I honestly doubt that I will be able to write this one with the full weight it deserves. My mind has been focused on gratitude and appreciation recently. Just thinking about how amazing my wife really is. Honestly, thinking about how amazing women are, in general.
While reading back through parts of Joel and Kathy’s second book, Livin’ it and Lovin’ it, something really jumped out at me. There’s a part where Joel writes about a revelation. He came to a point where he fully understood more than just how abusive he was, he figured out how Kathy had worked so hard to hold their family together. He had become such a controlling and abusive monster, he had completely lost track of her efforts and commitment.
The part that hit the hardest was about sex. He wrote about how she had endured his bullying and inconsideration, so far as even tolerating it in the bedroom. He wrote about how it affected him when he understood what he had done. He also wrote about how it affected him to understand that she almost always ended up crying when it was over.
I don’t know any men who would allow themselves to be used and taken advantage of, just to maintain a relationship. I don’t know any guys who value their family enough to tolerate anything like that. But I know of hundreds of women who do. It’s their life. In most cultures outside of America, it’s even expected. Women are placed so far below the men, in some cultures, that their feelings and needs aren’t even considered. Some are still treated like property. How strong does someone have to be, to live like that? If the tables were turned, I don’t believe most men would ever get married.
I can’t fathom it some days. Why do they do it? Why do our wives tolerate the garbage we give them? Why are they so willing to clean up our messes and love us, in spite of how disrespectful we are sometimes? How can a human posses so much fortitude that they can maintain a family in defiance of their situation? It’s beyond my imagination. I can’t understand it.
Weaker sex? Seriously? As men, we get that one. We have more muscle mass. We are generally bigger and stronger. But, if we were married to someone who bullied us, demanded submission, used the bible to beat us down and treated us like servants… We would be gone. We would feel fully justified in divorcing a woman like that. Our fishing buddies would support that decision completely. But our wives are expected to endure it. And most do. Graciously.
We figured out, in counseling, that one of my biggest issues had been a special type of arrogance. I considered myself a great husband, purely in contrast to the other men in her life. AWOL father, bad stepfathers, stupid boyfriends. Nobody to brag about in that list.
My wife had endured abuse and even abandonment as a child. She had survived things that still make me cringe, just thinking about them. And, she had managed to stay happy and positive in spite of all that. She was perfect. I, however, spent ten years becoming more and more abusive and angry. The problem was, compared to those guys, I thought I was great. Compared to guys who were more abusive and less connected, I looked like a hero. I thought that I was. I thought I had rescued her. I gave her a great life… Compared to her past.
As Christain men, we don’t get to do that. We only get to compare ourselves to one guy. Christ. He is our benchmark, our standard. As Christians, our goal is to become Christlike. So, we only get to compare ourselves to Him. And compared to Him, I was an awful husband. Compared to the Ephesians 5:25 challenge, most of us look pretty pathetic as husbands. Sorry to bust your bubble, but this is reality.
Someone once told me a story about contrast. He said a white sheep, standing in a green pasture looks bright white. But, if that sheep stands in the same pasture, surrounded by fresh snow, it looks nasty. Yep. When I was comparing myself to violently abusive men and the ones who abandoned my wife, I looked pretty good. Once I compared myself to Christ, I was one nasty looking monster.
All that said, I still can’t believe that my wife tolerated it for so long.
Our first year was good. The next nine years, or so, were less good. They wasn’t much that qualified as abuse, but not much good, either. Years ten to twenty were a long downward spiral. Plenty of versions of that story in other articles on here. I have probably told that one too many times now.
It was all a pursuit of purpose. It was all misdirected passion. It was me chasing butterflies and rainbows, trying to become someone who mattered. Trying to make my life count. Dragging my family on one pointless mission after another. Resenting them for not appreciating me. Upset that they didn’t respect me. Always making sure it was about me and what I wanted. Only doing things that I wanted to do. Me, me, me.
I never even considered her purpose, or what mattered to her, or even her needs. She got breadcrumbs. She got leftovers. I never saw her as my purpose. I didn’t understand that my purpose and meaning came from within my family. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The most important part of my life was right there and I was trying to see past them.
What a jerk.
In spite of all that, my wife was still gracious. She still took care of me. She still managed to stay affectionate. How was that even possible? How can someone have so much emotional strength and courage to keep going? How can one person love their family so much that they can ignore their own needs? How can one person set aside their own desires to accommodate their family? How can someone sacrifice their own life to make life matter for their family? How can anyone be so indestructible?
She did. Most wives do. Most wives are WAY more Christlike than we are. If you need an example to follow, maybe something slightly less challenging than the life of Christ, maybe you should just try to be more like your wife. That might be enough to change the world. It might be enough to save a family.
Want to be the man she respects? Want to make your family indestructible?
Take my 21 Day Challenge