Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I've been listening a lot lately. Reading. Paying attention to conversations among single, homeschooled girls, usually between the ages of 17 to 25. They have these huge long lists of requirements for the man they will marry. Some of those requirements sound really spiritual and righteous and good. Some of them make me laugh. Some make me shake my head. I want to say "you do realize you'll be marrying a man, right?" :P
It's fine to be idealistic. You should know what you want and what you don't. But some of the things I've been hearing from these young girls lately make me think that they don't have a clue...about marriage, expectations, and reality. Not to mention men. They moan and groan about how "there aren't any Godly men out there" or "no man is following Jesus as passionately as I am!" or "I just can't find anyone that fits my criteria". And if they do, and they manage to get married, they're shocked to eventually find out that the guy they married is *gasp!* not Mr. Perfectly Right after all!!
Well, girls, let me tell you a few things that your mother never told you and my mother never told me about the man you marry (or are married to) that might help you make the transition between starry-eyed Prince Charming and Mr. I Leave My Dirty Socks On The Floor. The "worse" part of that "for better of for worse" thing. So, here it is...my incomplete, ever-changing, slightly humorous but perfectly serious list about Men.
1. He will not always be your knight-in-shining armor.
Sometimes he'll stay on his butt when he should get up and fight. Sometimes he'll need you to put on the armor and fight for him. Sometimes he won't know he's supposed to be fighting. But that doesn't mean he loves you less or is abdicating his position as your husband. It doesn't mean he's "less spiritual" or that you somehow made a mistake and married the wrong man. It mean you married a human being with flaws....just like you. Love him anyway.
2. He won't always every second be a "strong spiritual leader".
He's going to have doubts. He might get angry at God and not want to speak to Him for a while. He might fall into sin and struggle for a time. He might even question whether God exists or not. He might refuse to go to church once in a while. This doesn't mean your family won't be blessed or your children will grow up as little heathens. It doesn't mean that it will always be this way. It means you married a human being with questions in his heart...just like you. Show him grace anyway. God will always finish what He started. You don't have to finish it for Him.
3. He may not always be able to "adequately provide" for your family.
Because shit happens. He might lose his job and not be able to find another for a long time. You might get your house foreclosed on. Or have to frequent the food bank. You might even have to go to work for a time. He may have to take a job that keeps him away from the family for weeks on end just so you can pay the rent and eat. Even if you start the marriage with a great job, there is no guarantee it'll last forever. In this day and age creativity and hard work will only take you so far. It is not his fault, so don't sit there and bemoan your fate. It's hard enough on a man to think he's failing at being a good provider without having his wife berailing him or even silently disapproving. Get up, be willing to do what it takes, be a team and help him out however you can. Show him you believe in him. Support him anyway.
4. He will not always agree with you on spiritual matters.
See, people change. It's just our nature. You could both be Calvinists when you marry and still, somewhere down the road, one of you might change your mind. Usually, as a married couple, you will change together. But that's not a guarantee. You will have to be willing to live with someone who believes differently than you. Hopefully you will both be willing to communicate and study things out together, but that doesn't mean you'll always come to the same conclusions. This is perfectly OK and normal. It doesn't mean that you aren't in unity or working as a team for the Kingdom. I assume you go to a church where there are differences in opinions yet you are all still working toward the same goal. This is the beauty of unity in diversity. Put on love, which is the glue that holds us all together (Col. 3:14) and respect him and his opinions anyway.
5. He will forget to be romantic.
Men do that, I'm afraid. They get into a rut and forget to think about roses and stuff. Or else they totally miss your efforts at romance. Like the time you sent the kids to Grandma's and made a dinner for two complete with candles and soft music. And he walked in the door, mumbled something at you, and jumped in the shower without a word about you standing there in a sexy dress in the candlelight. It happens. Doesn't mean he's not into you or doesn't appreciate your efforts. It just means he didn't notice. Period. No alternative motives there. My advice? Forget dinner and the dress and go get in the shower with him. I guarantee he'll notice that.
6. Sometimes he'll need his space.
Maybe he just needs to go fishing, or spend some time with his buddies, or veg out watching TV. Or perhaps he just needs time away to collect his thoughts, quiet his heart, and do something crazy and out of the ordinary. Without you. Don't get me wrong, couples need to adventure together. It is vital to their relationship. But as individuals, we also need our time to ourselves. Men seem to need this more than women. It doesn't mean he's tired of you or is neglecting his duties as husband and father (unless he IS, but that's another subject). Give him his space and a little grace and when he comes home recharged and roaring you'll be thankful you did and feel silly you ever took offense. He'll also be more willing to watch the kids so you can have a night out too. See? Advantageous to all.
