While married life is a wonderful gift to mankind and brings some of the sweetest rewards that people can enjoy, it is also challenged by many things.
If the couple have godly wisdom and live in the fear of God, they can overcome the challenges and enjoy blessing upon blessing. If the couple are selfish, foolish and separated from God’s wisdom and grace, the challenges grow into destructive processes.
There are two positions people can take which pull down their marriage. One is that husbands become ‘Dungeon Lord’ and the other is that wives become ‘Rebel Queen’ in their home.
Building a World for the Wife
Back in 1972 I met Dr Jack Hayford on his first visit to Australia. It was my privilege to play chauffeur for him during part of his visit and I was wonderfully blessed by his messages.
Jack’s message to men challenged them that their wife has to live within the bounds of the world the men create for the family.
Small men, he pointed out, create small worlds for their wives. God’s best is that men become great in stature and create vast realms in which their wife can fully express who she is.
Jack told how he let his wife choose what car to buy and what house to buy for the family. When he told his church elders they were shocked, saying that such decisions were for men to make. Jack said he had much bigger things to think about than cars and houses. He was concerned about the whole nation of America.
Small men demand that they make the ‘big’ decisions. But those decisions are not really big. Compared to the realm of truly giant men those ‘big’ decisions are incidental.
Men can build a big world for their wife by becoming bigger in themselves and operating in an expanded realm.
Some men are small on the inside. Trapped in fear, insecurity, shame, loss of meaning and intimidation, they hide in a dark dungeon of isolation, petty values, distrust, confinement and the like.
When those men raise a family they cannot let their wife and children live with greater freedom than they feel within themselves, so they become lord of their own dungeon. They may effectively trap their wife in the home. They may monitor and police all the things their children do, for fear that they go outside the narrow bounds in which the man lives. They will be given to control, confinement, distrust, intense monitoring and so on.
Such dungeon lords create horrible homes in which their families are trapped. Usually the children make a break for it at their earliest opportunity. Wives can be trapped in the man’s private dungeon for their entire married life.
An elderly lady asked me for help many years ago. She had been raised in the church and loved God. The man she married was from a heathen background, but she hoped to soften him in her role as his wife.
Instead of winning him over, this lady spent sixty years under the tyranny of a man who rejected all things Christian. He was given to intense anger, especially when his sporting team lost a match.
When the man was hospitalised, shortly before his death, the wife sought me out and asked if God would forgive her for marrying such a man. She had been trapped away from her faith and was unable to bring any of her children up in the fear of God. They only feared their father’s dominating anger. They became sports fanatics, but had no knowledge of the saviour whom their mother loved in her youth.
Slaves to Fear
Another man I knew a few years ago proved to be a dungeon lord. He demanded that his wife be totally submitted to him. He kept her away from friends, monitored her phone calls, gave her no money, inspected her shopping, dumped anger on her if she did not do exactly what he wanted, and trapped her in the dungeon of his own smallness.
The man was himself a slave to fear. He had no confidence in God, despite his religious connections. He felt compelled to lord it over his wife, out of fear, insecurity and obsession to control. He was first a slave; otherwise he would never have made his wife into one.
Men who become dungeon lords are really inmates of the dungeon themselves. They cannot live in freedom, so they cannot allow others to live in liberty. They fit the description given in Hebrews, “through the fear of death they are slaves for the whole of their lives” (Hebrews 2:15).
The Winning Way
People who are free on the inside do not enslave others. God, who is the ultimate in freedom, gives all His creations free will, even to rebel. Angels were able to rebel and mankind is free to reject God.
Rather than bringing God down and demeaning Him, the actions of others have no power to change Him. Men who fear that rebellion from their wife or family demeans them are not finding their value and wholeness in God.
The winning way is to love those in our care. When a husband loves his wife and places trust in her, he elevates her. When a father loves his children and places trust in them he elevates them. God loves us and trusts us, which elevates us into the potential to receive His forgiveness and become His children.
Women will upset their husbands and children will bring distress to their parents. No amount of slavery can stop that. So the game is not to enslave, but to lovingly nurture and direct.
Another aspect of the winning way is faith. When a man places his faith in God he trusts God to oversee the hearts of his wife and children. He also looks to God for loving wisdom that will enable the man to win his wife and children to the godly values which he embraces.