Husbands Love Your Wives
A Call for Companionship
by Patrick Hurd

There is not a modern movement any better poised to change the very face of culture in the United States than today's Christian homeschooling movement. This is true because each succeeding generation of homeschoolers should be increasingly removed from the prevailing propaganda of past and present popular culture (government schools, television, pop toys, fluff books, etc) and better trained to interpret reality past, present, and future in terms of a sovereign Creator: One who is there and personally involved in the redemption of His creation.

For a family to secede from main-line society takes continuing acts of courage and conviction requiring steadfastness, perseverance, and sacrifice. For most of us it means dedicating ones self to the current and next generation, sacrificing our own ambitions of fame and fortune, and living within the means of a one-earner family in a two-earner society. Many times it takes all the physical and emotional strength we have to provide our children with the very best we can offer and then there still remains times of ministering to the brethren and to a lost and dying world that cannot be neglected. One often wonders where the time and energy comes from to fulfill all that is required.

I may not know exactly where ALL the time and energy comes from, but the statistics tell us that something is being robbed and I have a pretty good idea of what it is: the marriage relationship. Since one out of every two marriages today end in divorce, within and without the Church, the failure of couples to nourish their marriage relationship, while in the throws of whatever pursuits, seems to pervade the whole of society. Homeschooling marriages are far from exempt to this malady.

The Critical Nature of Love

But I suggest to you that, while not wanting to diminish the tragedy of any marital demise, the homeschooling family stand to pay a bigger price when a marriage goes awry than the typical Christian or non-Christian family. This is so, I believe, because many times, though not every time, the ability to homeschool or the under-girding passion for the long-term vision of homeschooling is greatly compromised if not completely destroyed. In such a case, homeschooling is many times abandoned or reduced to only another alternative means of education.

Under such circumstances, the greatest potential for damage is to the children who once embraced the idea and vision of their parents only to have it swept away from them for reasons they can't control nor fully understand. Granted that kids are the most adept at adjusting to the present circumstances, but one must wonder about the long-term impact on their faith in God and their willingness to embrace a radical calling of God when faced with the failures of the previous generation right in their own home.

For these reasons, and many others, it is imperative that parents closely guard their family from influences and practices that may undermine their Christian calling that includes the home education of their children. For example, one concern is in the area of finances. Many times financial difficulties are unforeseen and unavoidable. Perhaps the husband has been laid off, has fallen sick or injured, or there has been an unforeseen economic shift in his industry or geographic location. These situations can present enough of a challenge for even the strongest of relationships. But when bad financial decisions or stewardship precedes unforeseeable setbacks, it can quickly jeopardize a couple's ability to live on a one earners wages thus threatening their ability or willingness to effectively home school their children.

But these and other challenges can be overcome if the couple has maintained the most crucial aspect of their life together - their love relationship. A decaying or dead love relationship only serves to magnify the severity of other difficulties in the family, leaves the couple impotent to fight against such difficulties, and may eventually lead to disaster.

I believe the reason for a prevailing neglect of the love relationship among couples today is due, for the most part, to the tendency of people to become automated in their relationships. They stop working on the relationship, stop keeping it current, shift gears into neutral, and try to coast as far as possible. Suddenly, the relationship is taken for granted and the substance of the relationship is neglected in favor of more pressing issues. Why we fall so easily into this pattern is due, in part, to the prevailing view that makes little to no distinction between the form and the substance of marriage i.e., as long as there's a certificate on record in some court house somewhere then a marriage exists (the form) in spite of the relationship of the married persons and judicial violations perpetrated by one or both parties (the substance).

Form AND Substance

From the beginning marriage is the property of God. He performed the first marriage and gave away the first bride. He established it as a covenant relationship and sanctified it with the mystery of the two becoming one. The fact that the Roman Catholic Church now advocates abolishing the practice of one parent giving away the bride, in the name of biblical correctness, only underscores the distance Christianity has drifted away from covenant and toward increased individualism and autonomy.

