Military Marriage Seminar – Part 4
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005|
|I don’t understand all I know of men and women, but I understand this thing: I understand that your marriage and mine are somehow a reflection of Jesus Christ’s love for His church.|
Military Marriage Seminar – Part 4
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: We sang earlier the Lord gives and takes away. You know this is from many places, but Job, of course, is the primary text where Job writes after all the calamity, he tears his robe, he shaves his head, he falls on the ground and he worships. And he says verse 21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And He took away my health so I’m going to bless Him. I remember hearing E.V. Hill’s funeral service for his wife. If you’ve not heard it, you need to find it. You can Google it. Dobson’s ministry used to have it. He preached his own wife’s funeral, and he says it, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” like 100 times in the sermon. And it is truly a marvelous message, burying his wife saying, the Lord gave her to me. He took her away. He’s still blessed. Don’t let the world teach you theology. Don’t let your circumstances teach you God’s perspective of you. He died for you. We just sang it. And we tend to forget it.
Well, a number of things I want to accomplish this morning. We’ve talked about God has given us the resources, all the resources we need, to carry out His will for your life and for my life. And as we learn these foundational big overarching truths we do need some practical infrastructure to understand how they work. And I’m going to try to do that this session, a couple of ways. Cindy, a number of years ago came across a USA Today piece that I had laminated, and I come back to it again and again. It’s about a man named Donald “Butch” Wyman. Butch Wyman was cutting down a two and a half foot thick tree up in Pennsylvania with one of those round chainsaws, an experienced man with tools and trade.
And as he was cutting down the tree by himself it snapped back and came and landed on his right leg. And it was a compound complex break and fracture and so the bone tore through the muscle tissue. The bone was exposed out of his leg. And he laid there for an hour screaming for help and nobody heard him. And so Butch Wyman did the unthinkable. He pulled out his Swiss Army knife and he cut off his own leg to save his life. He crawled about 100 yards to his manual transmission tractor. He drove the tractor to his manual transmission truck. He took a boot lace and a box wrench and used it as a tourniquet to try to control the bleeding as he drove about a mile and a half down a road, unimproved road to a farmhouse.
John Brown was the owner of the farmhouse and he said he was screaming and screaming. He says, “I’m bleeding to death. I’m bleeding to death.” And John Brown got in the truck and took over the driving and they called the ambulance and they were going to meet them en route, driving together as they were both going on the highway. And he said this guy kept telling me his story over and over again. He said, “I was trying not to pass out with all the blood loss,” and he kept telling me this story. He said he was so cognizant at one point, John Brown said, he said, “Slow down; let’s not have a wreck before we get to the ambulance.”
Well when the micro-vascular surgeon, Dr. Culp, worked on him, he said, “I’ve never seen a guy like this. He should have passed out with due to the blood loss.” They retrieved the limb, but they were unable to reattach it, and so the picture in the USA Today article shows him one month later with his bionic limb and he’s walking on it. And he says, they asked him, they said, “Why are you so driven to do this?” He said, “Well,” he says, “I never really got down about it. I always like to have a positive outlook. I like to set goals and get things done.” The doctor said, he’d broken the mold on rehab. They’d never seen a guy rehab as quickly. And he wanted to be walking before his 34th birthday for his wife’s birthday present. He said, “I never got down about it. I guess I attribute it to the way I was raised with my strong faith in God.”
What would you cut off to save your life? Art Chen was a Chinese fighter pilot in the 1930’s during Japan’s fight with China. And during one air battle Chen took out three Japanese fighters and he was running out of ammunition. He was finally clipped and he took his plane and rather than crash it, he crashed it into another Japanese plane on the way down. He bails out, amazingly survives, goes to the wreckage of his plane and harvests one machine gun. He takes the machine gun eight miles back to his originating airfield, knocks on his commander’s door, goes inside, drops the machine gun on the desk and says, “Sir, may I have another airplane for my machine gun?”
Where do people like this come from? Cut off your leg to save your life, take down the enemy, almost die and then say I’m ready to go back again? And they’re in this room. You’re that one. You’re that guy. You’re that woman. You’re that person. That’s why you’re here.
When we lived in the Chicago area up at Moody we had a large campus, sprawling campus. And one of our buildings was showing damage at the base of the building where it’s a concrete building with stucco on the outside of it, but the stucco begins to sort of break open and it’s got rust behind it. And so you chisel it away to find out the cause. Well, this seven story building that has 120 some apartments; I forget precisely, was spalling on the exterior in many places, so we brought in the architectural engineers, and structural engineers. And they said when that building was built they used this big one and quarter inch diameter rebar ,and they dropped the rebar in the block wall and they fill it with cement. And so they’re incredibly strong buildings. But they said that rebar gets moisture on it and starts to rust over the years. And when it rusts it, the rust has to go somewhere. It’s like a weed in a driveway or on a sidewalk. Left alone it cracks the sidewalk eventually.
