Sometimes, men like to hide in their caves. 

Well, not actually in a cave. This is just one of those sayings around marriage. The idea is that men will frequently withdraw from others, usually to think about something that is bothering them. If they have a problem, they will withdraw. 

An old story of advice to women was that when a man is in his cave, the wise wife will leave him alone, lest she be eaten by the dragon that guards the cave. Too many women have found that, in fact, there does tend to be a dragon when you invade the cave. 

Do I sometimes go to my cave? Yes, I certainly do. Sometimes I am just tired and want to rest quietly, Sometimes I am frustrated and want to rest quietly. Sometimes I hav a major issue to resolve and need to rest quietly while I think about it. 

Notice the theme: rest quietly. When we say men "go to their caves," what we mean is that they want space, they want to be alone. 

Let them go. 

If you are an excellent wife, or ever hope to be an excellent wife, let them go. Leave them alone for a little while. There are no emergencies and he needs some quiet. 

Men who are troubled are not usually outgoing, they withdraw. They want to think. Let them think.

Because, after all, the man cannot stay in his cave. Eventually, he has to come out, if only for food. Let him rest and think and welcome him back and things will go more smoothly with you. 

The dragon, after all, is very real.
We look at our modern marriage system and wonder what we are thinking and accomplishing. In some towns, the local pastors have entered into commitments not to perform any ceremony where the couple has not completed 6 months of "premarital counseling." Couples are told, in those and other places, not to marry until "you are sure," as if surety came from the passage of time and attendance at counseling sessions. 

The counseling is an exploration of whatever the pastor likes. They talk about who does chores and what happens to the dogs and where to go on vacation. They discuss cultural trends and what they think of those trends. They talk about "sharing" and "alone time" and maybe read a book like Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus and have talks about what the book says. They talk about football and hunting and shopping and cooking. They are reminded that "marriage is for life." 

What does this tell us? It tells us that we have accepted the world's idea that marriage is just another relationship, that its success is based on compatibility and "learning to get along," We are just a smaller version of or a speed dating site.

Marriage is not about being compatible, it is about being committed. Marriage is a lifetime commitment to another person, not to their current list of likes and dislikes. We are not marrying someone because they like our football team and our commitment is not based on whether they remain committed to our football team. Marriage is our commitment to them.

We no longer teach commitment. The key is not found in our counseling, but our churches. We have given up on the importance of marriage, which we show by our emphasis on ministry to "single adults," because they are not single, they are (almost entirely) divorced people. Why did we start calling divorced people "single?" When did we decide that marriage was so unimportant that a divorce could just be forgotten? 

The day I married, I knew that I would never again be single. Once you are married, you will never be single again. You can be married, widowed, or divorced, but never single. My decision regarding my marriage is never about whether I want to "stay married or be single," because I will never be single. It is about whether I want to be married or divorced. As for me, I much prefer married over divorced.

On the day I married, I made a vow which I cannot break. Marriage is about commitment, not about compatibility. 
As we think about marriage, we often fail to think enough about, well, about thinking about marriage.  We take for granted certain "facts" about marriage, such as long courtships and loving one another before the service and fancy ceremonies and "needing to know someone before you marry them." We look at marriage as the biggest choice we make in our earthly lives and we do not want to mess it up. Two thoughts cannot be avoided in all this.

First, where did we get these ideas? You certainly do not see them even in the recent history (of, say, the last 200 years). You see marriages made quickly and between men and women who barely knew one another, just as in the Bible times. Remember that Jacob was so unaware that he married the wrong woman and did not know until after the honeymoon. In my own life, I handled a case involving a man who married his wife after meeting her the day before. The family arranged everything and he was supposed to marry her sister, but when he met the two sisters, he decided he wanted the younger one, so that is who he married the next day. 

Marriage was often seen as a business deal. A person found a partner (or their father found them a partner) and they married. The question of love was for after the wedding, perhaps many years after the wedding. The purpose of marriage was to produce children and provide stability. Widows remarried quickly whenever possible. 

Put simply, they did not think about or plan marriages as we do, with young people being engaged for a year or more, attending marriage counseling sessions, and completing all kinds of studies and experiences together. 

Are our ideas Biblical? Well, yes, in the sense that the Bible does not really tell us one way or the other. The Bible does not insist on family-driven marriages or marriages based on emotion or, really, any rules at all, so almost any rule is "Biblical" in that sense. Our rules are probably no more foolish than those that have been used at other times and in other places.

It is the second question that gets us. With all our efforts, we do not seem to be any better at marriage than people who married for money or influence or family or any other reason. Couples who date for years do not seem to stay married any better than couples who were married without knowing one another at all. To a large extent, this is because divorce laws are so free, but, of course, the reason the laws are so free is that so many people want to be divorced. 

