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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
Well we are getting near the end of this entire series and we’ve talked about a lot of things. God’s blueprint. We know His design. We learned there’s a big problem. We got barriers we’re going to have to work through for the rest of our life.
And then we said there’s a process. We’ve got to learn to communicate. And there’s some skills we need to learn. And then after that, we said there’s a way to resolve conflict. That we’ve got to get that put together and figure out, when there’s road blocks, what do you do with it?
And now we’re going to talk about something that, historically, has been all the way over. Some people have taken this issue of, now, what’s the man going to do in terms of responding to what God says? And then, over here, what’s the woman supposed to do?
And I want to love Theresa the way Christ loves the Church and I want to be a good dad to my kids and I know there’s barriers and I want to learn to resolve conflict. But we’ve got to figure out how to do it together. And I’m going to have a role and she’s going to have a role but I’ve got to know what my role is or I’m not going to do it or if I think part of it is her role that she thinks is mine, there’s confusion and conflict. Unfortunately, I think this has been positioned as a debate in the Church. It’s been a big debate. You know, is it hierarchical? Is it egalitarian and books are written on this side and books are written on this side. And, well, what’s your position, who’s right, who’s wrong, who has the authority, who makes the decisions, how does it work?
And here’s what I’d like to do. The fact of the matter is, Monday morning’s coming. And you’ve got to work it out in your home and I’ve got to work it out in my home. I’d like to suggest that we take the lens of debate, unscrew it from the camera of our mind, drop it in the trash, and we take a different lens and put it on our camera to look at our roles and say let’s forget a debate.
Look at it through a completely new paradigm and let’s look at our relationships with one another of learning to build a godly, quality, deep, intimate marriage through the lens of a dance.
Now, let me give you the word picture here. It’s the Olympics. If you’re a guy, like me, and the Olympics come on, there’s certain activities you love to watch.
There’s certain activities, when they come on, you sort of blow off and say, I really don’t want to watch those.
One of the things that I never really cared to watch is the mixed paired skating. Have you seen that? Right? You know? The little girls come out. And the music starts. And the guy’s out there like this [sings].
And he goes backwards, he goes backwards [sings]. And then she comes and he lifts her up and goes like this, you know? And I’m thinking, man, that girl’s got a lot of confidence in that guy.
And then she drops and then she spins. Wrrrrrrrrr, boom. Right to the music. And then [sings]. And at the end [sings]. Right?
Now, you’ve all seen this skating, haven’t you? It was just about like that? Well, maybe close? My daughter loves that stuff. Annie, “Oh, Dad, Dad, Dad.” There’s a basketball game on.
“Oh, Dad, don’t you want to watch the mixed skating with me?” Well, you know daughters are kind of, they got that something with their dads.
I’ve watched more mixed skating than I want to admit to. And as I watched it, I realized, you talk about athletes. You talk about strength. And it’s not just, you know in track, when you run down like you do the triple jump or the long jump? It’s one person, a lot of power, a lot of strength. They hit, they do it, boom.
You can be ugly in the air, it doesn’t matter. But those dancers on ice. He moves, she moves. He moves, she moves. She gets ready, he braces, she goes up in the air, spins around, and he flips her, and you know something? If he’s in the wrong spot, she lands on her head.
Or that one, have you seen the one where when she comes around, she starts, guys, this is impossible. You know, like, when her leg goes right here? You know that one?
And she starts doing this. And then the leg comes down and he grabs the skate and he starts doing this. Have you seen that one? And in slow motion, her head is, like, missing the ice like this?
I’m thinking, that woman really trusts that man. And that man’s really strong. And he knows where to be and when to lift and what to do.
And she knows when to trust and let go and when she needs to be strong and all of this is done to, there’s something in the background, isn’t there? There’s music.
And it’s not like they’re just doing it. They actually do it together to the music and what else is true? It’s not like it’s the Olympics and they come on the ice and he turns to her and says, “So, uh, what do you want to do tonight?” “Uh, I’ll go right, you go left.”
There was a choreographer. People get paid lots of money to do what? To mark out every single step, every single move. Now, the guy, you’ve got to be here, you’ve got to be positioned here. When this happened, you have to jump. When you jump, it has to be at this angle.
You must catch her right here. If you don’t catch her here, we got big problems. And every single movement of that ice dance goes perfectly to the music.
Have you ever seen them where they end and the music goes, “Buuum!”? And then, like, three seconds later they go, “buuum.” I haven’t. They end together on time.
And what I want to suggest is we ought to can the whole debate issue. So, what if you’re right? What if you win the debate? It’s, I’m supposed to do this. You’re supposed to do that. No, I’m supposed to do this. You’re supposed to do that.
The fact of the matter is, when those people are on the ice, it’s beautiful. And when they get done, they’re beaming. And there is a joy you can see in the man being at the right spot at the right time and the woman doing what the woman’s supposed to do and them creating something.