Well, the rust on the rebar was expanding and actually the infrastructure, the skeleton of the building was intact, but it was destroying the outside of the building. And you could scrape it down and re-stucco it and repaint it and next year it did the very same thing. There was no way to stop it. And the cost to completely strip the building of its concrete to get to all the rebar and treat the rebar would be two to three times tearing the whole building down and rebuilding it.
If the infrastructure, if the skeletal structure, of our marriages is not well-made, the flesh and bone and the appearance we put on doesn’t really matter. And what I want to think with you a little bit about is found in Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5 is the practical, the practice, of what we’ve been talking about in the other sessions, at the high level of theology of how God has designed us for marriage: the how. And this really is the why. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Ephesians chapter 5. Morning by morning new verses I read. I know I’ve read them before, but I’ve never seen them that way. Why is it your brain sees certain verses on certain sides of the page? Have you ever wondered that? What is it about our brains that work that way? Well, that’s all for free.
We come from a family of origin. You come from a good family, a bad family; let’s just,… we’re friendly now. How many of you consider you came from an intact home? You know, denial is not a river in Egypt. How many of you feel like you came from a less than functional home? Be proud, raise your hands, you know. It’s the other person you’re married to. Cindy and I came from levels of functionality and disfunctionality in our homes, and the longer I tend ministry the longer I’ve concluded we’re all messed up. It’s just layers and levels of disfunctionality. And maturity is when you quit blaming your parents and you own your own stuff. Maturity is when you quit blaming your family of origin and the way you were raised or she was raised or he was raised and you say, “Look, this is our stuff.”
I’ve often wanted to do a skit where you get a married couple that brings two suitcases in that represent their life before they were married. And the other person is taking her husband’s clothes going, “You’re not wearing this.” And I’m looking at Cindy’s stuff, “you’re never wearing that,” as a metaphor of what happens when you bring your stuff into the marriage. And then you end up with one suitcase that becomes yours.
Cindy and I over the years have often asked each other whether its clothing or hair or whatever, “What do you like? What do you want?” Because it’s more important to me at some level that, you know, she’s not embarrassed by what I go out of the house with. I was a backpacker, hiker, climber, kayaker; I had T-shirts that I had for 15 years that were the brand. I was wearing North Face equipment when it was not a fashion statement but an equipment company, and it wasn’t a fashion thing. Only the elite knew what the North Face was and the North Face equipment.
And so, you know I had a Patagonian one which was really a mountaineering company, and Sierra Designs, and I had a kayak called High Performance and I had a High Performance logo on it and it was faded and it was my favorite T-shirt. And she says, “You’re not wearing that?” We got married and I pinned my North Face flag over the sofa with thumbtacks where I had always pinned it. It had been on five 14,000 foot peaks and pictures of my ego with me and my 14,000 plus, with gear and my North Face flag. She was, “You’re really not going to leave that there, are you?” “Well, why wouldn’t I? I have my whole life. I mean, that’s my, that’s been done, that’s Snow Mass and Hunchback and,…” “No, no, no, it’s not going over the couch; it’s going under the bed.” And we begin to unpack our lives, the two become one. So we’ve got to figure out the roles, how we’re going to relate the way God designed and not try to change our husband.
The expectations we have are undefined, ill-defined and unknown. And maybe it’s the way you were raised, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you’re overcompensating for the way your dad or your mother was. Maybe she’s overcompensating. Who knows? Maybe you think it ought to be done the way you did it. You parent the way your parents parented whether you like it or not, don’t you? It’s like a cowlick. It’s a default. Even if you don’t like it you find yourself saying, well, it was good enough for my mother and father. It was good enough for the way Cindy’s parents raised her. That’s the way it should be.
I make my kids work because my dad made us work. Two out of my four have come back to bless me and thank me for that. Two of my four hate my guts that I make them work. I pray I live long enough for them to wise up, come back and bless me. I may not live so long. But that’s the way I was raised. You get a job and you work and you get a little money to put in the gas tank. So you start to own and have some skin in the game; understand what this life’s about.
God’s design for marriage, because of the fall, has been confused. And so by the time Paul puts a scribe to a piece of parchment we get some very practical stuff. You know this stuff perhaps very well, but I hope to show you some things you’ve not seen before. Let’s pick it up in Ephesians 5:22. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives,” literally, “to their own husbands in everything.”
Number 1: submission is not a role. If submission was a role all you would say as a wife, “Yes, dear.” Submission is not a role. Number 2: submission is a response. It’s a military term in extrabiblical Greek. In fact, the number, 3,000 times the word is used in that time genre of Greek literature; many of them are military. You are submissive to your CO. Somewhere there is a General, a two, three or four star, or an Admiral, who has put down orders and a mission, and objectives and you say, “Yes, sir,” “yes, ma’am.” That’s submission. It’s a response to a person in authority. The word has the idea of a line of authority.
