Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Husbands and Wives

*Disclaimer--Writing is my therapy, and you do not have to read it, agree with it, or like it.  My feelings won't be hurt at all if you don't like what I write.  The following is not a popular topic amongst many women, but it is one heavy on my heart.*

Every once in awhile, I get the urge to jump on a soapbox and rant and rave.  More times than not, I wait a few minutes and the urge passes.  My soapboxes usually circle around children and their well-being.  Today's soapbox is not of that genre, and you should know, I have waited an hour, and the urge to rant and rave did not pass.  So, here I am, prepared to unload a wealth of thoughts, feelings, and experiences on anyone brave (or bored) enough to read this.  

Facebook is a blessing and a curse.  I have loved connecting with new and old friends.  I am easily distracted by the quizzes that obviously know the true me better than I know myself.   I am often interested in reading articles that my friends have read and like...AND, that's how I ended up here.  Several of my friends had commented on a blog by Matt Walsh titled Your Husband Doesn't Have to Earn Your Respect.  Naturally, I was intrigued, especially given the path I have recently and am still walking.  I am generally open-minded when I read, and I was conducting an experiment on myself.  I wanted to see if my heart or mind had changed from the wife I used to be to the woman I am now.

The premise of Walsh's blog is exactly what is in the title.  Walsh addresses several issues within marriages today, and his focus is on the lack of respect husbands experience in our culture.  As I read this, I was reminded of conversations I have had with some of the men in my life.  Several of the men I know have spoken about how our culture has painted men as idiots...my male friends and Walsh both speak of how men are portrayed as laughable goof-ups in the sitcoms and movies of today.  These men have spoken of how the lack of respect leads to feelings of inadequacy and lack of value.  

In Ephesians, the Bible says "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and in himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body...However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (5:-22-33).  This passage boils down to a couple of things...women long to be loved, men long to be respected.  "Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband often reacts when feeling disrespect and a wife reacts when feeling unloved" (Eggerich, www.loveandrespect.com).  

Several years ago, I participated in an incredibly in-depth Bible study, The Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.  This study was not popular when I took the class.  The group started with 25 women, and ended with 8 of us.  And, the reason it was not well-received was because it focused on what the Bible, not society, says about the Biblical role of a lady.  The week that took a toll on our group was the week we discussed the role of a husband and wife in the home.  DeMoss referenced the above passage from Ephesians and stated, "the greatest freedom I [women] can experience is found through submission to God-ordained authority" including God and her husband.  (As I have written in previous posts, I absolutely do not stand for or agree with abuse of any kind...if you are a woman reading this and you are being hurt, are threatened, or in danger-GET OUT!!!  You are God's creation, gift, and treasure).  The idea of a man being in authority over a woman is not at all well-received in our culture.  I admit, I struggled with this concept.  As a wife, I did strive my best to be the quintessential 1950s housewife.  I always enjoyed cooking, cleaning, landscaping, and taking care of everyone...it's how I was wired, how I was designed.  I began to have a hard time with some of what I was reading in the Bible.  I met with the Bible study leader after class and told her my struggle.  I was struggling with knowing how to respect someone who showed no signs of loving me.  I told her I took care of the kids, cleaned the house, and prepared meals everyday so that when my husband came home, he would have nothing to do but relax and enjoy his family.  I told her I did these things because I knew he worked hard everyday to provide for us, and I felt like that was what I was supposed to do.  She told me that I was being conditional in my thinking.  She asked, "if he didn't work hard and didn't provide for you and your children, would you still do these things?  Would you respect him?"  At that moment, I was met with great conviction.  I knew the answer...it was no.  

That's when I realized I did not fully understand what it meant to respect a husband.  I began to dig deeper into what it meant to be a Biblical, godly wife, to know to respect my husband unconditionally.  I tried to enforce the message in Titus 2, "train the young women to love their husband and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled" (v. 4-5).  I read through and completed The Love Dare and discovered The Five Love Languages.  I was on a search to do whatever I could to improve and save our marriage.  I knew that I had to do my part, I had to be the wife that I was called to be.  I was not perfect, but I was committed and was learning non-stop, trying new tactics, and giving my energy to be a wife who showed love by giving respect, whether I felt the love was reciprocated or not.  "Love is the attitude that says, "I am married to you, and I choose to look out for your interests."  Then the one who chooses to love will find appropriate ways to express that decision" (Graham, The Five Love Languages, p. 36).  I wanted to feel loved.  I wanted to know that I was secure.  I also knew that it was my job to show love and respect in spite of my wants.  

