The Christian Husband: Loving Your Wife, Part 3
About the Guest
Do you treat your husband as the king of your home, or more like the court jester? On today's broadcast, Bob Lepine, author of The Christian Husband, explains what happens when men take their rightful place as prophets and kings of their homes.
Do you treat your husband as the king of your home, or more like the court jester?
The Christian Husband: Loving Your Wife, Part 3
Bob: Sometimes it's hard to know exactly what to do to express love to your wife as a husband. Here is Dennis Rainey with a challenging scenario.
Dennis: As he walks into the house, his wife's in tears. They've been married a couple of years, and she's just talked with her mother, and her mother has said some things to her that have hurt her deeply. And she's mixture, right now, of angry and wounded. That young man walks into that house, she's at her wit's end – help!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. And if you're a young husband or an old husband, for that matter, and you wonder, "What do I do in a circumstance like that?" Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition of our broadcast. We've been talking the last couple of days, Dennis, about the assignment that God has given to husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, which is a daunting task but is, as you described it earlier this week, "mission possible," if we do it in the power of the Holy Spirit and if we look to God's Word for guidance.
Dennis: Yes, in fact, over the past couple of broadcasts, what we have been doing is we have been performing some love transplant surgery in the hearts of men. I think we have to replace some erroneous thinking about love, and transplant what the Scriptures teach about love and what it is and how we, as men, are to live it out.
You know, Bob, there isn't anything in life that really encourages me, as a man, to be a great lover, and I'm not talking about sexual at this point, I'm just talking about truly loving my wife and my family.
The culture doesn't come alongside you at any point and say, "Way to go!" In fact, if anything, the culture will punish us for our choices of making a hard decision. If you make a decision and lie to your family, you could miss the promotion. You may not get the raise, you may not get the assignment, that special project, you may not stay as long at work because you're tending to the needs of your family, and yet it's that man who sees clearly what the Scripture calls him to do and to be that, in the long haul, is going to win out in life.
Because if you're obedient to the Scripture, there's blessing, there's favor, there's God's approval on that man and, you know, that's the approval rating we all want to get. God's approval rating on us where it matters most in our families.
Bob: And that's why when it comes to this assignment of loving our wives and living as husbands we need to look to the Scriptures as our source for how we are to do that, rather than looking at the culture. You don't watch the guy on the sitcom on TV and figure that that's the way you carry out the assignment.
Dennis: No, that would be a bad transplant.
Bob: Absolutely. You don't go to the movies to try and pick it up. You don't even look at the guy next to you in the office and try to figure it out from there. You have to look at what God calls you to in the Bible.
Dennis: And, you know what? It's a lifetime process. You have written a book called "The Christian Husband," Bob, and you really took your template, your blueprints for this book from the Scripture.
Dennis: And you talk about the goal of loving our wives, and that's what I want to talk about on the broadcast today. So let's start here by asking you the question – what is the goal of a husband who wants to really love his wife?
Bob: Well, I think you find it as you look at Ephesians, chapter 5. We begin with the statement of Paul that a husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
And then he goes into this interesting description of what that looks like. He says "Christ gave Himself up for the church to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word and to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless."
I think the goal of our love for our wives is to do what Christ is doing for the church, and that is to make her holy. Now, how can a husband's love for his wife make her holy?
Well, first of all, we have to understand that only the spirit of God can make anyone holy, but we can be agents in that process. God can use us in that process and wants to. He wants a husband to shepherd his wife, he wants a husband to lead her and guide her and disciple her, and it goes on to say, "to cherish her and to nurture her," all of that with the idea that she will grow in her godliness.
Our love for our wives should be focused around our wives growing more Christlike every day. That ought to be the assignment we have from God, and our love should be with that end in mind.
Dennis: Okay, now, I don't have a cell phone here in the studio, but I can envision a guy calling right now and say, "Hold it, hold it, hold it. You guys go on these talk shows, and you talk on FamilyLife Today about all these lofy, spiritual terms, and this one baffles me. What does it mean for your wife to become holy? What does it mean for your wife to become a godly woman? Help me, as a man, as a husband, know what my goal is here." You've done a good job articulating it, now put some sides on it, Bob, describe it for a young man who has just started this assignment, and he's going, "You know, Bob, I want to do that. I want to be that man for my wife, but I've got to be able to see where the finish line is if I'm going to take my wife there."
