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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
Deep in the heart of every woman, she wants, she wants to fly. She wants to soar. And what she’s looking for is a man who will take responsibility, who will lead, who will take the first step, who will start making more statements than asking more questions, that will give direction.
Someone you can count on and someone who knows, this is how much money we have and this is what we need to do and we do have a plan for the future.
And what the man really is doing is getting in a position so he can be strong to help develop his wife so she can be that person that swirls up high and sees and experiences things in the dance that she never could.
Now, the struggle is, they want us to lead but they don’t want us to lead. They want us to lead when it works for them, according to their way. But they have, remember that barrier that they want to control. And so, this is at the heart of some real marital conflict.
And so, God says, there is a design. But, ladies, the great thing is, at the end of the day, responsibility wise. When Adam and Eve sinned and you come to the New Testament and God looks back on that issue, who does he blame?
I just don’t have any verses that say, “Eve did this, therefore…”
I’ve only got one verse that says this is what Adam did. You’re a team but the man is culpable and responsible for the relationship.
And for whatever struggle you may think it is to respect or submit or work through some of those issues, live with the heavy weight of realizing that how your family goes, how your marriage goes, you’ll stand before the judgment seat of Christ as a man and give an account for your leadership.
And I’ll tell you what, that’s a terrifying thing.
And I’ve lived in a world and most of these men have lived in a world where their fathers didn’t lead. And they didn’t know how to lead.
And then we had this feminist movement that went for fifteen or twenty years that a lot of it was really rooted in great, great compassionate needs that needed to be addressed.
And women weren’t making the same amount of money. And they’ve historically…
Women have been treated terrible, historically. I mean terrible. There’s just…you know, let’s not try and coat it over. They’ve been treated terrible, by men, historically.
But so we go through this feminist movement and now what’s happened is, we’ve got a divorce rate that’s off the scale. One half of all the women who are divorced lived, at least, some period of their life, usually two to three years, below the poverty level with their kids. The people that have been hurt.
And the average way it works is, okay, I’m liberated and career is as important or more important than family. And so what do they do? They have a career but when they get home, does that mean that the man’s doing all the cooking and everyone’s sharing everything?
All of that nurturing inside, what women have basically have got is a full-time job and another full-time job.
And then when it doesn’t work out, they end up with most of the pieces at their feet. I don’t know how you do it, ladies.
And so the call is, let’s get a dance going that really works God’s way.
And this whole issue of where He wants you and where He places you, He’ll show you. But the dance works as a woman submits and as a man leads. But before we go on, let’s talk about what this does not mean.
It does not mean that a man calls all the shots in the marriage relationship. That’s not mutual submission.
It does not mean that the woman is a doormat. That she can’t voice her approval. That she ever should feel or be treated inferior.
She has equal say. This is the CEO and the COO and board chairman coming together and saying, what’s best? And getting all the information and realizing, we are going to live with this decision.
But we all know there are some decisions. Ninety-eight percent, we come to agreement on. It’s those two percent of the decisions. Every time I hear people talk on this I don’t mean this badly.
But everyone starts waffling, like, well, we…
Ninety-eight percent of the time, it doesn’t matter. You love each other you pray, God shows you. It’s the two percent of the time, well, do we do this or we do that? Someone’s got to be morally responsible.
And God says, men, you are. And ladies, your struggle, your tension, your fear, that’s valid in many ways, is, boy, let God put all that weight on him. And say, “Lord if he’s making the wrong decision, I know You’ll protect me. But I’m going to do, voluntarily, with a good attitude what God wants me to do.”
It does not mean that you should submit to your husband’s unreasonable, unbiblical, or deviant demands. God’s will always supersedes anything your husband demands.
There’s a book that came out a number of years ago by Dr. Pierre Mornell, he’s a psychiatrist in suburban San Francisco. And it was entitled Passive Men, Wild Women.
And he describes in this book his clients, mostly female. Across the years of his practice, many women came in and they all had the same complaint.
