Marriage Big Issues

I recently read a book by Joel and Kathy Davisson, Man of Her Dreams, in which they address a tendency by some men to make the wife’s “submission” a key issue in marriage.

As they see it, Biblical marriage teaching popularised in the 1980’s ended up making “submission” the key issue in Christian marriages, leading to various ways in which wives have suffered. To bring redress they seek to wind back the significance of a wife’s submission and call upon men to lay down their lives for the wife.

It seems that the 1980’s teaching promised that if a wife submitted, the marriage would be wonderful. So the Davisson’s replace that erroneous idea with the proposition that if a husband submits to the vision of the marriage as directed by his wife, then they will live happily ever after.

Joel and Kathy’s book prompted me to consider how I would address imbalanced thinking about the Biblical issues for husband and wife.

Mind Your Own Business

The readily identifiable responsibilities for husband and wife as given in the Bible are clearly that the husband must “love” his wife and the wife must “submit” to her husband.

Now obviously wives are to love their husband and husbands give attention to and work alongside their wives. Mutual affection and submission are obviously ideal in a good working marriage relationship. However, the clear directive is that the husband give supreme attention to loving his wife and the wife give supreme attention to submitting to her husband.

But take note that the clear instructions to love and submit are clearly addressed to the responsible party, not their spouse. Husbands are not instructed to enforce submission, nor the wife instructed to force her husband to love her. Each is individually accountable before God for their actions.

So, husbands and wives, “Mind Your Own Business!”

Marriage is not a battleground where you struggle to get your spouse to do their part. It is a place where you live in the fear of God and be the man or woman God has called you to be, through all the “for better or for worse” challenges.

Dear Husband Dear Wife

Let me show you, in your face, so you can’t miss it, that the instructions for a husband and wife are given to the relevant party. It is NOT your place to be an enforcement officer in your marriage, or anyone else’s.

Ephesians 5 is the most extensive Bible passage addressing the responsibilities of a husband and wife. Here we see the love/submit responsibilities stated repeatedly and expanded with reference to Christ and the Church. Yet at no point is anyone authorised to police the responsibilities, except the individual husband and wife taking responsibility for their own actions.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22

“Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” Ephesians 5:24

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25

So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28

“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

Note that the last verse does not say, “Husbands see that your wife reverences you”.

The Focus on You

When Paul repeats to the church he planted in Colosse the personal responsibilities of husband and wife he goes on to show that these are personal responsibilities before God. The point is, therefore, that we are not accountable to our spouse, but to God. And our spouse is not accountable to us, but to God.

In Colossians 3:18-25 Paul addresses wives, husbands, children, fathers and servants in a common instruction regarding their personal challenges.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men;

Knowing that of the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ. But he that does wrong will receive for the wrong which he has done: and there is no respect of persons.”

Note that the Lord will reward those who do right and will see that wrong actions receive due response, because all we do, as wife, husband, child, father or servant, is really done in service of Christ our Lord.

Beware the Human Heart

Marriage issues in western Christian homes are rarely about the husband or the wife not knowing their role and responsibility. The problems spring from the selfish evil human heart we all carry within us.

Men fail to love their wife. They do so often because of laziness and selfishness. They also do so because of resentment toward the wife.

Women fail to submit to their husband. They do so because of such things as self interest, self will and resentment.

God is watching our heart and will reward us according to how our heart responds to the various challenges that come our way, including the challenges that come from our marriage and family.

I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:10

Always Show Grace

The most common issue in marriage is that husband, wife or both have given up giving grace to each other. We all know that when we are in a good mood we suffer all manner of frustrations, but when we are troubled by ill will toward our spouse we find it impossible to show grace.

Human selfishness is counter to God’s grace. We are sinful but God is perfect. We are instructed by Christ to show God’s grace so we too may be perfect.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; So you may be the children of your Father in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.” Matthew 5:44,45

Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

However our human heart rebels against blessing those who we feel have wronged us. And that is toxic to a marriage.

Enter Resentment

Newlyweds find many things to resent in their newfound spouse. We enter marriage with hopes, dreams, delusions, false ideas about ourself and our spouse, fears, insecurities, unrealistic expectations, and so on. It is a recipe for hurts and disillusionment.

But in the honeymoon phase we tend to press past these bumps and show grace, in the hope that we can get our spouse to change, or in a trade-off for the benefits which marriage provides.

Eventually, however, our selfish hearts give up on grace and we give in to our selfish feelings. Not everyone pouts, seethes or revolts, but the tiny roots of disappointment, resentment, hurt, frustration, disillusionment and the like begin to sprout in our hearts.

What I call “resentment” is the soft term for “bitterness”. But westerners don’t like to be told they have such ugly things in their heart, so they will more likely accept the softer label of resentment, since resentment suggests we have a right to be resentful based on the failure or actions of the other party.

