Saturday, January 17, 2004

Marriage links for the week has a slew of new articles for married people. In I Was Married to Jekyll and Hyde, one woman tells her story of being married to a man with bipolar disorder. Spiritually Alone offers suggestions for motivating a spiritually disinterested spouse. What I Learned at the Mall shows how parents can serve each other in the process of taking care of the children. There's even more, so check it out.

World Magazine's blog points to an article by Baptist theologian Al Mohler making the point that "the regulation of sexuality" (aka, sexual purity) is the first mark of civilization, and that "the weakening of marriage was a first sign of civilizational collapse."

Read one man's story of his struggle with pornography, triumph of sexual purity, relapse into old habits, and recommitment to a Godly, healthy lifestyle.

A lot of predictions are coming true with this headline: Lawsuit to overturn Utah polygamy ban cites Texas sodomy case.

President Bush is planning to create a program to promote healthy marriage. It looks like this effort will actually promote good marriage rather than just ban gay marriage.

Richard Bott is taking an "informal, completely unscientific, statistically unreliable" survey to find out people's real views on marriage. The more people who participate, the better, so let him know what you think. The survey's five questions take about two minutes to answer.

Ryan over at Ryan's Head talks about men being role models in their families

Gentleman, if you are going to win the war for your family, you must do two things:

You must be a rock.
You must be a role model.

Rock and Role.

And here are a few cool links that have nothing to do with marriage.

Take a quiz to find out which part of the Body of Christ you are. Apparently I'm a thumb married to a solar plexus.

Tom Walsh recently set a new record for number of consecutive wins on Jeopardy! (seven). He is a committed Christian who plans to use his $186,900 prize package for humanitarian work overseas. He created a blog to chronicle his run on Jeopardy! (so start reading at the bottom) and plans to continue it as he puts his winnings to work.

Dean Allen has two nearly identical dogs. He has posted a photographic guide to telling them apart. This is a wonderful, witty homage to dogs, my favorite animal.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Spiritual leadership, part 3  

Offering up some more comments on the topic of spiritual leadership in the home. Keep 'em coming! This is great.

From Theognome

Bill Cunningham informed me of an article he wrote several months ago called How to Discipline Your Wife. That sounds terrible, evoking images of Ricky bending Lucy over his knee after saying "Lucy, I need to teach you a lesson." But his article actually takes a practical look at being a spiritual leader and giving a family loving, productive correction when necessary. (Scroll down to the September 25 post if your browser doesn't automatically take you there.)

From Rebecca

Read Rebecca's love story on her site before reading her comments here. —Curt

Michael always encourages me to improve in worship—sometimes he goes about it the wrong way ;-) but his desire is to see me achieve my full potential in God. I think that is fantastic. He doesn't try to compete with me or anything, even though I know he would do a better job than me. He lifts me up.

About the whole husband-dominant-wife-submissive thing…I have two friends, a married couple, who told me about the time they were teaching a young married sunday school class, on Ephesians. They said that on the day when they got to the verse about "wives submit to your husbands", all the young husbands were sitting there all puffed up and ready for an ego boost. Instead, my friends talked about the picture of a husband caring for his wife the way Christ cares for the church—all the young women in the class cried—one of them said "If I had a husband like that, I would WANT to submit to him!"

I don't think I fully understand it, like, am I supposed to always do what Michael says or wants to do? Sometimes I KNOW that he is wrong, and if I submitted to him it would be wrong, or even sinful! When it comes to making decisions, we need to work on it I know, but
generally we discuss things. If it's something like "Where shall we eat" he always wants me to choose so that I will be happy (awww) but for bigger things sometimes we argue because it gets complicated. I don't see how always doing things his way would be a good thing. That's not a marriage! But he loves me so much that a lot of the time he will do things my way because he wants to make me happy. Sometimes I submit to him even when I don't want to because I know that he is right, or better, even though I prefer something else. Or sometimes I submit even when I disagree because sometimes you just have to do that.

I guess that, as far as possible, he tries to make me happy, but sometimes he has to lay down the law and when he does that it is never to hurt me, it is usually because it's necessary.

