I have been out of touch for some days, what with work and taking my second daughter to college. We attended a "parents orientation," which is sort of a way to babysit the parents who cannot stand the idea of letting their child out of sight for college. And, of course, to tell us how much we will have to pay.
Hundreds of young men and women, students and "counselors" and such, were everywhere. All single. How much do they know about the next four years? How much do they know about marriage (which is ahead for most of them)?
The young women leading various events were bright, pleasant, attractive people. Who will they be in 10 years, or in 20 years?
I am always amazed at how many people are divorced within those 10 or 20 years, and it makes me wonder what they are learning. College is not about marriage, of course, and teaches nothing about being an excellent wife (or an excellent husband). They spend hours in classes and on trips and at parties, with no one thinking or talking about being an excellent wife or husband. Then, they get married.
We need to think about these young women and young men. We need to be ready with a good word for the days when they contemplate marriage and, especially, for the days of their marriage. We need them to know about the wisdom of God as much as they learn about the facts of mankind. The young women need to know how to care for their husbands as much as they know about American history or the music of the Classical period.
We can pray that the churches of college towns understand this truth and teach it. And let us keep our own children close to us, so we can teach them as well.
One of the games we play with ourselves is the "ought to have" game. We "ought to have" saved more money when we were younger. We "ought to have" bought a better car. We "ought to have" stayed at the old job.
And we "ought to have" married someone else.
Now, the saving money and better car and old job are one category of "ought to have." But marriage is different.
Every thought of "ought to have" is a useless thought. Every moment of thinking back to earlier decisions and wishing they had gone otherwise is a moment of foolishness.
But every moment of wishing we had married someone else (or not married at all) is not just foolishness, it is dangerous foolishness. We find ourselves thinking of someone from high school or college, or someone we just met, as being "the one" for us. We begin, even a little, to break down the wall of our commitment to the person we married.
Do not indulge such thoughts, they get you nowhere but harm. Think of this two ways. First, you are speculating without any knowledge at all. You do not know who that person has become (or, if it is a present person, who they really are). The news alone tells us that people are phonies in public. The man who seems so perfect may be anything but perfect.
Second, and much more importantly, that decision has been made. You are married. This is the person with whom your life will be made. God was not asleep on the day you married. God was not unaware of who you married. The children you have made were in God's plan because your marriage was in God's plan. This is your husband.
Your job is to love him. Every moment spent thinking of someone else is a moment taken from what matters in your life.
Love the husband you have, faults and all. After all, he loved you.
It has been awhile, so let's go back to one of the first lessons on the Excellent Wife -- she does her husband good and not evil all the days of his life.
So, what about today? Have you anything in mind about your husband? A special meal? A special evening? Something special in the bedroom? A note in his lunchbox? Anything?
Day by day, we tend to forget our "everyday" duties, including duties to our husbands. So, this morning, sit down and decide what you will do today. Don't worry about tomorrow, just today.
Then do it.
My how things have changed. Or, at least, they seem to have changed.
Summertime used to be a very simple season. Children awoke, ate cereal (or something) and went outside until lunch. Then, they ate lunch (a sandwich or something) and headed back outside. They played ball and chase and tag and built forts and played baseball.
Now, most of us live in an area where we do not want our children outside and, at the same time, our children often don't want to go outside. So, they hang around inside (air conditioning!) and, not surprisingly, are bored. And, somehow, their boredom has become our problem.
I am pretty certain that my parents spent very little time trying to entertain me or worrying about whether I was bored. But, somehow, we have reached a stage where our children's boredom is something we are supposed to resolve. So, we sign them up for camps and classes, we try to come up with "interesting meals," we take trips we cannot afford to places only our children will enjoy.
Summer has become a time for parenting overkill and, of course, for even less focus on our spouse. We have a bored teenager (or "pre-teen" or whatever we call them) and that seems like something we need to resolve, so we let go of our spouse and work on our child.
Do not let summertime become a time of decay in your relationship to your husband. Do not let your focus on your children be so powerful that you have nothing left for the man who married you. Bored children are, as we all know, simply children who refuse to be happy with what they have. They have computer games and board games and card games and (too often) cell phones. They have bicycles and swimming pools and television and books. They have lots they could do, but nothing they choose to do.
