Today, I can say that I’ve been a husband for a “whopping” 6 months! It’s been quite an experience living in this new reality. In a very real sense, my identity has been dramatically altered. For the last 6 months, I’ve lived as someone other than the person that I knew myself to be since October 24, 1987. I’ve transitioned from bachelorhood to husbandom. And boy has it been an experience!
Now clearly I am no expert on being a husband, but I thought I’d share some reflections after half a year of trying to figure this marriage thing out. Over the last 6 months, as I’ve been learning how to live in union with another human being, and as I’ve struggled to come to grips with my new status, identity, and responsibilities, there are 6 questions that have recurred in my mind. My prayer is that other (new) husbands might resonate with these questions or maybe even be helped by these perspectives.
The first 3 questions have helped me with practical matters, such as conflict management. These questions have helped me pause and examine my most basic impulses.
- Are we upset and in disagreement because one of us is wrong or because both of us are different? When it comes to conflicts and disagreements, I’m pretty sure the human heart’s default is to assume that the other party is wrong, unjust, or foolish. This default is pretty convenient because it tells us that we don’t have to worry about the conflict, since the other person is just wrong. It’s the other person that simply needs to change their mind, agree with our rightness, and just stop being so irrational. “Until my wife just gets on my page, her senseless wrongness is bound to continue. End of story.” Taking a moment to question this default logic has been profoundly helpful for my marriage. Marriage has reaffirmed for me that conflicts are rarely a matter of the righteous versus the sinner, but more often than not of apples vs. oranges between sinners.
- Does this issue require patience or urgency? In those rare moments when my wife actually is completely wrong, the next step is to determine what to do about it. Sins and errors are serious. They must not be glossed over. However, equally true is the fact that we aren’t the perfect judges that we too often think we are. Asking both myself and the Spirit this question of patience versus urgency has also helped my marriage tremendously. Prayerfulness, selflessness, wisdom, and Spirit-led timing are everything.
- Have I spent more time brooding and complaining, or praying and reconciling? Conflict is inevitable. The question is how we’ll respond. Our responses reflect our hearts. Will I rehearse every negative aspect of my spouse in my mind, or worse, complain about it to others? Or will I bring it to God and seek reconciliation at my own expense?
The next 3 questions have helped me with my spiritual perspective. They’ve helped me reorient my worldview and priorities.
- Do I want her to grow in my own likeness or in Christ’s perfect likeness? Spiritually leading my wife is tough. Not necessarily because she’s an exceptionally ungodly woman, but because she’s so strangely different from me. More and more I’m realizing that what sanctification looks like for me (or people like me) may not be what sanctification looks like for her. I’m learning that a particular person’s growth in Christ’s likeness can be very different from mine, and that I need not worry that someone is not following my or any other person’s particular spiritual growth trajectory. If the Lord allows me to become a pastor some day, this is a lesson I’m definitely taking into the ministry.
- Do I really believe that “husband” is my primary job and identity? In pre-marital counseling, my pastor told me that often when men get married, they check that off on their list of life accomplishments and begin to focus on their careers. They don’t see “husband” as their primary job and responsibility. Being a husband is just incidental. We’ve “got” ourselves women, so now it’s time to get ourselves some security or status through our day jobs. This has been a significant struggle for me as a PhD student; I’m always paranoid that I’m behind and tempted to take back for myself the hours of my time that rightfully belong to my wife. The hard truth, though, is that I’m a husband before I’m a student. This is God’s will.
- Do I see my wife as her True & Perfect Husband sees her? Am I overlooking or taking for granted my wife’s particular God-given traits, gifts, and abilities, all of which other men might only dream about? In other words, how green might my grass look from my neighbor’s (or God’s) side of the fence? It’s so easy to take my wife for granted. She’s great at so many things that I simply never learned to value. I’m learning now that marriage is one of God’s ways of opening up our eyes to appreciate and value that which we formerly had not. It’s a way for him to show us the richness and diversity of his body, and the multiple ways that he molds his people into his Son’s united, but multi-faceted likeness.
If you’re like me, that is, if you’re a poor husband, perhaps you’ve read nothing but self-condemnation in the last 3 questions above. And perhaps you even have self-condemning questions of your own to add to this list. We’re all on this journey together, bruh.
But take heart. While you are no less responsible to love your wives, your confidence is in the fact that Jesus loves your wife more than you do. He will see to it that she grows in His likeness. He cherishes his identity as husband, and because of his covenant, he will never leave her nor forsake her. From Jesus’ side of the fence, your wife is absolutely ravishing. She’s been washed clean, pure, and beautiful in his blood. She is his delight.
Husbands, our wives are the delight of the Savior. What reason have we to not see them through his 20/20? Persevere. Jesus is certainly persevering with us.