Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Husbandry and Parenting

This week I'm listening to the round-up of sermons on husbandry and parenting posted by UA. Monday I listened to C.J.'s talk ("A Husband's Responsibilities and How to Change") given a few years back at a Covenant Life marriage retreat. It was classic C.J.--filled with the cross, insightful, and practically helpful.

Here are a few thoughts and quotes that were instructive for me. I'd encourage everyone to take a listen. If you can find the archives, apparently the address before this one was for wives, and judging from the sideline comments here and there, it must've been a good one.

Some thoughts:

Ephesians 5 was the main text. There C.J. defined a husband's love for his wife primarily as sacrifice. Sacrifice is the pattern of the husband's love and the proof of the husband's love.

The sermon also drew on 1 John 3, pointing to the Savior's sacrifice at Calvary as the model of sacrificial love. From there, C.J. offered this main application question:

"What am I doing each day to serve my wife that involves sacrifice, that costs me something?"

Personally, I was ashamed that for years my wife has nearly daily asked me, "How may I serve you today?" And I know that what she has in mind is helping me in a way that is only appropriate for a wife to help her husband. In what manner uniquely suited to her calling as my wife, my helpmeet, can she give herself in service to me, the family, and the calling the Lord has placed on our lives? And yet, until I heard this question from C.J., I don't think there has been one day where I've put the same question to her in terms of "sacrifice"? I've asked how I could help, etc., but I realized something of the greater depths of my selfishness once sacrifice as a daily inquiry was proposed.

And not to project my guilt and shame onto others, but it's all the more shameful in my case because I think that I observe selfishness as the primary male sin in marriage. A significant number of irritations, problems, fights, and despairing moments for wives are traced to their husband's selfishness. I see it all the time in conversations and counseling settings. And I see it more clearly in my own heart following this message.

C.J. goes on to point out that the sacrifice "must be for a biblical purpose" (Eph. 5:26). It must be "to make her holy". We are to "sacrifice so that an environment is created that is conducive for growth in godliness for our wives."

Three things are suggested for creating an environment conducive for our wives' growth in godliness.

1. I, the husband, must grow in godliness. "If a husband is not growing in godliness, there is no sacrifice he can make to ensure that his wife grows in godliness." Confessing some irritation at men who show no desire to grow in godliness and acknowledging some exceptions due to how long a wife or husband has been a Christian, C.J. argues, "The norm is to be a husband whose zeal is at least similar to, and, in my (C.J.'s) opinion, superior to his wife's."

I think I agree with C.J.'s assessment that too many men show remarkable passivity when it comes to growing spiritually and leading their wives in this area.

He makes this statement that's challenged my own pastoral vision for men at the church: "At Covenant Life, we do not want kids growing up thinking of passion for God as a female quality."

For most of my life, I thought of passion for the Savior as a largely feminine quality. Most of the men who showed any emotional response to Christ were, imo, "soft" and weak, and quite frankly were often effeminate. To talk of "love for Jesus" seemed seriously inappropriate. Yet what was inappropriate were my worldly categories for manhood, my failure to realize that Christ is in every way worthy of our highest affections, and that it is the duty and joy of the Christian to love God with all his mind, soul, heart, and strength.

Note to self: Think and pray more about what it would mean and look like to cultivate in a local church an environment where children see passion for the Savior as a male quality because they see men showing passion in manly ways.

2. Discover where your wife needs to grow. "Can I provide her with perspective so she is not overwhelmed with areas needing growth? Can I help her prioritize?"

"Do I know where she needs to grow and am I sacrificing consistently so she can grow?"

"Your wife is exhausted on a daily basis because of caring for the children. Help her."

3. Communicate. Here C.J. meditates on the "cherishing" and "nourish" aspects of Ephesians 5. A beautiful line: "Our wives should daily live with the sounds of their husband pronouncing encouragements over them."

"How does your wife define 'romance'? What makes her feel special?"

"Cherish also involves drawing your wife out sexually. What might have brought a buzz five years ago may not be working today."

C.J. concluded the talk thinking about male headship. He points out that there are only two options for poor heads: domination and abdication.

After some strong words opposing male domination, C.J. focuses on abdication as a much more pervasive problem. He describes men who abdicate as "Nice guys who don't lead." But then he points out that they are not really "nice" because "abdication is sin." He gives the men two homework assignments. The assignments are not given so that we may have reason to grow bitter toward our wives. Rather, they are two questions leading to two lists for repentance of our abdication.

A. List where I have not led my wife. Where has my leadership been needed and/or desired but I have not provided it? Involve your wives in answering this question.

B. Where has my leadership been ignored? What is taking place that is contrary to my desire? I am responsible for this area as well.

The address ended with some general statements about how to change. I wish there had been more time given to this area and more application.

Okay... sermon 1 completed. Off to have some important and humbling conversation with my wife. Praying you will as well.


Anonymous said...

This humbled me and spurred me on to be a better wife. Thank you.

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