I will and I do oppose him when something feels wrong though :-)

Anyways, I don't have much experience in this but that's what I think.

From Tina

You said:

I try to base my actions on Paul's exhortation to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Jesus gave up His own life for the benefit of the church. No boss or general or dictator would do that—in most earthly scenarios, that just wouldn't make sense. Those of a higher rank hold a higher importance and would not sacrifice themselves for an underling. That's why I don't look at traditional leaders as husband role models, but rather to Jesus.

You're right to base your actions on Paul's statements here. I think that many spouses get hung up on "obey". It's a scary word to people because for most of us, those people we have had to obey did not necessarily have our best interests at heart. Yet, if you are loving your wife has Christ loved the church—you'd never want to do anything to hurt her. Her best interests would always be in your mind.

When a husband is truly obedient to the Lord. When he honestly seeks him for wisdom and guidance for decisions then why should a wife be afraid to "obey"?

For example, when there is a decision to be made my husband and I sit and discuss things. I give him my opinion and thoughts on the subject because sometimes God gives women a different point of view, sometimes women have a different sensitivity in areas that their husband does not have. Then my husband takes all we've talked about and goes to God. I trust that my husband seeks God with all his heart. I trust implicitly that he wants to follow God's will. There is no fear or resentment in my heart when my husband comes to me and say "we are taking this direction". I know that he loves me and would not make a decision to purposely hurt me or our family.

It also says in Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Verse 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. And again in Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

It's a give and take situation. When the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church then she has no problem submitting to him as she would the Lord. Christ is asking you to trust Him and your wife to trust you.

The problems come when these verses are taken out of context by men who want to dominate and control their wives. That's when what was originally intended to mirror the church (marriage) now mirrors a war zone.

Good luck as you explore the meaning of these verses in your own heart and how the apply to your marriage. When seeking answers with a heart open to Jesus' answer, an answer is always given.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Spiritual leadership, part 2  

I received a lot of good feedback from yesterday's post about spiritual leadership in the home. Since my comments are currently non-functional, I thought I would share some of the thoughts that were shared with me.

From Irene

I was reading recently about the husband giving spiritual covering to the wife. It is speculated by various scholars that Adam was standing right next to Eve when she ate of the fruit of the tree. Gen 3:6b says, "She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it." (emphasis mine) So in effect, Adam most likely heard the entire conversation, failed to intervene, and therefore failed to protect his wife.

The husband, I believe, has God-given authority to protect and care for his wife, which is why she is asked to "submit" to him. This protection extends to spiritual protection. Don't ask me how this works out in practical terms, because I'm not sure myself. But my pastor once told me how his father discerned something was not quite right in a certain church situation. My pastor said his mom didn't believe his dad, and even he himself dismissed it because his mother was "more spiritual" than his dad—and if anyone should know about these things, it would've been his mom. Yet his dad was later proven right. So the mantle of leader and protector is upon the husband and he is perhaps given special grace to see/discern certain things at certain times, to protect his wife and family.

My pastor also told me of a lady he knew who was attending some ladies' group. Her husband asked her to stop but she refused. Later their marriage broke up because it turns out that the group was a very gossipy group and it somehow poisoned her and affected the marriage. Again, as the leader her husband perhaps saw something she did not, but she failed to submit and as a result disaster occurred.

I'm not sure if this helps at all. As a consolation however, I'm sure many people are still trying to figure this particular issue out! :)

From Rey

Forgive me for being so long-winded. It has been something I've been considering, this idea of being a spiritual leader in the home (and then the Church itself).

Because, you see, in the very testimony of Christ’s life, in that He humbled Himself and gave Himself for the Church He was indeed in a servant-like position. He washed the feet of the disciples. Fed the hungry. Healed the lame. Made the blind to see. Accepted the scourgings, the spittings, the crucifixion, and even the separation from God the Father…all in being in the form of a servant.