Bob: Well, okay, it's very simple. Your assignment in life and your wife's assignment in life are the same. You are supposed to look more like Jesus tomorrow than you look like Him today. Your actions, your attitudes, your characteristics, should look more Christlike tomorrow than they did today.
You remember the bracelets that everybody was wearing a while back that said, "What Would Jesus Do?" Well, that's a question that provokes us to ask the question, "How can I look and act and think more like Christ?"
Now, a husband's assignment is to help his wife act more like Jesus, think more like Jesus, and be more like Jesus tomorrow. That's what I'm talking about. The Bible says the way you do it, as husbands, is by super loving your wives. As you continue to do what we've talked about the last couple of days – lay your life down for your wife, sacrifice for her, step into her world, love her unconditionally, express your love for her. What you're going to be doing is creating an environment in which it's easier for her to grow more like Christ.
Dennis: Okay, okay, the young man is still on the cell phone. He's going, "But I just walked into the house" – in fact, I'm going to give you three scenarios, Bob. The first one is he walks into the house, and his wife's in tears. They've been married a couple of years, and she's just talked with her mother, and her moths has said some things to her that have hurt her deeply, and she's a mixture right now of angry and wounded. That young man walks into that house, how does what you just described apply to him as her lover, the one who is to nourish and to cherish and protect and provide? What should he do in that circumstance?
Bob: Well, first, keep the goal in mind, back to your mind with where she is right now, your goal is to help her respond to her circumstances in a more Christlike way. And, again, you can break it down into two simple components – lead her toward righteousness and lead her away from sin.
Okay, so he comes in, "Honey, what's wrong?" and she tells him all about the conversation and all about her feelings and the wicked things her mother said.
Dennis: Her mother's been manipulating her for years.
Bob: And you can see the anger that's there, and you can see that there is a root of bitterness developing, and maybe it's been there for a while, and it's just growing deeper. Well, if you're going to help lead her toward righteousness, you're going to lead her toward Christlikeness in responding to these circumstances. You're going to say to her, "Honey, we need to pray for your mom."
You're not going to feed off of what she's doing and going, "You know what? I've never liked your mom. You know, this is just like your mom." You're not going to join her in those bitter feelings in those angry feelings and nurture those. You are going to say, "You know, we need to pray for your mom. Let's do it right now." Then you can lead her in prayer, and you're going to say, "What can we do? Your mom, there's got to be a lot of hurt in her life for her to talk to you like this. How can we express love for her in a fresh new way? Honey, we've got to be Christlike with her. What can we do?"
You lead her toward the righteous response and lead her away from the sinful response that's calling her. I mean, her flesh is saying, "Get angry." Her flesh is saying, "Go after your mom. Just never talk to her again."
Dennis: Yeah, get back at her.
Bob: Lead her away from that and lead her toward righteousness.
Dennis: And as I hear you talking about this, it's the wise young man in that circumstance who lets his wife process, lets her share with him what happened, tell the story, process it out loud …
Bob: Empathize with her feelings.
Dennis: That's right, and identify with what's going on. But then gently begin to remind her of the truth of Scripture – you're to honor your parents, you're to forgive those who hurt you, and as you just said, Bob, and it's so important, a husband can be, I believe, and enabler of his wife to hold a grudge, or he can be an equipper of his wife to call her to do what's right.
Bob: Right. He's got to be saying, "This is how I will live, and this is how I will lead others in our family."
Dennis: Yeah, that's exactly right. In fact, one thing else I would add to that is it may be necessary for that young man in that circumstance to take one step further in protecting his wife from another person by making a phone call for that person, setting up a meeting with that person, or talking with that other person face-to-face to say, "You know, this is working out is just not right, and we need to build some boundaries here that protects my wife from these circumstances."
I mentioned I have three scenarios for a young man. Let's go to a second one, and this is going to be a long cell phone call. He's now got three children under the age of six, and he's arrived home this time to find his wife tied up in a corner, not with ropes, but emotionally speaking, the kids have absolutely been unruly. They have defied her; they've sassed her. The two-year-old has had a couple of spankings during the day. She feels like all she's doing is correcting, correcting, correcting. She's at her wit's end. Help!