Enter Bitterness

Having softened you up with the ‘R’ word (resentment), let me switch it for the ‘B’ word, Bitterness.

The writer to the Hebrews warns us clearly that if we fail to show grace the alternative is BITTERNESS. Call it by any other name if you like, but if you are feeling hard feelings toward your spouse you are in bitterness! Sorry about that, but it’s actually YOUR FAULT. You are in deep trouble because your heart has rejected God’s grace and given in to the powerfully destructive bitterness plant growing in your heart.

See it for yourself in the book of Hebrews….

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrews 12:14-16

Let me paraphrase the message for you…

‘Live by peace and holiness, or you will never see the Lord. And be really careful about always giving God’s grace to people, because if you don’t a “root of bitterness” will spring up and trouble you and poison many people. And don’t commit spiritual adultery by putting other things ahead of your spiritual inheritance, like Esau did, selling his birthright for self indulgence.’

Be Not Bitter

Your selfish heart will readily enter into resentment (bitterness) and will justify those feelings based on the failure of your spouse.

Wives and Husbands will feel hurt, frustration, disappointment, shame, offence, defeat, death of their vision for the marriage, and all sorts of related feelings. Those feelings could easily feed feelings of self-pity, defeatism and depression. Those feelings make psychologists busy and profitable.

But God’s will is that we do not give in to those various expressions of bitterness. We are to show grace, like God does, and not fail to keep giving our best to those who don’t deserve it, just as God gives sunshine and rain equally to the good and the evil.

No matter what our spouse puts us through God is watching our heart to see how we react. He wants us to react in a perfect expression of His grace. Our flesh wants to react with anger, manipulation, retaliation, indulging our hurt feelings, and so on.

Note Paul’s specific word to husbands in Colossians …..

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:19

The Big Issue is the Heart

The big issue in marriage is not the wife’s submission. And it is not the perfection of the husband’s love for his wife. The whole trouble with marriage is the resentment and bitterness that springs up in the human heart, producing hardness toward the spouse and justifying those bitter thoughts and the resultant actions they produce.

What comes out the husband’s heart and what comes out of the wife’s heart are the “issues of life” for that couple. Well, it is actually the issue for the individual, since the spouse does not really get affected.

Ooops! Did I hear a reaction to that statement?

Remember that you are in control of your heart. Your rebellious wife or your uncaring husband are not your issue. They are each accountable before God for their rebellion against God’s will for their lives. All that is important for you is that you show grace to them.

If you fail to show grace, then your heart reaction will become a serious issue in your marriage. What comes out of your heart determines the issues of your life and marriage.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:23

Hidden Man of the Heart

The Bible reveals we have a hidden personality in our heart. It is our most private part.

Peter encourages women to let the beauty of their hidden inner heart attitudes of submission be more important to them than dressing up with clothes and hairdo.

“Likewise, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the lifestyle of the wives; While they behold your chaste lifestyle coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” 1Peter 3:1-4

Your wife is married to your hidden man of the heart. Your husband is married to your hidden inner man.

Is your hidden man of the heart one with a meek and quiet spirit? Does it live by the fear of God? Or is it defiled with seething self interest, selfishness, pouting, resentment, bitterness, and such like?

The Problem with Your Marriage

The problem with your marriage is your heart. It is not your wife’s lack of submission or your husband’s insensitivity.

God has set you up with a spouse that will constantly fail you and test your heart. As far as you are concerned, God is focussed on your heart reaction, not your spouse’s selfishness. It is up to God to deal with your spouse. Their willingness or unwillingness to be the husband or wife they are supposed to be is a matter of God’s judgment on their life. You have no stake in the matter.

You have a huge stake in your heart reaction. And you have a HUGE stake in the question of your resentment or bitterness toward your spouse.

So, get over the fact that your wife is a tyrant and your husband is a jerk. Get serious about your heart response. That’s the only thing you have to care about.

The Curse of Makeup

I took my two youngest children to the city today for a Recce (reconnaissance orientation) and a relaxing time together. For those who know Melbourne I have a list of things to see at the end of this article.

I surprised my nearly 15 year old daughter as we walked through a department store, suggesting that she allow one of the beauticians to show her their range of makeup. It was a surprise because it was spontaneous and unexpected, but also because I don’t encourage makeup.

After a few moments of embarrassment, Sophia yielded to the lady’s request and sat for a demonstration and to have various cosmetics applied to her face. The beautician recognised that a youthful face is best left to its natural glow, but a tinted moisturiser would help cover the breakouts (that was her politically correct term for acne and pimples).

So Sophia endured the exfoliation, moisturiser, eye shadow, lip gloss and whatever they call that stuff you put on your cheeks for highlight (is it rouge?). About an hour later there was little of the makeup left, as Sophia ate a souvlaki, scratched her skin and splashed water onto her face. Having a high fashion face must make life very difficult for people.

