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About this series
Marriage that Works
God's Way of Becoming Spiritual Soul Mates, Best Friends, and Passionate Lovers
It's no secret that marriage is in trouble in America. This foundational building block of society is crumbling before our eyes. And Christians are not exempt from this trend. There is hope. Despite the mounting pressure on couples, you really can have a great marriage, raise Godly kids, and experience a healthy, life-giving home-life with the stability to weather life's storms. Join Chip Ingram as he challenges the status quo and gives clear, compelling help for couples that long for unity and fulfillment in their marriage.More from this series
When I was in high school I visited a young gal, she was a couple years younger than me, and I went over to her house and to meet with her and her mom. And as I walked in, small talk, there was a picture on the mantle of a very good looking guy and had a military uniform and his hat on and a smile.
And I just casually said, “Well, who’s that?” And her face really changed and she goes, “Well, that’s my dad.” And I thought, “Boy, I don’t, did I say something wrong?” And her mom said, “Well, you don’t understand. That’s her dad but he’s been missing in action in Vietnam for a number of years now. And so, we’re in limbo. We pray every day that someday he’ll come back and I’ll have a husband and she’ll have a dad. But we just don’t know.”
And as I got to know that girl, I saw the incredible deficits that occurred because the gaps of a missing in action father. She had needs to be loved and encouraged and to know what it looks like to be cherished. And that just wasn’t there. And her mom had the same kind of needs.
And I’ve researched the family quite a bit because I grew up in one of those dysfunctional kind of families and my dad was a very good guy. But he was a passive dad. He was a great athlete and he was a very strong man.
But my mom ran everything in our home. My dad couldn’t even pick out his own clothes. I remember one time sitting, later in their marriage, I was in, I think, high school at the time. And I came back and he was just really ticked off. And he’d been there all day.
And I said, “What’s wrong?” He goes, “Man, I’m hungry!” And I said, “Well, is there no food in the refrigerator?” He goes, “Well, yeah. But Marty’s not here to fix me a sandwich.” And I thought, “That’s pathetic” is what I thought.
But you would be shocked at how many marriages and how many homes where the men are missing in action.
And, by the way, don’t feel like, if you’re a guy here, “Oh why did I come today? This guy’s going to slam me.”
I am not. I’m compassionate. What I want to tell you is, there is a profile, a picture in Scripture of what it means to be a man that delivers for a woman, and delivers for kids, and is the kind of guy you girls want to date.
But most of us men, we didn’t grow up and we’ve never seen it, and so we’re going to talk about it. And the impact’s devastating.
Let me do a little research before we get started and give you what I call The Evolution of the American Male.
1950s, GIs come back from the war, it’s early fifties, suburban is flourishing. The word “divorce” is unheard of. It happens, maybe, with movie stars. Ninety-nine percent of all the young girls and young boys in the world have a mom and a dad, they live together, they build a little house and they’re going to do the American dream.
Bam! It’s the sixties. Make love not war. Existentialism comes into the reality of how people actually live. Relative truth gets planted and so, all of a sudden, sex and love and marriage are separated.
So, you can have sex or hook up with someone but there’s no commitment to love them. There’s no commitment to marry. And the stability of the family begins to disintegrate.
Hit the seventies and feminism in its height is birthed. Now, obviously, the need for people to get equal pay for equal work was very important. But, now, the feminism of the seventies was radical.
It was men and women are essentially the same. There are no real differences. And then we went on a track.
And then the eighties, people got tired of the sexual issues and it was the “me” decade. It was Wall Street. It was affluence. It was money. It was work. It was “make it.” And the more the better, the more the better, the more the better. And workaholism took off in greater measure like never before.
By the nineties, it was confusion. We had Columbine. The sex roles were blurred, the sex roles were changed. What’s a man do? What’s a woman do? The rise of homosexuality, openly gay things became more and more prominent in the culture.
By the 2000s, the world was just going in all kind of different directions. So, eighty percent of the kids that grow up will not have a father at some point in their childhood between birth and eighteen years old.
Families are disintegrating with the financial fallout and the emotional fallout.
About sixty-five percent of all the people before they get married live together to try it out and then the research tells us that if you live together, it hurts your chances of staying married. So we’ve got all this confusion.
In fact, I would challenge you to think of the last movie that you saw or the last TV program you saw where a man was depicted as strong, sensitive, courageous, caring, protective, and providing for those around him. Our heroes have changed.
Who are our heroes now? Athletes and actors. Now, think of that. Athletes and actors. And what do they both do? They play. Our heroes play. What’s really an actor? What do they do?
They pretend to be other people. So now, we have a world where we give millions of dollars and frontline and fame – and little teenage girls, I read a survey where preteens, their goal in life was to be the person who helps in the star room with a famous person. That was their goal in life.