But please note that submission as a response in this text is not too your husband directly. It’s as to the Lord. Now, if you took Cindy’s workshop she probably would not self-promote her book. I will shamelessly wife-promote my wife’s book Dancing with the One You Love. It’s an extraordinary book. And one of the things you of all will appreciate is two of the chapters have to do with military wives whose husbands are deployed or have difficult jobs and how do you lead a home when he’s gone and yet be submissive to him when he’s not there? And there, the chapters are all true stories of husbands and wife relationships, a non-believing husband, an alcoholic husband.
A couple of them are composite; the African-American wife, that’s a very different culture, because the African-American culture is a matriarchal society in most places because the guy’s gone, or if it’s the inner city situation where there’s no man there. And so the women she talked to from the African-American culture, what’s it like when you know, 90% of the women in the church that this man pastors are women, and she’s a very formable leader? What’s submission look like there? So it’s a very different book than just explaining a verse to how to submit to your husband. What’s it look like in the real world?
Some of you, the wife is the primary bread winner, the primary earner. What does it look like? What does it look like when your wife is more successful and a nationally renowned name and your husband, oh, he’s, you’re married to her? That’s one of the chapters. So it’s a very good book. It’s a good book to give away to women who really struggle in those contexts whether they have a chronically ill husband, they make more money, they’re more powerful, they’re more successful. You can still be in a submissive relationship. So it will expand and change your view.
Notice, again, it’s not a role, it’s a response. It’s to the Lord. And in this passage, which is often misapplied, on Ephesians 5:21 to be subject to one another, and that’s taught as mutual submission. That is not what the passage is teaching. There’s no such thing as mutual submission. In fact, as you unfold the text, it’s wives to husbands; the Church to Christ; children to their parents; and slaves to their masters. In each one of those situations it’s impossible to have mutual submission. The Church is not mutually submissive to Christ. Christ is the head. If you read your doctrinal statements, your statement of faith, it will say Christ is the head of our Church. You don’t argue with Christ about the way you do Church. We don’t want to do it that, Jesus; we want to do it our way. You’re really not the head; we’re going to mutually agree. No, you’re not.
God help you if you let your children parent themselves. “I don’t want to go to bed.” “I don’t want to brush my teeth.” “I don’t care what you say. I don’t want to eat that food. I’m only going to eat candy and chocolate.” My son is a sugar, chocoholic addict. I mean, he creates it if we don’t have it. He finds ways to make something chocolate if there’s no chocolate in the house. I’ll never forget when he was rooting around and found the Baker’s bitter chocolate one time and he, well, he figured out how to put enough sugar in there to make it palatable. I mean, you know, he’s a creative guy. If there’s anything with chocolate or sugar in the house he’s going to find the combination of it and eat it. And if all we let him eat was what he wanted to he’d be in horrible health. And so it’s our job to parent, to know you can have a little bit every day, but you can’t eat it all the time. And when you sneak in there and steal it, you know it’s wrong.
And so you’re parenting. There’s no mutual submission. We’re the parent. The challenge and the stage of the teen years is where you’re not the friend, you’re the dad. You’re not the friend, you’re the mom. And I will tell my son this many times, “Son, I don’t care if you like me right now. I love you enough to put these rails up in your life, and God has put you in my life and me in yours for a reason. And I really don’t care if you like me. I love you, and this is the rule and the rail. If you cross it, this is the consequence. And I know you have the ability and capacity to do good, and God’s Spirit’s going to work in you and I’m convinced you’re going to be a good godly man one day. I can’t make you be a good godly young man, but if you cooperate with God’s Spirit you’ll be a formidable young man for Christ.” And then I walk away.
It’s at the stage now, where we are with him, where as a parent we’ve, for almost 18 years, we’ve tried and tried and tried and tried. He’s got to own it now. And we’ve not abdicated, but we’ve said, “You know what, Lord, he’s Your son. I’m out of tools. Discipline doesn’t work anymore. He’s smarter than me. He lies better than I ever lied. He can get away with things that I couldn’t get away with. And You know what, Lord? You see him.”
Slaves to masters. This is not sanctioning slavery. And, not to digress too much in the passage, but you remember in the first century an indentured servant was one, if a land owner had a large piece of property and was doing well in hard times, in the average business, small owner, small shop employee lost his job, he would go subscribe himself to a land owner. And thus we have the picture of the Westerns—which I always loved; Westerns teach great theology, by the way—but you have the guy who’s got the big ranch. And you live in the bunkhouse, and you work for the land owner and you corral horses or cattle. You work for him; he gives you room and board. And you work off what you owe him and then you get a stake some day. That’s a really good picture of “slavery” the way it was biblically done, not the way it was sinfully done in subsequent times.
Each one of these is simply showing it’s not mutual submission. There’s someone under someone else, so that’s the point. So submission does not imply inferiority. It’s not a role; it’s a response. It doesn’t imply superiority. And lastly, and most importantly, just to remind you, you are submissive to your own husband, not to the world. You’re submissive to your own husband, not to all men. Cindy’s had some interesting conversations over the years where people have told her basically to submit to them, not a wise thing to tell my wife. Cindy has got a lot of brass and you will find out if you say something foolish to her like that.
