It’s relatively easy to entertain and please a woman over a cup of coffee on a relaxing Friday afternoon. It’s much more difficult to do it consistently for fifteen years. The former takes a sacrifice of $2.05 and your best stories in exchange for a beautiful smile. The latter takes the willingness to encounter your worst self—the part of your way-of-being that causes her pain—and to expose it regularly to examination. For the latter we get not just beautiful smiles, but also (sometimes) her most painful sacrifices, her body for children, friends, family, vocation, and dreams.
In my experience, women are much more inclined to self-giving sacrifice than men. But this is not an inexhaustible resource; women must be loved. The greatest mistakes men regularly make are taking this devotion for granted as ego-building (she loves me vs. she loves me) and failing to cultivate the glory of the the woman’s self-giving love by committed loving in return. My worst self is a loveless, self-consumed egoist.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”
“Meanwhile he was promoted as a courtier. In 1367 he was attending on the King himself and was referred to as Dilectus Valenttus noster . . . our dearly beloved Valet. It was towards that year that Chaucer married. His bride was Philippa de Roet, a lady in attendance on the Queen, and sister to Catherine Swynford, third wife of John Gaunt.
Chaucer wrote no poems to her, so far as is known. It was not in fashion to write poems to one’s wife. It could even be debated whether love could ever have a place in marriage; the typical situation in which a ‘courtly lover’ found himself was to be plunged in a secret, and illicit, and even adulterous passion for some seemingly unattainable and pedestalized lady. Before his mistress a lover was prostrate, wounded to death by her beauty, killed by her disdain, obliged to an illimitable constancy, marked out for her dangerous service. A smile from her was in theory a gracious reward for twenty years of painful adoration. All Chaucer’s heroes regard love when it comes upon them as the most beautiful of absolute disasters, an agony as much desired as bemoaned, ever to be pursued, never to be betrayed.”
This was not in theory the attitude of a husband to his wife. It was for a husband to command, for a wife to obey.
“Introduction,” by Neville Coghill, in The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer
I must say, this short paragraph explains a good bit about what is going on in Sir Gawain and with Dante and Beatrice.
I’ve never seen anything like this:
I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.
Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.
One of the best things you can do as a married man is to learn in what ways your wife is gifted and continually reinforce her in the practice of it.
From When Sinners Say I Do, by Dave Harvey
“Needs are not wrong; we all have them. They exist as daily reminders that we were created as dependent beings, in fundamental need of God and his provision for our lives. But maintaining a distinction between genuine needs and those needs invented by a self-indulgent culture is essential for a healthy marriage.
“Is it wrong to desire the gentle caress of a husband’s hand or the kind words from a wife’s tongue? Absolutely not. But even things that are good for a marriage can be corrupted if they are defined as needs. The problem is not that we desire—desire is completely nature; it’s that our desires become juiced with steroids. Calvin called our desires “inordinate.”
“It’s not wrong to desire appropriate things like respect or affection from our spouses. But it is very tempting to justify demands by thinking of them as needs and then to punish one another is those needs are not satisfied. A needs-based marriage does not testify to God’s glory; it is focused on personal demands competing for supremacy. Two people, preoccupied with manipulating each other to meet needs, can drive their marriage down the path of “irreconcilable differences.” This is cultural language that simply acknowledges that a marriage can no longer carry the weight of demands understood as needs.
“Perhaps though, the saddest part of driving down the road of unmet needs is where we end up. The road of unmet needs leads to nowhere. It is a forlorn, one-lane stretch of me. All it leads to is more of me. It’s worse than a dead end—it’s a road that never ends.
“But sinners who say “I do” have a different road to travel. It is the road of astonishing, undeserved grace—a grace so remarkable that is shows us the problem and then delivers the solution. Have you ever been on a scenic drive so beautiful that it was hard to keep your head from spinning from one vista to the next? The road of undeserved grace is like that. “
Yesterday, my four-year-old son accidentally spilled a full gallon of white paint down the carpeted stairs in our house. As I happened upon this mess, I thought of this quote from Dave Harvey’s book When Sinners Say I Do . My response wasn’t perfect but it was tempered by the realization that the idols in my heart were being exposed (my personal comfort, my desire for a perfect house, my plan to do something “profitable” with my day).
Not long ago, my son started the lawnmower with the oil cap loose. Once the engine heated up, the poor kid struck oil. And it was a geyser! Since I don’t change the oil often (read: never), a slimy black sludge erupted from the engine, covering the lawnmower, my son, and everything within a six-foot radius. (It’s because of stuff like this that I don’t cut grass.)
This might be a helpful illustration for understanding the operation of remaining sin. Original sin filled the “engine” of our hearts with the “oil” of depravity–dark, greasy, and staining everything it touches. Circumstances come along and heat the engine. When the engine is hot–when events in our lives test our hearts by stirring anger, lust, greed, etc.–whatever is in the engine spews out. The heat (the circumstances did not fill the engine with oil, it simply revealed what was in the engine.
Experienced any heat lately?…
Have you ever considered why there are no accounts of Jesus slamming a door in angry frustration or inflicting the “silent treatment” on someone who hurt him? Why didn’t Jesus get irritated or bitter or hostile? The simple but astounding answer is that when his engine was heated by circumstances, what was in his heart came out: love, mercy, compassion, kindness, Christ didn’t respond sinfully to the circumstances in his life–even an undeserved, humiliating, torturous death–because the engine of his heart was pure. What was in his heart spilled over. It was love!
I should have thought to take a “before clean-up picture”. This was after about an hour-and-a-half with a Rug Doctor. – Amy Hatfield