Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brewing a bitter cup

Everybody loves a loophole.

"But officer...
    ...I didn't see the sign."
    ...didn't know it was a school zone."
    ...can't you see I'm pregnant." (A tough one for a guy to use.)
    ...I'm late to meet with the President."
Despite the passion with which many insert loopholes into Scripture, God's word contains precious few.  Perhaps that's why so many find biblical Christianity unpalatable. No wiggle room. You are or you aren't.  You do or you don't. You will or you won't.

This is especially true for husbands. In fleshing out for the church at Colossae what it meant to live the Christian life (Colossians 3), Paul slaps down on the table a few loopholeless challenges, one aimed right between the eyes of husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (3:19)
No doubt you've heard the first part of that verse before (um, check out the masthead), but as I opened God's word this morning, my brow knotted on the second half of the verse.  "Do not be harsh with them?" It means to not embitter them, not to sour their stomach. What would prompt the apostle to toss in such an admonition? Could be a couple of things.  One, the Colossians could have been notorious wife-abusers. Having never heard such a thing, we can probably dismiss that notion out of hand.

Perhaps men have a propensity to be harsh toward their wives. Hmm. I think that one might reside a bit closer to the mark. Why is that? Let's toss a few generalities. First, men tend to be results oriented. Get 'er done. There's no crying in baseball! You can't get 'er done, we'll get someone else. You know the shtick. Works fine in commerce, politics, athletics, etc.  But that doesn't fare too well with one (the wife) who thrives on relational interchange.

Second, our relationships don't venture into emotional territory. We just don't go there. You're more likely to find a conservative at MSNBC. Just because we don't normally go there doesn't mean that we can't. If we don't consider the emotional difference and if we don't consider our tendencies when it comes to handling problems, don't be surprised when you want her to hear what you said and she just hears your tone. You could have stated that you were whisking her away to Monaco, but your manner left her feeling like your carburetor and not your bride.

Third, we tend to be harsh to our brides because we take them for granted. This is perhaps the easiest trap to fall into, and on the flip side, it's a trap we should never fall into because of the phenomenal gift that a bride is to each one of us. Outside the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus, I can think of no greater treasure than to have a woman with which to share my days, a woman to love and cherish, a woman to enjoy.  A woman to call my best friend.

That I would embitter her? That I would knot her gut? Paul says "No-no."

You might think he doesn't give us a clue how to avoid embittering our brides, but it is found in the first part of the verse and then throughout the rest of Scripture. We are to love our wives. You want a fleshout of what that means, turn to Ephesians 5:25-32. Love her as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. Love her as your own body. We are to nourish, care for, and cherish her. That means we treat her with the value that God has given her as HIS princess.

Peter explains that women are weaker vessels than men (1 Peter 3:7), not just physically but emotionally, too. Frankly, I don't care if you don't like that; God's word says it. He created us differently (and whether you want to admit it or not, we've all seen it play out in reality). Look at all Peter includes for men in a single verse.
  • Live with your wives. Dwell with them. Be with her--because you want to!
  • In an understanding way. You have no excuse for not knowing what makes your woman tick. You should know the minefields and not be purposefully setting them off. DON'T PUSH HER BUTTONS!
  • Honor her. The world's not going to do it if she's honoring God. You do it. You certainly don't want another man doing it!
  • As the weaker vessel. There it is. She's not going to respond to "Get 'er done!" The sheets will be mighty chilly if that's how you flirt with your woman.
  • Coheir with you. You're not better because you're the man. Your role is just different. Besides, you didn't do anything to be the man. You came equipped. That's NOT something to lord over your woman. You will be beside your wife in glory, not over her.
  • That our prayers not be hindered. Such bullheaded conduct puts a wedge in our relationship with God.  Bad ju-ju.
Gents, take your bride aside tonight or in the next day or two and ask her first if you're conduct or you're speech has embittered her lately. You may already know this. If you do, man up and apologize. Repent. You have sinned against God toward your woman, and repenting means you have a full-heart attitude to not go there again.

Second, ask her if it is a rare thing or a common thing. Please leave the boxing gloves in the closet. Man up and leave yourself wide open to hear, perhaps, some woeful tales of what you have done to the woman you hold dear. Let her speak. Do not defend. Do not excuse. Listen.

We must give our brides consideration, and that means we must be considerate. Paul tells us succinctly to love our wives and to not embitter them. It will require focused attention to be that man. And please, do not look for an out. There is no loophole.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stare away!

When's the last time you really stared at your wife? Not a passing glance, but a drink-in-the-vista beholding as though you were perched upon the rim of the Grand Canyon during a sunset that even HD would't do justice.

Look at her.

Do you remember the day you stood at the end of a long aisle and first beheld your bride, painstakingly bedecked that she might present herself to you in all her radiance? That image is etched into my memory like no other.  A close second would be the look on my sons' faces as their eyes first caught sight of their woman at the end of the aisle.

We have enough trouble with our eyes. Lots of women don't get it. Many are trying (thank you, ladies).  Many finally understand (thank you, ladies). Job wouldn't have been making covenants four milennia ago (Job 31:1) nor would our Savior have been suggesting hyperbolic eye-plucking two milennia ago (Matthew 5:27-30) if this weren't an issue for the ages.

Yes, God made women exquisitely beautiful, but women are not yours. There is but one woman who is wholly and solely yours. Solomon told his sons to drink water from their own well (Proverbs 5:15) and to be always intoxicated by the love of their wife (5:19). A great way to appreciate the treasure that God has given you in this woman is to stare at her. No, not like you would stare at the young man whose face got caught in a jean-studder. And no, not like a coroner performing an autopsy. Stare like a connisseur drinking in the Sistine Chapel. Like a child who sees all the presents under the tree.  Like a city-dweller who spies the Grand Tetons for the very first time.

Not only will such wonder kindle a deep appreciation to God for your bride in your heart, but it will affirm and build the woman you love. In an era where marriages are crumbling faster than the economy, little will build a bride's security more than knowing she has the eye of her man. One woman confessed,
I will admit that there have been times when my husband has commented on something about another woman that left me wondering if he ever noticed those things about me anymore or if he found that "thing" more attractive than the corresponding part on me.  Women compare themselves to others so frequently.  I think that comes from all that the world barrages us with and the normal self esteem issues that most women have, but when a man notices something about another woman, or his wife notices him watching another woman, it does raise questions in her mind about whether or not she is good enough.  Sad, but true.
Gents, we must guard our eyes.  There's one extraordinary person God has given us upon which we can train our eyes.  Read the Song of Solomon 4. That was a man who stared at his woman.

Next time you get a chance, brother, stare at your wife because you can!

(Bonus points to any that can identify the eyes at the top of the post)