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by Jacob Ninan
This is a man to man talk on a few aspects on marriage that we men usually aren't aware of but certainly ought to know! This is written from a Christian point of view, but what God intends for Christians is good for everyone (!), and so everyone can read this.
Women aren't the same as men!
In one sense, I don't need to tell that to any man! That is one of the first things we notice as we grow up! But I am not talking now especially of the things about a woman that attract us. I want to address some other things about women, especially about their behaviour, thinking and feeling, that we ought to know, in order to deal with them rightly, especially as a husband towards his wife. Frankly speaking, there are some things about a woman that we men wish were not so; in fact, we sometimes wish they were more like us, men! But, God in His wisdom has created us male and female (Gen.1:27). In other places He mentions that men and women are equal in value in His eyes (Gal.3:28). Even though we are equal, we are different, because God has different functions for us and He has different roles for us to play. Each gender is designed and equipped specifically to be suited to fulfil their role and function. The feminist movement (a.k.a. the women's liberation movement) succeeded in highlighting the aspect of equality, while going totally off course in trying to obliterate the differences!
As husbands, we are the ones who are responsible for our wives, to take care of them, provide for them, protect them, etc. The right way and the best way to do this is to love them and do things out of love for them. One thing that tends to break down this love is when we can't understand them! It's easy to feel like giving up at such times, and then choose an approach of 'minimum common plans'. But that is surely not the way a marriage is to be lived! If we can learn to understand them better and learn to adjust to their special frequencies and wavelengths, our life together will become more meaningful and satisfying.
Women have some special needs that they look for meeting from their husbands. (So do men, vice versa. But that is another topic!) The strongest of these needs is to be loved, and to receive expressions of love often from their husbands. Men tend to think only about sexual relationship as an expression of their love. But wives want their husbands to show love and affection through attention, words and small things we do all through the day. Another thing they want very much from their husbands is someone to talk with! When they start talking don't switch off! Listen heartily and participate as much as you can. It is very important for them. If you don't, they may interpret it as a lack of love!
Women like to have 'a man around' (that's the husband's role!) to help them to do many practical things they can't handle, or where they will be more reassured if their husband takes care of them. Be supportive, without any sense of superiority. (Remember, there are also other things where we men feel more comfortable if our wives handle them!)
I mentioned about God creating men and women with characteristics that are suitable for their special roles. Have you noticed that women are far better than men in their ability to deal with children? They have a special ability to enter into the world of the children and relate to them. That is major role for them. This is something we can admire in them. But did you know that they can do this much better if they have the support and backing of their husbands? Many husbands who leave the bringing up of their children entirely to their wives without taking their own responsibility seriosuly find that the children grow up lacking many aspects of discipline in their lives.
A patriarchal family?
It is very clear that God has designed the family to be headed by the husband (1Cor.11:3;Eph.5:22). Conditioned by the activism of feminists, even men nowadays shrink back from this concept! Many Christians choose to remove from their marriage vows the part where the wife has to agree to submit to her husband! But God's concept of a patriarchal family is a very wise and practical one, which is not usually what people see around them, even among Christians!
Male chauvinism (where men think they are superior to women) is very prominent even among Christians. Some even misquote the Bible to prove that Eve was created for Adam, and that her role is only to serve him! This is a complete misunderstanding.
God's description of a husband-wife relationship can be understood from Gal.5:21-28 which I quote here entirely.
"Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;"
We can see here that there are three elements. 1. Everyone submitting to one another. For example, a pastor has to 'submit' to the choir leader when it comes to singing, the choir leader has to submit to the pastor when it comes to the spiritual aspects of the choir, an electrician has to submit to the mason at times, and the mason to the electrician at other times. This kind of submission has to happen between husbands and wives depending on the different things both of them do, recognising who is more capable than the other in what. 2. The husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church, and in his love he has to give himself to her, meaning he will have to give up some of his plans and desires in order to take care of her! 3. A wife has to submit to her husband. Submission is in her attitude of recognising his God-given leadership over her. It doesn't mean that she has to just obey whatever he says, without question! How can she be a help to him if she does not share her opinions with him, which can balance his own thoughts?
As the head of the family, the husband is responsible for the family. He has to provide the leadership. If anything goes wrong, he has to take the blame! He can't take arbitrary decisions by himself and ask his family to follow. After God created Adam, He saw that it was not good for him to be alone, and so He provided Eve to support him (Gen.2:20). A wise husband will take advantage of the help he can receive from his wife, not only practical help, but also from her opinions, experience, knowledge, etc., so that he can take well-considered decisions for the family.
If a husband really loves his wife, he will see that his wife finds it easier to submit to him!
A woman has her weaknesses (as does a man). As the head of the home, it is the husband's responsibility to take care of her, taking her weaknesses into consideration (1Pet.3:7). That is a part of loving her. The opposite is to abuse her and demand unquestioning obedience from her.
A common mistake of men
A large number of men think only about providing for their family financially and then they leave the family life entirely to their wives. When they get involved more and more in their work (which they value in terms of the prestige it brings), and they neglect their family as a result, men tend to justify themselves by saying that they are making such sacrifices for their family!Of course, they need to work hard in order to provide for their family. But they need to also think of meeting the psychological and spiritual needs of their wives' as well as those of their children, in terms of giving time, building relationship, showing their affection, giving spiritual direction, taking responsibility in disciplining their children, etc.
Some 'servants of God' make a similar mistake thinking that God has called them with a special calling which has to be given top priority in their lives. As a result, some of them neglect their health and family life. When they become sick because they didn't take care of their bodies, and when their marriage breaks up or the children go astray they blame everything on the Devil! This is a misunderstanding.
Some men think that women were created only as helpers for men, misunderstanding (Gen.2:20). This comes from a literal interpretation of the verse without understanding the meaning. If we imagine that God had created Eve first, He would have created Adam as a helper suitable for her! Men and women are equal in value to God, and women are not to be considered as being inferior. Adam needs an Eve, and Eve needs an Adam, and God has given them as supports to each other.
By the way, for those who explain the above verse literally, I ask why they don't interpret v.24 also literally, where a man is told to leave his parents and to cling to his wife? Usually they ask their wives to do that! Actually, both Adam and Eve were created as helpers for each other, and both man and wife have to 'leave' their parents and cling to each other.
God calls someone like Paul, on rare occasions, to remain unmarried so that he can devote full attention to the ministry from God. But for those whom God has 'blessed' with families, it is both a blessing and a responsibility. We cannot neglect ministry or family for the other but we have to learn to manage both together. 1Tim.5:8 mentions about not neglecting the family, and Col.2:18 warns about false humility involved with asceticism, neglect of the body, etc.
Sometimes, when a wife shares her husband's calling or respects his vision, it will be that this servant of God can accomplish much for the kingdom of God. But if it happens that a wife does not support her husband's ministry as much as he wishes, it doesn't mean that he can ignore her and go ahead with his ministry! In that case he would fail to 'live with his wife in an understanding way', and he would be failing to keep the vows he made to her on their wedding day! We shouldn't imagine, serving God can trample down every other responsibility that we have, which have all been given to us by God. A man must not think too much of himself as a 'servant of God' in a way that he thinks he can 'use' everybody else to serve him!
The responsibility of the head of a home is a very serious one. If we take them seriously we will find that our family life will become more and more enjoyable!
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