I’m an eleven year old girl and someday I want to be the person that brings water to the rock star. Now, think of that. That’s pathetic. And so, our heroes become players and actors and we learn that our players, for money, create one image and exploit women and destroy their families, when they’re not at home.
And so, you’ve got this development of the evolution of the American male and there are two major consequences. One is the father-absent family and then the other is the impact of changing roles.
In terms of the father-absent family: a report by the US government consisting of authorities on child development did an evaluation of adolescents in America. It was called Code Blue. In their summary of their report, “Never before has one generation of American teenagers been less healthy, less cared for, or less prepared for life.”
And then they note in the byline, “This occurred, mind you, in one of the most affluent and privileged nations in the history of the world.”
It goes on to say in another study that boys suffer most from the absence and non-involvement of a father. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, boys without a father are twice as likely to drop out of school, twice as likely to go to jail, four times more likely to need treatment for emotional and behavioral problems than boys with a father.
Harvard University Psychologist, Dr. William Pollack, who’s the author of Real Boys says, “Divorce is difficult for all children. But divorce is devastating for males.” He says, “The basic problem is the lack of discipline and supervision in a father’s absence and his unavailability to teach his son what it means to be a man.”
So, father-absent homes or disengaged, passive fathers beget father-absent homes and more disengaged fathers in the future.
Finally, sociologist Peter Karl believes that boys in our day, think of this. He says, “Eighty percent of the time of boys are spent with women, growing up. So, they don’t know how to act as men when they grow up. When that happens, the relationship between the sexes is directly affected and men become helpless and more like big kids.”
Anybody seen that lately? Where a real man puts a baseball hat on backwards and wears the jersey of a twenty-something year old making twenty million dollars and plays fantasy football and his livelihood and manlihood and significance is in playing and pretending. Because issues like providing, he’s never seen. Leadership, he’s never seen. Courage, he’s never seen. Spiritual leadership, he’s never seen.
And you really don’t have a clue of what it means to be a man. The result is that the roles change and they blur.
Psychologist Pierre Mornell is a psychologist and author in San Francisco. It’s an older book but as this was developing, he had all these people in the powerful financial districts. Their wives were driving over the big bridge and getting counseling.
And he said the stories kept being all the same, all the same, all the same. “My husband is a big, powerful person in the financial district. He drives downtown San Francisco. He’s in the city. He’s making multi-million, and sometimes billion, dollar deals. He is forceful, he’s strategic, he’s powerful, he’s well-educated. When he walks in the room, people snap to.
“And I’ve been and I’ve seen him at work and then he comes home. And he’s like a couch potato. His number one thing is the remote. He puts the Wall Street Journal, or the sports page, in front of his face. He doesn’t lead our family, he doesn’t lead our kids, he’s not active. He’s passive.”
And so, he wrote a book called Passive Men and his thesis is it creates wild women. And I will suggest the result is very, very confused kids.
And that little girl that I told you about, when her dad was missing in action, it produces not good stuff. And today, we have more and more marriages and families where the man is missing in action and often that doesn’t mean he’s not in the home.
I grew up, I didn’t know what it meant to be a man. I just did what my dad did. I figured out how to get good in sports. I figured out how to play and pretend. And then I became a Christian. And I had to completely relearn, and I literally, start from scratch about what it means to be a man.
And so, that’s what we’re going to do in our time. We’re going to talk about what it means to be a real man. And so, as we do that, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to know that there are two things we want to avoid. I call them the two “PCs.” One, the politically correct, it doesn’t matter, whatever, any family style, any alternative. Can we just agree that, in light of the research, and in light of families, and divorce, and kids, and even the financial damage, that the current politically correct, “this is what a man is,” does not work?
And then, second, before we go on, that pseudo-Christian, I call it “PC” where, in the name of God, those caricatures you have of Christian men who are narrow, bigoted, stupid, they take the Bible and say, “I’m the head of this house and the Bible says so, so everyone’s supposed to do what I’m…” That is not what the Bible teaches.
If anybody has to thump your chest and tell people you’re in charge, believe me, you are not.
We’re going to look at a picture, as you turn the page, of what a real man is. And what a real man is, we’re going to learn, is defined by God in a way that does something very powerful in his wife, he does something very powerful if you’re dating him. It’s something very, very powerful and refreshing if he’s one of your friends.
And if he’s your dad, it’s you grow up one day and when he’s a real man, you say in your heart, even without words, “Someday, I want to be like him. Someday, I want to be like him.”
I bet I can count on four fingers, in all the young men I’ve counseled, and mentored, and especially guys in ministry, probably on four fingers, the young men I’ve ever met that, when I asked them, “Tell me a little bit about your dad” I’ve had them, just, almost well up and say, “Here’s what I’ll tell you about my dad. Someday, I want to be just like him.”
And I learned he was an engineer. “You mean an engineer like him?” He said, “No, no. I want to be a Christian like him. I want to be a dad like him. I want to be a husband like him. I want to be a man of integrity like him.”
