I thought that when I got married I understood what it meant to be a husband. You know, to love my wife, to take care of her, and to be a leader. Hey, I said “I do”!
Now, 26 years later, I am realizing I really did not have a clue about being a husband, let alone a husband that looks like Jesus loving His bride, the Church. It truly is a miracle that, over two decades later, this woman still lives with me…and loves me!
It is not easy being a husband. And that is not a statement like “Please feel sorry for me.” Not at all. It just seems that too much of what I encounter runs so contrary to how I am supposed to live. I get the sense that many guys feel as if existing with their wife, working hard, and periodically getting her flowers serves to check off the list those items that are required of us as guys.
What are the irreducible minimums of being a husband? There is a lot one can do, but what is it that one should do?
I am not sure why exactly, but I just feel compelled to offer some thoughts on this topic. I am not sure how many weeks of posts it will take and there is not going to be some clean and systematic order.
These are just thoughts of “things I have learned” about how a guy is to be a husband to his wife. I feel like a lot of what I have learned as a husband has been similar to the following: in learning to use a hammer correctly, you more than likely are going to hit your finger a few times – and it really hurts. Those are valuable and enlightening experiences, though, not only for learning what not to do, but also learning how to then correctly use a hammer.
I feel like that is how my learning curve with marriage has been. I have done and said a lot of stupid things in my marriage. And after a period of time, it is like the Holy Spirit then inserts Himself with something like “So hey buddy, how is your way working out? Going OK?” to which I have responded with something like “I get your point.” And then repentance and confession ensue.
And let me add a caveat here – please do not take my writing about this somehow of an arrival statement of being a husband. These are not end-all posts, just my observations over my 26 years of marriage. These are principles that exist in scripture and that God is forging into my character because of my own brokenness and propensity to, on my own, be less than what God would have for me as a husband.
In a word…failure, frustration, anxiety (OK, three words).
Too many of us are trading in awesome marriages for something else. And that “something else” can be a myriad of choices. And trust me in this – the overflow of being husbands “after the flesh” rather than “after the spirit” is seeping into every area of our lives. We cannot love our wives with something less than looking like Jesus loving His church and then have epic success in all other areas of life. That is a great delusion of our age. We as guys need to stop believing that.
We are too easily pleased. C.S. Lewis said it best:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The pursuit of my wife
I recently performed a wedding for a couple and after I challenged the couple, I had a few more words…just for the groom. I told him in no uncertain terms that he must pursue his wife. Regardless of feeling, mood, or circumstances, he must pursue his bride. Always.
After the wedding a lady approached my wife and said she had never really heard that term before and asked what it meant.
What does it mean to pursue my wife? I first have to look to my example, Jesus, and see how He pursues His church. How does Jesus pursue His bride? Ephesians 5:24 is pretty clear: He gave all of Himself in the pursuit of our redemption. Pretty awesome picture, isn’t it?
So here is a working-day definition of how I see pursuing my wife in light of how Jesus pursues His bride.
To pursue my wife is to listen, observe, and anticipate for the pleasure of serving her emotionally, spiritually, and physically such that her needs become as my own. I chase after my wife. I pay attention to what she does, what she says, and what she doesn’t say. She must know that she is at the center of my crosshairs.
Now do I do this everyday? No. I fail plenty and I know it. And to be transparent, I probably have not pursued my wife like the above definition for much of our marriage. But as I will soon be departing my 40’s, I am seeing and understanding things differently as God, in His patient sanctifying process, uses life’s events to shape me to look more like Jesus.
Pursuing my wife in the past was too limited to what I could gain from the pursuit. And it was too tied to romantic pursuit. But I am understanding pursuit differently now as I see that pursuit should be an all-the-time process because Jesus is always pursuing me. Jesus does not pursue me just when He wants something out of me – He is always in the chase for my heart.
And I have noticed this – if there is something going in the wrong direction with our relationship, I can guarantee you that 99.9% of the time it has something to do with my pursuit of her being less than what it could be. Meaning, when I am pursuing me I am not pursuing her. Simple thought, yet it is impossible to carry out full pursuit without the gospel of Jesus overflowing in me.
My wife knows when I am in full pursuit and she knows when I am distracted from the pursuit. And it has made for some great dialogue between us. Yes, we talk about this together as a couple, and it is difficult to hear my wife tell me she is not feeling pursued.
And I am learning that the gospel frees me from having to defend myself. And to what purpose do I pursue?
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28)
My pursuit, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually is for her benefit, to love her and enhance her relationship with Jesus. To model being a husband in such a way that shows my wife that there is a better bridegroom coming, and His name is Jesus.
Guys, let’s admit it – we are a distracted bunch. And by distracted, I do not always mean just with “bad things.” Our heads get turned by a multitude of things, many of which are good.
As God has patiently helped me pursue my wife for her benefit, I have seen our marriage get smokin’ hot in many areas. Yes, I know “smokin’ hot” is not the biblical translation of any Greek word, but I mean just that. After 26 years of marriage, I feel like my wife and I are humming in our relationship. And it is super awesome.
And trust me, it is not because of me. God has wielded His hand of discipline to help me “get it.” And as we are told in Hebrews 12, the process is never comfortable but it does yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Guys, perhaps your marriage is not where you would like it to be. Let me offer some suggestions that have worked for me that might provide you with some direction:
Getting back on track
Ask your wife, “Hey babe, do you feel like I am pursuing you?” And if there is silence for me than two seconds and she says, “Well…” then you know.
Ask her, “Where do you feel I am not pursuing you and what is it looking like?”And listen to your wife without offering her your lame excuses.
What’s next? Confess, repent, and ask forgiveness. Trust me when I say this – humility has been one of the best things for my marriage. And by that I do not mean I just chose to be humble. Doesn’t work. I mean God working into me that which I needed.
And be in the Word – you simply cannot biblically pursue your wife when all you are doing is overflowing you because you are not immersing yourself in the Word. Truth transforms, plain and simple.
Sometime we guys need a boot to the backside by God. And I have received plenty of them. But I am also offering you hope that the gospel can change things for you and your marriage. Remember, the gospel frees us from and frees us to.
I used to (and still do at times) grumble in my mind about my rights and “My wife should and my wife shouldn’t” and feel justified in my griping. Then I started realizing that my grumbling was an overflow of a non-pursuing heart with my wife. So I decided to try the pursue-my-wife-like-Jesus-pursues-His-church and guess what? Wow! Scriptural principles work!
In a future post I am going to speak to the bigger picture of what marriage showcases, which in turn highlights why marriage is still very much a God-thing.
In the meantime, guys, allow God to humble you, have the hard conversation with your wife, and listen. You will learn much. Full pursuit guys – you won’t regret it.
I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.
If you know someone who would be helped by reading this, you can email it to them or share using one of the social media links below. Thank you for doing this! It is so appreciated.
If you would like to begin receive a weekly email whenever future posts are made, you can subscribe here. You may unsubscribe at any time.