritual ways. The issue is how this headship functions when a husband and wife fail to come to a common decision? That is when a critical decision must be made after both spouses have rationally and prayerfully explored every possibility.
4. The husband as the loving leader must make the final decision realizing he alone stands accountable before God for taking responsible leadership for his family. The wife must extend respectful submission. When we moved to Monmouth in 1985, we both struggled with the loss of our home and friends in Estacada. We owned a Cape Cod style of home that had been moved out of the Park Rose district of Portland when they were constructing the 205 Freeway. The home had a tremendous amount of personal character and charm that fit both of our images of the type of home we always wanted to spend our lives in.
5. When God moved us to a new ministry in Monmouth, we had to give up that home and found ourselves in a temporary rental and spending a great deal of time with a real estate agent. We looked at home after home but could not come up with one that looked like the home we had left behind. After several weeks on this search, we expired all the possibilities in the area. Karen was depressed, I was frustrated and the rental property we were in had been sold to someone else so our days of having any home at all were numbered.
6. The Realtor called us during this time and said he had a home that had not officially been put on the market but felt it might fit our need. We went through the home and both felt it was nice, but it still wasn’t our Cape Cod. Time was now limited, and a decision had to be made. By that time, we had narrowed our options down to two properties, both on the same street. The one I just mentioned and a neighboring house. Karen was not excited about either. We sat on the steps of one the houses struggling through the issue.
7. I hated to make the final decision because I didn’t want to disappoint her. But there were no other options and a decision had to be made. I had to give up the pleasing husband pattern and take leadership for the final decision along with all the consequences. I did and Karen remained disappointed with the house for some time but knew that a decision had to be made and was glad I took the leadership for it.
8. The unfortunate reality is that far too many husbands refuse to make those types of decisions and refuse to assume the responsibility for the consequences afterwards. Sometimes these words are no more than a cover-up for irresponsibility. “We’ll think about it. Well, well, what do you think we should do? I found a great deal on a used car. Do you think we can afford it? Again, men will disguise their weakness by labeling it “working together” or checking it out with the wife, when in fact the man refuses to take responsibility for a decision because it may turn out badly or his wife may disapprove.
9. To avoid this blow to his sense of adequacy, he dumps the responsibility on his wife who then feels pressured and becomes deeply resentful of his weakness. One wife shares her frustration with her husband in a counseling situation. She shares with the counselor, “I am so mad at Jim. He makes me furious. He’s always asking me to decide everything! Yesterday he called me from work to ask me what our savings account had in it. He said he wanted to buy a new air conditioner.”
10. The counselor turns to Jim to quiz him on the situation: “Jim I wonder why you called your wife. You already knew what the balance was, didn’t you?” “Well yes, but I wanted to get her opinion.” “Why?” “Shouldn’t we work together?” “What was on your mind before you called her?” “I wasn’t sure if she felt we could afford it.” “So, you wanted to clear it with her, essentially to get her to make the decision, right?” Now that is what I call getting to the root issue.
11. Being the leader will mean taking responsibility for making some decisions that are difficult and then owning them when they do not turn out to be the best decision. But men we need to be willing to take some of the load off our wives and become her shock absorber by fulfilling the role as leader of the home.
Pattern 4 -- The Neglectful Husband
1. The leader who feels inadequate will sometimes just tune his wife out and refuse to speak with her about any significant topic. He may stay late at work or always be on the golf course or engage in some other sports activity. The wife naturally feels rejected and either comes down on him for his neglect or withdraws into her own hurt silence. The effect of this pattern of relating is to reinforce the husbands fear that his wife threatens his adequacy, and it is therefore best to neglect her even more.
Pattern 5 -- The Retreating Husband
1. A wife tearfully reported that her husband, after 25 years of happy marriage had an affair. “He was a godly man in full time Christian work. How could it happen? Without excusing his sinful adultery, we can help explain why he chose to sin. Over the years of marriage, the man had often felt controlled or unaccepted. He says, “She usually had a headache when I approached her for sex. She spent her energy on the kids and her own life, I was never important to her.”
2. He handled it weakly by retreating and therefore felt less and less strong. Another woman flattered him and offered him a moment of feeling like a man and he chose to grab it. By abdicating his call to leadership in confronting the difficulty and taking whatever steps necessary to get help, he became vulnerable and ultimately became a destructive force in the marriage and for the children.
Pattern 6 -- The Surface Level Husband
1. Many men avoid meaningful interpersonal relationships for fear of exposure. “If I get close, I’ll be seen as inadequate” Many professional people hide behind their titles and position refusing to really share who they are. They buy relationships through trips, gifts, and other creative means but they never offer simple, honest sharing. “Honey, here is how I really feel.”
1. In exposing these patterns we need to remember that the real issue is that the husband feels inadequate as a leader. Instead of depending on the Holy Spirit for his adequacy to fulfill his God given role as head of the home, he protects himself from feelings of inadequacy by retreating into abusive patterns of leadership, neglect, surface communication, avoiding decisions or other creative, incorrect routes to make himself feel adequate. But the ways of man never lead to fulfillment, oneness, or intimacy in the marital relationship. Men, the Lord has called you to a privileged position of headship in the home. But that will take complete reliance on Jesus Christ.
2. Again what does being the head mean? It means assuming primary responsibility for the wife and the families common advance toward freedom and fellowship. And in the case of the wife, creating a partnership of equals under one responsible head. Headship is not so much a privilege as a responsibility. And it is for this reason that the greater burden by far is placed on husbands. It is an operation of supreme love seeking our partners welfare and growth.
3. In our next installment we will expand the concept of leadership by examining some positive patterns that make for a loving leader as the Lord defines it. Now for your assignment men. I want you to take your wife on a breakfast or dinner outing this week. Pull out the outline to this weeks’ message and ask her to give you some input on which pattern seems to characterize your leadership style in the marital relationship. Ask her how it has affected her life. Ask her if she has ever struggled through the feelings that Jill had in our opening illustration. I am sure the conversation will continue on its own from there. Please stand with me for prayer.
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