Something New

I explained to Sophia that, while I do not encourage her to use makeup, I want her to be comfortable with it and to know how to use it if and when she chooses to. She has used stage makeup before, but the idea of “putting on a face” for vanity is not something she has been concerned about.

New things are strange to us for the first few times, but we soon become comfortable with what was once strange. Such things as wearing a tie, dressing up in a tuxedo, walking in high heels, or using roller blades can be quite uncomfortable and challenging until we get used to it.

So I want Sophia to be comfortable with those things that women need to have recourse to from time to time. And today “makeup” was the matter in hand.

So that brings me to a quick explanation about the Curse of Makeup. I trust that these thoughts can be a caution for all those young ladies who think it might be exciting to enhance their natural beauty.

The Beauty Issue

It seems natural for girls and women to desire to be beautiful. The Cinderella princess fantasy is one that the West promotes and which girls take a liking to. The inherent desire to be loved leads many women to assume that if they are beautiful and attract men’s attention they will be much more likely to be happy in love.

That’s why you will observe some chap walking down the street in grungy clothes, looking like a slob who couldn’t care less about how he looks, and yet his girlfriend or wife beside him will be dressed sharp, trim, neat and as attractive as she can. The miss-match can be laughable at times. If she really did value carefully manicured beauty you would think she would demand some level of care from him as well.

But what is at stake in the mind of the woman is her need to be beautiful, to ensure that she keeps “him”. He does not need to attract her eye. She is in the place of insecurity, not him. She must perform to his expectations, not him to hers.

So it is easy for a woman to fall into the curse of feeling that she has to rise to high standards of beauty, fashion and attractiveness.

The Lure

When a girl or woman thinks she needs to prove herself by attracting the attention of men, she will take care to make herself attractive to others. While she may not realise it, the more she makes herself attractive in human terms, by fashion, makeup, flirtatious behaviour, or the like, the more she lures the lustful interests of men.

I notice that many women dress shamefully, as if their intention was to have men look at them lustfully. I assume that some if not many of those women don’t realise how their appearance cheapens them. They appear to be immoral, loose women, who wish to be ranked for their sex appeal, rather than valued as a person to be respected.

Insecurity at Heart

The Bible advises that the most wonderful beauty any woman has is the beauty of a heart that is free and confident in God. If the “hidden man of the heart” (see 1Peter 3:1-6) is full of joy, confidence, security and faith, then the countenance will glow with a radiance from within.

However, if a woman is insecure, fearful, ashamed, anxious, hurting, selfish or the like, the hidden man of her heart will not be able to radiate from within her. That woman will very likely rely heavily on painting herself to mask the dullness of her own spirit.

And if a woman has immoral attitudes, disrespect for her personal value, sensual desires and cheap values, then she will also fail to have an inner beauty which will make her stand out as a woman to be valued and prized.

The more insecure a person is, the more they will use props and excuses in their life. Insecure people hide, cover up, deceive, avoid revealing the truth about themselves, and so on. And that has direct connection to the way a woman deals with makeup.

The Cover Up

When a woman feels the need to cover up her natural appearance, either because she believes it needs to be enhanced to make her more beautiful, or because she feels she needs to make men look at her, she has become trapped in a snare.

Makeup for such a woman is not something she can use as and when she wishes. Instead, makeup becomes a vital part of who she is. She is no longer complete without makeup.

Once a woman uses makeup as a prop she will never be free from it. She will fear that she will not be properly appreciated without it. And that’s where the slavery takes over.

Put Your Face On

Let me repeat an incident a friend told me about many years ago. One day he had to visit a client near his family home. He decided to call in unexpectedly for morning tea with his mum. But when he went to the door and knocked she made him wait on the step for about ten minutes.

When his mum finally let him in she was still dressed in her dressing gown. He asked her why she didn’t just let him straight in. Her reply shocked him.

She said, “I couldn’t let you see me until I had put my face on,”

He had never realised how insecure his mum was. He was her own son. If she could be relaxed and natural with anyone, surely it would be with him. Yet she would not let him see her without makeup.

Now, that’s Slavery!

Be Warned

Girls, I know that you want to be beautiful. I don’t begrudge you that aspiration. And I know that many of you are insecure about whether you will really be beautiful enough and stay beautiful enough to catch and keep the attentions of some young man who will make you happy.

But if you carry insecurity and look to fashion and makeup to help you, there is a grave risk of you losing the joy of just being you. God already made you beautiful, and he put your loveliest beauty in your heart, not on your face.

Let the joy of your heart, your fascination for life, your heart to serve and bless others, and your confidence in God shine through. Let you heart be filled with the love of God, being His love for you and your compassion for others.

