The church is really good at shifting blame. We tend to think that sin is “out there” and not “in here”. We promise ourselves that if we could just avoid the right things, we won’t sin anymore.
“Ladies, if you stop watching movies with romantic story-lines and reading books with romantic themes, you won’t be discontent with your husbands.”
Can I just say that is a LIE?!
You can avoid every movie and book in existence and still find yourself discontent with your husband. You know why? Because the issue is your heart. What I find particularly funny is all the while we preach to avoid these “snare traps” for our marriage, we serve women something far more dangerous on a silver platter from our pulpits, retreats, and books.
We sit next to our husbands in church and listen while preachers give our husbands a list of all of the things they are called to BE and DO in order to be a godly man. Never mind that the list is mostly comprised of things that are not in scripture at all. While they could be good things, maybe even helpful things, there is NEVER any mention of God’s grace to our husbands in how Jesus is the perfect husband that is talked about in Ephesians?!! This stuff is like gasoline to an open flame in the heart of a wife who is discontent. You’ll find the same content in most books on the subject of marriage.
These lists usually contain things like:
*Take your wife out on a date weekly.
*Take your children out on dates individually weekly
*Have family devotions daily. Include singing. Even if you’re not a singing family.
*Be sure that your wife and children SEE you spending time with the Lord daily.
*Disciple your wife
*Disciple your children
*Disciple your dog, fish, neighbor, brother, mail man
*Be discipled by your dog, fish, neighbor, brother, mail man
*Keep your family from sinning, you need to present them to God, blameless.
*Do love dares
*Quit watching sports so much. Quit playing golf so much. Quit playing video games, be a man.
*Take your kids to church every time the doors are open.
*Don’t work so much.
*add other cookie cutter ideals here ____________ .
*Find a godly man, be like that guy. Do what he does.
And as if that were not bad enough, we hear the guilt trips laid upon them when they fail to meet this list (which they all do.):
*If Jesus were to walk in your home and see it in disarray, he would come looking for YOU husband and ask what you have been up to that these things are not in order. What will you say to Jesus about these things?
*Your witness to the world is your family. Does it emulate Jesus?
The wife hearing all of this knows how painfully short her husband is falling to the standard laid out. So she, in the pew, purposes in her heart to “be a helper” and make sure that he begins to tackle these things. After all, that’s what ALL of the books she is reading on being a “godly woman” are telling her to do. This “ideal man” becomes an idol in her heart. She comes up with all kinds of crazy ways to manipulate this man into becoming her idol. Maybe if she cleans more, cooks his favorite meals, offers sex more often it will make him want to serve her more? She can lay out his bible for him, wake him up with coffee, and be an example to him by reading her bible in his view as he sips his coffee and digs the crust from his eyes. Maybe she’ll sweetly encourage him to spend time with other men in the church. She’ll notice that a week has gone by without him doing so, to be helpful perhaps she’ll send an email to one of the “godlier” men in the church and encourage him to set up a “play date” with her husband?
And then…it doesn’t work.
The bitterness grows. There’s no flowers brought home. He doesn’t put gas in her car. He’s watching football…again. The comparison game begins. Look at “so and so’s” husband. He does ALL of these things. Why can’t my husband be more like HIM?! And how quickly that thought moves from, “I wish my husband were more like him” to… “I wish I were married to him.” In her mind, THIS is a godly man. She can stand from afar and assume the best about this other man because she isn’t around to see him at his worst. (She doesn’t see his messy hair and eye crust over sips of coffee in his whitey-tighties.) He’s just perfect. He fits the bill to the idol she had created for her husband to be. Fascination has taken root. It isn’t long before her heart and mind take her places she never thought possible because she’s avoided ALL of the romantic movies and novels that would make her think such things!!!! How in the world did she get to this place? Feeling empty, alone, and full of guilt for the thoughts that she indulged she thinks, “I’m wanting my husband to be the “godly” man he is supposed to be. What’s wrong with that? I thought these were good things?”
Then one day, out of absolute frustration and desperation to fix the issues, she finds herself sitting across from her husband saying, “If YOU would just BE what you are supposed to BE and DO what you are supposed to DO then I wouldn’t be struggling the way that I AM!!!!” He’s failed to become her idol. She shifts the blame of her discontent to her husband. She watches as his face falls, his heart breaks. He has been defeated.
I walked away from “The Notebook” thinking, “Dallas puts up with my crap just the way Noah did with Allie. He is SO patient with me!!!” I couldn’t wait to hug and kiss my husband for being so kind to me when I’m such a brat sometimes after watching that movie. I walked away from the “Twilight” series thinking, “Wow. That is not sacrificial love at all. I’m thankful to know what real and sacrificial love is because I live with someone who loves me that way every day.” I walked away from years of sermons and self-help Christian books just like the ones I mentioned above completely frustrated, my discontentment raging. So let’s stop pretending that ALL of our discontent is put to rest by avoiding certain types of entertainment. That is a foolish notion.
Friends, if movies and books flame the embers of discontent in your heart, and your husband becomes less in your eyes after spending time there, by ALL MEANS avoid them at all costs. It’s not worth it. But let’s not pretend the issue is always “out there”. The issue is always first and foremost, the heart. If you have expectations of any kind, that you find in movies, from sermons, etc. your husband will fail to meet those expectations and you will find yourself discontent with him. The church DOES need to take a good hard look at the way we talk to husbands about who it is they need to be. The effects of Christ in a man’s life and how it plays out within his family is going to be different for every man and that is because every man is different. And that is okay!!! The bible does not lay out specific guidelines for how a man is to love his wife. It just says to love her. So frankly, expecting your husband to be “Noah” (from The Notebook) is just as ridiculous as expecting him to be someone else’s ideal of a godly man, even if it comes from a pulpit or book by a Christian author.
Let’s stop asking our husbands to love us the way we think he needs to be (or as prescribed by others) and instead be thankful for the way God displays his love for us through our husbands. That is where you will find the contentment. That is also where your husband will find freedom. And the next time you sit with your husband and watch him deflate listening to someone telling him how much he is failing to love you, be sure to hug him and remind him of Jesus. Christ is the perfect husband, not him. He can’t possibly love you perfectly the same way you can’t love him perfectly. Remind him of how much the Lord has grown him in grace over the years and remind him of the promise that God’s not done, with either of you.
I also read a great blog post this week about lowering our expectations of our husbands and how that creates a healthier marriage. You can read it here.