Harvest House Publishers
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. —JAMES 1:5 NIV
Somewhere between the thrill of the engagement, the hectic preparation for the wedding, and the joy of The Big Day—and often despite excellent pre-marital counseling—the message gets lost, overlooked, or silenced. That message? Marriage is hard work.
Even in the best of circumstances, the demands of daily life and the hours one or both spouses work outside the home take their toll on the marriage relationship. Friends and lovers become business partners and virtual strangers. Children become the main topic of conversation and the primary focus of prayers. Older parents need care, bills need to be paid, the Sunday school program needs teachers, and the lawn needs mowing. Energy is gone long before the day is over, and the day is over long before the “to do” list is complete. Even with the Lord as the foundation, marriage is hard work.
THE WAY OF THE WORLD
And marriage is made even harder these days by the world’s view of men, women, marriage, and the family. What the world preaches certainly isn’t what God had in mind when He made us in His image, instituted marriage, and declared it good!
The Scriptures clearly teach that God created Eve from Adam’s rib so that she could be Adam’s helpmate (Genesis 2:18). Today’s society, however, slams the door on that truth. While it’s good that women have made some important and long overdue strides toward social, political, and economic equality, some women, unfortunately, have pushed for equality to the point of erasing the distinctive differences God created in men and women so they could complement one another. Some have even gone so far as to say, “Who needs men?” In response, many men have become passive, quiet, and unsure about their role in relation to women. In fact, they have no idea what God intends them to be, and women are frustrated because their men aren’t meeting their needs in the marriage and the family. Women cry out to their husbands, “Get with the program!” and the men softly ask, “What program?” Men and women alike have strayed from God’s design for marriage, and as a result, are at odds with their mates.
LIES WE ARE TOLD
Conflicts between husbands and wives are often triggered by certain ideas that society tells women to believe about themselves and about men. In fact, clinical psychologist and author Dr. Toni Grant points out ten lies that the modern “liberated” woman has bought into—lies based on the false promises propagated by the more extreme elements of the feminist and sexual revolutions.
Society would have women believe that they can be high-powered CEOs, devoted wives, loving mothers, impeccable dressers, immaculate homemakers, gourmet chefs, creative hostesses, and disciplined exercisers. And women in pursuit of this impossible goal pay the price of a sense of failure, lack of fulfillment, and utter exhaustion when they don’t live up to those unreachable standards. After all, as Dr. Grant points out, women—like men—are only human!
At our seminars, though, Emilie and I are seeing more and more supermoms who have come to realize that they can’t have it all and have decided that they don’t even want to try. In growing numbers, women are leaving the hard-charging corporate world and returning to the responsibilities, challenges, and comforts of home, children, and family—and they are content with their choice. They tell us that they were paying too high a price in terms of their marriage, their children, their peace of mind, and their sanity when they were trying to achieve the illusory and impossible goals that society put before them.
This lie has caused many women to adopt attributes and behaviors that run counter to their natural characteristics and temperaments. These women have been untrue to themselves as they have tried to be other than what God created them to be.
Clinical studies show consistently different play patterns between young boys and girls, but we don’t need sociologists and psychologists to point out the differences. Our own observations of the world around us and even limited contact with a member of the opposite sex reveal that men and women have different priorities, think different thoughts, and have different desires in life. The basic differences between males and females (which we’ll address throughout this book) are one reason why marriage is challenging, and unfortunately, many women have refused to acknowledge these differences in their quest for liberation and equality with their male counterparts. Let me say here that different does not imply better or worse, superior or inferior. And, acknowledging that there are differences may help women be more comfortable being women—and not men!
What makes a woman attractive to a man? Is it her keen business sense, her economic conquests in the corporate world, how many company boards she sits on, the number of postgraduate degrees she has earned, or the honors listed on her resumé? Does the power she attains by virtue of her many accomplishments win her the devotion of her man? Does love blossom where the woman has achieved much of what the world values in the way of status and success? No! Again, the world’s lies have taken hold. This is not to say that women should not use their God-given gifts or strive to respond to God’s call in their lives. Rather, women are learning that their accomplishments don’t necessarily win them a man’s attention or devotion. Women are also learning that the top of the corporate ladder can be as lonely for them as it is for men.