But your husband has you. His boredom matters much more to you than their boredom. Spend more time with him, and not just time nagging him to "do something with your son." Let him "do something with his wife" and let the son grow, as we all grew, by figuring out something to do for himself.
One of the real challenges of a long marriage is figuring out how to deal with children. From the beginning, it is clear that your children are a major part of your life, but it is not as clear how much they change everything. Parents go through phases and it seems that we are now in a very child-centered phase, where the needs of the parents are almost entirely consumed by meeting whatever needs we think the children may have. Pediatricians and friends tell us all the different things we need to do "for our children," and sometimes it seems that our relationship with our spouse disappears in the midst of trying to handle everything for our children.
But children grow up and, eventually, move away. What will you do then? Too often, older couples find themselves strangers when they suddenly realize that the house is empty. We use the term "empty nest syndrome" to describe people who really struggle with the absence of children.
We forget that children are not forever. They grow up and leave us back where we started, with each other. If we ignore our wife or husband during those years with children, how will we travel with them all the years that remain. If our children are grown and gone by the time we are 60, what do we do with the 20 or more years remaining to us?
Traveling without children is part of our life. There was a time before children when your husband was all you had and you were happy. Will you be happy when, again, he is your daily companion and the one with whom you travel? Or, in the absence of children, will the two of you lose all connection?
It is surprising how many divorces we see in older couples, who have allowed their relationship to die.
Keep your mind focused on your husband, not just your children. They are part of your life, but he is your life. You and he are one in Christ. Protect that relationship at all times.
I have been gone a couple of days on a short "Anniversary Trip" with my wife. We have celebrated our 30th anniversary.
It is amazing how things change over such a long period of time. I still remember my wedding night (as do most men, I believe), and the 30th anniversary is not the same at all. So many things have changed in the meantime. We have children (and grandchildren) whose lives dominate our lives (in terms of concerns, especially). We are no longer new to each other nor trying to get to know each other. We are married and, I must say, quite fully married.
Which makes things odd in our culture, which seems to have the idea that we should stay as we were when we first married. We sometimes ask couples "do you still feel like you did when you first got married," and suggest they should feel that way. I am not at all sure this is a good idea.
Things change and we change. I have some idea what the young me was like 30 years ago, both good and bad, but I am not that young man anymore. My wife is no longer the young wife she once was. These are not "sad truths," they are just truths. We are different. Our relationship is different.
On the other hand, we sometimes decide that "getting settled" is a totally good thing and that we should accept the loss of all that made marriage so wonderful so long ago. We "get settled" in our sexual routines and our interactions and everything becomes scripted and old and boring.
So, here's my idea. Let's give up both sides of this argument. I do not want to be the young married man anymore, I have grown as a man and a husband. My wife has grown as a woman and a wife. Why would I give up 30 years of growth?
I also do not want to be "settled," but to be alive. I want to remember not only my wife's beauty as a young bride but her beauty as a wife today. I want to still be enraptured by her, as I was 30 years ago, and to find time and space to enjoy our relationship.
So, wives, don't take either extreme. Don't try to "go back" to earlier days and don't be settled into a routine today.
It is still about you and him and both of you have grown (and will grow), so your relationship has also grown and will grow. Make today as special as you can, not by recreating what was but by being the wife you can be today. Loving your husband means loving him as he is today, just as you loved him in the past.
So, we have a problem.
On the one hand, we are taught by our culture that sex is somehow "dirty," that is, that we are not to talk about it at all. We can have sex within our marriages, but we are not to discuss sex at all. Not with our children, not with our spouse, not with anyone.
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that sex is natural and good and necessary for the existence of marriage. The Bible teaches that married couples ought to be sexually active and sexually satisfied throughout their marriage.
But the Bible also teaches that sex is a duty. This is where the problem comes in for most of us. If it is pleasurable, then why is it also a duty? Too many people (especially women in our age) use the "duty" verses (1 Cor. 7) to justify violating the pleasure verses (Song of Solomon, Proverbs, etc.). They say that they "are willing" to have sex when necessary, but since sex is "dirty" (the cultural idea), they don't really enjoy having sex and will have it as seldom as possible. They end up being commanded to do what they ought to be enjoying doing.