I actually got a confession, okay guys? I like it now. I’m almost ashamed. But even when Annie’s not there, I might sneak a little peak because it’s like, this is amazing.
What if you looked at your marriage as a dance instead of a debate? Instead of arguing about who’s right, who’s wrong. Oh, that’s the man’s duty, that’s the woman’s duty.
Well, if you don’t do that, I’m not going to do that. Well, I’ve read the man is supposed to do that. Why don’t you step up and catch me here.
What if you said, if it’s not a good dance it’s not a good dance for either of you.
I put some notes together and the first question I would ask is, is your marriage a dance or a debate?
And I came across a quote. Do you ever have something in your file that looks like this? I have no idea where it came from. So anyone that I happen to be stealing from I want you to know before God and these people, I don’t know who it is. But it is the greatest little quote about marriage and a dance.
And the author says, “A good marriage has a pattern like a dance and it’s built on some of the same rules. The partners don’t need to hold on tightly because they move confidently in the same pattern. Intricate but swift and free like country-dance of Mozart.
“There’s no place here for possessive clutches or clinging arms or a heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to facte, now back to back – it doesn’t matter which because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm creating a pattern together and being invisibly nourished by it.
“Where the heart is flooded with love, there is no room for fear, for doubt, or for hesitation and it is the lack of fear that makes for the dance.”
Isn’t that neat? It’s the lack of fear that makes for the dance.
“When each partner loves so completely that he has forgotten to ask himself or herself whether or not he’s loved in return, only then he loves and is moving in a music, then, and only then are two people able to dance perfectly in tune with the same rhythm.”
And I’d like to say, if we looked at it as a dance, what would it look like for you to have a beautiful dance in your marriage?
You notice here, a great dance demands a few things. One, a choreographer, right? Someone has to write out all the steps for both partners.
Second, mutual submission to His steps. When they’re on that ice, I don’t think the girl can say, “I’m not jumping then. Okay? I’m not jumping then.” And he says, “Okay, you don’t jump? Next time, I won’t catch you.”
That’s not going to work. Someone has to write out all the steps, both partners have to submit to the choreographer, they have to, it’s got to be real clear. When do you jump and when do I catch?
And I’ve never seen it where, anyone seen where the guy jumps and the girl catches? Two hundred and twenty-five pounds on a hundred and fifteen pound little girl. That probably would not be pretty.
So they’ve got to know what’s going on. And then, after clarity of roles, there’s practice, practice, and more practice.
That, what they do that looks so effortless, that looks so beautiful, it’s months and years on the same routine. And practicing and practicing and practicing.
And by the way I’ve seen some of the footage when they interview them? Where they show, like, even in warm ups where they fall. So, you never get a dance like this without some bumps on the head, and your partner not catching you at the right time or you stepping on their toe. A great dance develops some pretty neat stuff, though. A great dance develops an incredible team.
Second, it develops balance, timing, rhythm, and strength. What if your marriage was characterized by balance, good sense of timing, what you do, when you do it? A sense of rhythm and strength. A good dance brings personal joy and joint fulfillment.
And finally, I have come to realize, it’s a thing of beauty.
God’s design for the dance of marriage. Let’s look at what He says, a man is to do in the dance and a woman is to do in the dance. And I’d like to just take, kind of, that outline that I gave you about a good dance and let’s walk through this together.
First of all, mutual submission to the Choreographer.
Ephesians 4 is going to teach us how to live this brand new life. We’re going to talk about this new purity we have before God and relationships. And then in Ephesians 5:18 we’re told, “Be filled,” it’s a command, an imperative, “with the Spirit.” Be controlled with the Spirit.
And then the evidence of being controlled, you’re going to speak to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks for all things.
And then the ultimate umbrella that will take this section o f the passage into the entire rest of the book is verse 21.
So the context of all that he’s going to say about marriage, all he’s going to say about parenting, all he’s going to say about the child/parent relationship is an evidence of the Spirit controlling you.
So, what you need to hear is, there’s a dance happening but the dance is going to happen inside this box and the box is verse 21. And God is the Choreographer. He has written the steps.
And he says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission to the choreographer.
In God’s economy, he doesn’t even start with, “Where the woman does this, the man does this.” No, no, no.
And by the way, you can go in cultures all over the world and they’ve got it all different ways. He says, look. First of all, submit to one another with what focus? Out of fear or reverence for Christ.
It’s a very ancient word here, submit. It’s a compound word. Hupo, to be under. Tasso, under the rank.
It means to be under the commanding officer. It’s the idea of being subject to one another. It’s a picture of people who relate in a marriage with no self-assertive, independent nature.
One commentator, I love, he put it this way, “It’s a desire, to desire less than one’s due. A sweet reasonableness of attitude in response to the Spirit’s control to consider your mate more important than yourself.”