Now, let’s go on to the husband. “Husbands,” verse 25, “love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that”—purpose clause, “so that;” why did He give Himself up for her?—“So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she would be holy and blameless. So”—explanation—“so, husbands ought also to love their own wives just as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it just as Christ the church, because we are members of His body.”
Now, the first thing I want you to notice is there’s about 50 words in your English text for the wife; there’s 151 for the husband. Paul’s taking the instruction from Genesis in a theological realm. And, by the way, Paul’s letters are the 13 epistles, they’re about 50% theology, 50% practical application. The book of Ephesians is “do be, do be, do be, do.” This is how you’re to be, this is what you’re to do. And this is a “do” section based on the prior section, which is the Holy Spirit working in us to change us to what we’re not, to be worthy in Christ’s Spirit. And that’s the only way you’re going to pull this off. Remember I said in an earlier session marriage is impossible apart from the Spirit of God’s power in your life. You cannot make your flesh better. You’re not going to will yourself to be a better husband or a better wife. The sin nature is that flaw. It fell that far. We need God’s Spirit to be that in us to help us to change to be the kind of man.
E.V. Hill said, “If you think you’re a leader and no one’s following, you’re just going for a walk.” And if a husband’s going to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,… you know, as I read this, I don’t find anywhere in here where it says husband’s lead or tell or command your wife. Don’t let the world teach you theology. It says, “Love your wives,” and it’s explained “just as Christ loved the church.” And then we get this explanation, “So that,” verse 26. Let’s look at some of these in a little bit of detail.
Number one: it’s self-sacrifice. “Love your wives as Christ loved the church.” What did He do? He died for the church. So the first way you love your wife is to sacrifice. And if you’re like me I don’t like to sacrifice. I’m a very selfish creature. He gave Himself up for her. So are your wife’s needs ahead of your own?
A good friend and mentor of mine for almost well 29 years and counting told me the story many times of when he took the golf clubs and put them on the curb for the trash. He said “My wife is at home raising four children and on Saturday I go play golf for four hours, five hours. And she said the same thing every Saturday. ‘Have a great game honey. I’ll see you when you get home.’ And I come home and she’d have lunch ready. And this poor dear woman was raising four children five days a week and half the day that I’m off, and I’m out there playing golf with my buddies.” And he said his neighbor saw him putting the clubs on the curb. He said, “Hey, you throwing those away?” He said, “Yeah.” He said, “Can I have them.” He said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I made my neighbor happy and my wife happy the same day.” He chose to sacrifice. Now you don’t tell that story when you’re in Phoenix or when you’re in Florida, but you can tell it when you’re in North Carolina. Nothing wrong with golf, not that you should give up golf, but it was a sacrifice in a small way for him for a much bigger thing, and he’s never once regretted it.
I kayaked and backpacked and hiked and rode motorcycles and hung out with my single guy friends and we’d go camping on a whim, and anything that had to do with all that type of thing. And little by little in our married life I got rid of the kayak, I got rid of the climbing equipment, I quit doing a lot of that stuff. And it wasn’t like I hate giving this up, but it’s Cindy and Michael now, not Michael’s friends and my trophy wife. Do I love her enough to give something up? Is it really that big of a deal? Look at how he does this. In verse 25 we have redemptive, giving Himself up for her. You’re doing something for a greater cause.
Sanctifying, it means to cleanse something. It means to set it aside for a special use. My grandmother, my maternal grandmother, when she died there was a bunch of china. Nobody wanted it. And my mother asked Cindy and me, “Do you all want my mom’s china set and the table and chairs?” And we had nothing. We were poor, actually, before we were married. I said “Absolutely, I’ll take it.” And so we got this huge table made in probably the 1800’s with all these chairs. They’re all shot, but we’ve got them and all the china. And it’s a dogwood patterned china. And most of the china has got the wear of use.
But there’s a tureen, or what I call a gravy bowl, and the tureen is two pieces of china that are forged together, and the gold leafing and the dogwood pattern are perfect on that one piece of china. And it’s probably nearing 200 years old. It’s exquisite. It sits in the middle of the china cabinet because it’s the most ornate piece. It’s probably worth something on the Road Show. I might be a millionaire and not even know it, you know. But you don’t give that to the daughters to go play with their Barbie’s or to do mud pies with in the dirt or the sandbox. That one is set apart. You give them the Tupperware. You give them the plastic bowls, the old dishes, the old Corelle, whatever you have for them to play with. You don’t give them that one. It’s sanctified. It’s set apart.
So it’s redemptive, giving herself up, sanctifying her. Why? To present her to himself. And this is where it gets very interesting. The love is about sacrificing himself for her so that when she comes back to him she’s this extraordinary beautiful co-heir of Christ.