They were married to highly successful men, men who drive across the Golden Gate Bridge every day. They went into the Financial District of San Francisco where they make their mark on the world.
Men who are leaders, men who are powerful, drove nice cars, had nice homes. But each night, when these men came home, they ceased to be leaders. The only mark they make is on their chair when they sit on it, is their wife’s complaint.
Their wives had become widows long before their time and they were widows almost before they’d been wives.
The only problem is that the corpse of theirs is a dead husband who comes home every night asking, “What’s for dinner? When will it be ready? What’s the TV schedule? I want to know what time the game starts tonight.” They’re recliner husbands.
As a result of their passive husbands, these wives are driven wild. Wild for companionship, leadership, relationship. Passive men drive women wild.
Well, ladies, the primary reason that a woman does not follow her man even when the choreographer is God is fear. It’s fear.
And you have some historical fear in your own relationships. You have some historical fear of things that have probably the most ungodly, weird stuff that’s happened in the name of God has happened in the Church.
This has been used as a club on women and men saying this is the way it is that has been completely misapplied. And you got some real fears there. And those are valid.
Nevertheless, God wants you to get out there on the ice with your husband. And He wants the rhythm and the music and the beauty for you to experience. And so, now, I want you to say to yourself, I really need to ask God what it would look like, under the big “S” of submission, mutually, of loving my husband and lordship of Christ. Where are some areas that I know I need to submit? Ladies? Okay? Can we just get right down to the brass tax? Where are some things that you know, you know your husband’s heart, you know the situation.
You have this deep inkling of even what God wants you to do and you kind of have the old, I’m not going there. You know?
And God wants you to be able to release that. And say, Would you be willing to trust Me? And I know it’s scary if he starts lifting you up because you’re thinking, “He’s dropped me a few times before.”
Well, you’re never going to dance before unless you can take that step. And if you’ll pray about what that step is and before God, kind of, quietly decide, “Lord, I’ll do that.”
I’ll try and give your husbands some encouragement in such a way that I pray God will use His Word so they’ll start catching you more often.
And so, you know what? The average guy doesn’t know how to lead. We didn’t grow up in Christian homes or we grew up in some homes that it wasn’t modeled very well. But there’s a great dance and we can learn just like you can learn.
And so, after a word to the women to follow his lead, the Choreographer, God Almighty says, a word to men, “Be worthy followers.”
We pick it up in verse 25. “Husbands, agape your wives.” Unconditionally. Choice. Not feelings. Love your wives.
Well, what’s that look like? Just as Christ loved the Church. Well, how did He love the Church? Gave Himself up for her.
Well, why did He give himself up for her? To make her holy. To make her whole. To make her pure.
How did He do it? “Cleansing her,” literally, having cleansed, is the tense of the verb. “Having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word.”
And circle the word “word.” This isn’t the written word. This is the word rhema. It’s the spoken word.
He made her holy. How? By dying on the cross, being raised from the dead. And the word was spoken and the gospel went out and people believed and when they believed, they were taken from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and their sins were put behind them and they’re pure before God. They’re holy. They’re set apart.
That’s what Jesus did. He loved the Church. He led to the point that He died. Husbands, that’s the expectation. Are some of you wives feeling just a little bit better right now? That’s the bar.
What’s the goal? “To present her,” verse 27, “to himself a radiant Church.” The idea is beautiful. Reaching their full potential.
That’s our job, as men. It’s a tough one. You want to present your wife to God as a beautiful woman, inside and out.
And then he gives you three adjectives to talk about what radiant doesn’t look like. “Without stain, without wrinkle, or any other blemish. But holy and blameless.” Pure. Blameless.
In this same way, just in case you think this is all religious or all theology. “In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body but he,” circle the word feeds and circle the word cares for it, “just as Christ does the Church. For we are members of His body.”
The word feeds here has to provide for in every way. It has the idea to promote or development of something.
And the word here for cares means, literally, to keep someone warm. It’s what it looks like to lead. To protect. To cherish. To commune in ways that your wife’s heart senses she is safe with you. You feed and care for her.