Well, I’ll tell you what. I don’t know about you guys, that’s my dream for my kids. And it’s never too late. In fact, sometimes when it occurs late, they can see the difference even more.
So, where does it begin? Redefining manhood in marriages and our homes, it always begins with mutual, write the word, “submission.” It always begins with mutual submission.
There is this umbrella that covers the entire passage about relationships. And this umbrella is “submit to one another out of the fear of Christ.”
And he’s going to talk about the marriage relationship, then the child-parent relationship, and the slave-master relationship. And all through the rest of the entire book of Ephesians from chapter 5:21 to the end of the book, there’s this umbrella that governs.
Of course you’re living out various roles and responsibilities but it’s with this sense that first and foremost, you’re going to walk with God and your goal and desire would be to love or put the other person in the relationship ahead of yourself.
So, that really eliminates an awful lot of the argument about role and who’s the leader, who takes the first step, and who’s the most powerful, and all those things become secondary.
I call it the metaphor of the dance. What does mutual submission look like? I jotted this down. The word “submit” here is very interesting in the ancient military – it’s an ancient military term.
It’s a compound word of “hupo” to mean under and “tasso” that means to be in order, or rank file. Rather than promoting self-assertion, it urges the readers to be subject or submit to one another.
One commentator calls this a mutual desire to get less than one’s due. Now, think about that. You’re in a relationship with your husband, or your wife, and it’s a mutual desire instead of asserting my rights, my way, it’s a mutual desire to get less than your due.
It’s a sweet reasonableness. And an attitude that the Spirit of God is in control, to consider this person that you’re married to more important than yourself.
Mutual submission is the dance floor itself. In the space within we have the freedom to move. It requires that the man and the woman, each in lordship relationship to Christ, come to see the dance, asking each other, “How can I make you successful? How can I serve you? How can I can express my love and our roles together?”
Male chauvinism and female manipulation find no place here. They’ve evaporated even before the first steps begin. This is the dance that God has designed for two people who say, “Our first commitment is, first and foremost, to You. God, you are the choreographer. You tell me what step I need to take when in this dance of marriage so that I can serve my partner, honor You, and as a byproduct, be deeply fulfilled.”
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched either the old black and white movies where, Fred Astaire, remember when people used to dance, when they would dance together?
Or, if you’ve watched Dancing with the Stars or, I like the ice skating, when they have the male and female and they put it to music. And the guy does this and he catches her and then she goes like this and she’s doing all this, right? Right?
Now, you think about that. If he’s not at the right place at the right time, she’s really going to get hurt. And you talk about trust. , she’s drrrrrrrrr. And then he’s doing this. Right?
Now, you understand, they work for thousands of hours to create what you watch, what seems like a seamless piece of beauty and art, and to the music.
And each step is, someone wrote it. It’s been choreographed. He knows that at this place on the ice, he needs to slide here. He needs to prepare. He needs to catch. He needs to lift. She needs to let go. Every single step by each person has been written out in advance.
And when you see it, if you didn’t see the very first note, when you see it, you couldn’t tell me who took the first step or who took the second. All you would see is, to the music, the beauty and the rhythm of the dance. That’s how God designed marriage.
He’s the choreographer. The issue has very little to do with who takes which step. It’s: who is responsible to make it work?
And so, God gives some instruction to men: this is how you do the dance to make it beautiful for you and for her. Next week, ladies, here’s how you do the dance to make it work.
And so, what you learn is that mutual submission is a picture of a fellow loving of one another, not some sort of battleground for who does what in marriage.
The great dance for marriage requires clarity of roles. It’s really much more about who’s responsible than the big debate about who leads, and who does this, and who does that. The person who leads is the person who’s responsible.
What I’m about to tell your husband or your boyfriend or, for some of you, your son is absolutely impossible for them to do. This will be, this is a real man. Here is the bar. This is what God expects, this is what you’re to do. When you do this, women feel cherished, loved, completed.
When you do this, families go in the right direction, in the right way, for the right reason. When you do this, little kids grow up and think you’re the greatest thing in the world. They have a great self-image. They have clear moral values.
But what I’m about to share with, especially those that are married, with your husband is, they could go like this and just be so covered with guilt like I was. It was like, “Are you kidding? I never saw all this. How could I ever do this?”
And so, what I want you to know is, one, there’s hope. And, ladies, this would be very helpful. If you’ll keep your elbows in. Because this, as your husband listens to God for the next few minutes, this will not help. Or, some of you are a little more …
“Oh, God, God, God, please, please, please, I’m so glad he came today. He so needed to hear this. Get him, Holy Spirit.” Please don’t go there.
Or, for others, “Oh, Lord, I’m so glad he’s been come upon this day to hear the Word of God that he might be married to one as righteous as I.”