Bob: Right. Well, at this point, I think the husband's assignment is to create some space for his wife; to step in and take over the situation and let her decompress. I mean, when you've been right in the thick of that kind of battle on a daily basis, a husband shouldn't step in at that point and say, "Well, let's try and bring some balance here, and let's try to bring some understanding" – just let your wife get away from being in the middle of it.
Dennis: So how would you suggest that he do that, Bob? Would he say, "Sweetheart, why don't you go up to the bedroom or go back to the den, and I'll take care of the kids and prepare dinner."
Bob: Exactly, or, "Hey, kids, get in the car, Dad's taking you to McDonald's." Now, maybe you don't want to reward them if they've been tying up Mom all afternoon, but maybe you just get them out of the house. Kids, we're going on a walk, come on, everybody go."
Maybe you say, "You go out and spend some time out in the garden." Mary Ann loves to garden. So if I said to her, "I'll finish fixing dinner. You just go out and while I finish doing that, you just look around the garden." That would provide the island that she needs to – just to bring some sanity back in the middle of a tense situation.
Dennis: Or if your wife has a best friend who is really a friend that she can, well, be a kindred spirit buddy with and go out and get a cup of coffee. Say, "You know what? Why don't you call your girlfriend up and enjoy the evening out talking?"
One additional thought, too, for that young man in that circumstance. I've had to do this on occasion, call a family circle and say, "It's time to have a little caucus, a little heart-to-heart talk with the troops, and, folks, you're dealing unkindly with your mother, and you need to know that if you deal unkindly with Mother, you're ultimately going to have to deal with Daddy."
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: You can't take advantage of Mom. Now, I've got to tell you, I've not done that that many times, but when I did that, it was amazing how quickly the wheels fall back in line.
Bob: Keep in mind the goal in all of this is for your wife to look and act and think more like Jesus tomorrow than she looks and acts and thinks today. And sometimes creating that island of peace in her life is what will help her pull back to where she needs to be spiritually. You give her some rest, you pull her out of the battle, and you say, "Just relax," and that will bring perspective back to how she ought to respond.
I've seen this happen. I've seen Mary Ann leave in an evening, and she's tense, and she's frustrated because she's had a hard day, and I've seen her come back, and she wants to go hug the kids. You know, a few hours later she wants to sit down, and now there's that peace that's back in her soul, and she knows her assignment again, and it's just getting away from the battle for a while.
So the goal is to refocus her on her priority of Christlikeness being lived out as a mom.
Dennis: You know, you're exactly right, Bob, and sometimes what's needed for that perspective to return is a quiet time, just some time to get in the Bible and just to read it and reflect back on God's calling to be a mom, which is what you're talking about there, and once that's embraced, then, once again, you're back on the road to that goal that you're talking about.
There's a third scenario, and this phone call has lasted for some time now – the family is raised, in fact, they've just said goodbye to the last child who has left to go away to college, and it's empty nest time. The door is closing as the son or daughter walks out to go to college. The husband and the wife are walking back into the living room, and he turns and face her, and she's crying. Okay, what does it mean, Bob, for a husband to have a goal of loving his wife that she be spotless, blameless, like Jesus Christ. What about the empty nest?
Bob: Well, again, ask yourself the question – what can I do that will cause her today to think and act and respond to circumstances the way Christ would respond?
And, you know, as you describe that scenario, I think of Jesus as He heard about Lazarus's death. You know what He did? He wept. And it may be that that husband just needs to take her in his arms and let her weep and let her process the emotions she's going through, because those emotions are good and right and holy. There is nothing wrong with those.
Dennis: No, you're right.
Bob: Now, if she dwells in those, if those emotions begin to debilitate her.
Dennis: Let's say she gets a little depressed.
Bob: Yeah, if she goes for a period of weeks and months, and she's not able to function because of that depression that set on her, then that's where a husband needs to again gently, after allowing her some process time, he needs to begin helping her refocus her life for the phase it's in now.
He needs to do what – I remember Dan Allender doing with his wife, Becky. He took her out to dinner one night, and he'd spent some time thinking about her gifts and her talents and her abilities, and as they talked at dinner, he reflected those back to her. He said, "You know, as I think about you," and he started to list off her giftedness and her talents and her spiritual abilities, and then he said, "I've been thinking about how you can put those to use in the cause of Christ, and some of the things that you'd be really good at," and he started creating a vision for her, for her life, that helped her lift her sights from the day-to-day and gain a vision of her own importance in the cause of Christ.