So, when you look at it, the command is, love your wives as Christ loved the Church. Men, we’re to make our aim and our goal to love our wives with the same reckless sacrifice and abandon that Jesus had in dying for His Church.
And then to protect them and to provide for them and to develop them. And the purpose is Christ did it for the Church to set her apart.
And now, as a man in my family, you thought your job was hard at work? I got news for you. It’s nothing compared to this. Your job now, as a man, is to allow your wife to reach her full potential.
A lot of you guys are in business. And if I said where are you at in your business world and what are your goals for the next two, five years?
Or in this next quarter do you have any strategic plans to move from where you are to where you need to be? And most of you could say yeah.
And some of you are going to have a strategic plan for your own body. I work out three times a week and I lift twice a week and this is what I do.
You know, you have plans in lots of areas. Here’s what I’d ask you. Do you have a strategic plan to develop your wife to make her the most beautiful person, spiritually, emotionally, and physically as she could possibly be, with your help?
And my confession is I have done that progressively and it changes in every season. And when the kids were small, I kind of saw what that looked like.
And as the kids got to here, I saw what that looked like. And now, what I’m learning, this is my growth pattern, is the empty nest, it looks different than it did before.
And because there aren’t kids that develop, sort of, a system and a structure in your home, I, literally, have to step back and retool. And a lot of it, kind of, got on autopilot, you know? This worked because since the kids were here, we did this on Friday. And this always works, since this happened, we did it here.
And I realized, you can’t live off the old past of development. Early on, I remember my wife wrote a little Christmas letter.
We were in seminary. Just a little Christmas letter. And you know those ones where everybody tells you about Bobby got a new rubber ducky and Freddy past his math class.
And it’s really neat if you know the people. And it’s not so neat if you don’t know them so well. Get these eleven-page letters of personal history that you don’t really want to get.
And we were trying to catch people up. Sending it to our family. And it was one page. And I remember reading it. And I thought, I’m almost like, did you get this out of a book, or something? She goes, “No, I just wrote that.”
I thought, because I have to write a lot and I’m writing all these papers and taking all of these languages.
And I’m thinking, she says more in a page than I say in four. You are really good. I mean, you are really good.
And then I remember, there was like fifteen ladies or twelve and they wanted her to teach a little Bible study.
You know, “I don’t really do that kind of stuff.” And it was big step. And I remember just, “Oh, honey, you ought to give that, you ought to try that.”
And over the years, just all my little part was I saw a gift in her she couldn’t see.
Another season in our life, I came from a real athletic family and we used to go up in these mountains near Lake Tahoe.
And she just says, “You know, I just want to really get in shape or something.” And I’m always playing and doing all this stuff.
And I still remember the first time I said, “Well, let’s take a walk.” And we walked from this house down to this park. And I was super insensitive because I do this stuff all the time so pretty soon, I’m like thirty yards ahead, not being very kind.
But then we, I just realized, that wasn’t very smart. And so we started walking. And I can’t tell you how long that…
But walking or exercising became a part of her life. And I thought, see, that was a small part of me getting to build into her life that helped her develop.
Now, I could sit here and give you fifteen ways she’s built into my life.
But, men, what I’m saying is, what I’m realizing right now is those are a couple of the good stories. What I’m realizing right now, she’s in a different season of life, I’m in a different season of life.
I’ve got to figure out how to do that at the next level and I’m scratching my head a little bit. But a lot of it, what I realize is, focus, discipline, write it out. All the things I’ve been telling you, God is doing this in me right now.
Guys, what’s your plan? Your wife needs to get to skate to the music. And she needs to become radiant and beautiful, inside and out.
My question is, how do you, how do I help her, encourage her, serve her, recklessly, sacrificially love her to help her get there? Okay? That’s what it means to be worthy of following.
What this means is, husbands must love sacrificially. Second, it means husbands must love with intentionality.
And third, it means husbands must love sensitively.