When Jesus dies on the cross He does not blame God. When He has the agony at Gethsemane He prays. It’s probably the most incarnate picture you’re going to see. You know, let this cup pass from Me. I don’t want to drink this cup. Now the metonymy; I don’t want to die, but Your will, not Mine. And the seven sayings on the cross. I mean, why doesn’t He say, “God in heaven destroy those who have destroyed Your Son”? Why doesn’t He submit Himself to the taunts of the crowd and come off the cross and prove He’s Messiah and kill all of His naysayers? Your church didn’t worship Me. Your people, My 11 closest friends didn’t stand with Me. No, forgive them, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
And, you know, the crucifixion that Mel Gibson did in The Passion was a gory depiction. Perhaps it was that gory, perhaps not. But, you know, he missed one part: the resurrection. And the agony of the passion proper, to me, is miniscule compared to the separation from His Father. We saw a gruesome depiction of a human being, being brutalized inhumanly. The Romans had it down to a science. Do you think that’s the agony He’s talking about? Yes, He hurt; yes, He physically was in excruciating pain. In fact, the word “excruciation” is a Latin derivative of crucifixion. So when you say “I’m in excruciating pain,” you’re saying I’m being crucified. And yes, that hurt Him.
But it was the separation from His Father for some period of time we can’t comprehend. And the veil is rent and the sky goes dark because the Father has to turn away the wrath He’s poured on His own Son. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” That’s the pain of the crucifixion. To love your wife the way Christ loved the church is to die for her.
I don’t even like pain, much like dying. If I have a headache, as I did earlier this morning I take four Ibuprofen without even thinking about it. I don’t care what it does to my liver and kidneys and gastrointestinal things. I’m going to get pain relief. I tell Cindy my organs will fail long before my pain will kill me. Better living through chemistry. That’s what I’m all about. I will swallow whatever the doctor gives me if it makes me feel good. I’d rather feel good now than live to be 90 and feel miserable. Let me die at about 70. I want to die like my grandfather did, quietly in his sleep, not screaming like the passengers in his car. It’s a joke, it’s a joke.
What did Jesus say? No greater love than this, than what? A man lay down his life for his friend. Jesus is dying for His enemy. “No one ever hated his own flesh.” We read this with a little bit of humor because, we know, you know, yesterday I confessed before God and man and the cooks here I had not one but two apple crisps. And the second one had enough whipped cream for about eight other desserts. I mean, you know, I don’t succumb to sweets, but apple crisps and whipped cream are like, that’s just like evil good and I ate two of them. I enjoyed every bite of it, and I sanctified it with a word of prayer and offering. “Dear Jesus, forgive me for eating it.” I was telling someone earlier, I forget the comedian, Mark Lowry, or someone, my son loves the muses, “Dear Lord,” when we pray for food, “Turn this Cheeto into a carrot as I swallow it.” You know, turn this apple crisps into raw broccoli as I chew it and swallow it and full of beta carotene and not fats and sugars.
No one ever hated his own flesh, John Eady writes, fools and fanatics excepted. It’s really not that we indulge ourselves. Christ is saying He did not hate Himself to die on Calvary. He willingly chose to do it. You wouldn’t do it willingly unless you loved extraordinarily.
Look at it again, sanctify, set apart, “cleanse” is the word katharizo. We use the word “catharsis” in our language. So your wife or your husband, they come home, they tell you all about, they just sort of vomit all over you how bad their day was. And you go, well, do you feel better? Well, yeah, I do. I’ve shared that problem with you, now you can worry about and I can forget about it. Cindy will do that to me from time to time with one of our children. In fact, about two months ago she said, “I’m done parenting Devin. He is your son and your problem.” And she’s been a lot happier ever since then. And she says, “Don’t ask me, ask your father.” And when his name comes up on my phone I already know the answer is “No!” Next question. Because she gets drawn in as the mom, is the maternal, the helpful, the care. I’m the bull. I’m the one that says no, and you better say “yes, sir” and “no, sir” with me young man.
There was an article years ago in the back of Time Magazine and it was about a Kenyan reserve. And there was a particular elephant and these young males were coming into manhood. And they were harassing each other and the older female elephants. They were getting outside the compound causing all sorts of trouble. And they didn’t want to kill them, and they brought in these British scientists and these American scientists, African scientists, all telling, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” And finally this Kenyan man who had lived there all of his life says, “The problem is you need a bull.” They didn’t have a bull.
They had one in Australia in a zoo. They go over there in a plane and they get this old bull, same species elephant, and they drop him in this reserve. And the article said within 72 hours you would see young male elephants airborne by the tusks of that bull when they were trying to go after each other or after the females. And they said within a week all was calm in the reservation. Sometimes you’ve got to be a bull and you say no to your sons. “No, I want you to be a man, not a jerk.” I want you to be a good man, and you’re setting apart, you’re presenting, you’re doing these things to help her, to love her.
Glory is esteemed honor, distinguish above all, not spot or wrinkle, holy and blameless. And these words are translated incorrectly, but beautifully into a wedding dress. Why do you spend so much money on a wedding dress? Ephesians 5, and a passage we’ll look at in Revelation, that she, the bride, wears white, not from a wedding planner book, from a biblical theology of no spot, or wrinkle or any such thing. She spends the most time and effort buying that one dress to wear for one hour and then put it in a bag and save it in the closet till it deteriorates. Go figure.
