Okay, so I wrote this article before I was married. But I still believe it now, no question about it. I actually received a good number of favorable remarks on this particular post, and I'm thrilled and humbled, for sure! Take a look; I welcome your comments or questions.
Trust me, I know.
I know I'm not married. In fact, I'm more vividly aware of my unmarried state than you, my dear reader. I am fully cognizant of my singleness.
But does this disqualify me from making a point or short commentary on God's first Divine Institution, marriage? I would like to think not. Think of it this way: Let's say a professor of archeology has an important lecture scheduled at the local museum, but he cannot fulfill his appointment there. So he asks his newly-hired, wet-behind-the-ears assistant to take the notes that he had already prepared for the lecture and present them to the eager crowd at the museum, thereby sharing his knowledge to his audience by means of a proxy. Now, the assistant doesn't need to be well-versed and experienced in archeology to merely convey the professor's wisdom, does he? No, he doesn't. He just has to know how to read.
Same here. I've never been married, so I don't know the ins and outs. I don't know what it's like to share a bed with someone, nor do I know what it's like getting a kiss before heading out to work. I don't know what it's like to "sleep on the couch," and I don't know what it's like to camp out in the living room all night with my sweetheart watching old black-and-white movies. Friends and neighbors, it's true: I don't know what it's like to be married.
But, like the unlearned professor's assistant, I do know how to read.
And the Bible speaks very clearly on the subject of marriage, and there's some things we already know about this sacred union. For instance, we know it's supposed to be lifelong; divorce was never God's plan. Divorce, in any case, is wrong (I wrote a good couple thousand words reinforcing and proving that last statement in my first draft of this post, but you know what? This post isn't about divorce. And I'm not looking to pick fights. I may write one about that when I'm a little bit braver and when divorce is the subject at hand). Marriage is also supposed to be first priority. Too many marriages have been sacrified on the altar of ministry and vocation, so to speak. Too many men have lost their marriages to their jobs, hobbies, and even their own children. Don't do that, friends and neighbors. God made marriage first, and He puts it on a pedestal. So we know these things and others about marriage.
But there is one thing in particular about marriage that is overlooked time after time after time. And, interestingly enough, it's the single most important lesson we could ever learn about marriage that there ever was. It's what makes marriage stand apart from any other institution. It's what makes marriage so close to God's heart. It's what makes marriages work without fail.
Well, what is this secret? What is this element, this concept that Satan is obviously working feverishly to eradicate and make obscure? Glad you asked. Let's take a look:
Marriage is to be carried out in a Christ-Church Relationship. To state it memorably, one might say the following aphorism: As the Church is to Christ, the wife is to be to the husband. As Christ is to the Church, the husband is to be to the wife. This isn't original of me, folks. Paul said it all in his first epistle to the Church at Corinth and his epistle to the Church at Ephesus. As Christ loves the Church and serves the Church and gave Himself for the Church and works for the Church and bled for the Church and cries for the Church, and sacrificed for the Church and provides for the Church and nurtures the Church and empowers the Church, and so on, so should the husband be for his wife. Christ loves His Church, friends and neighbors. Limitlessly.
Conversely then, as the Church is to be submissive to Christ and obedient to Christ and joyful in Christ and in awe of Christ and subservient to Christ and engulfed in Christ, and so on, the wife is to be to the husband. The Church is to follow Christ, dear readers -- unwaveringly.
Now this concept isn't very popular today, is it? In fact, I can hear it now: "You male pig! Look at all those words! 'Submissive!' 'Subservient!' You dog!" Well, now, to answer those cries, I would ask this question to any believer: Believer, have you ever felt like Christ was an awful, hard, brutal taskmaster? Have you ever felt oppressed and burdened by Christ's power-hungry hand? Have you ever been afraid that if you said the wrong thing the wrong way, He would lash out at you? Of course not. In fact, I, for one, am happy to be His servant. I am happy to be His slave. He is my Master and my Lord (remember Sarah? Calling Abraham her 'lord' surely wasn't something he demanded of her. It came from a heart that was responsive to his loving leadership), and I am thrilled about that. Why?
Why do I have no qualms, no hesitancy, no fear about following Christ and submitting to Him unwaveringly? Because I know He loves me and will lead me to green pastures and still waters. Because He is an amazing Leader who cares for my soul more than I do. Because He is always there for me and treats me gently. He loves me. So, I've got some advice for both genders, straight from the Book of Books, amen?
MEN: Men, if you're expecting your wife to "submit" and "follow" but you're being a controlling brute and an all-around jerk, then how do you expect her to truly want to submit to you? Now, she's still supposed to submit, but how is being a thug being like Christ? If you're ruling with an iron fist, then why should she look forward to following you? Sir, if you are not gentle with her or kind to her, she will not look up to you or respond to you in the ways that you want and need her to. She needs to know that she is loved, thought of, appreciated. She needs to be treated gently, I don't care how much of a "tomboy" (God forbid! We don't need any more manly women and boyish girls! But that's another post) she is. You need to love her and support her and provide for her -- just as Christ does for the Church.