God calls each of us to use the talents and abilities He has given us, but too many of us have fallen victim to the idea that we have incredible hidden potential and all of it must be realized. While it’s true that we should do everything to the best of our ability, believing that we should always be able to win the gold medal or consistently score a perfect “10” can mean disappointment and depression when human limitations result in a bronze medal or an unexpected “8,” “6,” or even “2.”
By contrast, the Bible offers a message of freedom. Again and again throughout the pages of Scripture, we see how God uses ordinary people in His work. We don’t have to be mental giants, well-trained scholars, or experts in the Bible. We need only to surrender ourselves to God and allow Him to do great things through us. Jesus teaches, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Resting on the truth of the Bible, we can be free from the myth of unrealized potential. Humbling ourselves before God yet willing to do our best wherever He calls us to work, we can let Him do what He will with our five loaves and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21).
One basic difference between men and women is the way they approach and enjoy sex, and some of those differences are not hard to understand. First, the potential consequences of sexual intercourse—bearing a new life—have far greater ramifications in the life of a woman. In addition, the connection between sex and love is much closer and more important to women than it is to men, yet the sexual revolution has attempted to erase this difference. In their efforts to achieve equality with men, many sexually active women have tried to ignore their fundamental emotional needs. They have sacrificed their souls based on the lie that they should approach sex just as men do.
If women were to accept the fact that their Creator made them different from men, these women could again find wholeness, peace, and a more satisfying sexuality. Often women will ask, “How can I be more feminine?” My usual response is, “By being less masculine!” Men like the softness of a woman—her chin, her voice, her dress, her manners, her social graces, and the way she relates to them.
Quite often, women delay motherhood as they work toward their career goals. Some even postpone marriage for the sake of a career. In doing so, they ignore the fact that their reproductive system won’t be able to reproduce forever. When they do suddenly hear the biological clock ticking, these women may panic. Their desperation for a child may then be heightened by any difficulty they have conceiving. Sadly, despite society’s message to the contrary and today’s high-tech medical advances, a woman’s desire for children could end up never being fulfilled if she puts off motherhood too long.
The words feminine and soft no longer carry the positive associations they once did. Many women today are choosing assertiveness and strength—tools for the business world—over kindness, sensitivity, and compassion in their relationships. They don’t seem to realize that attractiveness and real power come with the feminine characteristics given to them by God. We men respond to women who are vulnerable and open to our love and care. Today, too many women wrongly equate such vulnerability with weakness. As we’ve seen before in this list of lies, women lose when they try to be like men.
With wisdom that contrasts sharply to this popular modern myth, the New Testament writer James instructs believers to “be quick to hear, slow to speak” (1:19). In our culture, however, which greatly values busyness, many of us—men and women alike—are more comfortable doing instead of being and speaking instead of listening. When women transfer their obsession for achievement from the corporate world to the arena of male–female relationships, they often fail to be the kind of listener that appeals to a man. Listening, which is a more passive and receptive role, has been granted second-class status. As a result, men and women alike miss out on the bond which compassionate listening can forge between them.
Remember the feminist rallying cry, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”? This slogan points to the myth of self-sufficiency, a myth that led Dr. Grant to label the modern woman “the Amazon woman.” In the legendary Amazon culture, women functioned completely apart from men. Once a year they would meet with men for breeding purposes, but then they returned to their own island to raise the children.
The attitude that women don’t need men is in direct opposition to the plan of our Creator. Men and women are to honor one another and lift each other up, and we honor one another when we humble ourselves. The writer of Proverbs observed that “a man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor” (29:23). Jesus taught that “the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12). The apostle Peter exhorted his readers to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). These teachings are quite contrary to our society’s prescriptions about success and to the myth that women can exalt themselves above men as people they simply don’t need.
A more humble and biblical attitude toward one’s spouse enables a Christian marriage relationship to reflect—as it should—the relationship between Jesus and His church. Just as Christ “loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), husbands and wives are to humble themselves in service to one another. Furthermore, this godly marriage relationship is to be the foundation for raising children who will come to know, love, and serve the Lord. Many single parents today are doing their best to raise their children alone, but God’s plan is to have husbands and wives be partners in this all-important and challenging task. The myth of feminine self-sufficiency sabotages God’s design and runs counter to many biblical teachings.