In Ephesians when Paul illustrates Christ and the Church by means of showing the relationship of Husband and Wife He is reflecting the continual sacrificial aspect of the life of Jesus in regards to His Bride. This agape aspect did not rely on any worth or ill-worth of His Bride, but on the worth of His own love placed on the Bride. Any action or in-action on the part of the Bride did not affect the constancy of His love, nor would it merit His cutting off that love. There is nothing that could separate the Bride from His Love (praise His Holy name).

Therefore, one could posit that the love of a husband for his wife transcends feelings of hurt but is completely one that is self-sacrificial as an example of Christ towards His own Bride. It is part of His sacrificial love and His constancy in that love that He must provide the spiritual guidance that would strengthen His Bride. This would glorify the Father, which is the goal of Christ and should be the goal of all believers.

Knowing this (and knowing that the scripture expressly teaches) that the purpose of teaching is so that people may walk worthy of God and therein glorify Him. This is something which has amazing implications on every aspect of our lives—one which boggles my mind and constantly pricks me in that it is not fully evident in my own life.

If we are to give ourselves over to the process of having others glorify God (this is the very reason the gospel is spread) then how much more important is this in the very home, with the person we have become one with?

But how is this done? Is it done by beating up the spouse to have her understand the mysteries of God so that she may glorify Him? Well, if we are to be examples of Christ, we are to do no such thing. It is done with patience, with sacrifice, by example, and when need be by gentle words based completely on the truth offered in the scriptures.

What makes this so practically hard is that we imperfect men are not the perfect man Christ Jesus. Whereas Jesus would remain patient through His disciples constant mistakes, we lose our tempers and make mistakes. Women are, very often more patient, more kind, more spiritually minded, more other-minded. Why oh why can’t we just let them do this job of leadership?

God has set up an order in the church and in the home and He has something amazing planned. That although men and women are equal in what God has offered through the redemptive work of His Son, they are different in the roles they take here on earth. God wants men to stand as spiritual leaders in the Church and the Home and in a way personified by the very life of His Son. In a man standing and taking this role his wife will stand and take the role of the woman, helping her husband in the role which God requires of him, not with envy but with submission.

When we wash the dishes, and take out the trash, and clean the house, and fix the fixtures, and dust the cabinets, and wash the laundry—it is not to be done grudgingly as if to think "This is HER job!!" but willingly and as to glorifying the Lord…constant and based on the power of God and not on herself. And when we open the Bible to read it aloud before bed, or pray aloud at supper, or leave the verses on the fridge with a love note, or share what we’re studying with our wives, not grudgingly but willingly, we are glorifying the Lord. Christ did not beat the Church into submission, but the Church seeing the wonder and radiance of her Groom, submits and therein our own wives will sacrifice, and give of themselves, and support their husbands worshipping God in the very role He has supplied for them.

This thinking goes against the grain and fiber of our society, but wonderful thing it is to see that God knows much more beyond anything we can ever know. How wonderful it is that even in this Christ illustrates the need to worship the Father and the Father points out the light of the Son and the Holy Spirit takes us and empowers us to understand, enabling us to do, and putting in us the idea to practice. How unsearchable are His ways, past finding out. That He would choose to illustrate the Son with His Bride in such an amazing manner is both humbling and exhilarating.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Spiritual leadership  

I often wonder what it really means for the husband/father to be the leader of the household. One thing I know for sure: leader is not the same as boss. I did not marry my wife so that I could have someone to do my bidding. My family is not a corporation and my role as husband is not a job with an annual review of how well I and my employees fulfill our set responsibilities. My family does not run like a well-oiled machine under my strict supervision, nor should it because we are individual people and not switches or gears or cogs in a wheel.

So in a way I know what being the leader of a family doesn't mean, but what does it mean? People have told me in the past that a husband and wife should discuss family decisions, but final decisions belong to the husband because God has anointed him as head of the family. Others have told me that a marriage should be a 51-49 partnership, with the husband controlling the 51 percent. I used to know a family of six (two parents and four children) that operated as a weighted democracy: each kid gets one vote, Mom gets five, and Dad gets ten. I'm not comfortable with any of these scenarios because in them the man of the house functions as a ruler rather than a leader.