So, our marriages end up utterly confused. Young men who have been poorly taught (primarily by culture and by booklets) show up on the wedding night expecting to have all their dreams come true, having no idea how their wife feels about what is happening at all. Wives show up on wedding nights expecting to be loved and caressed, only to find their husbands solely focused on their own pleasure. Wedding nights can be extremely traumatic.
And the trauma continues. He is not well trained, she is not well trained, and their efforts are confused, and they lose the joy of sexuality. Eventually, it becomes a question of her "headaches" and "being tired" and of his being aggressive and demanding. Sexuality ceases and the relationship cools. Sex becomes duty. Which, by the way, is better than no sex at all, as Paul makes clear.
These things ought not to be. Men and women need to be actually told about sex. They do not need booklets ("A Doctor Talks to Nine-to-Twelve Year Olds"). They do not need to see movies about people having sex. They need to be taught. They need to know that the wedding night is not the culmination of their lives but the beginning of their lives together.
So, what do you do now?
You talk about it. You take actions. You have a husband, so love him. Tonight. Tell him what you want him to do and listen to what he says to you. Start over, if things have been bad between you.
Don't make it a duty. Make it a joy. That is how God designed it.
Yesterday, I mentioned the biblical notion that a husband or wife is to be "fully satisfied" in his or her sexual desires within marriage. The trouble for many people is to determine what this means, because it is not, actually, a biblical phrase at all.
For too many women, the command that men are to be "fully satisfied" in their sexual desires through marriage means that they are to "be satisfied" by whatever they get. In fact, when preachers preach to husbands, this seems to be their message far too often. "Be satisfied" in marriage, after all, can sound like a command to be "content with" whatever the situation may be. In our culture, "satisfaction" is often used in this way. Someone will say they are "satisfied" with a meal because it was not really bad, but was not really very good either. A customer will be "satisfied" with a haircut that is not quite what they wanted. We even do surveys where "satisfied" is a lower category rating than "excellent," because, for us, "satisfaction" means "not really mad about it."
But the Bible does not teach that men are to be "satisfied" in this negative sense, but in a very positive sense. Read Proverbs 5:19 again: "Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." This does not sound like what we call satisfaction. It means that he is "always" to be intoxicated with her love and that her breasts are to "fill him with delight at all times." It is not possible for a man to be "satisfied" in a biblical sense with occasional sexuality.
The sexual desire (like the desire for food or sleep) is a daily desire. A man might fast for a short period (as Paul says a couple may abstain from sex for a short period), but he must eat again soon, just as a person must have sex again soon. Any longer delay raises the danger of sin. 1 Cor. 7.
The Bible does not command married Christians, men or women, to be "satisfied" with anything less than they actually desire. Whatever modern English may do to the language, the Bible is clear -- whenever a man desires sex he is to turn to his wife and she is be available to him. Likewise, whenever a wife desires sex she is to turn to her husband and he is to be available to her. This is Paul's whole point in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 7.
Where are you, sexually, in your marriage? For most couples, there is an early stage of excitement (the first year or so of marriage), then a gradual decline (during childbearing) and, too often, a complete loss of frequent sexual pleasure thereafter. Couples become roommates, to the great loss of joy and the increase of sin. We see too many divorces and too much pornography and too many on-line dalliances among older, married Christians, most of which could be avoided if the sexual desire were satisfied at home, as God intended.
We have talked about a lot of things in our class. Scripture has a lot to say to wives about wisdom, about gentleness, about diligence, and about all the characteristics of godliness that are needed to be an excellent wife.This week and last week, we have talked about one other thing on which scripture is very clear -- the importance of sex in our lives and our marriages.
This may seem strange to you. When we talk about being "excellent wives" we often talk about cooking and cleaning and such things, about which scripture says virtually nothing. On the other hand, we seldom talk about what scripture emphasizes (wisdom, etc.). And we never talk about sex.