Holy and as separate to the Lord. And what is all this about? It’s the redemption of the fall. This is the redemption that we spent so much time in the last two days. To present the bride not as the one who ate and gave to her culpable husband, who by all intents and purposes is standing right there in the temptation account. The narrative gives us no record that he’s off somewhere fishing. He’s right there with her because she took and ate and gave to him also and he ate. There’s no delay. I think it was Tremper Longman who wrote the book, or Larry Crabb, The Silence of Adam. She heard the serpent, he says nothing. She took and ate and he also with her. For another time.
I find, to sum up the role of a male leader or a husband’s love, I would say it’s taking initiative to lead like Jesus; taking initiative to lead like Jesus. The husband is not the leader and the Archie Bunker of the house. He’s a loving person who takes initiative to lead like Christ. And to lead like Christ means to die for yourself, which is no fun. Leaders are becoming an endangered species. Pierre Nel, a psychiatrist in California says, “Over the past years in my office I see increasing numbers of couples with a common denominator. The man is active, articulate, energetic, successful at work, but he is inactive, inarticulate, lethargic and withdrawn at home. In his relationship to his wife he is passive and his passivity drives her crazy. In the face of his retreat she goes wild.”
The average church is governed by 1-20% of its membership. But, more and more, upwards to 80% of the local church is led by women. Eugene Peterson writes “The puzzle is why so many people live so badly; not wickedly, but inanely; not cruelly, but stupidly. There is little to admire and less to imitate than people who are prominent in our culture. We have celebrities but no saints. Famous entertainers amuse us at a national, at a nation of bored insomniacs. Infamous criminals act out the aggression of timid conformists. Petulant and spoiled athletes play games vicariously for lazy and apathetic spectators. People aimless and bored amuse themselves with trivia and trash, neither the adventure of goodness, nor the pursuit of righteousness ever make the headline.”
Did you see last night that Whitney Houston died? Probably one of my favorite voices of all time. The Preachers’ Wife CD is still in my play list. “I love the Lord; He heard my cry.” No one ever sang it like Whitney and she’s gone. Charles Kettering says, “The problem well-defined is a problem half-solved.” So a working definition of a leader is someone who can influence others. So, as a man, are you influencing your wife for good the way Christ wants you to lead her, not the way the world leads?
Three years, or many years ago, one of our daughters was having some bladder infections, chronic bladder infections. And she was on antibiotics back to back, and so finally we had a great pediatrician and she said, “We need to have her kidneys checked. And it’s an uncomfortable test, but I’m going to send you over to the hospital where the peds unit is, and they’re going to do a test on her kidneys.” And I’ll spare you all the gory details, but basically they filled her bladder with a radioactive dye, that’s supposed to be active, or rather electromagnet compounds in it, and they take a series of x-rays as the bladder fills and then drains. And my daughter’s two, and one of the parents has to go in and help. And so I have to go in because Cindy would not have been able to do this. She would have killed the nurse. I have to go in and the nurse shows me how to, with my daughter’s head here, to fold my arms underneath her arms and do this to restrain her while another tech holds her legs apart and they catheterize her and they fill her bladder with these units of the radioactive solution and take the images.
Well, it was the first thing in the morning and the poor PA, it took her about five attempts to get her catheterized. And my daughter is screaming, looking at me upside down, at the top of her lungs, red-faced, “Daddy, make her stop! Daddy, make her stop! Daddy, make her stop!” And I’m restraining her. I’d have crawled on that table and taken that test 100 times for her. She was in a mild state of shock for about three days. And some of you have got kids that have chronic problems, and that’s just a hang nail to you. If Cindy had to take that test I’d say, “Buck up, woman. You’re tough. You’ll get over it. No big deal, baby. Compared to my surgeries that’s nothing. That’s a little skin prick.”
Why the difference? I’m to love her as Christ loved the church and give myself up for her. Forget the world’s role of a barking Archie Bunker. Do you love her as Jesus loves His church? Now, stay with me on this. Forget submission for a minute; if you get this, submission is never going to be a topic of conversation. If you will love her the way Christ loves His church, with some of these terms, to redeem her, to sanctify her, and no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and blameless before Him, if your goal as a husband is that your wife is the most spectacular, wonderful, Christian woman for Jesus Christ, you will never have to even discuss submission.
And, by the way, the Bible does not tell us men to tell our wives to submit, ever. How is she going to respond to a loving leader who tells her to submit? You tell Cindy to submit you’re going to draw back a nub. You’ll lose a finger, baby. But if I lovingly lead her and we get to those situations that are hard and tough and we talk through it and we have a very pragmatic relationship, what does it then look like? What’s it feel like? And you could ask her on her own. We have our arguments. We have our challenges, no doubt about that. But do I love Cindy enough to die for her? We have a friend who’s had two liver transplants. The first was a living liver transplant where they cut half of a person’s liver, a healthy guy, and gave to him. The other one was a cadaveric liver transplant.