A softer, more sensitive man has not appealed to women the way people thought he would. While the new male sensitivity brings an important dimension to male–female relationships, women also want their men to be strong. So we men are left to figure out how to be strong without being obnoxiously macho, and sensitive without being weak. I hear many Christian men today wondering how to be both the man the Lord wants them to be and the man their wife or society wants them to be. Men today are desperately trying to figure out which characteristics are right and proper for them. When your husband manifests godly manhood, praise him. Help him become God’s man.
CHALLENGING THE LIES
Consider again the litany of lies we’ve just looked at: Women can have it all, men and women are fundamentally the same, accomplishment means desirability, women must realize their full potential, men and women are alike in their attitudes and approach to sex, women can put off motherhood without penalty, women should be assertive instead of soft, speaking one’s mind is better than listening, women don’t need men, and women should look for sensitivity instead of strength in a man. Now consider the impact these lies have had on our society. What role have they played in the harsh realities of families breaking up and teenagers rebelling or being lost to drugs?
When we believe in and act on these lies, we not only undermine society, we also find ourselves living contrary to God’s plan. When we try to change who God made men and women to be and redesign the plan He instituted in the beginning, our efforts dishonor the Creator. Despite that fact and despite the negative consequences of these lies, they still influence much of society’s thinking about men and women. And speaking out against these lies and myths is not always well-received. Today everyone pressures us to be tolerant or “politically correct.”
Remember when First Lady Barbara Bush addressed the women at Wellesley College? Her comments received harsh criticism from the all-women student body. Let’s look again at what she said:
At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.
We are in a transitional period right now—fascinating and exhilarating times, learning to adjust to changes and the choices we—men and women—are facing. As an example, I remember what a friend said on hearing her husband complain to his buddies that he had to babysit: Quickly setting him straight, my friend told her husband that when it’s your own kids, it’s not called babysitting.
Now, maybe we should adjust faster and maybe we should adjust slower. But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children, they must come first. You must read to your children, and you must hug your children, and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.
Barbara Bush boldly spoke out against some of the lies women and men alike have fallen prey to. In doing so, she challenged women of all ages across America to evaluate the choices they are making and the impact those choices are having on American society. In effect, Mrs. Bush called women to deny the lies society has propagated over the past few decades. And the teachings of the Bible—as we’ll see in this book—call women to do likewise. Will you respond to the call?
KEEPING YOUR COMMITMENT
On Mother’s Day 1991, our local newspaper ran a story that speaks to our times. Letha Blacman recalled the day when, pregnant with her first child, she left her husband of two years and went home to her mother. When she arrived, she spent 30 minutes telling her mother what she was unhappy about and that she was leaving her husband and their home. (Interestingly, at the time the article was written, Letha couldn’t remember why she was so angry with her husband!)
When Letha stopped talking, her mother said, “I have listened to you, and now I am going to tell you what you are going to do. You are expecting a child. It needs a mother and a father. You are going back to your husband, and the two of you are going to raise that child.”
I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.—Philippians 4:13 TLB
The next morning, Letha’s husband went to her mother’s house and took Letha home. Angry that her mother hadn’t opened her arms and said, “Come home, honey,” Letha didn’t even wave goodbye as she and her husband drove away.
The punch line of the story? Letha and her husband raised that first child and a second as well. On April 23, 1991, they celebrated their fifty-ninth wedding anniversary. Letha had decided to stand by her commitment when she felt like quitting. Today’s society would have told her to be concerned about her own happiness and encouraged her to make it on her own. But fortunately she took a stand, and you can do the same.
You can support your man when you feel like quitting. You can stay at his side even when circumstances are tough and the struggle is intense. With guidance from Scripture and reliance on God’s strength, you can survive the difficult times and do so with patience, love, and hope.
May you know the sparkle as this day unfolds of precious dewdrops a violet holds; May you see the colors of spectrums above; May you know the blessing of friends and God’s love. —JUNE MASTERS BACHER