You see that when we’re going to talk about the dance, here’s the given. The box that God describes the dance of male/female relationships in marriage has this umbrella and the umbrella is the man and the woman, before they ever take the first step, they say, “God, You are my Lord. Out of reverence for You and what You’ve done for me, I, first and foremost, want to surrender my selfish desires. I want to love You by loving my mate.”
And do you see where that removes an awful lot of the, “Well, let’s see, does she does that and he does that?” All of a sudden you only start the dance with a desire to receive less than you’re due. To give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Submit to one another out of the fear of Christ. And then, now that you’re walking with the Lord, you want to obey Him, you want to serve and help your mate. Well, if you’re going to dance together, he says, okay, now.
Help me if I’m wrong but when they get on those skates and the music starts, they both can’t, someone has to take the first step so the other person can follow.
Doesn’t make them superior or better. It’s not about inequality. But someone has to take the first step so they can get in the rhythm of the choreographer and the music.
And what God says, as a word to women, is follow his lead. Verse 22. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”
You might circle the word “submit.” It’s the same one but this submission is sort of a small “s” under the capital “S” submission of first to God.
So he says, “Wives, submit to your husband as to the Lord.” Why? “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body of which he is the savior. Now, as the Church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
And I know some of you are saying, “Chip, you can frame this any way you want but that just sounds very, that sounds very provincial, that sounds very politically incorrect and I can’t believe you’re saying that this is how it works, even under the submission of God.
Well, let me tell you this. When it was written, it was far more politically incorrect than today.
But for just the opposite reason. During this time that Paul wrote this, he is actually treating women as a co-heir of the grace of God. When Paul wrote this, a woman was a piece of property and you could buy a wife cheaper than you could buy a slave, often.
When Paul wrote this, Jews would, although their theology would tell them different, their practice was to get up every day and after they’d thanked God for who He was, the next part of their prayer, every morning is, “I thank God I’m not a woman.” How would you like to be married to that guy?
The Greeks in this time, in the literature comes out, they changed wives like tissue paper. One Greek philosopher said during this period, “Wives are meant for being given in marriage, divorce, and being married again.”
When Paul wrote this, a guy could go through, twenty, thirty, forty wives. And if you don’t measure up, you had no rights. You’re a piece of property. Forget it.
So, Paul is creating this husband/wife, co-heirs of the grace of God. In Galatians he’ll say, “Even in the body of Christ, there’s not male or female or slave or free.” He’ll say, “You all are co-heirs of the grace of God.”
Not only does she have personhood but you are to treat this person that the world says is a slave and worthless and of lesser value, you’re supposed to treat her the way Christ loved the Church. You’re to sacrifice your life for her. Now, I just want to tell you how this works.
So, when the people read this, if you think this sounds politically incorrect like, I’m going to submit? I’m going to respect? And I’ll teach you in a minute what it means and what it doesn’t mean.
The people in the first century had just the same response for the opposite reason. You mean to tell me a woman’s worth that? Get out. You know what? You know what? In one of pocket, I can get three or four wives if I want to.
And if I don’t, you know what? Even in Judaism. You could divorce your wife, in part of the literature, for burning the toast. You’re done. Next.
And so, what you need to hear, you need to hear this through – it may not be politically correct then. It may not be politically correct now. But what’s important is that if you want a great dance, if you want your marriage to work, if you want it to be a thing of rhythm and beauty and intimacy.
God says someone has to take the first step so the other person can take the next step. Someone needs to be built in such a way, when they come, that they can lift the other person. And someone needs to have some grace and beauty.
I just can’t see a lot of those guys spinning up in the air like those girls did. And he’s saying you’re uniquely made. Let me tell you, under the submission of the Lordship of Christ, how it works.
And so, as the Church submits to Christ, wives should also submit to their husbands in everything.
And by the way, this idea of submitting to your husband? It’s as unto the Lord. It’s not that I obey my husband exactly how I obey Christ.
I submit to how God is going to lead as an act of lordship to say, “God, You are sovereignly in control and You placed this man to catch me and hold me and I am doing this as an act of worship to You.”t
Because the average woman, the biggest, hardest part of submitting is looking kind of, across the chair or across the room and saying, “Yeah, I don’t know if that guy’s going to make the right decision. I don’t know if I jump, if he will or can catch me.”
And so a lot of wives never get to where they get into the rhythm of the dance for all the fears of what might happen. And he says, well, just do it as unto the Lord.
And by the way, there, in every relationship, every organization, every institution, someone leads, right? Someone leads.
And people want to debate this and fight about it. The buck stops somewhere. In every relationship.
It’d be interesting if I asked you who’s the leader in your house? Who, and by that, who takes initiative? Who has the weight of responsibility? Who has the job, in your house, of initiating the part of the dance, doing the heavy lifting, and loving the way Christ loved the Church?