Sacrifice. It’s going to cost. This is not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to be easy.
Second, you’ve got to have intentionality. You need to bring the same intentionality to your marriage that we bring to our work.
And third, with a level of sensitivity. When you get locked on, don’t, as I’ve done, “Okay, this will really be good. You’re going to love this. Do this.” That does not work.
You need to do it gently. What it does not mean is that you always give in to what your wife wants. That creates codependency. You need to give.
I remember on a 3x5 card, I remember I was trying to be this super husband and I found I was doing anything she wanted. I’ll do that, I’ll do that, I’ll do that, I’ll do that.
And then I realized, you know what? This is crippling her, not helping her. Give your wife what she needs, not what she wants.
She needs stretched, she needs adventure, she needs to do things where she doesn’t feel confident. How does everyone gain confidence? You gain confidence by doing something you’re afraid to do and you do it and you go, “Whoa, I did it.”
Then you do something a little bit bigger and you do it and, “I did it!” Sometimes, in an effort to love, we can smother our wives trying to take care of everything and on the one hand, they love it, short-term. And then they resent us because, you know what? I don’t feel like a woman anymore. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.
And so you’ve got to figure out: how do you give your wife what she needs? That doesn’t always mean you give her what she wants.
And when you don’t give her what she wants, she will be mad. Okay? And she’ll either be a shark or a turtle, okay? And you’re going to have conflict, okay? Welcome to the spiritual NFL.
But that’s a part. Doesn’t Christ do that with us? That’s how she’s going to grow. But the motive is, I love her.
The second thing it doesn’t mean is it doesn’t mean you don’t have a life. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have times of refreshments. You know, I’ve had a couple guys really lock onto this and say, “You know I don’t have any men friends anymore. I don’ have any fun anymore.” No, no, no.
It doesn’t mean that all of your life surrounds in helping your wife be a radiant bride. You’ve got to make sure you take care of yourself as well as developing her.
And third, don’t smother her, your wife, to make her dependent, or worse, you codependent, on her.
And it’s about the dance. It’s not about who is in control. And it all begins with submission to God’s will for both of you.
Final point I want to make as we close up is just a word to the world. You know, we’ve talked about us and our roles, the role of the man, the role of the woman.
Are you ready for this? It’s really not even about the dance. It’s about what God wants to do through the dance.
See, we get so caught up in who takes what step and are you meeting my needs and it’s all about dancers, dancers, dancers and how it’s going to work.
And God says, no, it’s really about: I want to create something of such rhythm and beauty that someone would ask, I wonder who the choreographer is? Because the way they move together, the way they love one another, the way they resolve conflict, the level of sacrifice, the tenderness that I see, the intimacy that they experience is like this message beaming out to the world that Jesus really is God and that He and His bride are one.
Paul finishes that in verse 31. Notice he says, “For this reason.” For what? You know? That’s a purpose clause. “For this reason,” what? This about the woman and this about the man. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Have we heard that somewhere before?
Isn’t it interesting, that’s the very first verse, that’s God’s blueprint. And we come all the way through to the very end and he says, “For this reason” when he describes how we function, we’re right back to the same purpose.
But notice his application. Then the application, “This is a profound mystery.” What? “How a man and a woman could leave, cleave, become one flesh, and develop this organic, real unity. It’s a mystery. But I am talking about Christ and the Church.” But that’s the picture.
“However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband.”
My point in all of this series, of experiencing God’s dream for your marriage, this is bigger than your relationship. This is bigger than your fulfillment.
This is us having the kind of marriages, progressively, it’s a journey, and we’ll fall. But having the kind of marriages where the watching world becomes convinced because of our progress and our love and sacrifice that Jesus is really God.
And that the only hope for the world is a relationship with Him because that’s what produced the kind of marriage that you have.
Perfect? Never. Significant, intimate, growing, rich, deep? Yes. Hard? Filled with conflict? Times of despair? Sure. But in the progress, through each season, a radiant bride developed and a man who becomes more like Christ.