Women expose all the failures of men just by existing. This sounds humorous. It sounds like a bit that someone does in his standup routine. It can be funny. It can also be so painful and telling.
When two people get married, we like to say that they are marrying each other exactly the way they are – it’s the ultimate “as is” policy and generally speaking, you’re not supposed to try to return it for a refund. Of course in our society, we have turned to the refund policy as a matter of course, not as an exception, and the lines to any given retailer the day after Christmas are always just as long at the customer service counter than any other register. It has turned out to be that way for marriages as well.
There are a thousand and one reasons for divorce, and I’m not even going to begin to scratch the surface of what really happens for people. But today’s post on the Gospel Coalition does a great job of examining something I have seen more often than not in many of married friends. It’s this constant tension between someone always feeling like a martyr for “all” she puts up with, and the other always feeling like a criminal paying and repaying his debt to society over and over until he really feels like he’s earned freedom or at least the right to coexist with her as an equal.
This part of the article really struck home with me.
To use her gift to enhance loyal love, a wife must remember that her husband experiences shame in her presence. He experiences this whether or not she says or does anything. Her gift of inner beauty can be that powerful. When a wife trusts this, she can relate to her husband with more kindness and rest instead of feeling compelled to help her husband recognize where he is lacking.
What happens when a wife discovers areas that fail to meet her expectations, whether it’s things he does or doesn’t do in the marriage, maybe it’s his time management – spends more time at work or with friends or helping others and not her – maybe it’s his financial problems, not being able to cover all the bills – maybe it’s his seeming disregard for her efforts in the marriage, at home, with the kids, he doesn’t express gratitude the way she most hears it – whatever the reasons, she builds up a wall between them and takes out this list of accusations and charges against him to make him feel incompetent, inferior, idiotic. Phrases like “I can’t believe you just did that” come flying out which when translated means “You’re an idiot.” So when she actually says, “I can’t believe you did that. You’re an idiot” it’s like saying “You are really really really an idiot.”
Shame is such a powerful force. It makes people do really extreme things in their attempts to hide or cover up. Some people have a defense mechanism of pointing the finger at everyone else – there are always 500 excuses, some valid, some completely insane. Others just heap on the self pity and let the shame overwhelm and defeat them. Still others lash out and keep their own list of charges against the other and it becomes a battle of who is the greater sinner.
And the marriage turns into a war. War, as we know from history, is about resources – artillery, maneuvering, soldiers, supplies, tactics – people die for their principles, hopefully it’s the same set of principles held by the men who are making the decisions back in the general’s tent. But as we also have learned, battles are often fought and won but nothing really changes and nothing really gets avoided. Like the phrase you may have won the battle but you lost the war.
For marriages, we often see the battle as that between the husband and the wife. But when we let down our defenses, when we let the dust settle and we send up the white flag, we have to come back to the realization that we want the same things. We hold the same principles. We are on the same side. If we’re not, we’re in a lot more trouble than we realize. Instead, we must stop fighting each other and trying to get what we want and recommit ourselves to the purpose of marriage – the very reason for our existence in the first place – and that is to glorify God and to reflect His image through a marriage covenant for His people. We are not playing house. We are not trying to be Ken and Barbie with their pink house and perfectly placed eyeliner. On Ken. We are instead mirror images for each other of the very image of God, of His great sacrificial love for His church, and His ministry to His people here on earth. We are meant to be a physical real manifestation of Christ himself and His Bride for all eternity.
And that is the highest calling we can possibly have as men and women. How quickly we lose sight of that in life. We get lost in the daily squabbles, the missed messages, the petty arguments, the unmet expectations. How often we get hung up on the cares of this life and the aching we feel for temporal, earthly comforts at the risk of losing the beauty and glory we can see in each other – even in the midst of our failings and shame.
How much has been forgiven me? That is what I must forgive, truly forgive, and allow for redemption – complete redemption of all these grievances. I don’t need to heap on the list of accusations for anyone. It isn’t my role in life. I am not here to blame or condemn. I have been created to love and reflect grace, to fully accept and embrace, to be kind and full of hope. And I have been given all these things in abundance as gifts to my soul so that I can share them freely with my husband. May it always be.
I just happened to post this on the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. I did not mean any disrespect by it, in fact it is even more fitting than I intended. I pray that I always choose the side of Grace, no matter what the cost.