Thus marriage today has become more a legal arrangement and less a Church ordinance. There are at least two reasons, I believe, why this thinking has propagated even within the Church. First, the Church gradually stopped administrating marriage. Why this happened, I do not know. But the evidence of this fact lies in Her lack of power to grant or deny divorce. Secondary evidence is the turning over of family counseling to professionals. Second, many times Church ministers openly abdicate to the state when they include the state as a granting authority of the marriage just performed. I suggest to you that the only authority the state has in marriage and divorce is that which has been usurped from the Church.

The result of this usurpation by the state is an opened door for frontal attacks on the institutional family, say, in the name of same sex marriages, for example. But there are more subtle repercussions among those who desire to hold to a traditional and Biblical model of marriage. The intrusion by the state has caused marriage to gradually lose its covenantal identity and take on the nature of a contract.

This contractual nature of a relationship allows one person to justify his faithlessness to his vows based on the real or contrived belief that the other party broke their vows. This kind of thinking causes the relationship to deteriorate and become dominated by the form of marriage rather than balanced by the substance of marriage. An abundance of marriages in form only is nothing new. But a marriage in form only is an unhappy state for all parties and if the real or contrived contractual violations continue, in today's climate of no-fault divorce-on-demand, the contract is likely to be dissolved.

A marriage of form AND substance, on the other hand, is one that operates according to biblical covenant i.e., upon the non-negotiable vows of the individual who is faithful to his vows regardless of the other person's faithfulness or lack thereof. Now, I know such a statement is going to raise questions that originate from life's hard experiences. What does one do in the case of adultery, incest, abandonment, abuse, neglect, etc? These are valid issues that must be addressed. But how these issues are addressed cannot be successfully formulated until the norm is fully established. In other words, it is necessary to first establish that which is to be normative according to biblical standards and then the exceptions can be judged and worked out according to the standard. The mistake that pervades our whole society is allowing the exceptions to become a part of the equation that defines the norm and, thus, no standard is ever truly established.

The Substance of Marriage

The fabric that gives substance to a marriage is companionship. Companionship is sharing ones life with another person on a day in, day out, experience by experience basis. A critical ingredient to companionship is communication but even that alone is not sufficient. For companionship is not only communicating one's hopes and dreams to the other person, it is also taking the person along with you and allowing them to actually share in the experience of your hopes and dreams.

Companionship is, thus, living life together, working together toward common goals, experiencing common interest together, sharing the joys of victory, and sharing the grief of failures. In an almost ironical sense, this happens without thinking for couples first dating (gads!) and newly wed. But eventually, the pressures of real life (the need to earn a living, new babies, schooling, church and social activities) tend to force the husband and wife into differing roles with differing schedules and differing activities. Obviously, not only is some of this unavoidable but is the right thing to do. But if we are not careful, living within our differing roles becomes a way of life and before we know it, the children are grown and married. Suddenly, the couple realizes that they have both changed, physically and emotionally, and, having failed to share with each other their mutual changes, have little or nothing in common.

When this pattern prevails in a marriage, someone has to step up to the plate and initiate a change in the way the couples relate to each other. It matters not which one does the initiating so long as someone does. But the ultimate responsibility of initiation lies with the husband, not just when it becomes obvious there might be a problem, but more importantly in the day to day maintenance of the love relationship.

To Love a Woman

Thankfully, when Paul admonished the husbands to love their wives (Eph 5:25), he didn't stop there and leave it up the each guy to decide for himself what was the appropriate way to love his wife. Rather, Paul gave them (and us) a model to follow after, that is, Jesus and His love relationship to the Church. Jesus demonstrates His love for His Church by His faithful service to the Church as prophet, priest, and king. But the Holy Spirit, in His wisdom, limited Paul from expounding too much detail as to how we fulfill the commandment. Therefore, we tend to overlook the unstated applications (not because of any deficiency in scripture but because of our finite and sinful nature) and, thus, fail to align our life with the full counsel of God's word. Accordingly, there is more to "and gave Himself for her." (vs 25) than daily family devotions and the willingness to die for her at some future date.

