One of the great struggles for all of us is dealing with hard days. We are surrounded, each of us, by sinful people. We know that we are to love them, which, biblically, means we are to seek their good, not our good, in our relationships with them. We are to be patient with them, kind to them, gentle with them. The same thing is true in our marriage. We are to be kind, loving, gentle, forgiving, patient, and all the other things that the preacher said at our wedding. We are not to seek our own. We are not to be whiners and complainers.
But, no matter who we are, there are days. There are times when you feel as if you have been just as kind, patient, and gentle as you could possibly be. There are times when you just cannot take another whine from someone else. There are days where you just have to close a door and spend a moment in quiet or you are going to explode.
This is where love gets its greatest test. At that point where you reach the breaking point. Where you feel that someone else needs to be patient, that someone else needs to be gentle, that someone else needs to listen to what you want to say to them. People whine and complain endlessly. People devour your time in nonsensical things. People never repay the kindnesses you have given to them. There is a point where you just want to give up and blow up and let it all out.
The tendency of people to decide that they have been "patient enough" is merely one more sin. What makes you think that there is such a point? I am not told "be patient enough" but "be patient." I am not told "be gentle enough" but "be gentle." The measure is never outside of myself. It is about who I am.
We talk about someone being "more patient" than we are, but that is really a false concept. We are either patient or we are not patient. We either are gentle or we are not. Being gentle for a few days is not being gentle. Being patient for a few hours is not being patient.
Hard Days arise for us. Days where the people in our lives seem worse than usual. Days where something goes wrong and sets us off. Days where we snap a little, where we bark a little, where we are not patient with someone. Days where, after we have sinned, we excuse it by remembering how patient we were before we were not patient anymore.
Hard Days come. Being patient is about always being patient. The fruit of the Spirit is not gentleness "up to a point" but gentleness itself. The fruit of the Spirit is not reasonable patience, but patience itself.
Do not let the Hard Days beat you. The defeat in such cases is not just for a moment or even for the Hard Day. It is a defeat of everything you want to be, everything God is making you to be.
Hard Days are the test. Do not fail it.
One of the problems with romancing a husband, as many wives would say, is that it will lead to sex. "All they ever think about is sex," is the common response. "If I do that, he will want to have sex with me," we are told.
Well, yeah. What's the problem?
There are two things being asserted here. First is that romancing a man causes him to think sexually. Second is the idea that your husband wanting to have sex with you is a problem.
As for the first, this is like saying the sky is blue. Of course romancing a man causes him to think sexually. I would note that the same thing is normally true of women. One of the constant complaints from wives is that their husbands want to have sex without romancing them. Well, doesn't that mean that romancing them is connected to sex?
Men are constantly told that they "must romance their wives" in order to promote a healthy sex life. So, romance is connected to sex. It just is. For both sexes. To complain that romance will lead to sex is nonsensical, like complaining that cooking leads to food.
The more troublesome problem is the second issue. Why does it bother wives that their husbands want to have sex with them? I do not get this at all, except where the wife no longer wants to have sex with the husband.
If your husband wants to have sex with you, this is a very good thing. That is exactly what God wants him to want. (Read Proverbs 5 again.) God wants him to desire you, to have sex with you, to be "intoxicated with your love." What part of that seems bad to you?
All day, for most men, he is surrounded by other women, but his desire is for you. Why is this supposed to be a bad thing?
The reality is that it is a "bad thing" only when the wife does not want to have sex with her husband. When a woman expresses unhappiness over her husband wanting to have sex with her, then you know that she has not yet understood being an Excellent Wife. Proverbs 5 and 1 Corinthians 7 are sufficient texts, but more are available.
You want your husband to want you. Every day. You want him to awake in the morning being intoxicated with your love. You want him to think of you all day. You want him to want you at night. You want him to focus all of his sexual drive, all of his sexual desire, and all of his sexual energy on you.
If you do not want this, then what do you want? Do you want a roommate? Do you just want a financial support who stays at work late because he has no reason to come home? Do you just want someone who is stuck being married to you?
If you love your husband, you must actually love him. You must want his happiness. You must want him to be intoxicated with your love.
If you want less than this, then you should never have married at all. Why promise to be a wife when you only want a roommate?
Okay, so you have decided to romance your husband. Now what? First, you need to do something very important. Check your own "wish list" at the door. He is not you.