And a very long story short, when we went through that process of Cindy and I talked about me being that donor for the living liver, and I went through a series of tests and I was disqualified the day before the surgery because of the way my liver is. A certain percentage of people; it doesn’t matter, but it would be no benefit to him. The risk to me was about 2% morbidity, meaning two out of a 100 people die in the surgery. The risk to him was 15% morbidity. He’s on a second liver now and he’s doing pretty well in God’s kindness. But that process for us as a couple was very interesting to go through, to say are you willing to put yourself on the table to potentially die for somebody else? Another guy did it and, and then of course someone died to give him a liver.
And during that process it struck me how willing I was to do that for a guy I loved and that she was willing to let me do it. That’s another issue we need to talk about sometime. She was,… probably think through it a little bit before I tell that story. Anyway, so I’m thinking through this, going, you know, I would die for my kids. Now, who knows? You guys, some of you have been in a situation where you have to make a decision. I have not yet. But I think, I hope, that a decision I would die for my kids. And I think and hope and believe I would die for Cindy. I truly do.
But you know what? I would not give any of my kids for any of you. I’m sorry, you’re going to die. Who gave Himself up for her? He gives His only Son, monogenes, one of a kind, unique in all the world, His only one, for the likes of you and me, illegitimate, throw-away, unadoptable, irredeemable children. And He says, “You can kill My only Son, because that’s the only way back to Eden.” How much does He love His church? Enough to let His own Son die for you. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” If you just stop right there you’ve got your life’s mission. You don’t even have to look at the rest of the passage. And when you’re in a conflict with her you ask yourself this question: as Jesus’ representative am I loving her the way Jesus loved His church? Yes or no? This is not a trick question. This is not a hard question.
From the Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference we had a true story where a gentleman was so convicted by this passage that he took a banner. He had a banner made on his garage door. And when he pulled in and the garage door went up he had it rigged like a little flag so that when the garage door went up it dropped down this way, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave,” and then when the garage door was up it folded flat against the door so nobody saw it. And that was his visual reminder when he pulled in home, and the door went up, “Okay, I’m calibrated. Am I going to love her the way Christ loved the church when I walk in the door.”
Which means I go and sit with her for a few minutes and talk about my day, or I go sit in her office; she’s a real estate agent. I go sit in her office and I try to get her attention for a little while now. She’s always busy on the phone and I drag her to lunch every Friday. We’re at lunch every Friday. I fight for that every Friday that we have time together. Whoa, I take Friday off. “I’ve got to show a house.” Fine, we’ll do it together or we’ll do dinner that night.
I take the initiative. We go out to dinner, I don’t know about you guys, lunch. Where do you want to go, Cindy? “I don’t care.” I hate that answer. I say, okay. And then she’ll say, just no Mexican food. Well, that’s always what I want. So, okay, that rules out Mexican food. So I say, alright, do you want to go, you know, I’ll name three places? And she’ll say, I don’t care, what do you want to do? I think I’m being a loving guy saying, hey, take your pick. The way Cindy’s wired is, I really don’t care. Tell me. So I say let’s go here. Then she says I don’t want to go there.
You know, it’s the age old thing when, you know, you walk in the house and you know there’s a problem and that your wife’s mad at you, or the world or somebody, and you say, “How are you?” And she goes, “Fine!” So you say, “Well, I guess I’m going to believe you.” I mean, you told me you were fine. You’re never going to figure it out, gentlemen. I remember my psychologist friend, Floyd Sharp, 42 years of marriage, with the Lord now and I would complain about Cindy early in my marriage. You know, I tried this and I didn’t,… And he would listen to me very empathetically and he’d say, “You know,” he’d always say it this way, “Michael, not the same, but,” and then he’d tell me a story about Debra, his wife. And then he’d tell me a story about some problem they had and he would do this, he’d go “Debra’s an enigma to me.” Then he’d stare off into space. He’s a psychologist for crying out loud. That’s the best you can give me. “Debra’s an enigma.” He’s still teaching me even though he’s dead.
She’s an enigma. I’m as predictable as the news. She knows what I like and don’t like. She knows my margins. She knows your father’s going to say no. She knows all that stuff. I don’t know that about her. And part of that’s kind of fun. And yeah, the changes can be maddening and drive you crazy, but as she says, well, I’m never boring. That’s a fact. Frustrating, challenging, unnerving, unpredictable, crazy, impulsive, fun, all in; in 31 years of marriage Cindy has probably said “no” to me sexually about five times. And those were five times when I was insane, when I was in pain or we were traveling or she’s a dead woman, or whatever. Maybe five times, because she knows my need.