The Bible is not embarrassed to talk about sex at all. There are multiple texts on sexual matters, but the two texts on which we have concentrated are found at 1 Corinthians 7 and Proverbs 5. No man or woman should marry who has not been taught Proverbs 5 so that they can understand that sexuality is not a choice in marriage, it is of the essence of the marital relationship.
In Biblical terms, sexuality is at the very heart of marriage. It is fundamental that marriage is designed to deal with the problem of sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:2). A lack of sex in marriage is a direct cause of sin and evil in the world (1 Cor. 7:5). The Bible is very clear about the importance of sexual satisfaction in marriage. In Proverbs 5, young men are told two very important things. First, that they are not to seek sexual pleasure in the world. Second, that they are to be "intoxicated" by the sexual relationship in marriage. They are to be filled with the pleasure, the joy, the oneness of making love with the wife of their youth.
Both women and men experience sexual desires and sexual longings. They have physical needs which include sexual needs, which are to be met in marriage. There is no Biblical command to married people to "control" themselves, except that they are to direct all of their sexual energy and pleasure into their relationship with their spouse.
Somehow, in the Victorian age perhaps, American Christians forgot this truth. Too many American Christians live in sex-less or sex-starved marriages. There are too many divorces, too many adulterers (of both sexes), too many who turn to pornography, when they should be fully satisfied by their sexual relationship with their wives or their husbands. If a preacher wanted to preach to "felt needs" in his church, he could preach on sex every week and meet more needs than any sermons on self-esteem or heaven.
We are not Victorians but Christians. We rejoice in the gifts of God, including the sexual relationships he has given us in marriage. The Bible makes clear that no wife can be an excellent wife whose marriage does not meet the sexual needs of both her and her husband.
It's been a long week at my family, traveling to see a son graduate from Basic Training. But, sometimes, you just need a day off to collect yourself and get started again. So let's think about days off.
One of the hard things about a website like this is that it is so forward looking. What I mean is that almost everything is about becoming a better wife. It can get really old to try to do these things everyday. It would be nice to have a day off.
So, let's look at this two ways. First, it is certainly fine to have a "day off" in the sense of a day of rest or pleasure without worrying about things. A wife can relax with her husband, without worrying about "what to do." She can go somewhere without worrying about what to say. She can say whatever she likes and "kid around" about her husband a little. She can spend some money on herself and expect him to take her out to dinner. Why not?
Second, however, there is just something wrong about that, isn't there? Let me change this around a little bit. Let's switch the roles for a minute. "It is certainly fine to have a day off in the sense of a day of rest or pleasure without worrying about things. A husband can relax with his wife, without worrying about what to do. He can go somewhere without worrying about what to say. He can say whatever he likes and kid around about his wife a little. He can spend a little money on himself and expect her to take him out to dinner. Why not?"
Doesn't sound the same, does it? It is one thing to say that you want a "day off" from being an excellent wife, but you really don't want your husband taking a "day off" from being a good husband. You may want to joke about him but you probably do not want him joking about you. Some wives are angry if their husband gets a meal out with a friend and wives almost never invite their husbands to dinner.
When you sit down for a "day off," let's make clear what we are doing. We may be saying two things. First, we may be admitting that we are not, in fact, excellent wives. We are just people trying to do something that we cannot do very well and that is "too much work" and from which we need a vacation. It means that being a wife is not really what we want to be, just as splurging on a chocolate cake means we are not really trying to lose weight. It is an admission that we do not know what it means to be an excellent wife, because we still think it is about "doing things" and not about loving our husband at all. We never want a break from loving someone, because love endures al things.
Second, understand what a "day off" is for an excellent wife. Sometimes, we have a day (or part of a day) in which we are freed from the common, everyday cares of our lives. Perhaps a day with your parents or a day with your friends or an afternoon tea with a good book constitutes a "day off." These are not breaks from being an excellent wife, but part of being an excellent wife. Remember that the excellent wife takes care of herself as well as her family.
Men and women need "days off," as long as they understand what such days off mean. Rest is one thing, quitting is a very different thing. If your hope is that the day off is a "break from being an excellent wife," then your idea is wrong already. If you want a break as part of being an excellent wife, then you are moving along well.