The Domestic Bride

I have met some lovely young brides over the years and been delighted by the heart-felt desire of each one to please her husband. The home and its domestic challenges is an area where many brides long to excel and through which they plan to bless their husband.

Yet the domestic role of a bride is also an area where some misunderstanding and unclear concepts can lead the couple into strife. So this post is for the domestic bride.

Beautiful Bride with a Beautiful Heart

I know that not all young brides are as wonderful as others, but I want to pause for a moment and commend the many amazing and sweet young ladies I have met over the years who earnestly long to delight their husband. Some of those lucky men have been ignorant of how blessed they are. Some of them have gone on to bruise the tender heart of their darling bride.

So, to you amazing and gorgeous young ladies, I commend you for your eager and delightful intention to bless your young man. Mankind is blessed to have the undeserved devotion that you give. I pray that God bless each of you with the rewards of His grace, even if your wonderfully blessed husband does not realise how privileged he is.

Tender Hearts Get Bruised

I am sorry that it is so, but tender hearts do get bruised. Insensitive young men and starry-eyed young brides end up with the pain of disappointment, hurts and misunderstanding. Sometimes the bruises are so sore that the marriage never regains the innocence and tenderness of its initial hopes and dreams.

With the progress of time many marriages completely lose their wonder and delight. Both bride and groom draw back from their innocent hopes and their willing abandonment. Many a cranky older couple started out as two tender hearts longing for things they could never find. I will look at this subject from another angle at some time, with reference to the ‘spirit of the marriage’.

Understand the Problems

Entering into marriage and this wonderful new level of relationship with some understanding may help you. So allow me to cover some points that should help you understand the problem.

In simple terms the main problem stems from the bride’s longing to serve and bless, and the husband’s ignorance of what he wants and how things should be administered. It is hard to effectively serve and bless someone when that service is ill defined.

The Dangerous Assumptions

In marriage, the easy assumptions to make include such things as the idea that you are both wonderfully compatible. Another assumption is that it will just work out fine, all by itself. Then there is the assumption by the man that the woman will somehow instinctively do what pleases him, and the assumption by the woman that the man will instinctively be delighted by what she gives him.

All of these assumptions are dangerous, because all of them are most likely not true. They set the couple up for surprises, disappointment, argument, misunderstanding and hurts.

It is unlikely that the husband has ever clearly catalogued what he likes and what he wants. He has most likely been a passenger in life’s journey, floating along with the things his mother did for him. What ever she did will be what he sees as ‘normal’, even if she is the only person on the planet who does things that way.

If a young husband was asked to explain the domestic management of a home very few would have much depth of understanding. Most husbands are happy to leave things up to their bride. However this creates several problems.

Integration Problems

Since two separate domestic worlds are brought together by the newly-weds they will have to work through the integration issues. If they have never done such a thing before then they will be surprised how many issues arise.

There are often no right and wrong ways to do things. But we each have a sense for what is familiar to us. That familiar process is the one that will “seem right” to us, even if it is the most inefficient process ever imagined. If the bride and groom have different ideas of what is ‘right’ they will end up stumbling over each other’s perceptions. It will be easy to use words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, bringing a sense of condemnation into the relationship. If emotions are aroused, then insults and hurtful words can spill into the situation.

Tender and fragile emotions can be damaged in such an unexpected exchange.

Many a young man has rebuked his wife for not being able to cook meals the way his mother cooked it. His tastes and expectations have been moulded by his family experience and he may not realise that there is such great diversity in food and its preparation.

The Wrong Response

When a person does not have a clear idea of what they want or how to communicate it they can leave the other person directionless. Most young husbands will tend to leave their bride to do her best, not quite sure what she is going to do and how well she is going to do it.

These husbands can’t give positive guidance in such situations so the only guidance they can give is to point out what they think to be wrong. This I call the ‘wrong’ response. And the ‘wrong’ response is the wrong response!

When a husband can only tell his bride what is wrong he is set up to bludgeon her tender hopes into a calloused heart that gives up the hope of pleasing him. Or that gives him what he wants, but without any delight on her part any more.

Negative responses produce negative responses. A husband who guides his bride by disapproval is wounding her heart.

Is There a Simple Solution?

In matters of relationship there is usually no simple solution. I will offer a few simple suggestions, but I doubt that many people will heed them. I fear that many more lovely and tender young brides are going to head down the road to hardened and hurt older wives, despite what I present here. But for the sake of the one or two who may be saved from pain by my thoughts I will venture my simple solution.

Brides should be taught to expect that everything they bring into the marriage will have to be modified. They should be encouraged to go on a two-year journey of discovery of what works best in their home. They should be told that they will face some difficult challenges in this process but that they can succeed and create the most amazing new domestic formula for them both to enjoy.

The reason I put this on the bride is because she is the one who will otherwise be hurt. Her insensitive hero is less likely to be damaged in the sort-out of domestic process than the wife is. So my simple solution aims at shielding the most vulnerable party – that beautiful young woman.

If brides enter marriage with an expectation of their need to change, and a long-term time-line for getting things sorted out, there will be less pain in finding that the couple are less compatible than she hoped. There is time for the two of them to talk and explore their options. There is no silly idealism about it working perfectly from day one.

All of that helps the tender one to be more resilient in the inevitable sorting out process.

Other Helpful Steps

Obviously it is valuable for the young husband to understand the situation and how easily he can and will offend his darling bride. Men should be challenged to expect a long season of exploration and discovery. They should expect food to taste different and things to be done differently, because they are a new family, with new horizons and new possibilities.

