Thoughts from a Dark Place

Well-meaning friends would probably tell me this blog post shouldn’t be here, that it’s best written in a private journal. But there are times when it’s necessary to visit the dark places in order to bring light to them. God sometimes takes us back there even after He’s healed those places, just as a reminder. It happened to me today, and that’s why I’m writing this.

I started watching a movie this morning on PureFlix called Redeemed. It’s the story of a man who nearly ends up losing his business and family because of the temptation of infidelity. I ended up turning it off within a few minutes because it became too painful to watch. It took me back to some dark places in my own life, places I really didn’t want to go. But with some reflection I began to understand why I needed to go there.

I hate divorce and infidelity. It’s because my father, who had already run out on his first wife and two daughters, left us when I was six. No explanations, no looking back, just left my Mom and three of us. I’ve come to terms with my dad’s behavior over the years but it doesn’t lessen the hatred and sadness of what he did. Even after all these years, it still hurts sometimes.

Throughout my marriage I’ve striven to be the best husband and father I could be. In spite of that there were times when my thoughts strayed in the wrong direction. Thank God I never engaged in any overt affairs, but as I look back there were occasions when to my shame my thoughts and attentions were focused on someone other than my wife. Once God was able to break my awful stubborn pride and show me how I’d deceived myself He began the healing process and taught me how to properly love my wife. The darkness receded as he built the defense against it.

Why am I telling you this? It’s because I’ve seen too many homes and families, even Christian ones, destroyed by what most likely started as a random thought or encounter. Left unchallenged or even actively pursued, it grew into a monster that destroyed a marriage relationship and brought pain to all connected to it. I’m angry marriage has fallen into such disregard. I’m angry we treat the relationship of husband and wife so cavalierly. I’m angry we’ve made it so easy for Satan to destroy us.

We’ve turned away from the Bible as being old-fashioned, out of date, or no longer applicable to modern life. The apostle Paul’s writing have especially fallen into disfavor due to charges of misogyny and patriarchal bigotry. And yet the solution to avoiding infidelity or worse is right in the book of Ephesians:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband. (Eph 5:22–33).

It’s important to notice the verse that immediately precedes this passage, verse 21: submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. We bristle at the thought of submitting to anyone or anything. After all, I’m just as good as anyone else, and better than most, so why should I have to submit? I have my rights. God should just accept me as I am, and so should my husband or wife. That attitude is where the problem starts.

When I focus on my ‘rights’, my attention turns to what makes me ‘happy’. My relationship with my husband or wife becomes just another outlet that’s supposed to make me happy. When it doesn’t, as it inevitably won’t sometimes, I start looking elsewhere for something or someone to make me feel happy. It may feel good for a while but it won’t last, and I end up chasing something or someone else to recapture the feeling.

Paul tells us it’s not about rights or happiness. He always points back to Jesus Christ, and that’s where we need to keep our focus. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to submit. He gave up his place in Heaven and equality with God to come to earth for the express purpose of dying a horrible, sacrificial death to reclaim us and make it possible for us to have the proper relationship with God himself. Jesus never talked about his ‘rights’; instead, his focus was ‘to do the will of the Father who sent him’.

We are most like Christ when we are submissive, when we are willing to set aside our ‘rights’ for the benefit of someone else. In the same way each of us as part of the Church submits to Christ, Paul says that’s the way wives should act toward their husbands. Not because he’s better or more important, not even because he deserves it. If a woman wants to model Christ in her life, she needs to respond to her husband just like the church does to Christ- with submission to His authority. Because in reality, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You are a member of Christ’s body, and you are submitting to him by respecting your husband.  (A little hint, ladies- men thrive on respect; trust me, I know. You show him that you respect him, and you’ll be amazed at what happens)

Paul doesn’t let husbands off the hook, either. Gentlemen, she is not your “woman”, she’s not your “servant”, and she most definitely isn’t your “property”. She is your gift, your partner, the one who complements and completes you. That’s what ‘one flesh’ means. She makes up for your deficits, fills in your gaps, and the two of you together make one complete package. One Flesh. That’s why you love her, take care of her, and cherish her, because you’re taking care of yourself -one flesh, remember?-in the process. She is the most precious thing in the world, just as the church is to Christ. And if you want your wife and the world to see Christ in your life, you treat her the same way.

Here’s a challenge for you, guys. If you want to truly model Christ to your wife, pay close attention to one phrase in particular: “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her”. Men, are you willing to do that for your wife? Are you willing to die for her, not in the physical sense but the spiritual one? Are you willing to love her enough to set aside your “rights” and interests to benefit her? Look a little further; the reason Christ gave himself was to make her holy. It’s the greatest gift you could ever give your wife: to be a sacrificial spiritual leader of your home whose focus is to guide your family to Christ.

I’ve already given my tip to the women. Now I have one for the men. You say you love your wife; does she know it? When was the last time you told her? When was the last time you showed her? I’m not talking about the grand gesture; you know, the flowers, dinners, expensive stuff? We’re talking loading and emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping the floors. Bringing her a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Little things have an amazingly cumulative effect. They feed her soul. They tell her she has worth, that’s she precious, that she means the world to you (and she should). She’ll blossom before your eyes. I know. I was fairly dense when I was younger. But then God woke me up and helped me start practicing this principle, and I watched my precious wife come alive and become even more beautiful. A woman who knows she’s loved is an amazing thing to see, the most beautiful you’ll ever witness.

To summarize: submission is a two-way street. It’s the glue that makes a marriage work and and grow stronger. We build each other up as we practice submission, and it is that strength which protects us against the temptations and attacks which seek to destroy our marriages, our families and us.