There are multiple lists of things on the internet that are supposed to be "romancing your wife" and they are a good warning for wives of what to avoid. For example, consider this list given to men and think about how it will work for you:
1. Take walks with your wife.
Okay, you may think that having your husband ask you to take a walk is romantic. And it may actually work for your husband. But, to be honest, walking with a wife is not romantic to a husband. Being invited to take a walk is often really just a way to get him to stop whatever he is doing, which may be worthwhile. Also, how fast do you walk? A lot of husbands have a hard time with their wife's slower pace of walking. Not a great husband romance tool, unless you are on the beach. Then, go for it.
2. Tell your wife you want to romance her.
Do not try this one. Telling your husband you want to romance him is like singing a song about how much you would like to praise God. Why not just praise Him? Telling him you want to romance him makes it a competition to see if you do it well. Do not tell him. Just do it.
3. Take your wife out on a romantic date.
Okay, now we are getting somewhere. Taking him out is a good idea. But what if he makes all the money in the family? Hard to make a date to be about him when he pays for it. A much better plan is a date at home. No, seriously. Put the kids in bed nice and early and make a special meal for just you and him. Much more romantic for a husband than another bill at a restaurant.
4. Write your wife love notes.
This is not a bad idea for husbands either, but be careful. Make sure his friends will not see it. Make it something real that you feel, not something from some store.
5. Hold hands with your wife in a restaurant.
Not a bad move here, either. But if you want to really reach your husband, don't hold hands (a very static kind of thing). Rub his arm absent-mindedly. I saw this recently with a couple and thought how nice that looked. Sit next to him at a meal. Rest your hand on his leg. Be intimate. Hand-holding may be great for wives, men need a little more.
6. Share a dessert with your wife.
I do not get this at all. Sharing a dessert is nice, but I do not see it as romantic. It is just a good way to save some money, get a dessert, and cut down the calories. Not romantic.
7. Read your wife a love poem.
Don't even think about it. He does not want to hear love poetry. Ever.
8. Write your wife a love letter.
This is just like writing a love note, just longer (I guess).
9 Read a love letter to your wife.
Getting kind of repetitive here. Do not read a love letter to your husband. Let him read it. Seriously. When someone reads to you, you are required to respond in some manner that validates their reading. Let him read your love letters privately.
10. Tell your wife what you love about her.
This should be a regular feature of your relationship. Tell him you love him. Compliment what deserves complimenting. Appreciate what he does for you. If you consider this to be a special thing called "romancing" that you only have to do for a special occasion, something is very sad somewhere.
Men are frequently told that they are supposed to "romance" their wives. They are usually told this by their wives or by someone who does not know them. Men are supposed to set up "date nights" and special outings with their wives. This is very important, we are told.
Okay, fine. Wives, romance your husbands.
Wait, I never hear that. In all of my life of listening to people preach and teach on marriage, no one has ever said "wives, set up a date night with your husband." No one has ever said "wives, romance your husbands." Why not?
Well, I think it is because we have reached an odd stage, especially in Christian marriage, where husbands are just not considered very valuable. I remember grocery bags from my Navy days, where the local commissary (grocery store) had bags that said "Navy Wife -- Toughest Job in the Navy." Sounds nice, but it is not true. Being under fire is a lot tougher than having a husband being under fire, but that is how we think about things. Husbands are just not valued.
Your husband is not valued by this culture. Did you realize that? There are all kinds of websites and special books about how great wives are. Where are the ones about how great husbands are? Nowhere. Or, at least, not as obvious.
Why don't you take a different approach? Instead of waiting for him to appreciate you, how about appreciating him?
Romance your husband. Sit down and think about what you can do for him, to show him how special he is to you. You might be surprised how many ways there are to make your husband special.
A constant favorite on the wifely advice circuit is various versions of "what men want." We are told, for example, that what men "really want" is a companion. Or, maybe, what men really want is someone who will "let him have some space." We are also told that men want someone who "knows what he needs" or someone who is "sincere." A quick search on Google will find dozens of things that "men really want."
Here is my addition to the list. Men want wives.
Men marry because they want to have a wife and they have found someone whom them believe to be a potentially great wife. They marry because someone fits their understanding of what a wife is to be. That is the whole point of marriage for men, isn't it, to be a husband and to have a wife? Men want wives.
The trouble with all of our books is that we want women to be satisfied to be less than real wives. If a woman reads a book saying that men "really want a companion," what good does that do? Does she decide to "become a companion," which would mean no longer being a real wife? The problem is that she is being told to focus on one thing instead of on the main thing.
If you are told that your husband "really wants" to "have his space," how is this going to make you a better wife? Does it make your housekeeping more efficient? Does it make your sexual relationship better? Does it take care of your children? Space is one thing, being a wife is many things.