About a year after this mental and spiritual transition is when my marriage ended.  I fought internally for a long time with the questions that plagued my mind.  What did I do wrong?  What could I have done differently?  Why didn't God honor my willingness to have Him change my heart and mind?  Why didn't He save our family?  

So, here's where my self-inflicted experiment comes into play.  After reading Walsh's blog, I revisited Ephesians.  I pondered if knowing what I do now, having lived through what I did, would I still be able to respect a man?  And, the answer is, I think so.  How and why?  Obviously, my biggest conviction is being a Biblical lady.  I want to show both of my children that it is possible to love and respect unconditionally.  I want to show Cecely what it means to be a Godly wife whether it's easy or not.  I want to encourage other women who are searching to feel loved to be the women God calls them to be in His Word regardless of how their husband treat them (again-I'm not talking about abuse).  I want to remind them to be a Biblical wife who shows unconditional respect to her husband.  I want Cecely to grow up to respect her husband, for Titus to respect his wife, and for both of them to understand the huge responsibility men have to be the leaders of the home.  I do not want either of my children to view men as laughingstocks, rather to see their Dad, Uncles, GranDad, and Brian (my fella) as leaders who require respect because God says so.  I want them to understand that if He says it, we should do it.

Last year, I read the book Wild at Heart under the advisement of one of my dear friends.  I've written about this book before in previous blogs.  This book is incredible, and I recommend it to everyone, man or woman, even though it is geared toward men.  Men want to be respected and women want to be loved.  But, our culture has diluted what a man was made to be.  Men are portrayed as bumbling morons and encouraged to put aside the drive that God placed in them.  "He is the Lord the captain of angel armies.  And when Christ returns, he is at the head of a dreadful company, mounted on a white horse, with a double-edged sword, his robe dipped in blood.  Now that sounds a lot more like William Wallace than Mother Teresa.  No doubt about it--there is something fierce in the heart of God" (Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p. 29).  Conversely, women have been taught to downplay their femininity.  "The world kills a woman's heart when it tells her to be tough, efficient, and independent...All we've offered the feminine soul is pressure to "be a good servant"" (Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p. 17).  According to Eldredge, "In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue" (Wild at Heart, p. 9) and "every woman yearns to be fought for...wants an adventure to share...wants to have a beauty to unveil" (Wild at Heart, p. 16-17).  I wholeheartedly agree.   

I believe that the desire to be respected and loved is in each one of us.  The reason for so many failed relationships and marriages is sin.  Selfishness, entitlement, envy and a plethora of other issues work their way into our hearts, minds and relationships.  There isn't a quick or easy fix, but there are solutions!  My daily prayer is "create in me a pure heart" (Ps. 51:10).  I am a mess.  I am a sinner.  I screw up a gazillion times a day.  I have to ask God daily clean my heart, renew my mind, and restore my spirit.  The Bible is the most direct way to find out how God made you and who you are in Him.  He designed man in His own image.  He gave man the gift of a woman to share life with.  He gave us an instruction book to tell us how to live, how to act, and how to be the spouse He envisioned when He planned marriage.  Now, I know it is not popular for a woman to submit.  It is not the way of the world for a man to be brave and bold.  BUT, that is how God made us!  "If a man is the image of the Lion of Judah, how come there are so many lonely women, so many fatherless children, so few men around?..How come when men look in their hearts they don't discover something valiant and dangerous, but instead find anger, lust and fear?..And so most women lead lives of quiet resignation, having given up their hope for a true man" (Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p. 41).  