How about you just pray, “Oh, God, I can’t imagine trying to live up to this and I know it’s hard and I know it’s impossible. Will You show me anything I can do to help my man, whether it’s my boyfriend, my son, or my husband to be what You’ve called him to be?”
Because until men step up and be who God wants them to be, families and marriages will never be what God wants them for His glory or for you.
And so, he says, starting out with the dance, He goes, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands and to the Lord.” Here’s the reason. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the Church.”
So, there’s a role. There’s a responsibility here. “He Himself, Jesus, being the Savior of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Here’s where it gets hard. “Husbands, love your wives.” Well, how? “Just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.”
Well, why did He do that? “That He might sanctify her. Having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the Word. That He might present to Himself a Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and be blameless.”
Application: so there’s some connection between a husband loving a wife the same way Jesus loves His Church, so husbands ought to love their own wives – how? As their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. Because the two, remember, became one.
“For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does the Church. Because we’re His members.”
Now, guys, if you have a pen, pull it out. I want you to circle and underline a few words. First of all, I want you, as quickly as you can, to scan that and every time the word “love” is there, circle it, circle it, circle it, circle it, circle it. You’re going to get something real quickly, right?
“Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the Church. No man loved his own body, right?”
This word is not phileo love. Be a good friend. Be loyal. This is not eros love. This isn’t sexual love. This isn’t even storge love, which is have a good family connection. This is agape love.
Agape love is not an emotional love. It may or may not have emotion. Agape love is unconditionally giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost. That’s how Jesus loved you, that’s how Jesus loved me.
When I was in my sin, when I didn’t want any of God’s help and I absolutely didn’t deserve it, Christ died in my place. When Jesus was in the Garden and He was fully man and fully God, and in His humanness, knowing that God the Father would turn His face away from Him, and your sin and my sin would be placed on Him, He said, basically, translation, “If there’s a plan B that we haven’t thought of, why don’t we go with plan B, instead of this cross stuff. Nevertheless, not My will,” right? “But Yours.”
But listen, Jesus did not emotionally want to die for you. He didn’t feel like it. He chose to.
Agape love is a choice. It’s a choice. When I, as a man, treat my wife well, when I’m sensitive to her, when I care about her, when I respond in ways that God wants me to because I feel really good about her, that’s a good thing.
It’s a far greater thing when she hurts me, and wounds me, and is acting in ways that make me feel like I want to push her away. Agape love is, I give her what she needs the most, when she deserves it the least, at great personal cost.
Now, women, that’s what God calls your husband to do to you.
That’s not hard, again, that is absolutely impossible [apart] from the Spirit of God working inside your husband’s heart and life and him being absolutely committed to doing that.
Notice, it says, “That He might sanctify her.” Will you circle the word “sanctify her” and underneath that it says, “present to Himself.” The word “sanctify” means to “set apart.” To make her holy.
And don’t let that word “holy” conjure up big, black robes and candles lit in a dark room. It means “special.” And the “set apart” just means absolutely special.
And He says, Jesus did that for us, His Church. As a man, my job is to help my wife become the special person that God wants her to become.
Jesus did it by the washing of the water with the Word. The word there in Greek, it’s the rhema. Not just the logos but it’s the spoken word. Jesus speaks life into His Church. My job, as a husband, is speak life into the soul of my wife. Affirmation and encouragement. Truth from God that is given to me. Caring for her.
It goes on to say, notice those two little words about how this happens. Nourishes and cherishes. Put a box around “nourishes” and put a box around “cherishes.” How do I love my wife?
The word “nourished” literally means “to feed.” It means to be devoted to. It means to provide for, in everything. It means to promote the development and the maintenance of the health of something.
So, to nourish something, now, think of this, guys. This was so foreign to me. , I just basically thought, “You get married, you fall in love, you’re attracted to her, you have some kids, things work out. You play a lot of softball and basketball and she cooks a lot and you hope it works.”
I’m sorry. That’s all I knew. And then I became a Christian. And then I realized, God has all these needs that He created my wife to have, and He created me as the instrument that He wants to meet many of those needs, just like He created her to meet many of mine.
And so, I’m to develop and maintain and help her mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally become all that God created her to become. That’s to nourish.
And the word “cherish” here literally means “to keep warm.” It means to commune in ways that make sense to her. It means to be to her that sense of safety and comfort. It’s, guys, why they want to do things that don’t make any sense like, “Let’s talk.” And you say, “What about?” And they say, “Nothing.” “Then, why do you want to talk?” We want to get something done. “Because, well, how did your day go?” “Fine. It went fine.”
No, no, no. She wants to hear what’s going on inside. Why was it fine? What happened? She wants to be connected to your soul. She wants to know that you ask questions like, “How are you feeling? What’s going on inside? What are your concerns? What’s your biggest fear right now? How are you handling it? Do you want to stop right now, together, and pray about that?”