As with so many issues, women are encouraged to focus on bits and pieces of life. Each author has some idea of "what is really important" and they focus on their idea, rather than on the reality of being a wife. They urge women to fix the bits and pieces. Their idea is that a good wife is like a good car and that if you fix each part, then the whole thing should run.
This is a fallacy. Women are not like cars. Women are people. Their husbands are people. They do not have parts that can be fixed. Your job is to be a wife, not to be a few things that are consistent with being a wife. Be a wife.
Sometimes, this will mean being a companion and sometimes it will mean being a lover and sometimes it will mean being a housecleaner and sometimes it will mean being a nurse. It will always mean being a wife.
One of the frequent comedy routines is the husband and wife sitting around, with the wife reading a magazine article about marriage. She is fascinated by the article and he is bored by it. This is supposed to show how much she cares and how little he cares, or how smart she is and how smart he isn't. What it really shows is a woman trying to find in a magazine an answer that can only be found in her relationship with her husband.
The secret is this: your husband is the one who matters. You are his wife. It does not matter what any magazine says. You may be a great cook or a lousy cook, but that tells me nothing about how good a wife you are. I would need to know who your husband is and how you two relate.
Stop trying to become some bit or piece of someone else's idea of what men in general "really want." What your husband really wants is for you to be his wife. That is what he chose when he married you.
What he really wants is you loving him.
How we look at scripture is very interesting. In recent years, there has been much hue and cry over the use of "man" to refer to both men and women. We all know how the language works, in this regard, but it has become a big issue. Similarly, "brethren" was once understood to mean everyone, now it seems to only mean "men", so we change our translations to match this reality.
Likewise, many things that are expressly said to men are, automatically, understood to also apply to women. Thus, when Paul says "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," we understand that he really means that there is one mediator between "mankind" and God (that "men" means everyone) and that Christ was a "man," ("man" there meaning a man). When Paul says "let no one boast in men" we know that it is likewise sinful to "boast in women." This does not confuse us because we say the same things in our own language every day.
Anyway, the same principle is often not used in understanding Proverbs. For some reason, unsupported by any textual language, we have decided that Proverbs is different. Or, maybe, just a little different. Especially about sex.
So, we hear odd things in Proverbs 5. The Bible language is not in serious dispute, here is what it says:
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son,
with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
Okay, now, here is where we get odd. Preachers in our age tend to make this all about "men" and how "men" think about sex. It is clear (throughout the chapter) that sex is a big deal. God is giving commands about how to deal with the temptations of sex. Remember that the world of Proverbs was a world filled with prostitution and illicit sex. It was always possible for a person to find a sex partner. The command of God was to find all sexual pleasure in your wife. So, preachers tend to preach this chapter as a duty of women alone and to emphasize how "consuming" sexuality is for men. We think (for some reason) that this is a problem just for men. That is, that it is "men" who are all caught up in sexual desire and that women are somehow more pure.
This is nonsense, of course. It is purely a function of our culture that this is perceived to be true. At other times in history, it has been quite differently perceived. In many prior centuries, it has been the women who were perceived as "wild" and the men who were cold. Remember that it was no so long ago that it was men who wore shorts and hose and high-heeled shoes in order to appear sexually desirable to women.
The reality is that men and women share the sexual drive. That is why Paul makes clear that young widows ought to remarry. 1 Tim. 5:11-14. That is why the sexual duties of marriage are equal. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.
For too many wives in our age, however, this has become a real problem. They are taught to deny their own sexual desires (because they are taught that sex is evil) and therefore likewise deny their husband's sexual desires ("he is such an animal"). They are taught to be unhappy in one of the things in which God has commanded absolute satisfaction.
The lesson of Proverbs 5, for women, is that sexuality is real, powerful, and significant. The lesson is that you are, in your marriage, to fully indulge your sexual desires with your husband, to be made one in the act of loving each other. We are to not only satisfy one another (our duty) but also satisfy ourselves. Sexuality is part of who you are. It is not a part you have to "control" or "overcome" unless you have sinful desires. Your natural desires for sex are to be entirely fulfilled in your husband.
Why do we condemn as evil what God has given us for our good? Enjoy the gift of God with your husband.
As long as we are admitting things, let's admit this: Somedays, we are not happy being married.
When we were young and looking forward to marriage, we thought (perhaps) that every day would be magic. The reason we thought that was that, at that time, it kind of was always magic when we were with our loved one. We would go to work and then spend an evening together and then kiss goodnight and go to our homes. Each time we saw them, it was exciting. We thought, naturally, that everything would always be exciting with them.