Personally, I want a real man.  I want someone who will fight for me, protect me, and love me.  I want to be a woman who makes a man feel supported, encouraged, and respected.  I want to cook, clean and care for someone.  I am in the stage right now where I am still asking God a lot of questions.  I am still waiting on Him to fulfill some of His promises.  I am fighting to keep hope in my heart.  I am praying He gives me the opportunity to be a wife again in the future.  If I obey God and His Word, I will have the desire to show unconditional respect for my spouse.  If I remain true to His call on my heart, I will feel loved by Him even if I don't feel love from a husband.  Learning how to love is not easy.  Learning how to love again is extremely daunting.  Learning how to love another person under God's design and plan is challenging, but, it is an adventure.  And, that is definitely what I'm looking for...a real man to respect and an adventure to have!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

For Your Hurting Friends...

It has been a long time since I have written anything.  Truthfully, I'm only writing now because I do not know what to do with myself in an apartment all alone.  Once again, I am hoping that writing will help empty out the craziness running rampant in my mind.  I'll go ahead and warn you, this is not an uplifting and encouraging post as I usually write.  Nor is it a post based on self-pity.  It's simply some ramblings from the mind of a very sad and confused Mama.

The past 18-19 months have been beyond the most bizarre and surreal time in my life.  I have learned some things about myself during this time.  I have picked up on some things that I will not pass on later to my hurting friends, and I have learned some things that I feel could help anyone in any situation.

Here's the bottom line.  We live in a messed up world.  Hurt, desperation, confusion, pain, betrayal, and a million other things are ever present in daily life.  And, just because someone looks as if they have it all together or they have a smile on their face, it absolutely does not mean that there is not some kind of hurt in their life.  I have composed a short list of my suggestions of what to do and what not to do for your hurting friends (this advice is for me as much as it is for anyone else).

To Do:

*Listen.  
*Love unconditionally.
*Give hugs.
*Share smiles and laughs.  
*Bring a snack--something simple, silly, or a known favorite.
*Send a note--a kind word can carry a person through a tough day.
*Be present--you don't have to say a word.  Just be there.
*Encourage.
*Distract--take the hurting person away for a movie or any distraction.  A two-hour movie can provide a wonderful time of no thinking.
*Volunteer together--helping others is always a win!
*Pray for them.  Pray with them.  Pray on their behalf.

Don't Do:

*Don't try to fix the problem.  More times than not, a hurting person just needs to unload the junk in their head.  They are not expecting a quick fix.  They just need someone to listen.
*Try to stay away from "I know exactly how you feel...".  While you may have a similar story or have traveled down a similar path, realize that your hurt/problem is rarely exactly like someone else's.    If the hurting person asks for your experience, share it.  But don't force your story on them...let them process their hurt and ask from your life as they can handle it.
*Avoid cliché sayings if you can..."hang in there", "it just takes time", "it'll get better" are some of the most frustrating things a hurting person can hear.  The one hurting knows they don't have any choice but to hang in.  There is no time limit on pain, and the recovery healing time is not a designated time. And, unless you can guarantee that it'll get better, try not to say it.  In the middle of a storm, even though you can see hope and a better tomorrow, a hurting person can't always see a bright future ahead of them and it can make them feel as if there is more wrong with them by feeling hopeless.  
*Don't give up on your friend.  Don't get frustrated with their inability to see hope.  Just be patient.  They know hope is coming...it just takes awhile for some of us to accept that.
*Don't let them give up.  Check on them.  Remind them that they are supported.

I have been so blessed to have a great support system in my life.  I have incredible parents, amazing siblings, a wonderful church family, and friends who are extremely faithful.  Throughout all of the ups and downs, I have known that there are people who I can call anytime.  I have people who will just sit and listen, who will yell with me, who will cry with me, who will hold me tight when they have no words to share.  I have people who check on me everyday.  I have people who fight for me.  I have people who pray for me, especially when I have no ability to pray.  

I want to be that kind of friend to others.  I want to be a person who is sensitive to hurt and pain and who responds appropriately.  It is going to take me awhile to be that person.  Currently, I am so despondent that I am struggling to be a good friend at all.  There are days when I feel completely checked out from reality.  Friends, forgive me for being overwhelmed by my circumstances.  It is my aim to be a better friend soon.  Thank you for your patience, support, encouragement, and love.  And, thank you for the great care you have shown my children and me.