What she needs is a leader. What she needs is a man. A man who sees his role, not as: what can I get? But a man who sees his role, from God, to provide everything for his wife that Jesus gave to the Church. Clarity, leadership, cherishing, devotion, development.
And, for most of us as men, we never saw that. We never saw that in our home. And so, it’s pretty hard to pull off. But I will tell you, you say to God, “God, will you help me be that kind of man?”
Whether you’re thirty or fifty or seventy, God will answer that prayer. And the moment you begin to become this kind of man, really significant things happen.
So, in summary, what we have is a man’s role is to assume the same kind of responsibility for their wives and give the same kind of love to the point of actually, physically dying for your wife, that Jesus did for the Church.
I, in summary, would say, that’s what a leader is, in the home, okay? That’s a real man. A real man is not playing hard, making money, dropping it in, and living your own kind of separate life, and longing for everyone to meet your needs.
Down deep, what I can tell you for most of us “men” is that we don’t know how to do what I just described. All people and especially we, as men, are very insecure. The reason that we spend so much time in sports and work is we’re competent there.
And men like to do what we know how to do. I know how to shoot a basketball. I can hit a baseball. I know how to work. I can be successful there. I’m comfortable there. I don’t know how to pray with a woman. I don’t know how to be a dad. I don’t know how to discipline a kid.
All I knew was, it’s a very thick book and it’s got a lot of pages and I’m supposed to know it? Are you kidding?
I don’t know how to develop a woman’s femininity in my daughter. But I’ll tell you what, I came to the conclusion, I was going to make it a primary goal of my life after knowing God.
Let me ask you six diagnostic questions about who’s carrying the weight of responsibility in your home. Or you could say, who’s leading?
And these are not in your notes. Just listen. And all I want you to do and this, again, this is not to make you feel bad. This is just to bring you out of denial. If you would, if I would have read these questions to me the first two years of our marriage, just, in advance, I want you to know, five out of six I would say Theresa does. That’s not true anymore. And that’s grace.
Question number one. Who initiates spiritual growth in your home? Is it the wife or the husband who says, “Why don’t we sit down and let’s talk about this. Or, why don’t we get in the Bible together. Or, let’s clear up the dishes. Or, wow, that’s difficult. Let’s stop right now and pray.”
Second, who handles the money? I didn’t say, “Who makes the most.” Who handles it? Who feels the pressure that: did that bill get paid? Did we pay that online yet? Is the check written out? Where are we at? How much debt?
Third, who disciplines the children when you’re both at home? You? Or your wife?
Fourth, who initiates talking about problems, future plans, and areas to develop? When are we going to, what about retirement? What about our kids? What school should they go to? Do we want to have kids? How many? What, what about, what about, what about?
Who’s asking the kind of questions that beg the question like, “Where are we going?”
Fifth, who asks the most questions in your home and who gives the most statements? Who’s constantly asking questions like, “Well, have we made a decision about what we’re going to do with…?” Who’s doing that in your home? See, that’s the person that feels responsibility.
Well, how do you move on? How do we get this in a way that becoming real men where we’re at? How do we assume the responsibility? And what does it mean?
Let me give you three very specific ways, as men, we can start. Okay? And, by the way, if you’re still, if you’re feeling a little bit like, “My lands, this guy is killing me.” I understand. But how you’re living, down deep, is killing you. You were made to lead. You were made to be strong. You were made to have courage. You were made to make a difference. You were made to feel the responsibility and the joy of watching something bloom and develop and have kids look up to you.
You are not Homer Simpson. You matter. You’re smart. You’re valuable. You have worth. And you can do this, by the grace of God. How?
Number one, husbands must love their wives sacrificially. That’s out of verse 25. Love her in a way, sacrificial means, love her in a way that costs you something. And under that, in your notes, I’m going to give you three specific ways to love your wife where it costs you something.
Number one is in preference. Okay? Sometimes, you need to communicate to your wife, especially if you’re coming out of, like I was, really consumed with me, and my world, and my stuff. Sometimes you need to do something where she knows you really love this and you choose to do something that says, and she looks at you and goes, “Are you kidding? You gave up that?”
Now, this is a very trite illustration and turn the clock back and I’ve got young children and I’m not the leader that I need to be. And, God, I’m on this journey. I’m just learning to do this. And I know I need to live sacrificially.
Well, they used to have the slam-dunk, like, at half time or something. And so, the All Star game is on, it’s slam-dunk, I’ve got my little boys, we’re all rooting and screaming like guys do.
And I’m sitting there like this and I’m watching it. And, I’ve been waiting all year for this. And some of the old greats of many years ago. And the guys are slamming, slamming, slamming. It was really great.
And I just happened to look over and I saw my wife and she wasn’t mad, she wasn’t upset, I didn’t get any feeling like, “You shouldn’t be doing that.” But I read on her face just her countenance. Something’s disturbing her.