I try to base my actions on Paul's exhortation to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Jesus gave up His own life for the benefit of the church. No boss or general or dictator would do that—in most earthly scenarios, that just wouldn't make sense. Those of a higher rank hold a higher importance and would not sacrifice themselves for an underling. That's why I don't look at traditional leaders as husband role models, but rather to Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for the church, but He did more than that. He taught, He fostered, and He lived as an example. I feel like I should do that in my own family. I do okay as a leader in some areas, though I continue to learn more every day. But I run into problems in the spiritual arena. How do I foster spiritual health in my wife? I don't know that I should be held completely accountable for her relationship with God, but shouldn't I be providing an environment conducive to growth? Shouldn't I try to give her the tools she needs to learn? Shouldn't I exercise faith in my own life so that she can see how faith works? I'm sure I should, but I also have the nagging feeling that there's a lot more to it that I'm not even aware of.

In our church's last worship service of 2003, our pastor handed out Bible-reading schedules for the new year. This particular reading schedule takes you once through the Old Testament, twice through the New Testament, and a few times each through Psalms and Proverbs. Mrs. Happy took one, turned excitedly to me, and said, "We should do this!" She was right. We should have been doing it five years ago, and I should have led the effort, but it never really occurred to me. So now we're following the schedule, and we haven't missed a day yet. It wasn't my idea—not everything has to be—but I intend to make sure it continues and doesn't fizzle out after a few weeks. Maybe this is my first lesson in spiritual leadership.

This is where it kills me not to have a comments function. I have an intense desire to hear everyone's thoughts on spiritual leadership in the context of a marriage. Please send me an e-mail at comments[at]atimelikethis[dot]net.

Update: Comments are back! Check out the posts for Thursday and Friday to read others' thoughts on spiritual leadership in the home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Money matters  

Money rests squarely at the top of the list of reasons couples divorce. It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest sources of strife between spouses. That has not really been the case in my marriage despite my having been unemployed at various times for a total of six months. We have always done our best to live within the means that my paycheck alone can support so that my wife can work or not without terribly impacting our lifestyle. We thought we had done a pretty good job of that until she lost her job two weeks ago. Now we see that we had been relying on her income more than we thought and that our checking account will not be able to support our current money management "system."

We sat down and actually examined our spending habits, and we were astonished at how much money we, and I in particular, waste. I spend $1.35 buying a bottle of Dr Pepper every day, at least six days a week. That comes to $8.10 every week, roughly $36 a month, and almost $430 a year. I also usually buy my lunch during the work week, averaging $5 a day—more than $100 a month and close to $1,300 a year. Add to that the two or three times Mrs. Happy and I eat at restaurants or fast food places every week, and the money really adds up. And that just scratches the surface.

So now we do some adjusting. We have in the past attempted to fix and follow a strict budget, but we've never followed through with any measure of discipline. However, right before the beginning of the new year, we set spending limits for ourselves in every area we can think of. It is a practical, relational, and spiritual exercise for us. Practical because we are now spending less and saving more. Relational because it is a task that requires effort and sacrifice for both of us together. Spiritual because we believe that every dollar in our possession is a gift from God and that we should manage it accordingly. I also believe that God has entrusted me with the responsibility for taking care of my family's present and future finances. I pray that I'll prove worthy of the task.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Good, marriage-loving sites  

Today is a lazy and unmotivated day for me. I can tell because I'm feeling lazy and unmotivated and would rather blame it on the day than pull myself out of it. I've tried several times now to start writing something witty, insightful, and engaging, but it just hasn't worked. Instead, let me just point you to a Web journal by Maggie Gallagher, one of marriage's more prominent defenders. A blurb on her Web site describes her thus: "Maggie Gallagher, author, Case for Marriage, nationally syndicated columnist on sex, marriage, babies, life, art, culture, God and woman at Yale, etc." I haven't thoroughly explored her site, but it looks pretty good so far.

Also check out Theognome's Thoughts. Judging from the comments he left in my post on Saturday and from the things he says on his own posts, he obviously loves his wife and doesn't mind telling the world about it. Anyone who does that is okay by me.