Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two questions for husbands

A brilliant piece of writing from Love & Stosny's how to improve your marriage without talking about it:
Remember the famous Far Side cartoon of the man talking at length to his dog, Ginger? One bubble had what the man said and the other had what Ginger heard. The man said a lot, but this is what Ginger heard:

"Blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah ..."

Unless a woman is emotionally connected to her partner, this is what he will hear when she talks to him:

"Blah, blah, blah, failure. Blah, blah, blah, not good enough. Blah, blah, blah, can't meet my needs. Blah, blah, blah, bad boy."

p. 26
They don't mean that Ginger is as smart as the average husband, because they have a similar passage for what a woman hears when her husband talks. The difference is that "failure" (etc) is replaced by "I don't love you," "I won't be there for you," etc.

Can't we stop hurting each other? We probably can't stop altogether, but we probably can hope for better days. Of course I have a plan; it'll probably improve things over a 20-30 year period. It has two parts, wherein a husband must cement his answers to two important questions:

The first question: Whose am I?

... that is, "To whom do I belong?" E. Stanley Jones said that this question, rather than the one below, is the most important question in any person's life.

The answer? If you belong to The Master, Jesus, I recommend that you reach out to him in prayer daily, maybe something like this:
Lord Jesus, you are full of grace and truth, but I am weak and easily distracted. Help me give myself for my wife as you gave yourself for the church. Give me power to understand and to know your astonishing love. What words do you want to say to my wife today through me?

And if she has some discouraging words for me, help me to know what's truly about me, vs what's about her. Help me to remember that you define me; she doesn't. You are my light and my salvation--who shall I fear? You are the stronghold of my life.
When I remember that I belong to Jesus, I'm a better husband, a better employee, a better neighbor. And now for ...

The other question: Who am I?

If I don't know who I am, I'll just bounce around, foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to various passions and pleasures, filling my days with malice and envy, hated by men and hating them in return (Titus 3:3), and so on. If we want to be men rather than beasts, there are a few other things we can and should do:
  • Relax. Get enough sleep. We'll have a hard time remembering whose or who we are when we're stressed out.
  • Say "No" more often. The Master did that a lot; he never let anyone else set his agenda.
  • Take time to be alone, or whatever you need to do, to take care of yourself.
  • Give thanks daily.
  • As Buechner wrote in Secrets in the Dark, there are times when it is quiet and you don't really have to do anything, when
    [t]he time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.
    p. 59
    Often we escape: in chores or other busy-ness, media (printed or electronic), etc. But sometimes we need to take time to do what the time is ripe for. Not to escape, but to look back, think about where we've come from, where we're headed, and so on.
The point of all these is to remain centered, to remember who we are.

And part of who you are is husband. You represent Christ to your wife, as I do to the lovely Carol. Let's ask God to help us remember that we belong to him, and to remember what we are about. Because it's really impossible to do well without his help.

Addendum: a point from the Japanese

When we were in Japan, I learned two words translated "help" in English. One is transliterated "tasukeru" and the other is "sukuu". The first is used when you're, say, trying to carry a heavy load and you'd like a hand. The second is when you're drowning and you need someone to throw you a rope.

When I talk about help from God so I can remember whose and who I am, it's this last I'm talking about.

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