And then a thought that could have only come from God because I would never think it. And I heard this little voice inside say, “Chip, why don’t you get up from watching this game and ask Theresa if she wants to go on a walk and find out what’s going on inside.”
And I, literally, in my mind and heart, said, “Surely you jest.” Are you kidding me? And nothing, I’ve never had these promptings before but I actually, somehow, by the Spirit of God, “Ahhhhhhh.” I actually went.
And I walked over and I said, “Hey, honey, how you doing?” And she said, “Oh fine, you can watch the game.” I said, “No, no. You want to take a walk?” “Well, don’t you want to watch it?” “No, that’s, I’ll, I can catch that later. There will be reruns or something.”
And so, we take a walk. And all of a sudden, there’s all kind of stuff going on in her heart. And she starts to open it up and talk and then we ended up, I think getting a cup of coffee afterwards and talking a little bit more.
And it was one of those windows, one of those moments. And then she said this weird thing. She turned to me and said, “Gosh, Chip, I feel so loved right now.” I said, “I didn’t do anything.” I’m walking around, I ask a few questions, and I listen for, like, an hour and fifteen minutes. What’s that got to do with love? We didn’t accomplish anything. Men, men think, right?
And she goes, “I know how addicted you are to sports. And that you got up for me sent me a very powerful message.” Where do you need to love your wife where it costs you in preference?
Second, it’ll cost you in, write the word, “time.” The second place you need to love your wife is in time. It requires time.
The long, long, long, long work hours, and the hobbies where some of you only have one day off a week, and five and half to six and a half hours is on a golf course and your family doesn’t see you, let me just tell you, is stupid. Okay? It’s just stupid.
Because I’m going to tell you that once all that stuff happens and your kids get grown and they’re away, you will wish you could get some of those hours back that you worked and you got plenty of time to get better at golf.
Now, I’m going to tell you a little bit later you need to have hobbies, you need to have men friends, you need to work out, you need to have fun with guys. I’m not saying that.
I’m just saying to be a leader in your home, like anything, it requires time. So, you lead and you say stuff like, three or four in my case. I was leading a very large church at the time, five or six nights a week, we ate together at five thirty.
Did I have work before five thirty, after five thirty, and demands? Absolutely. But my family, and my wife, knew we’re going to eat together.
And after we ate, we did this crazy stuff. We actually pushed the plates to the middle and we talked. And then we often prayed. And at least a couple times, during the week, I would say, “This is what I’m learning right now.” And then I’d ask some of the kids, as they got older, what are you learning?
And my kids knew, rather than perfunctory devotions, everyone spends times in God’s Word, everyone’s listening from God, we eat together, we share together.
Second, time, I tuck my kids in. Not every night. But I fought with Theresa. Don’t let your wife have all the fun. And, by the way, talk about an “I love you.” “Hey, honey, I’m not as good as you and they probably won’t get as clean. I’ll do the baths and I’ll tuck them all in. Why don’t you just go hang out and do something?” She’ll rise up and call you blessed.
And you know what? And there’s a connection you’ll get with your kids. It requires time. You put them to bed. You eat together. You stand up.
The third one, be on time. I had a date every week with my wife. Now, I didn’t even know what a date, I never saw a married couple have a date. , that was so foreign to me.
But I thought, if she’s going to be important and valuable, every Friday was my day off. We went to breakfast and she knew she had three or four hours, no matter what, that we were going to hang together. It shaped our marriage.
Now, in that, too, in terms of time, since I didn’t know what we were doing, we read books together, we listened to CDs together, we discussed them together. Why? Because I didn’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to be a dad, I didn’t know to be a husband, I didn’t know how to be a man.
But, you know what? There are a lot of people that have gone ahead of you and me, and I was insecure, and she’s going to know that I don’t know what I’m doing.
But when we, just the fact that I stepped up and said, “Okay, let’s try this,” she was very cooperative. And very encouraging. But it takes time.
Finally, the cost is rejection. When you be the man in your house instead of passive, like letting the woman deal with things. And, “Hey, give him twenty bucks and he’ll be quiet. He slammed the door but they’re just going through a phase.”
All that stuff, as men, where we want to go into denial. You’re going to get rejection because you’re going to say, “Hey, everybody, we’re going to sit down and have a meal.” “I don’t want to. I want to eat in my room and I want to watch this show and my friends are calling and I got practice.”
“No, no, no. We’re eating together.” And they’ll roll their eyes.
And, you know what? If you can’t take that rejection, you know what leaders are? Leaders change things. Anytime you change things, people don’t like it. The status quo may not be good for them but they don’t like to change.
And you’re the dad who says, “No, we’re going to eat together.”
