Before I go on, my wife heard I was going to blog on marriage, and she was all for it. Which means she gave me a little liberty to talk about us, if not her personally. But this is really about me.
About 4 years ago, I lost my job. It lead to the hardest 2 years – think about this, 2 years -- of our marriage. I was out of work for most of that time, and we almost lost our house (we sold it for a massive loss), and we were living with relatives, and I was cooking up this wacko idea to start a Christian retail store which we could own as a family business. You know: desperate times and all that.
The most important thing – relative to this series – that I learned in that period was that I had to decide whether or not I was my wife's husband or not. That is to ask, if I don't have a job, and I'm not bringing home a paycheck, and I am not supervising other people, blahblahblah, am I still the husband or am I now something else?
When my wife is having difficulty finding security in this world because we are about to start spending some of our hard-earned retirement money, am I still her husband? What if she gets sick and we don't have any medical insurance because COBRA has run out – am I still her husband? What if I forgot to do the laundry and we don't have any clean underwear – am I still the husband?
The answer the Bible gives me – particularly in Eph 5 – is that I am still her husband in the covenantal sense. That is to say, I am her husband because I left my father and mother and held fast to my wife, and nobody -- not even me -- has any right to try to take apart what God has joined together. (that's Mt 19, but you get the idea) If the love a husband is supposed to show his wife is the love Christ shows the church, my job as a husband is not to worry about how "happy" (whatever THAT means – God forbid we ever become people who are obsessed with being "happy" because we would never sleep) I am but whether or not I am living up to my vow to hold fast to my wife.
See: it's not up to me to decide that marriage is too hard, or that I'm not happy, or that "it's not you: it's me". If I have read Eph 5 right, if I'm trying the ol' "it's not you: it's me," I have done exactly the opposite of what Christ does for the church.
So in that, when I thought I was useless because I lost my job, my response ought not to be, "Why would she love me if I couldn’t keep that job?" but "I love my wife and I should do what she needs to be set apart for righteousness' sake." I should consider my vow to love her in sickness and in health – understanding that not only does it mean if she gets sick, but it also means if I get sick, mentally, spiritually, physically or economically. I took a vow to love her -- as Christ loves the church -- which means circumstances do not dictate whether I will love her right now or not.
And it's funny: when Christ spelled this out for the people listening to him, his disciples said, "If this is the case with a man and his wife, it would be better not to marry." And if you read this, and you don't think that the first time you read it, I suggest you do not understand what it is saying to you. It means that golf takes second place behind your wife. It means you put NASCAR in second place behind your wife. It means you put your job in second place behind your wife. The KJV says cleave to your wife. That word is only used to described the commitment of husband to wife -- except in Acts 5 where Gamaliel describes the men who joined themselves with Theudas to the death.
And in the example of me, the clarity of Scripture regarding exactly what I ought to do for and toward my wife was so clear that it changed me. Eventually, you will get sick of me telling you how many times Scripture has changed me, but in the same way Scripture changed me when I was an atheist into a repentant sinner who pleaded with God for forgiveness, Scripture changed me from a man who was romantically and passively in love with his wife to a man who sought Christ-likeness through his relationship with his wife, who would love his wife as Christ loves the church.
So in those two examples, let me say this: it is not up to you to determine what marriage is, and in particular men, what being a "husband" is. Like any driver on the road, and like anyone who plays sports, and like anyone who works inside a business, it is already determined what you will do if you are actually what you say you are. The question is only if you will go out and do it.
And let me also say this: the rest of us who are not in circumstances which are testing our marriages ought to treat people in marriages who are driving them on the wrong side of the road as people who need immediate and urgent advice about getting back on the right side of the road. When we treat it like it is not our business, we are saying that the spiritual and physical well-being of those with whom we are gathered together in Christ's name is not our business. I hope you can see how wrong that is without an extended proof.
"But cent, you insensitive Baptist slob," comes the reader who has been offended, "my spouse left me. My spouse is cheating on me. The Bible and Christ say without a doubt that I am off the hook, right? Or are you going to look down your nose at me for being the one who was violated?"
That is a great question, and I will pick it up next time.