7. He wants a playmate.
Most men want women who aren't afraid to try crazy things with them. Who enjoy some of the same activities as they do. Who will be willing to forgo the dishes and laundry and pile the kids into the car to go exploring. Who aren't afraid to get down and get their hands dirty. Even if you fail miserably, you'll make points just trying. Just being willing. (Kudos to the man who offers to help do the dishes before taking off to go camping, but that's another subject, too.) It's hard sometimes in the nitty-gritty of life with kids to remember what "fun" even means. Thankfully, my husband reminds me often. And makes sure we all get to have fun together. Before kids, being playmates wasn't that difficult. We only had eyes and time for each other. Now it's harder and we both have to pitch in to even get out the door, but it's just as rewarding.
8. There will be times when you have to fight for him.
As I said earlier, women have to be fighters too. Our marriages, our men, are worth fighting for. We cannot sit around with the "maiden mentality" thinking that he's the one who's supposed to be wielding the sword and slaying the dragons. Maybe he is. But so are we. Women can be fierce. We have to be. There's too much at stake and we have too much to lose. Men get discouraged too, ya know. They need rescuing sometimes too. They need to know we are fighting for them and with them. That we are fiercely loyal and won't give up on them. Honestly, why do we expect them to be supermen and always come through for us and yet not do the same for them? Are we not a team? Pushing for the same goal? Then, girls, get off your butt and out of your kitchen and fight! Fight like women, cunning as serpents, gentle as doves. When life gets him down and the Enemy tries to steal his heart, don't take it personally...fight for him. In prayer, in your actions, never compromising truth, your love for the Lord, and your love for your husband. Show the Enemy that he underestimated you when he started picking on your beloved. The world needs women who know how to fight like girls.
9. There will be times when you have to stand up to him.
Unless he's perfect, he is going to make at least a few bad decisions that have even worse consequences. The worst thing, the most unloving thing you could do would be to keep your mouth shut and just go along with them. Does the command to lovingly and respectfully rebuke a brother in error not apply in a marriage? You must be wise and have discernment to know when to let it go and when to speak up. You must decide which mountains to defend and which molehills aren't worth it. A good man values his wife's opinions. But that doesn't mean he always appreciates them in the heat of the moment. Don't take it personally. And don't back down from addressing damaging behavior. Some of the worst marriage advice I've heard is the idea that we should always let our husbands make bad decisions and just go along with them. Sure, you might avoid an argument, but is that a good motive for not standing up for what's right? Stand up respectfully, lovingly, and in a spirit of humility and gentleness, as you would toward anyone you love...but stand.
10. Men aren't as big and tough and they like to think they are.
Actually, that big and tough front often hides insecurities and fear. One word from you and you can unknowingly dash all his dreams to the floor. Or validate and encourage them. The very act of trusting you with his heart is super scary to a guy. Guys are vulnerable too. They get their hearts broken just like we do. We hold their hearts in our hands and it is a sobering thought. Think of your own heart and how an unkind word from him can break it. His is no different. Of course, don't ever let on that you know this.......;)
This is not meant to be a downer post. And I don't claim to have all experience and wisdom. I'm young, and I've only been married 6 years. But it sure didn't take me long to figure some of these things out. Thankfully, I had no list and not many expectations before I met my husband. I remember telling God "surprise me" because I knew He knew what I wanted more than I did (side note: don't tell God that unless you mean it).
I love my man. He can make me madder than a hornet and happier than anything in the world...all in one hour! I did have the advantage of knowing him very well for a long time before we married. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into (and so did he, by the way, though he tries to say otherwise). Most of all, I saw him...I saw his heart and I saw that it was good. I saw the man that God is shaping him into and I loved him. Even now, when things get hard and he loses his way, I can still see his heart, I know who he is, even when he forgets. Love is tenacious that way. If I had a list, he probably wouldn't have matched it (certainly didn't match the one my parents had). I just knew that I would find my man when I could look into his heart and love what I saw there.
So don't marry a man because he fits your description of Mr. Perfectly Righteous Godly Man. And don't pass someone up because he doesn't. God looks at the heart. Which is a practice we could use a little more of.