And then, one of your kids, in a weak moment, is smart aleck, says, “Well, who the heck do you think you are?” And you say, in your dad voice, not in the lovingly parent, “Well, Johnny, I really don’t like it when you talk to me that way and I don’t think that’s the way we, as families, ought to talk to one another.”
Unnnggrrrr. “Johnny,” then the low voice, “you better shut your mouth right now, sit down at the table, and that cell phone you have, I’d like to, right now. No, now. Thank you. When you can learn to speak to me and your mother respectfully, uh, looks like it’s going to be about six days on this one.”
“Well, you can’t do that!” “You know what? Excuse me. The keys right there? Want you to hand those over too. Thank you. I don’t accept that kind of behavior, ever, in my house toward me or your mother. There’s a new sheriff in town who loves you very much. And this is not how we live.”
Boy, where did he go to church? “And, by the way, you know that car that I bought, with the insurance that I pay for, with the gas that I put in it? Um, you learn to behave in a way that’s respectful to me and to others, I’ll let you drive that again. Until now, I got the keys and the cell phone.”
Parents, don’t give me all that stuff that, “I don’t have any control and I just don’t know what’s wrong. And they go to their room and they slam the door and all they do is play video games and, oh gosh…” Whose food are they eating? Whose cars are they driving? There’s not some gun to your head that, “If I can’t text, I’ll die.”
And so, guys, so, do you hear this? The reason that adolescent boys have big problems when there’s not a man around – a woman, by and large doesn’t do well with what I just did.
But I got news for you. When you get the manhood gene that God gives you and you act that way and they have a problem, those kids will come back and say, “Thanks, Dad.” And guess what? They’ll become those kind of fathers. Because kids need deeply loved and clear boundaries. So, you love them sacrificially.
Second, you’ve got to love your wives intentionally. Verses 26 to 28, Jesus, very, He sanctified them. He had a plan. And so, purposefully seek to develop your wife’s greatest beauty and gifts: spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
You want to see your wife as a flower that you’re an instrument in the hands of the living God that will bloom in ways that will produce beauty like you could never imagine.
And you’re on her team, you’re her number one cheerleader, you’re seeing gifts that she has that she doesn’t see.
Early in our marriage, I remember, my wife wrote a Christmas letter. It’s our first Christmas letter. We’re just married. And I read it. And I was writing all these papers in seminary.
And I thought, “Man, she writes way better than me.” I said, “You write, really good, honey.” “Oh, no. You’re just saying that. You’re my husband.” “No, this is really, really good.”
And then I heard her explaining to someone. I said, “Honey, I think you communicate really well.” “No, I couldn’t.”
So, anyway, first church. These ladies ask her to speak. And I said, “Honey, I think you can. And let’s go over the outline together and…”
And I, literally, she did it. There were ten or twelve women, which was a huge group back then. And she would, literally, throw up and be sick two days before she spoke. And you know what she needed? She needed, just needed someone to believe in her. Someone to say, “You can do that. You’re gifted at that.”
She did a series called, “Precious in His Sight” at a women’s retreat and it helped women so much so we had a gap on the radio – a week we needed to fill.
And I said, “Why don’t we put my wife’s stuff on there and see what happens.” So, we did. It sold more than mine.
And I could have been threatened but then I thought, “Now, wait a second. I’ve been, for twenty years, dreaming a dream to see her…” And that’s one of many, many things.
I remember when she was hitting the early part of mid-life. And, as a woman, you’re thinking, there’s osteoporosis out there, I need to be in shape, and there’s also, your body starts changing, and you need to fight against gravity.
And I came from this athletic background. I’d work out twice a day still, if I could. I just love to. It’s not a discipline. But she came from this total, never, she, nothing.
And so, we were up in Tahoe on vacation and we were talking about our relationship and where we’re headed, and what concerns you? And she said, “You know it kind of concerns me?”
And so, I said, “Well, why don’t we start walking together?” And we’ve been walking together ever since. Some of the best times of conversation.
And early on, it was literally, , I felt like I was walking slow. “You coming?” Yi-yi-yi. And then eventually it got where, “Hey, honey, could you slow down?” At one point in time, she just realized, she goes, she was really intimidated by the gyms and never…
So, I rearranged my schedule for two years so Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for fifty-five minutes during my lunch hour, we went to a gym together, I showed her how to use the machines, and we lifted and worked out.
And my wife, guess what – did that, man, that had huge difference. What am I saying? I’m responsible to be intentional about helping her develop.
We just decided on the book that we’re going to read together and then I read a chapter, she reads a chapter, we’re going to discuss it later this week. It never ends.
I’ve got to be intentional about developing her spiritually, emotionally, relationally. And loving her and helping her see what she can’t see in herself. Do you get it, guys? It’s a big job. Sacrificially, intentionally.
And, third, sensitively. That’s the nourish and the caring for your wife. It’s the little things that are big things for a woman. Little words of encouragement. It’s when you call for no reason. I know it doesn’t make sense but, believe me, it does to them somehow.