Then, we got married.
At first, it was still magic all the time. Well, most of the time. We began to not be quite so magical. There is a lot of difference between being ready when he gets there and having him there while you are getting ready, for example. It is one thing to finish your hair while he waits downstairs and a very different thing to have him hovering around the bathroom.
But, still, it was magic a lot of the time. Then, the first baby was born. Suddenly, it wasn't so magic anymore. There was a time when waking up and knowing your husband was next to you was pleasant or even exciting, but the fifth night that the baby wakes up crying, you just want him to get up and deal with it and let you sleep. Not a lot of magic there.
It was fun spending money together when you were dating, but not as much fun planning your spending while married.
It was fun shopping together on occasion when you were dating. It is not as much fun shopping together all the time, especially if (as in most couples) he doesn't like shopping as much as you do (or for as long).
Sometimes, there is just not any magic left. Some mornings, you just want him to leave and then you sit and wonder how this can possibly last any longer. You think about how much better it might be without a husband always around. You love him and love the children, but they are both a lot of trouble.
You imagine that he feels the same way (he does, sometimes, of course). Magic usually dies on both sides of the marriage, not just on one side.
Living together as husband and wife is not like television (which shows us either a couple that still acts like children or a couple that is dysfunctional). It is not like movies (where everything is quickly resolved). It is a lot like life. The same things happen over and over and over again. The same people walk through the door, the same children make the same noises, and cooking meals seven days a week is a real drag.
You try to "recapture the magic," but this is foolishness. You are not 21 any longer. You know that life is not about magic anyway, it is about love and responsibilities and maturity.
What is the answer? The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes: "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?" Ecc. 2:24-25.
If you think that seems rather simple, look at Ecc. 3:13, 5:18, and 8:15, which says the same.
In other words, stop looking for "magic" or whatever feeling you thought you were going to have. Look at your life. God has provided for you all that is needed for your life. Eat and drink. Find enjoyment in your toil (your work, including housework and child watching and work for money). Count yourself blessed for all that you have.
And wait. The nice thing is that moments of depression, even of despair, are just moments. The reality is that God remains king of all things, including your life. Enjoy what He has given you.
In my kitchen, we have a vent over our stovetop. As in many modern houses, however, it is not really a "vent" at all. It does not send the smoke from our cooking out to the world, it just "vents" it back into the kitchen, having sent it through a filter of less than impressive qualifications. As a result, we never actually use it.
A vent, after all, ought to accomplish the task of eliminating the stuff being vented. The vent for my clothes dryer does not send the dryer air back into my house. The vents for the various plumbing equipment in my house do not send their fumes or methane gas back into my house.
So, I know what a vent is. A vent is something that lets out what is bad without hurting anyone.
For some reason, however, modern Americans have decided that "venting" has a very different meaning in our families and in our homes. We have, in fact, decided to use "vent" to mean something totally different in our homes.
In our homes (and our businesses), we use the term "venting" to describe someone being very angry and yelling at people. We say someone is "venting" when they are abusive to their underlings. We say people "need to vent" when they lose their temper. This is really a foolish way to speak.
Because being angry, being abusive, and being mean to other people is never "venting." Venting takes something that is bad and puts it where it cannot hurt anyone. My dryer air and my home's methane gas are vented.
But, when we are angry, we "vent" by dumping on other people. We "vent" our anger by yelling at other people, often people who have nothing to do with what made us angry. We have even been told that we "need to vent" and husbands and wives are told they ought to "allow their spouse to vent" by being the object of their anger and bitterness.
We have this all backward. No one should ever be hurt by what is inside me. If "venting" means taking what bothers me and causing others to be bothered by it, then "venting" is just hurting other people for my own sake. Throwing a fit at my wife because of something that happened at work is just selfishness. It is not "venting," it is hurting someone else.
There is no person who "needs to vent" if venting means hurting the people they love. Your husband does not need to be the object of your "venting." You have no right to demand that he listen to your anger or your bitterness or your sarcasm.
The Bible tells me that I am to "weep with those who weep" and to "laugh with those who laugh." It never says I am to demand that others weep with me. It never says I am to live in such a way that what bothers me becomes a bother to others.
So, you are frustrated at work. Or, perhaps, you are frustrated at home. Do you "vent" when you are with your husband again? Do you waste time with the man who loves you by spending it being angry over something he did not do?
Do I sometimes "vent"? Yes, when I am alone. I "vent" when I can release what is bad without hurting anything that is good. I will not vent to my wife, except when I am in sin. I will not vent to my children. I will not vent to my employees.