And this may be a little uncomfortable but I’ll let you know here in just one second, I have five questions to ask you. And how you answer these questions will tell you exactly who’s leading. Okay? Really, really simple.
Question number one is who handles the money? Not necessarily just who handles the checks. Who feels the moral weight of what’s happening financially in your house?
Question number two. When both of you are home, who disciplines the children? Question number three. Who initiates talking about future plans or addressing problems? See, leaders initiate. Leaders see needs. Leaders provide. Leaders protect.
Question number four. Who asks the most questions and who makes the most statements? I was with a young couple recently and they were conversing, probably, for about an hour and a half as I was around them. And I heard the young man say, “Honey, where do you want me to put this diaper?” Question. “Honey, where do you want to go for lunch?” Question.
“What do you think I ought to do with this?” Question. “What about this? Do you think maybe we should do this?” Question. “We’ve got a big decision to make. What do you think we ought to do?” Question.
He’s a very strong guy. But he’s abdicated almost all of his leadership. Who is feeling all the weight to make all the decisions? The wife.
Who ends up, usually, handling the money in most homes? And feels the weight of them? The wife. When two people are together and a kid’s out line, who gets out of the La-Z-Boy or who is the person who’s probably already up and addresses the issue? The wife.
What we’ve done is we’ve reversed a lot of roles. That’s what leaders do. Leaders take initiative, leaders provide, leaders see what needs to happen, leaders…
And by the way, when we do that, then it’s easy to submit. When we don’t, we’ll learn in a minute, it’s kind of hard.
So, I hope that didn’t, kind of, jolt your world a little bit. But this issue of who takes the first step and initiates is not all that hard to figure out.
But what God is saying, in this dance, is women? Follow his lead. The command, “Be subject,” same word – hupotasso – “to your husband as an act of obedience and reverence to Christ.”
The reason: the husband is the head. And you know what? There’s been lots of articles written and it’s just very interesting to watch the literature that goes back and forth. But you can do lots of word studies in Greek about head. And the word head means head.
And the way it’s used all throughout is, it’s a position of authority. Okay? And that’s not politically correct either.
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 and I want to give you a picture. See, we think headship has to do with inferiority and superiority. We think headship has to do with one-upmanship. What you’re going to find is, headship really is where the buck stops.
It’s not so much who makes the decisions, it’s who is ultimately responsible? That’s the key. And what you’re going to find is, is that there is no lower level or lack of authority or equality or importance unless you have really marred theology.
1 Corinthians chapter 11, skip down to verse 3. Paul is talking about being an imitator of him like he imitates Christ. And then he praises them in verse 2 remembering and telling them to hold firmly to the traditions that as he taught.
And then notice verse 3. “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man. And the man is the head of a woman. And God is the head of Christ.”
Now, is Jesus less than God? No. Is He inferior than God the Father? No. But what’s he say? In function and design, in the Godhead, Jesus willfully, voluntarily. In fact, the word for submit here? It’s in what’s called the middle voice.
It’s a woman, voluntarily, of herself, submitting out of reverence to God and out of love for the husband.
And this is not a big thumb on top of the woman going, “You’ve got to submit.” This is God saying, “Living out the lordship of Christ the way the dance works best is I want you, of your own volition, to voluntarily respond in this way, the same way Jesus responds to the Father.”
Now, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Is he less God? No. Jesus is worshipped. The Spirit is worshipped. The Father is worshipped.
I can give you passages of Scripture, they’re the tri-unity. And yet, inside that relationship, for harmony, there’s specific roles.
And so this is nothing to do with inferiority. It’s about how does it work? It’s God’s sovereign design, not just for marriage, but it’s sovereign design for how the Godhead works.
What does this mean? It means that marriage is not an egalitarian, fifty-fifty proposition. And by the way, in practice, they never are anyway. Not politically correct but biblically true.
It means there are specific roles and functions and lines of authority in marriage that are to be carried out with a winsome love and tenderness toward one another.
Third, it means these roles flow out of God’s sovereign design and our mutual submission to one another.
This, there’s no room for, as we’ll see in a minute, heavy handed chauvinism, “I call all the shots,” attitude at all.
Fourth, it means the woman voluntarily submits out of love to her husband.
And finally, a woman’s greatest fulfillment and joy will be achieved and embraced by following God’s design.
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.
Because most women are not made by God to lift up the guy. Can you just imagine one of those little girls like this? You know how they do the splits? And he does this?
Can you imagine a little, one of those little girls doing that with one of those men? I just see, sort of, this hole in the ice. You know? Honey, good try.
And there’s a lot of women, that their marriage experience is like a hole in the ice. And they just feel the weight of everything because the fact of the matter is, we let them lead.
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.