Husbands, following the example of Christ, execute the office of prophet within their family by teaching them the whole will of God in all things concerning their edification and salvation. Too many times the wife, seeking leadership on a particular issue, takes off in a direction while the husband acquiesces to whatever counsel she has received from other people. A husband might get away with this with his wife for a while, but an indecisive father will soon find his children going in differing directions both physically and philosophically.

As a priest, our duties toward our family include more than sacrificing our own personal agendas for their benefit. Also included is leading our family into personal and corporate worship, teaching them how to pray, teaching them the meaning of salvation, instructing them in the meaning and application of God's word, calling them into times of meditation and repentance, interceding with prayer on their behalf, and pronouncing judgements on issues within the family.

Kingly headship of a husband follows the same characteristics and traits of our Lord's kingly rule. Husbands are to establish a rule of order within the home. Order and discipline within the home are key ingredients to successful homeschooling. There should be a basic foundational schedule from which everyone works from and is held accountable. There should be a visible chain of command. An important aspect of familial government is for the husband to unfailingly support the authority of the wife and for the parents to unfailingly support the authority of the older siblings.

These are the tangible ways in which husbands demonstrate their love for their wives. However, since we are not totalitarian dictators, we depend on our wives' consent to our leadership and, thus, love. There is an aspect of voluntarianism in marriage that begins with the agreement to marry and must continue throughout the depth and breadth of the relationship. I have already touched on two of the very significant dynamics of a marriage relationship: Companionship and communication. There is more to be said about those from a practical standpoint. Another vital ingredient to a relationship is the character of each person and the development (or degradation) of character during the relationship. Last, I would like to share some thoughts on self-deception and the devastating role it plays in the decline of a relationship.

Companionship

Companionship is living life together, working together toward common goals, experiencing together common interest, sharing the joys of victory, sharing the grief of failures, etc. . . . Companionship is not just sharing the same dinner table, watching TV together, and sleeping in the same bed. Because "the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Proverbs 13:20), then companionship infers a relationship where thoughts and actions are exchanged, challenged, and behavior is effected.

But there is another element of companionship that must be acknowledged. For if I am simply hanging around with people, doing things with them and exchanging ideas, and I come to realize that I don't agree with these people or that they are doing something that is dangerous and I don't want to participate, I can just leave. Thus for companionship to be something that could cause me harm there must also be present an element of commitment to those I am with and their actions and ideas. There must be some element of loyalty to them and their cause that would cause me to stick with them and engage with them in spite of whatever better judgement I might have.

Such a concept of companionship that is marked by commitment and loyalty stands in stark contrast to the instruction my generation received and promoted by a then popular folk band: "If you can't be with the one you love then, honey, love the one you're with." It is then, therefore, that the dynamics of loyalty and commitment in companionship should be instructive to us when we attempt to apply the positive promise of the above scripture: "He who walks with wise men will be wise." For you see, wisdom doesn't transfer from one to another simply by osmosis, whether it be with our children or with our spouses.

Neither will the fabric of a marriage materialize when denied the substantive features of companionship marked by unequivocating commitment and loyalty. Each person, thus, to be a faithful companion is to be marked as one who lives a singular life that is open and transparent, has no hidden or contrary agendas, and is sensitive to the desires and needs of the other person. This type of lifestyle is not likely to occur apart from the ability and willingness of each party to communicate openly and honestly.

Communication

Open discussions with our wives are one place us guys are most likely to struggle. After all, after a whole day of fire fighting and problem solving at the office, who wants to come home and recount the whole day's problems and personalities to someone who probably doesn't have much of a clue as to what is going on anyway? But that assessment is accurate only if we have segmented that part of our life away from our spouse to the point that she really doesn't have a clue as to what is going on. So whose fault is it that she doesn't have a clue about what is going on and, therefore, you can't talk about those things of the office with any real meaning? Hummmmm????