And what, then is the Church's reaction to Christ's love for us? We love Him because He first loved us, right? Exactly. We serve Christ because of what He has done for us, because He showed us His heart and then allowed us to break it. He has treated us so well, and we responsively and reactively love Him and submit to Him and serve Him. Ladies were made responsively and reactively, too. Connect the dots, friends and neighbors -- it really is a Christ-Church Relationship that is represented (and should be reflected) in the Husband-Wife Relationship. So, moving on:
LADIES: Ma'ams, do you believe that God would bless His church (or Israel, in the Old Testament and End Times) if they were disobedient and rebellious? God forbid. Do you think that Israel respected God and thanked Him for His provision when they were given manna in the wilderness? Of course not. So what happened? God's wrath was kindled against them. In other words, if you want your husband to be a bitter, empty shell of a man, then be a nag. Challenge his authority. Complain. Try to lead the home because he doesn't know what he's doing. Be like all the sitcoms -- try to be a smart, gorgeous, sassy wife bossing around her dumb, dull, lazy, stupid husband. Turn the order upside down. That's the best way to destroy your husband's manly, wild, rugged desire to lead you, to provide for you, to rescue his damsel in distress and care for you passionately.
God is all those things -- manly, wild, rugged. And He placed all those things in a man's heart. Watch boys as they grow! Look at the fairy tales! Men want to rescue, and women want to be rescued. Just like Christ and the Church. So, similarly to the husband, God can not be the Rescuer, the Provider, the passionate Lover of our souls when those who are under His authority do not submit to Him. As believers, when we do not harken to His voice or trust His leadership, we harness God, we strangle and paralyze God. We shut Him up and shut Him off when we decide that He doesn't know what He is doing. Ladies, please don't do this to your husband.
Now ladies, -- your husband, as you know, is not perfect. He makes mistakes, and he may very well struggle with some things. But what do you think he needs, someone who will say, "Oh, there he goes, sinning like that again. He's not qualified to lead me. He's not even leading himself! I don't respect him as much now. I can't follow this messed-up man," or do you think your husband needs a lady who will instead say, "My husband is not perfect, and neither am I. I know he's been struggling with this area or that area for awhile now, but I have my own struggles, too, and he is patient and forgiving with me. I need to encourage him and believe in him, no matter how many times he falls. Besides, he's an amazing, wonderful man who cares for my soul above all else -- how can I let this problem, big or small as it may be, stop me from loving him enough to follow his leadership and give him the respect and thanks he needs?" Now which one sounds more like a helpmeet? Like a Godly, Proverbs 31 lady?
Friends and neighbors, I've gone on for awhile about this, but listen -- if your marriage has problems, it's because one of you (95 percent of the time it's the man, because even when the woman is doing wrong, she is still a reactionary and responsive creation -- Sir, she will follow if you love her and manifest that charity in your leadership. So the ball is really in the man's court) is not in the proper position. So, in summary:
Arguments? Look back and Christ and the Church. Disagreements? Look back at Christ and the Church. Hey, this parallel relationship concept can extend to any area of your marriage, and it should. The picture of Christ and the Church ought to be woven into the very warp and woof of your marriage, the very fabric of your union. So, sex life? Food choices? What ornaments to put on the Christmas tree (if you so choose to have one)? Car purchase? Ladies' day out at the mall? Yep, every area of life can be guided and correctly executed with a healthy knowledge of Christ and the Church.
One or two quick case studies and we're done. Let's say the husband wants blue carpet, the wife wants yellow. The man may be quick to say, "Aha! I'm the authority, and I choose blue! I like this Christ-Church stuff!" Nope. Wrong. Christ condescends to us as believers and He serves us even more than we serve Him. So just because you're in charge, big guy, doesn't mean you get everything your way. Remember: Christ and the Church -- what would Christ do for His Church in that situation? He would take the loving, sacrificing position as He always has. The carpet is yellow.
So let's say the wife wants to wear a particular blouse to church. The husband feels it's not the best choice due to modesty. Women don't always think the way men do, so it's not like she is rebelling or acting out or something; she just didn't think of it. But the husband did. And he says in love, "Dear, you look amazing. But may I make a suggestion? In my mind, and probably in the minds of other men, that blouse [accentuates this or that/reveals this or that/too tight here or there, you get the idea]." (Note how it's not, "You're not wearing THAT!" It's kind, gentle, and thoughtful while revealing the need for a change) Now, that's all the husband should have to say. He shouldn't have to even "make" her do anything. All he should have to do is suggest. He's not being a power-hungry dictator; rather, he is trying to protect his wife's modesty and manifest a God-given jealousy over his wife's body -- it belongs to him, not other men's hungry eyes. So what to do? Think of Christ and the Church. She could rebel, and even try to twist this concept: "You should love me enough to let me wear this!" Or she could react correctly and respect his leadership. A wife ought to be thankful that her husband wants to protect her and save her all for himself -- Just like Christ and the Church.
In conclusion, can I get personal here? I have an amazing relationship with my sweetheart, Amber. I'm not perfect, and she knows it. And then, in our case, there's naturally going to be some frustration to deal with because it's a long-distance relationship, and then add the tension that arises because we really want to be married. Then add the fact that my cellphone company is dishonest and subtle and I don't get to talk to her that much for the next week or so as I write this. Whew! A lot of things going against us here this month. But she still loves me. And you know what? By her own lips, she has said that she would do anything I asked. Anything. Why? Because she trusts me. Why does she trust me enough to follow me so blindly like that? Because she knows she is loved, and she knows she is cared for, and she knows that I would crawl a million miles on my knees in the desert just to bring her a glass of water. Why would I do that? Because Christ did the same for His Church. You see? She respects me and follows me, because I sacrificially love her, because Christ sacrificially loves me.
Amen and amen! Marriage really is a beautiful picture of Christ and His Church...if we're doing our part. Let us be constantly and keenly aware of this concept, and let us allow it to permeate our thinking and change our behaviour for the betterment of our marriages (well, your marriages) and for the glory of God!