“Rejoice whenever you face trials in your marriage, knowing that even though it hurts right now, as your faith is tested by these troubles, you are developing perseverance. As you persevere in love, you will grow increasingly more mature in heart and mind, and God’s beauty will be made complete in you.” (Paraphrase of James 1:2-4)
The following is a true testimony written in the book, Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in an Imperfect Marriage (by Deb Kalmbach and Heather Kopp). It’s a book we HIGHLY recommend! Even though it’s written from a woman’s perspective, there’s a message that both women AND men can benefit from reading.
I (Steve) will put a man’s spin on it afterwards to help husband’s relate to it also.
In this one particular part of the book, the author begins by saying that she used to think of her husband, Larry, as a “complete jerk.” She says that he’s been “verbally abusive, a problem drinker, arrogant beyond belief, and an absentee dad to the children he had with his first wife.”
She claims that he didn’t help out in doing anything around the house in any way. He even told her to get a part-time job so she could hire someone to do whatever it was she wanted him to do. She goes on to say:
“When we got married, I didn’t know the Lord, and I didn’t really know my husband either. After coming to Christ a couple of years ago, I kept hearing all this stuff about honoring Larry, submitting to Larry. And I’d think, ‘Are you serious?”
“A few weeks ago our women’s Bible study was studying in Ephesians. When we got to the verse, ‘Let the wife see that she respects her husband,‘ I knew everyone was thinking of Larry. They all know I’m in an unhappy marriage, so I finally just blurted out: ‘How do you respect a husband you don’t really respect? Someone help me understand how you honor a guy like my husband.’
“An uncomfortable silence ensued. ‘Well,’ Karla, the group leader finally said, ‘let’s talk about that. Does anyone have any insight to share?’
“Finally a woman named Marsha spoke up. ‘I think you have to think about how the word respect doesn’t mean the same thing as approve or condone. You have to separate what Larry does from who Larry is. You can respect his position, just like you respect a cop who pulls you over, even though you don’t like what he’s doing to you.’
“That made sense to me —sort of. But could I somehow find a way to respect and honor Larry simply because he’s my husband?
“That afternoon, I continued to debate with myself. Lets say I did decide to honor Larry because God says to and because God loves him. By honoring him, wouldn’t I be telling him, ‘You’re perfectly okay how you are —I think you’re just wonderful because God loves you?’
“Later, after dinner had been cleaned up and Larry had become one with his recliner, I went to our bedroom to read a novel. The main character was a man who was everything I could want in a husband and the exact opposite of Larry. The contrast was painful. Finally, I put the book down and began to pray half-heartedly for Larry. I tried to picture him as God sees him. But that wasn’t working. Larry, after all, isn’t wearing Christ’s robes.
“I kept at it, though, and then something happened. Suddenly all this grief welled up and I sensed it wasn’t mine, but God’s. It was like He was crying —over Larry! I’m not the type of person to see things or hear God when I pray.
“So I asked God what this meant and waited. It began to dawn on me that when God sees Larry, He sees a son of His who won’t come home. He sees the marvelous man Larry could be, would be, if he would only let love break through.
“Larry doesn’t behave in ways that deserve my respect. But the Larry God loves, who’s buried behind that brick wall, does. Now I’m trying really hard, every day, to feel God’s grief over, and love for, Larry.
“I keep looking for ways to show him respect. I ask his opinions about things that I never used to before. I listen carefully to what he says and I make eye contact when he’s talking to me. I tell him I’m proud of him when anything good happens at work. And I don’t grumble and complain about him to my friends every day.
“As I’m doing this, I’m realizing something important. Respect is a man’s #1 love language. You should have seen the look on his face a few days ago when I asked Larry what I could do to show him more respect. He was so stunned, he was speechless for once.
“Then yesterday I caught myself thinking, Larry seems to appreciate having my respect, but I still don’t know if this is going to work. I had to quickly remind myself that it’s not supposed to work. Changing Larry isn’t the goal. That would only turn what I’m doing into manipulation.
“I can honor Larry because God asks me to. Buried deep inside of him is a man worthy of respect. And for now, that’s good enough for me. The rest is up to Larry and God.”
While this message gives the account of how one wife was able to begin to respect her husband (in spite of him), it’s important that we husbands realize that God expects even more from us. Nowhere in scripture does it say that we are “to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her— ‘as long as she respects me.'” That’s because God’s love for us is unconditional and our love for our wives is to be unconditional.
As couples we need to guard against playing the “Blame Game” —blaming our spouse for their behavior and then responding self-righteously. In his book Man to Man, Chuck Swindoll said this on this subject:
“If we blame others, we enlarge the distance between us and them. We alienate. We poison the relationship. We settle for much less than God ever intended.”
“Consider this: Blame never affirms, it assaults. Blame never restores, it wounds. Blame never solves, it complicates. Blame never unites, it separates. Blame never smiles, it frowns. Blame never forgives, it rejects. Blame never forgives, it remembers. Blame never builds, it destroys.”
Please stop blaming your spouse for your actions (as Adam did in pointing to Eve the garden of Eden when God questioned his sin) or blaming your spouse for your reactions. Instead, do what YOU are supposed to do in loving your spouse “as unto the Lord.” As Dr James Dobson says, “Anything you invest in your spouse will come back to you.” It may not come back in the way you expect, but God will somehow redeem the “right” which you do in the proper time. We hope you will prayerfully consider this.
Steve and Cindy Wright
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