Such is just one example of many degenerative cyclical habits of relating, all of which is the duty of the husband to identify and correct within his family. But communicating is more than just exchanging the facts and events of the day. Communication between spouses that is substantive is revelatory. It reveals the very nature and character of the person whether good or bad, tasteful or distasteful. It presents our true self to the other person - our prejudices, tastes, judgements, and our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It does so not only in the immediate present time, but also historically and, more importantly, futuristically.

It is the futuristic element of communication i.e., our hopes, dreams, and vision, that I believe to be the most crucial to a substantive relationship and the most difficult. Most people I know of, and particularly women, are not content with simply day to day survival. Yet, the survival mode is the easiest operation to default to, especially for us guys, because of the hectic nature of day to day living and because it's easier to be lazy. Therefore, God gave us our wives who, from their own desire for leadership, ask us from time to time to what end is all that we are doing.

It should be noted that this is just one area of relationship that the wife will receive input from one source or another. If not from her husband, then she will find a vision for her life somewhere else. The professional counselor is the most popular and accepted means today for wives to get what their husbands should be giving. While we might get by with outsourcing a few of our husbandly duties to others who are eager to set the direction while avoiding the consequences, we will find our willingness to live with the consequences of outside guidance to wane in direct proportion to our willingness to acquiesce our responsibilities.

Of course, an important aspect of communication is the ability and willingness to listen. Listening is an art of itself. It is sometimes difficult to know how someone wants you to react when they are telling you of a problem. It takes wisdom and discernment to know when to answer back with a solution, with sympathy, or with some mix of both. When in doubt, the best policy is to ask. But our willingness to attentively listen and be engaged speaks loudly not only of our relationship with the person but also of our own character.

Character

There is no other place where our true character comes through than when dealing with the ones we are the closest to - our family. This is the setting in which we find it impossible to keep up the constant fašade that we put up for those we desire to impress the most. Thus, a substantive and enduring love relationship between two people depends, at least to some degree, on the initial character (or "goodness") of each person but mostly to their willingness to submit to the sanctifying process brought to bear on them by the Holy Spirit through their spouse.

We sometimes smile about couples who have been married a long time when we notice how their behavior is similar and maybe even their looks. But that is exactly the product of the mystery of marriage - the two becoming one by virtue of sanctification. There is no doubt that we are not the same person we were 10 years ago, nor will we be 10 years from now. The question is from where does the pressure of change come AND is the same pressure being applied to my spouse. If the answer is, "Not from my spouse" and "No," then I suggest that the mystery is being quenched in the marriage. If the answer is in the affirmative but my reaction is to dig in my heels, go the other direction, or discount the values or convictions of my spouse, I suggest the mystery may not have even begun.

There are three character qualities that I believe to be vital to an enduring love relationship: Accountability, dependability, and predictability. These are particularly important for the husband who is the leader of the family and are modeling such leadership and responsibility before his children. They are also very tangible ways in which we express our love to our wives.

Accountability simply means no secrets and no lies. The implication is that there are no secret compartments of your life where the other person is excluded. This should be the case whether a one time historical event or a current continuous situation. Imagine the damage to trust and honesty if it is not so and the truth is discovered. Worse than the damage is the attitude of so many men that minimize the significant value of trust and honesty by discounting the effects on their wives when they are caught or by making their wives feel guilty for showing concern about their misbehaving.

Dependability is more than doing what you say you will do. It is being known for doing what you know needs to be done or what you are responsible for doing when it needs to be done with no need of prompting or reminding. It is taking care of your business timely and effectively. Dependability frees those around us to get their business done, first, by not using up their time monitoring our progress and, second, by enabling them to accomplish the things that they need to that only could be done subsequent to our performance.

A simple example is preparing dinner. The family cook must be able to buy groceries at the store in order for dinner to be ready timely. If the cook is going to write a check for the groceries two things must first happen: 1) The family bread winner must show up for work every day and, 2) he must get the money into the bank. If he's not dependable to make it to work and/or to get down to the bank and fund the account, then she's not going to be able to get dinner done within the time frame of all her other responsibilities. Likewise, if she has to check up on him everyday at his work to be sure he's there, call the bank every Friday to be sure he's funded the bank account, and hunt him down when he hasn't you can be sure she's not going to be a very happy person. And he won't be either.