So, why are we so bad at marriage? Why, when we know how important it is, do we fail so often? For every unhappy marriage that ends in divorce, there are others that remain married and yet failing, as the husband and wife go off on their own and see their marriage as just something to put up with because it is better than being divorced. 

Why are we so careful and yet so careless? Why do we put up so many roadblocks on the way to marriage, yet still find so many marriages that are failures?

Those are questions that every women needs to consider in her quest to be an Excellent Wife.
I recently re-watched the 1979 Best Movie -- Kramer v. Kramer. It is an excellent movie, of course, but the two parents (the husband and wife) are interesting. For those who do not know, the movie begins with the wife leaving her husband. She comes back about an hour later in movie time, 18 months in story time, and tries to obtain custody of their child, whom she left with her husband when she ran out. 

There are lots of details in the movie, but, from a marriage perspective, it is very disturbing. Both spouses begin as self-centered people for whom the marriage really doesn't exist. The husband wants the wife to sustain him, the wife wants the husband to honor her, and they both love their child, in some fashion. Then she leaves to "find herself."

When she returns, what we see is someone who, in finding herself, lost everything else. Everything about her is, well, about her. She wants custody because she wants her son, not because he needs her. She wants what she wants, regardless of what may or may not be good for others.  

How easy it is for each of us to fall into this trap. Our marriage, perhaps, is not what we want it to be. We do not feel as if we are fulfilled. We do not feel appreciated or loved.  Our children do not seem to love us. Our spouse is not what we thought we were getting. Sometimes, leaving seems like the easiest thing to do. 

Do not fall into that trap. Your God has a way for you. The way of the Excellent Wife is not about "denying yourself" in some cultural sense, but about fulfillment. It is about finding yourself by finding and doing the things God would have you do, being the person God would have you to be. In the movie, she believes she was "a good wife" because she stayed so long despite being unhappy, but we know that is a false belief. The good wife, the Excellent Wife, is one because of who she is.

Joy is not found through marriage, but through Christ. It is His joy that runs through the marriage of the Excellent Wife. Your service to God, through service to others, is true, worthy service, in which you can take the joy of a sound worker. 

It is a great movie because it tells a very true story -- of a man and a woman who were neither ready for marriage nor even aware of what it meant to be married. Such marriages will be miserable. The tears at the end arise not because marriage is wrong, but because they were wrong. 

Today, let's not be wrong.
Every now and then, something happens that brings a quick thought. Here is my quick thought -- How much do you smile? 

Sitting in a restaurant, you see lots of couples. I watch couples and one of the most obvious differences is smiling. The smile of a woman is of immense importance to a man. I mean almost any woman and almost any man. Men will move heaven and earth for a smile. 

Yet, many wives never smile. They sit, serious-faced, all through a meal. They do not smile. They do not laugh. They talk or discuss, but there is no pleasure in it. Who wants to live like that?

Some women will say "well, he should make me smile." I would agree with that entirely. He should make you smile. Not because he does anything to please you, but because he is the man you love. Or, at least, you did love him. 

You used to smile at him. He would not have married you without your smile. He would never have dated you a second time without your smile. Your smile carried you through the first couple of years of adjusting and getting to know one another. Where is it now?

Make up your mind to smile tonight. Smile when he gets home. Smile when you kiss him when he gets home. Smile as you tell him something positive and encouraging. Let him know you really are glad you married him. 

Because if you don't smile, he will never know whether you are are happy or not.
We lived much of our lives in the Pacific Northwest, where schools started after Labor Day. Then, several years ago, we moved back to the South, where schools begin much earlier. 

And I mean much earlier. Some local schools have already started (on August 1) and my son's high school starts on August 8. 100 degrees and sitting in school is not a plan for pleasure.  

The change is very confusing to me. It makes "summer vacation" seem so short (although they got out in mid-May). Actually, this year, it has never felt like summer vacation at all. 

The restart of school makes me think of the months gone by so quickly. What has happened in those months? Am I better or worse than I was in May? Well, in most ways, I am not better. I have not gotten in better shape (the schedule has cooperated with my natural laziness to interfere with any exercise plan). I am not wealthier (I remember Scrooge's comment about being "a year older and not an hour richer"). I am not noticeably smarter. It can be discouraging to think about these things.

How about you? Have you "redeemed the time," to use the old Bible phrase? Have your last few months strengthened you in your commitment to God and to your husband? Having learned so much, as you better? 

The Excellent Wife is not a machine, but a person. She will, undoubtedly, have times of difficulty and months she looks back on with regret. But she moves forward. Today is the day. Whatever has gone before, today is the day for making yourself better, making your marriage better, making your life better. 

The children go back to school after a couple of months vacation. Maybe its time we all got back to work as well.