And, see, that's what I think a husband, after some time to process the tears and the emotions, he can start refocusing her vision and say, "God wants you to be useful in His service for the rest of your life, and here's what you're good at. How can I help you with that?" And call her to the next phase of life and help give her a vision for her usefulness.
Because one of the things going on in her soul right now – her kids are gone, she's figuring life's over. "I have spent the last 25 years, 30 years, being a caring nurturer to my children. They don't need me to do that anymore. In fact, I'm not sure anybody needs me for anything anymore." Help her see that there is the body of Christ, there are younger women who need her. Help her see that there are things she can do uniquely that other people can't do, and she can pour and invest her life into those things.
And maybe it won't be too long before you have grandchildren, and then that will fix all of that. Right, Gramps?
Dennis: That's exactly right. You know, there's really two issues we're talking about here. One is a woman's mission for the last half of her life, maybe the last third of her life, and the other is how she processes the empty nest emotionally, and they both really go back to this issue of loving your wife and helping her becoming like Jesus Christ.
We have to meet our wives where they are and where their needs are, and that means meeting them whether it's emotionally of whether that's on their mission. We have to speak to their need and, hopefully, we don't have to wait for that door to slam to face the issue of the empty nest. Every husband listening to us right now ought to be thinking, even if they don't have children yet, ought to be thinking of how he is going to prepare his wife for the empty nest years; how he's going to develop her, strengthen her in her gifts and abilities just like Dan Allender was doing with his wife, Becky, so that she feels useful all the way along and, at the end, when that door slams, yes, there's still the emotional issue of loss and of grief of your children growing up and the empty nest, but there's the new horizon that's been painted for years.
Bob: I've seen you do this. You've watched the things that Barbara develops an interest in, the things that she's drawn to, and you've encouraged and nurtured and even prodded her a little bit to act on those things.
Dennis: And sometimes it's spiritual, sometimes it's not spiritual. Sometimes it's just a use of their giftedness. Barbara is taking an art lesson. Before we started having children, she was an excellent watercolor artist. Well, she's back again, now, drawing and painting, and it's good for her. It's a creative outlet for her as a woman. She is also talking about doing some writing in the area of adoption because she has a big heart to help enlarge other people's hearts, as well, for the subject of adoption.
Bob: As our kids have grown older, all of our kids, at one time or another, have taken piano lessons, and Mary Ann has commented while they've been taking lessons, "You know, I wish I could take lessons," and with the kids you have to kind of prod them to go in an practice, but I think to myself, "If Mary Ann was taking lessons, she'd love to have a half an hour when she could sit down and practice the piano," and I've just tucked that away, because there will be a time when the kids aren't home anymore, and piano lessons may be one of the things that I can encourage her to get involved in and – even if it's just for her own enjoyment. It's the same kind of creative outlet that you're talking about.
All of these are ways that a husband can proactively nourish and cherish his wife, and that's what our assignment in Scripture is. As men, we are to love our wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her, and we need to be proactive in loving our wives and it's one of the core themes in the book, "The Christian Husband," which we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
It's a book that a man can read through on his own or a group of men can get together and study through together and, hopefully, they will find that it provokes some good discussion. In fact, there are discussion questions at the end of each chapter that are designed to do just that.
If you'd like to get a copy of the book, "The Christian Husband," go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the home page, you'll see a red button that says "Go." If you click that button, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about how you can get a copy of this book. Again, the website if FamilyLife.com.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and if you call us, someone on our team can get you more information about how you can have a copy of this book sent out to you.
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When somebody becomes a Legacy Partner, we keep in contact with you, we let you know about what's going on here at the ministry, and we try to provide you with helpful resources for your marriage and for your family throughout the year, and I just want to take a minute and say thanks to those of you who have contacted us this week, either online at FamilyLife.com or by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, and agreed to become Legacy Partners.
And if you're a regular FamilyLife Today listener, would you either go to our website or give us a call and find out more about what it means to be a Legacy Partner and maybe consider making that something that you and your family do to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We would appreciate your financial support, and I just want to say thanks in advance for considering that.
Now, we hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we're going to take a look at romance, a pre-Valentine's Day look at the subject of romance between a husband and a wife, a different kind of love than what we've been talking about this week, and we're going to hear a story on Monday of a couple that – well, they just didn't seem to see romance the same. That's coming up Monday, I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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