I recommend that the couple set up an expectation – possibly suggested to them in the pre-marriage preparation process – that the husband review the bride’s processes and program at regular intervals.

While that might sound very sexist and man-serving at first glance, allow me to show why that is valuable.

The bride is built to please her man. How can she do that if she does not become attentive to what he needs or wants? If she makes her own assumptions and assessments independently of him she may spend her whole life doing things he does not want her to do in ways he does not want her to employ. This undermines her whole design and motivation.

I have also observed that two heads are better than one. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the first to observe that fact. When any person acts for their whole life without the benefit of additional input and review they are in danger of doing the wrong things the wrong way for a long time. The most valuable and understanding contributor to the wife’s situation should be her husband. So having him give input in a regulated and consistent fashion is logical and appropriate.

And I also recommend that young men be given at least some understanding of how to protect the tender heart of their beloved. The pushing of the feminist notion that men and women are equal and almost identical has robbed men of appreciation for the woman’s needs and denied women the loving care that they are due.

Adoniram Judson Impacts Burma

This is the day that … Adoniram Judson was born, in 1788.

He was to become America’s first foreign missionary. His passion for reaching Burma led to the formation of the first American Mission societies. He sailed from his homeland as a Congregationalist, and arrived in India as a Baptist, in 1812. En route his translation of the New Testament from Greek to English convicted him the Baptist position on baptism was correct.

With his young bride, Ann, he soon found himself in Burma, with a 33 year ministry (without furlough) ahead of him, during which he would see the death of both Ann and his second wife, Sarah; endure a 23-month imprisonment in intolerable conditions – and translate the Bible into the Burmese language.

Then he would return to America for a brief furlough – and go back to Burma with his third wife, Emily. Each of his wives is hailed for their commitment and contribution to his life and work. (On August 22 I will share with you a moving account of the life of Judson’s third wife, Emily Chubback)

It took him six years to see his first convert and he faced many obstacles that would have discouraged a lesser man. Significant among his converts was the first convert from the Karen tribe. The man, Ko Tha Byu, has come to be known as the Karen Apostle, the virtual founder of Karen Christianity. Recognising that Christianity was the fulfilment of his people’s own legends this man’s ministry resulted in the conversion of thousands. Within 25 years there were over 11,000 baptised Karen believers.

When Judson died in 1850 he left behind a flourishing church with 7000 members and more than 100 national Burmese pastors. He insisted that each convert be discipled with thorough Biblical training, rather than just make a confession. This led to a strong church among the converts.

“Judson became an inspiring example of missionary sacrifice and dedication for several generations of young people,” says E.A. Wilson.

True! And he would continue to be an inspiration to today’s Christian young people if they would read his biography.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

World Youth Day 2008

My Filipino Catholic friend Bobby shared an interesting insight last week – prompted to him by the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That occasion proved to be a significant meeting of Catholic and Protestant youth. He watched the broadcast of the Pope’s mass at Randwick Racecourse, where huge crowds gathered on Sunday July 20.

What he came out with surprised me and tied in with a revelation I had back in 1978.

He noted that Protestants place the emphasis for salvation on faith alone. Catholics, he pointed out, believe that faith must be accompanied by works, as is indicated in several places in the Bible.

But, he added, the Bible suggests that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics are right.

Hmmmm ?

He took me to the teaching of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

The faith profession of calling Jesus “Lord” is what many Protestants consider to be all that is needed to be saved. They are sure that no works are needed, only faith.

The Catholic position involves both faith, expressed by these people who say “Lord, Lord”, and works. Jesus points out that these people who come to Him have both! They have faith (Lord, Lord) and works (done many wonderful works).

Yet what would suit both the Protestant and the Catholic positions proves to be less than Jesus is looking for. “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

Wow!

Bobby saw in this text the fact that God looks on the heart. What God is looking for is not a faith confession, nor appropriate works to affirm the faith. But God is looking at our hearts and looking to see that we have a right heart toward Him.

Way back in 1978 I was standing in the foyer of a small church, during the opening songs, desperate for God to give me a message to preach. I was on a travelling ministry tour, as a Bible College student in New Zealand. The Apostolic church which I was about to preach to included many learned and experienced people. I wanted to bring them a message which would be more than just a rehash of my college lectures.

As I prayed, desperately, for a message, three quick images flicked in my mind. One was of the huge brass laver used in the Tabernacle. That spoke to me of my evangelical roots and the emphasis of being washed clean of our sins. The second image was of the golden lampstand from the Tabernacle. This spoke to me of the filling of the Holy Spirit and all that goes with the Pentecostal experience. To my way of thinking at that time, Pentecost built on all that evangelicalism gave us, thus giving greater power to the gospel and Biblical faith I already had.

The third image, however, completely challenged my respect for both the Evangelical gospel and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I saw a beautiful young bride, dressed in white, ready for her beloved’s embrace.

The impact of that quick sequence of images, which became the basis of my message that night, was that Christianity is all about ‘Relationship’. The end of our life is not a celebration of our faithfulness to the old time gospel, or our exploits in the power of the Holy Spirit. The culmination is a wedding, not a show and tell session. It’s all about Relationship.

When Bobby shared his insights I saw in Jesus’ words the subtext of relationship again. “I never knew you”.

Christianity is not about fulfilling the religious expectations of our brand of Christendom, but it is all about being in wonderful intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ, through our faith in the finished work of the Cross and through God’s salvation in our lives.