Why Don’t You Respect Me?
For most men, the easiest 24 hours of marriage might begin with “I do.” Let’s face it: after that, you get cake and, well, the big event! (I admit that for many people these 24 hours can be hard if things don’t quite work; and in grave, horrifyingly-common situations across the globe, weddings are tragic. Think: forced marriages. Better yet: pray for them and perhaps find ways to help people out of them!)
But for our purposes, let’s take a quasi-Hollywood-style setting where the couple wants to get married, does get married, and has a great wedding night. (Second detour: Most Hollywood relational rubbish is anti-God, anti-wisdom, and frankly, anti-marriage — and can walk the plank right here!)
Lots of good writers have addressed phase two of the marriage: post-honeymoon. Life can get hard; people can change; money problems can arise; lust can surface; envy can invade; bitterness can destroy; in-laws can hurt; sex can change from a problem-solver to a problem-causer; boredom can set in; quirks can irritate; and kids can take over. And all that can develop alongside health problems, different backgrounds, or conflicting beliefs and interests. Christian or non-Christian? Jump on board!
As I said, books are devoted to these topics, and either you and I have read some of them — or we need to! Tip 1: Find ones that address core issues, not just quick fixes or surface-level symptoms. It all comes down to where our own heart is before God and toward our spouse — both on a daily and long-term basis. Tip 2: Any advice that contradicts loving your wife selflessly and with a servant’s heart is probably forgettable.
I want to focus on one issue for men that I’ve only just discovered in the Bible. I am slowly learning about it, and I am even more slowly remembering to put into practice. We all want our wives to “submit” to us, right? And we all want a wife who “respects” us, yes? And none of us like it when our wives remind us that we’re supposed to submit “to one another,” correct? (All quotes are from Ephesians 5.) After all, that might come off as if they’re ignoring their job or they think we’re ignoring ours, huh?
Well, if respect is a sign of submission — which I think it is according to Paul’s summary in Ephesians 5:33 — and if we men are supposed to be the leaders of our families (see 1 Timothy 3, for example), then we should exemplify the respect we want and need by first giving it to our wives!
There’s the golden nugget…and again, I’ve got a long way to go…ask my beautiful bride! But the details, role models, and how-to’s will follow in the next several articles.
A Bit of My Story
I guess I should have started with this caveat: I’ve been married to my first and only bride for almost six years. Not long, it’s true. And if I just lost half of my few readers, I don’t blame you. Still, I think I have something to offer since my first four years of marriage had lots of ups and very far downs, while the last two years have seen remarkable — miraculous — improvement.
Oh, perfection is still at least a million light years away. Issues arise almost daily; and too frequently to admit, they become quite wrong and quite long — quite fast! But this, too, has improved a lot in the past two years. We simply have a lot less of the bad and a lot more of the good. A four-hour fight in 2009 ends in one hour now. A two-day good stretch in 2011 lasts a week in 2013.
Much of this depends on our nightly prayers together — probably six out of seven nights. It also depends on seeing our own faults more readily than before. Attitude plays a role, too: recalling that God uses our spouse to help us more than He uses us to help our spouse. And especially for men (preaching to myself), we are to care for our wives’ needs as much and as often God cares for ours.
Top 10 Biblical Marriages
Far beyond my own story or advice, I want to center on ten biblical narratives. When it comes to leading our brides by example in the area of respect — which again, I think is the best way to get respect from them, although our top motive should be to glorify God — the Bible outshines any golden nuggets we might find on our own.
So what marriages are we talking about here? 1) Isaac and Rebekah, in Genesis. 2) Joseph and Asenath, in Genesis. 3) Manoah and his wife, whose name was not recorded, in Judges. 4) Boaz and Ruth, in Ruth. 5) Elkanah and Hannah, in 1 Samuel. 6) David and Abigail, in 1 Samuel. 7) Hosea and Gomer, in Hosea. 8) Joseph and Mary, in Matthew and Luke. 9) Peter and his wife, whose name was not recorded, in Mark and 1 Corinthians. 10) Aquila and Priscilla, in Acts and Romans.
These ten husbands are fabulous role models for any man to follow — married or not, Christian or not — and I will dig into each of their lives over the coming several articles. But first, I want to note two glaring omissions from the list above. 11) Solomon and the Shulamite, in Song of Solomon. 12) Jesus Christ and the Church, throughout the Bible. If I qualify to write about biblical husbanding, I feel less qualified to examine these two marriages, though they are crucial and marvelous.
Suffice to say, Solomon pursues his bride with intense and intimate passion and admiration, mimicking God’s overt and amazing pursuit of us: we love God “because He first loved us,” 1 John 4. Concerning respect, he offers endless compliments to the Shulamite. As a soldier who loves his commander obeys him with joy and confidence, so a respectful husband conspicuously delights in his wife as well — both in bed and elsewhere.
Finding the Best Respect
As for Jesus, Ephesians 5 says, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her…that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies…No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Sacrifice, selflessness, loving the unlovely, striving for another’s sanctification — these are part of the game of respect.
Does God actually respect us? A commander who loves his soldiers respects them by trusting them to obey his orders. God is our commander, and He not only admires us when we display faith (see Jesus’ interaction with the centurion in Matthew 8), He also entrusts His kingdom’s work to us (see Matthew 28, for example), He gives us the Holy Spirit (see John 14 and 16), and He even invites us (us!) to “sit with Me on My throne” (see Revelation 3)!
Knowing the glory awaiting those whom God respects — those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (see Mark 12) — should enable men to respect our wives more easily. We have nothing to lose and much to gain! In the coming articles, I will be learning more about this respect right alongside you.