Predictability is a stabilizing trait of any relationship. The worse fears of people emerge from their imagination. To be predictable in ones actions, tastes, responses, and behavior minimizes the wild imaginations of our family members. If my wife calls the office late in the evening and there is no answer, she should be able to predict my arrival home within a time period unless she has been given other information.

Predictability is not intended to eliminate spontaneity or promote mundaneness. Spontaneity is one of the things that make life fun and exciting. But being predictable in the everyday workings of life increases the efficiency of life at home and is an important way of expressing our love to our wives.

Self-deception

The antithesis of the character traits described above center around deception. The lack of honest communication, refusing to give an honest account of one's time and activities, and choosing companionship outside of the marriage are practices that wear down the love relationship and pave the way to a marriage that is asundered.

It is probably safe to say that everyone of us have committed some type of deception with our significant other at one time or another. But what I am speaking of here is a more insidious lifestyle of deception, one that involves double standards and hidden agendas. It involves, to some degree or another, a double lifestyle. The damage to any relationship by this type of on going behavior is obvious.

Less obvious to the destruction of a relationship is self-deception. The ability to self-deceive is unquestionable; all of us can point to evidences of people who act on a belief that everyone but that person is able to discern as not a truth. While the ability of self-deception is taken for granted as a common occurrence, the real mechanics behind the act itself i.e., the ability to know the truth yet live in thought and behavior as if not to know the truth, points vividly to the complexity of human nature.

We chuckle and shrug our shoulders when a parent seems oblivious to the behavior of their disobedient and rebellious children. Perhaps you think we should speak to that parent instead of chuckling, and most of the time we will if it is someone we know. But my point is that it is right here at this point of confrontation that one realizes the significant difference between being deceived by another person and being deceived by one's self. In the case of the former, the facts of the truth can many times expose the deceiver and free the person from the deception. But in the latter case, the self-deceived person has a more compelling motive for the self-deception than evading the truth. It is this over-riding compelling motive that leads to the self-deception. Therefore, in this case, the facts don't speak for themselves.

This is a very important distinction to understand when dealing with a situation where self-deception is involved. For if we deal only in the facts of the deception, we're probably not going to get very far in bringing the person to face the truth. Instead, we must work to understand the compelling motive the person has for the self-deception and bring them to face that motive.

The symptoms of self-deception usually manifests itself as a denial of what is obvious to everyone else. Thus, while the wife is dying from a lack of companionship or the family is on the verge of bankruptcy, the husband goes on his merry way, doing his thing as if there were no troubles. If confronted with the situation, he denies or minimizes the facts, manufactures soon-to-be solutions, and convinces his wife that it is not as bad as she thinks and that she's making more of the situation.

My point is the subtle, stealth, and covert nature of self-deception and how easily we can fall into its grip and be victimized by its consequences. The protection from it is having an honest, open relationship with other people, with ourselves, and the honest examination of our own hearts and motives in light of God's word and the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

As Christians, we should be appalled by the divorce rate within the Christian community. I don't think we can conclude that the pagans are doing marriage as good as the Christians. Probably the conclusion is that the Christians are doing marriage as bad as the pagans.

I'll grant you that the ease of obtaining divorce and the fading social stigma has served to make divorce a palatable alternative to a bad situation. But I don't think the Christian response to the social trend is to deny any validity to any reason for divorce. There is a judicially Biblical justification to dissolve the form of that which one party has already asundered the substance.

What the Church needs to witness, not to mention the pagan community, is Christian couples who do marriage well. Not perfect people or perfect marriages. We need demonstrations of how imperfect and sinful couples resolve their deficiencies lovingly and biblically and how they give and receive sanctification from each other. What the world needs to see are husbands who know how to reinforce the fabric of their relationship over the life of their marriage with the substance of an honest, open, and vibrant love relationship.

Fortifying
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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01