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Marriage: Bliss or Bother?

Wed, Feb 14, 2007

God tells us how He makes man and woman and what He has in mind for their relationship when they try out for the leading roles of husband and wife. He locks them in a mini-lab with their toothbrushes in the same glass.

The lab is designed for us to learn how to love (lit. agape) each other—tough at times, but fun at times too. The trick is trusting Jesus to "life out" our husband/wife roles through us—the blissful, the bothersome, and the occasional bombings. But if it were always easy, we'd never be changed into His likeness through our experiences in the lab.

If you're in doubt about how something should work, you check the manufacturer's instructions. One of the bombing zones in marriage appears over the word, superior.

Gen. 5:2 says, "He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Adam in the day when they were created." Two Adams!

Adam means "man." In other words, God made a female man to marry the mailman (guffaw). You say, "Well, that may be a great little item for the Bible Trivia game, but what?s that have to do with discerning if one of these two people is superior?" God implied equality here. Man and woman are equal in value, but they have different roles to play.

Equality. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds...'" (Gen 1:27-28). God gave marching orders to "them," not to "him." Try to be fruitful and multiply by yourself, guy.

There's no evidence that the first man was out in front receiving the orders while the second "man" was peeking through the bushes saying, "What'd He say? Ask Him to speak up." That's evidence of the same rank, isn't it?

We get off base when we isolate Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands...," from its context. The statement is a continuation of 5:21, "And be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

So the wife subjects herself to her husband's authority, and that isn't easy to do (a real bother!). But who does the husband subject himself to? Eph. 5:25 tells us: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." That means He died for her. Neither wife nor husband can fulfill those instructions in their own power or with their own wisdom. Only Christ can sail such potentially troubled waters.

The genders are unique, with one exception: Both men and women have a deep need to know Jesus Christ; not know about Him, but know Him.

One catalyst for coming to know Jesus on a deeply personal level is working through life's struggles. Knowing is more profound than simple information.

Information about Jesus won't suffice when deep waters threaten all you hold dear. God doesn't say, "If you pass through deep waters," but "when you pass through deep waters" (Isa. 43:2).

As husband and wife for decades, we don't appeal to you from an ivory tower. We've had—and continue to have—"trials and tribulations," but in and through them we've come to know God and His sufficiency. As we know Him, we become more aware of His presence in us and better able to allow Him to live His agape life through us.

But while men and women share the same spiritual need, we are different in our mind, will, and emotions. Let me offer a few observations on this difference.

Emotionally, a husband needs to feel that his wife is proud of him; he needs his wife's praise. He may not deserve her praise. He may not perform "praiseworthy" feats, but he needs her praise. It makes him feel good.

She, on the other hand, needs to feel loved, and husband, you are the person selected by God in His model of marriage to provide tender, loving care for your wife.

TENDER communicates gentleness. A tender touch, definitely, but a husband's eyes can communicate hostility or frustration, and I think all wives would agree that a man's voice sometimes sounds gruff, even when that?s not his intent.

LOVING means he's making an effort to understand her thoughts and her behavior. It also means he is striving to recognize her ability to do certain things and encouraging her to do them; being interested in her activities. It means recognizing that she's uncomfortable in some tasks and not expecting her to do them. It also means remembering special days and being part of difficult days with a phone call, an invitation to lunch, etc.

CARE communicates respect. It means treating your wife as a person worthy of dignity and honor. It means that others, especially family and children, see you watching over your wife that way and understand her honor. Care also provides security and protection—the kind of protection a person would give to a precious gem. If a husband does these type things, his wife will feel special and secure... loved.

In his mind, a man needs to believe that he is the leader in the relationship. That?s certainly not to say that he has all of the characteristics of a marvelous leader.

But I need to believe I am a leader in my home, and when Anabel follows my leading, it gives me a sense of importance in our relationship. It helps me believe I'm needed, that she can't get along as well without me as with me. I need to believe I'm necessary. This enhances my sense of self-worth in our relationship.

Wives can understand this because they have similar needs. They need a sense of competency, self-worth, and importance in the marriage relationship. They too need to believe they are needed.

Perhaps the primary way most wives understand that they are valued is by the husband listening to them. In fact, when asked, most women say that the most important way their husband conveys his value for them is by listening to them. On a one-to-ten scale, listening to your wife is a ten!

Men, I confess: I don't understand how my wife gets that much mileage out of my listening ear! And I believe most of you are as clueless as I am about what makes a woman tick.

But, the fact is, by listening to our wives we can learn how to love them like Jesus loves His wife, the Church. In other words, love means far more than 'warm fuzzies.' Women spell love "L-I-S-T-E-N!"

Physically, a husband needs a sexual relationship with his wife. Wives need this as well, but with this caveat: There are times when she doesn't want or need sex at all. She just wants to be held. This is OK too. Meeting each other's sexual needs is just as vital a part of having a vibrant marriage as any other aspect of the relationship.

Marriage can be more bliss than bother when we turn that relationship over to Christ and confess, "I can't be all that I need to be. But Lord, you can create something beautiful out of our marriage. I ask You to do that, and use me in the process. Thanks."

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