There’s only one person in the world I can have sexual intimacy with, and that’s the woman I said “I do” to 31 years ago. And there’s times it’s not as important to her as it is to me. There’s other times it’s wonderful for both of us and it’s exciting. There’s other times when I have been sick and infirmed and living with pain and she has physical needs. I have to love her. I know it’s hard for some of you guys to hear that. But at 55 years of age I don’t always want to have sex. You do when you’re younger. Enjoy it. Enjoy it. Believe me, things change. You get older, things don’t work the way they used to work. That’s just the way it is. We’ll spend $4 billion trying to find pink Viagra—and they are; the woman’s version of Viagra and Cialis—they can’t find it because you can’t figure out women. I could have saved them a lot of money.
We’re two completely different people but we’re supposed to be one, and we fit. And our roles are different. And I’m going to tell you, gentlemen, if you will get nothing else, if you will begin to start asking yourself the question, “Am I loving my wife as Jesus loved His church,” it will revolutionize your relationship, not because Michael said it, because this is His prescription for it. You’re in a fallen relationship, two sinful people glued together for life. It will not work the way you want it to work. It will work the way He designed it to work, if you will love her and begin to love her sacrificially.
Find out what means something to her. I can’t figure it out. I will stop by and sometimes Cindy buys a lot of flowers. She has a particular flower that she likes because it lasts a long time. I will buy roses, and I have done this over the years, and sometimes spend a lot of money; and like the third day they haven’t bloomed and they just droop over. And then, you know, you ever have those kind of roses? You know, they just fall over on the thing and they turn brown and fall off. Man, that’s $70 down the drain. And I hate to admit this, but I now buy roses at Costco. Wal-Mart will have them too, $16 bucks. Sometimes I bring them home, she goes, “Oh, roses.” I go, “Dang! I know women that would be all excited and they’d have sex with their husbands if they brought them roses home.” Another time I bring them home she goes, “Those are beautiful! I love those roses. They’re so nice.”
I don’t do roses on days you’re supposed to do roses. I refuse to do them for Valentine’s. If it’s on the calendar I go the other way. I write notes. I do other gifts, but I won’t play the game. I find that for her out of the blue for no reason means more than the other way. A lot of women are shaking their head. Guys, take notes, take notes. It doesn’t matter what you think, just take notes. Don’t try to figure it out, just say I can do that. It’s a check box. Buy for no reason, check. Write a card for no reason, check. Call her for no reason the day, “How are you doing honey?” “Something wrong?” “Just calling to see how you are honey.” It’s really not that hard. We just make it complicated.
Talked to a gentleman yesterday. I was so proud of him. He said, “I’m a chaplain and I can’t pray with my wife.” Good for him to have the courage to say that. I said, “When you go to bed tonight, flop your hand over there and say, ‘Honey, let’s pray.’ You know what she’ll say? ‘Sure.’” The reason you do it in bed when she’s laying down so she doesn’t faint when you ask her.
Jot down Revelation 19:6-9. We don’t have time to look at it, but this is the culmination of it. And the end of the story, basically, is this is all a preparation for the greatest marriage of all time. And I don’t understand all I know of men and women, but I understand this thing. I understand that your marriage and mine are somehow a reflection of Jesus Christ’s love for His church.
Robertson McQuilkan was the president of Columbia Seminary, and at the height of his career he resigned to care for his wife. Actuarially, the woman beside you will bury you before, but maybe not. But not a one of us in this room wants to live with that fear. You made vow when you said, “I do.” And you probably said “in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” When I was struggling with recovery from surgery that’s the woman I wanted with me. I had friends. I had an oldest daughter who was there to help, but she’s the one. And I hope if it ever changes with Cindy I’ll be able to help her.
Your picture of marriage is that Christ loved you that much that He died for you. Your marriage is otherworldly. Your marriage is a reflection to the military around you, the neighbors you have, the people that see you, of Christ’s love for His church. There’s no more noble calling or mission, gentlemen, than to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. “Give praise to our God all you, His bondservants, you who fear Him, small and great. Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like mighty peels of thunder saying.”
Some of you have been stationed in places like Hawaii where you hear waves crashing. I can’t remember exactly where I was when this dawned on me, it’s the overwhelming nature of the sound. It’s not like crashing waves, that the volume is so loud of thunder and waves you can’t hear anything else. That’s the imagery we’re given. “Mighty waters, sounds of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!’” Think of this being so loud you can’t hear or say anything else. “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!”
He is no dead king. He lives forever. And our lives are a mere small or great service to a King, not to self. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then He said to me, ‘Write, John,’” write these down, “‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And He said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’”
I hope if nothing else when you drive or fly home or go back today that you’ll reframe your view of your marriage. It is a picture of that scene. Your marriage is more important than you think, not just for your happiness, but for your holiness. And He’s given you every resource you need to carry out His will for your life and to be a fragrant aroma to those around you who are dying and who need Christ. I mean He gave you a bigger picture of your view of not just your marriage, but how you affect those around you.
Prayer: Father, thank You for these men and women who serve You. Father, I love them. You love them. We are humbled to be around such men and women who have given their lives to a cause, no greater cause in some respects to protect our country, except to live as soldiers, as servants of Christ. Help them to see that in new eyes, in new ways. In Christ’s name, amen.