I will not hurt someone else just to make myself feel better. Because, you know what, when I hurt someone else, I really don't feel better at all.
Recently, we have seen yet another series of articles on the age-old question of how often a married couple "should" have sex. Apparently, this is an eternally valid research subject for any grad student who needs a research paper, so here we go again.
The answer to the question, by anyone with any sense, is "how often they want to have sex." I mean, seriously, who cares if your frequency matches someone else's frequency? Sex, marital sex at least, is not a league sport.
The studies are popular with one of the two partners in most marriages. In many marriages there are two very different sexual attitudes. One partner really enjoys sex and wants to have it more often. The other one doesn't like sex as much and would like an excuse to have it less often. The studies become more ammunition for whoever's position is supported by the most recent finding. If you are the "non-sex" partner, then you are glad if the study shows you are "beating the average" because you can argue for a reduction. If you are the "more sex" partner, then you are glad if the study shows you are "below the average" because you can argue for an increase.
That's how low we have sunk in our marriages. We resolve sexual issues by referencing the second-hand reports of how often people we do not know have sex. Then, for some reason, we think that our partner ought to "conform" in some odd way to the reports of the things these strangers do.
The Bible has a much simpler approach. Each partner is to have sex when the other partner wants to have sex. 1 Cor. 7:3-5. Pretty straight forward, isn't it? That is the rule. Sex is never about percentages or strangers or studies, it is about the man or women to whom you are married. You are the sole and total source of their sexual pleasure and are to be available to them.
This, after all, is of the essence of the command of God in Proverbs 5:
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
We live in a time of greatly increased access to pornography, in which we see increased frequency of divorces, in which we see common commission of adultery, and in which we actually think that some study of strangers is relevant to sex with our spouses.
Men and women, husbands and wives, need to love one another. They do not need to read more studies.
Today, we have posted the last audio record in our To Love Their Children class. We finished the class last night. From the perspective of someone who hopes to be an Excellent Wife, the class presented a lot of challenges. One such challenge really interests me today.
One of the most popular questions of our day turns on the issue of "balance." It is rather amazing how many aspects of our life seem to be tied up in "balance." There are dozens of websites on how to "make my life balance." We are told to "balance" our spiritual and physical lives, to "balance" our roles in our jobs and our homes, to "balance" the "demands" of being a wife and a mother, and on and on into almost everything.
What makes this odd is that the Bible says nothing at all about balance. The Bible does not tell you to balance being a parent and being a wife. It tells you to be an Excellent Wife and to love your children. In Proverbs 31, it is clear that loving her children effectively is part of being an Excellent Wife. There is no balancing involved at all.
I think much of our "balancing" talk is just noise to make us feel justified in refusing to do what we are supposed to do. We cannot be loving wives because we must "balance" being good moms, we will say, even though the two things have no conflict at all. We cannot be faithful in all spiritual things because we must "balance" worldly things. We can refuse one thing without any guilt, just by claiming we are "balancing" it with something else.
We are to "balance" our emotions so no one sees us cry, unless, of course, we want to "balance" our emotions to let people see us cry. If we cry often, then we are said to be "unbalanced." If we never cry, then we are said to be "unbalanced." Where does this stuff come from?
The real problem is that we have created an unnecessary problem to add to our lives. I have many things I have to do in my life. I must do those things in the light of God's word, especially His command to me to love Him and to love my neighbor.
But, now, I am told that it is not enough to obey God. I am also (I am told) supposed to "balance" all this stuff in some way. It is not enough that I do what God tells me, I must also somehow "balance" each thing with some other thing. My life becomes not just about what I do, but about how I do this other, extra-Biblical "balancing" thing. Every duty becomes more complicated by the balancing command. People will complain if I appear "unbalanced," based on whatever they think, without any reference to what God says.
Life is hard enough to live without adding extra burdens. "Balancing" is not a Bible burden.
The Bible does not speak of balancing (except for references to the physical tool that was called a "balance"). I am not to balance my life. I am to live my life. I am not to choose a little of this and a little of that, but am to take all that God has given me.
The Bible speaks of walking a path, not about balancing. I am to walk the path God gives me, to walk in a manner worthy of my calling, to walk in the statutes of God, to walk in the old godly ways. I am never told to balance anything.
Being a good parent does not involve any conflict with being an Excellent Wife. As Proverbs 31 makes clear (and as your own heart tells you), an Excellent Wife is always an Excellent Mother. There is nothing to be balanced.
Stop balancing your life and start living your life. Walk the path God has set out for you. You may be surprised how wonderful a walk it can be.