It’s when you take a walk, it’s when you talk, it’s when you plan in a date and you plan the date and you get the babysitter. Why that matters? I don’t know. It seems easier to her, she knows her better, but, okay guys, I’m just telling you. This is what’s called sensitivity.
And there’s something about, it’s noticing what’s going on around the house that’s broken.
I was, I’ve got to share this with you. This is so embarrassing. See how faded these cards are? These cards are from the early eighties. I was married about four years. And I was learning exactly what I’m teaching you.
And as I was learning it, I just realized, I am clueless. And my mind, it doesn’t – it’s one thing to hear a message or read a book. I don’t know about you but I default back to how I grew up.
And so I thought, I’m going to write down on these cards the kind of husband that I want to be and each day, I’ll just read them over and maybe, someway, somehow, over time, it’ll stick.
Because it wasn’t sticking. Oh, I was sensitive for, like, one day in a row. Oh…the next seven weren’t very good. And so, this is “life-goals with wife.” Life goals:
“My goal is to love Theresa sacrificially in a way that makes sense to her.” I just wanted to remember that was what the job was.
“My goal is to be the leader and initiator in our family that God wants me to be.” I just, I never saw that growing up.
“My goal is to get away with Theresa alone three times each year.” Now, just to be fair, guys, I don’t think I ever did it three times. But the fact that I wrote it down and said it, we usually got away at least twice, which was two more times than ever before.
“My goal is to make our home a beautiful place to live in within our priorities financially, as a gift to Theresa.” I just didn’t notice our home. At all. The washer, when she did dishes, we had this old dishwasher and so water would come out. And so she put towels underneath of it.
And the kid’s rooms, we had really old windows and so, when it rained, the water would come in and she’d put towels there.
And she would tell me these things. And I would say, “I don’t get it. A dishwasher costs a bunch of money. We don’t have a bunch of money. Those towels work. And the towels work over here. What’s the big deal?”
And then I realized, that’s her world. You know what? That’s where God designed her to oversee. I need to cooperate and I have since seen, I’m going to do everything I can, without being opulent or crazy, to create a world and an environment where where she lives her life works for her gifts.
Guys, I never did that. So, I had to write it down.
Another goal is, “My goal is to read with Theresa once a week, either a book together or separately.” Now, do I do it every week of every year? Of course not. But I can’t tell you how many dozens of books over the last thirty-two years we’ve done.
“My goal is to pray seriously with my wife once a week and briefly each day.” That doesn’t sound like a big deal. I’ve been in pastor’s conferences and I’ve asked pastors, “If you pray with your wife, no lying, raise your hand.” Less than ten percent of pastors pray with their wives.
“My goal is to give my wife what she needs instead of what she wants.” There’s a danger that I’ll touch on – one of the dangers, if you get real serious and if you have a passion to do what God wants you to do, is that you’ll think that anything your wife wants, a really good, loving husband says yes to, which produces codependency.
You need to lead – what’s best. You want to give her what’s best for her, best for the family, best for your marriage.
And, at times, that means you get rejection from her because you say, “You know what? Honey, I’d really love to do that, we really can’t afford that right now.” “But, why not?” “You know what? We really can’t”
So, are you guys getting what a man looks like? And the power, when a man shows up like this in a relationship?
As you turn the page, I want to give you a warning. The warnings are what this does not mean and I’ll give them to your briefly. But I need to balance it out.
It doesn’t mean, as I just stated, you always give your wife what she wants. I did that for about a year and a half and then I read a book on codependency and it was me. And I thought, this is not good.
Number two, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a life of your own. You need to have friends, male friends, you need to have hobbies. You need to do things planned into your life where you get from other men, and have fun, and have a world of your own that refreshes you so you can show up and bring something great to your wife. And so, wives, you’ve got to participate with that.
Now, you’ve got to balance that out. Some of you guys have really got the world of your own down. And what you got to get is what’s it mean to be a husband or a husband and a father.
Third, it doesn’t mean that you make her dependent on you. Don’t smother her. Don’t take care of things. Part of developing something is, “You can do it! Go for it!” “Oh, I don’t think I can.” “You’ll be great.”
I remember in Dallas, six lanes of traffic and mix-masters and my wife came from a little town of about two hundred. And we’d moved there, it was like, “I don’t want to drive there.” So, I drove when we had to go downtown.
And then I realized, “I’m making my wife a cripple.” Guess what? You know how you get confidence? Driving in six lanes with people going like this and realizing I did it once…I did it again. So, now she can drive anywhere. So, you don’t make your wife dependent.
And, finally, it doesn’t mean you call all the shots. It means you talk, and pray, and get God’s counsel, and you work as a team and, at the end of the day, you do what we’re called to do.
Remember that, in that one line? Step up. Step up.