When you do that, you don’t need makeup and high fashion. You don’t need to lure men to look at you. After all, you only need that one man to commit himself to you. There’s no reason why any other man should be looking at you too. That will only lead to moral challenges that you don’t need in your life.

Free to be Me

I want you to tell me that you’re “Free to be Me!” God did not make a mistake when He fashioned you. You don’t need a plastic mask. Just enjoy being you.

Now, enjoy nice clothes and play with your hair, and even throw a bit of colour on your face from time to time. But never become enslaved to those things. Make sure you are not depending on them.

If you can do that, then you have a lifetime of enjoyment and freedom to explore.

I pray that the Lord grant you His grace to live in the glorious liberty (freedom) which He created you for.

Recce in Melbourne

Now, for those who may want to scout around Melbourne…

The early sailing ships in Port Phillip Bay needed a landmark to find the tiny settlement. A flag was raised on the highest hill, which is now named Flagstaff Gardens. The Paris end of Collins Street displays European décor on the buildings and the Sofitel Hotel has a great view from the restaurant level – from the toilets. We take our Kiwi and UK friends there for a birds-eye view of the MCG. In the basement of the Rialto Building the original flagstones were preserved, showing where the steel rimmed wheels gouged their track. The old Shot Tower at Melbourne Central shows how lead pellets were formed in olden days. The military museum under the Cenotaph is worth a look. Melbourne Town Hall was jam packed with men over 100 years ago when a prayer revival was at its peak, spreading from here to the world and feeding into the Welsh Revival. There’s Parliament house, Docklands, Southbank, The Museum, Exhibition Building, Melbourne Gallery, Bourke Street Mall, the Free City Circle Tram, the underground trains, Flinders Street Station, the Yarra River, and more. Enjoy!

The Spirit of a Marriage

Have you damaged the spirit of your marriage? Do you know the current health of your marriage? What is the ‘spirit of the marriage’ and how can it be damaged or healed?

These are the questions I will open for you, so you will be attentive to some things that may have escaped your attention up until now.

Hidden Person in Your Spouse

The Bible tells us that each woman has a “hidden man of the heart” which is a source of true beauty for them. Peter advised women not to be distracted by their external beauty tricks, of tizzing up their hair or wearing jewellery. Instead, he advocated that the woman allow her inner beauty, the “hidden man of the heart” to come forth.

“Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (example) of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” 1Peter 3:1-6

Hidden Things in Your Marriage

Each person has a hidden, inner life. We do not readily expose our inner self to others, and in fact our inner self is at its most special when shared between husband and wife. The wife is encouraged to reveal to her husband the hidden person within her heart.

Many people never see the hidden person in their spouse. But worse still, many people damage their marriage by offending the inner person in their spouse.

Hidden Damage

Marriage creates the most intimate level of relationship possible on earth. Two people receive a divine status as one physical entity, enabling them to share intimacy in the sanctity of God’s own morality. This unique relationship should be the place where two people are able to share their most hidden thoughts and feelings with each other in complete confidence and security.

However, when husbands and wives offend each other they cause the other to lock away their most secret thoughts and their hidden person, so that they never show the other the “hidden man of the heart”. This becomes a hidden damage in the marriage.

On the surface the couple may be happy, cooperative and exemplary. Yet one or both will have closed off their inner person from the other.

They may enjoy frequent and fun-filled physical intimacy but the intimacy of the soul is rarely if ever enjoyed by them.

Hidden Man Intimacy

Every marriage holds the potential for a level of interpersonal fellowship and sharing where both husband and wife trust their most secret and sacred self to the other. That is a profound level of intimacy

When a couple has intimacy at the level of the hidden man they are reaping richness from their marriage which others simply do not know exists.

The Spirit of the Marriage

The spirit of the marriage is that wonderful potential which your marriage can enjoy if only you both love each other with the level of commitment and openness that enables both to readily reveal the hidden man of the heart to the other.

This spirit of the marriage is damaged when the couple hurts and offends each other. When a husband or wife feels that their spouse does not respect, love, cherish and trust them the spirit of the marriage is damaged.

If, for example, the wife feels dismissed by her husband, and that he does not care for her inner thoughts and feelings, just that she make him happy, then she will shut down part of herself and that will damage the spirit of the marriage.

Auditing Your Marriage

Your marriage may be a happy and delightful relationship where the two of you get along with great companionship. That’s great. But even so it is possible for you both to be missing the richness of the spirit of your marriage. This will be because one or both of you have damaged the inner man of the other and caused them to close off their ‘hidden man’ from the other.

So how is your marriage going? How is the spirit of your marriage? If you have damaged your relationship and your spouse is not opening to you the depths of his or her heart and soul then you are the poorer for it.

Don’t settle for less than a rich and wonderful depth to the spirit of your marriage, where the hidden man of both of you is trusted in the hands of the other. I pray that your experience be that of a blessed spirit of the marriage.