I am second or first or whatever she wants me to be

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

Matthew 20:16 NLT

Application of this scripture is all over the map. It is not exactly misused in the way that Matthew 7:3 is misused but it is treated as a very broad brush that is used to create at once some nagging notion that salvation is just out of reach due to the selfish sin natures of anyone less selfless than Mother Theresa, as well as the idea that life’s station has nothing to do with impressing our creator so don’t worry.

That’s (the teaching on that scripture) not one of the things I lose sleep over. In fact I wanted to get in early on a new movement I hope to start in the churchian church! The short version of the encouragement says that one take on that scripture could say that if a man is succeeding as a churchian husband….the model  of servant leadership ….that man is assured to be first.

I was moved to this thinking by something Elspeth shared with me, so…thank you Elspeth. It was a link to yet another, if less widely known, marriage teaching seminar focused on teaching men about selfless love of their wives. I apologize in advance if this has been tackled by one of my cohorts. Ive not been reading much that past couple of weeks and have a limited time to be on blogs. I’d rather write when i have a topic.

The seminar is called “Husbands Love Your Wives” . I cannot comment on these without observing, first, that these seminars and conferences have something in common. Sure they have the same take on the same topic, but that’s not what I’m getting at. Aside from the lockstep on male supplication, every single one of them begins with then assertion that they are going to break rules, go edgy, get men uncomfortable, plow new ground…like that. Basic sermons on the topic share that assertion, “men, today you may get a bit hot under the collar but this is God’s word and you need to hear it because the family is in jeopardy”.

Here is their flavor of provocative introduction:

Have you ever needed some detailed, practical counsel for your marriage? Have you ever wished someone would speak to the everyday matters that pop up in your marriage and family life? Have you ever heard sound teaching, but wished for more than broad theological principles? You needed someone to speak frankly?.

Whatever.

I don’t want to be repetitious and just rip into parsing the site and the seminar. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a worthy endeavor. I think more so for the really big blogs. The vast majority of men have never heard anyone challenge the churches message to men.

By the way, I am so excited. I get to mention an author and book from the 1600’s. I’m sorely tempted to flow right into it as if every knows this writer and this book, thereby tossing that intellectual Christian AMOG fragmentation device into the room (no offense GIL….nudge nudge) but the truth is I’m parroting and have no knowledge whatsoever about the man or his writing.

They base the teaching on the book Building a Godly Home Vol. 2 by William Gouge. OK? Good. Nuff on that.

I’ll offer a taste of the course and then get to some examples that I hope paint a picture that makes my point. In the course synopsis the writer states:

Christian leaders understand how important it is to win the consciences of people so that you are not pressuring them to act against what they believe is right, and the husband’s leadership in the home is no exception to this rule.

More:

Love speaks many languages, and Gouge calls the man to use them all, from a kind and cheerful facial expression to giving her special gifts. He strongly emphasizes the husband’s responsibility to provide for his wife’s financial needs. He urges men to show their wives tenderness and compassion when they are sick, especially when they face the travails of pregnancy and childbirth. At every turn, Gouge summons husbands to the high calling of loving their wives—as Christ did the church—with sacrificial, affectionate service.

Oh man, to think all these years Ive had it so wrong. Anyway.

Did they even consider that the context of the period when that was written had that, while the nature of men and women was the same, the social contract buttressed a man’s role, the appropriate role, not the one they exhaust themselves admonishing nor the one they recommend he adopt….but the honest to goodness role God gave them. Therefore it was quite safe to suggest men figuratively pull their punches a little (Huh? Did I just hear an evangelical feminist in…..yep….Broken Bow, Oklahoma….did I hear her gasp at my figurative language?)

This is all segue to the same line of ateaching. Ateaching, a randomly coined term meaning “anti-teaching” as in teach them what to do by focusing on what not to do and criticizing them as if they are all maximum offenders.

I’d like to know if the wife of Gouge in the 1600’s and the women in the lives of the men at Family Life had/have any of these characteristics. (I’d also ask those bloggers who seemingly have their women sufficiently gamed or heeled, what they did with all that PowerBall money, because the odds of having a wife who has none of these proclivities makes the PowerBall look like a sure thing. I think there is an Alphacade we hide behind…a topic for another day )

This list is not comprehensive.

The Artificial Realist.

This is where the woman simply imagines whatever is needed to get past a situation, rhetorical or tangible real world events,  and not have her worldview disturbed. This is where, when faced with an utterly locked tight dilemma, something akin to when a witnessed is impeached on the stand, and get round it by making a proclamation that in her mind puts paid on the check and files it away. The most simple example of this is the seemingly harmless encouragement “everything will be OK”.

That can be a statement of soothing and nothing more, which is fine. However, not only does the woman mean to encourage, she means literally that she has said it will be OK and therefore it will…..next! She will do this with great specificity, not just a general statement. This is absolutely foundational hamster doctrine. You want the future to look a certain way? Does she need to make a decision that will almost certainly have negative consequences that she cannot truly even consider and not face her folly? Easy. She invents a future where she is the exception to the rule, proclaims it, and its done. The artificial realist is usually also…

The Prophetess.

She says “God wants me to ______________”. She says it often.

Barbara Rainy perfectly illustrated this one in the  April 18th Moments With You. (I want to emphasize that I do not know details about the events she shares and that Ive chosen this  because it is so perfectly illustrative)

She describes how she drove to the campus where her daughter was attending school in order to encourage her daughter from continuing a relationship she was having with a boy.

She assures us of her lack of bias:

I assure you, my decision was not impulsive but a result of prayer

Barbara describes one of the “confirmations” she received.

Dennis had questions of his own, and this confirmed my uneasiness

Lots of people joined the advocacy effort.

But the story didn’t end there. Over the next few months, God brought about a change in her heart, without further comment from me. Not only Dennis and I but also some of our other children — and even a good friend who eventually became her husband — were part of God’s instruments in helping her determine His will.

OK. I’m convinced. her mom and her beta orbiter were down with the result. Had to be right.

Funny. When you read the piece you expect some closure to why the unease, what was wrong with the boy…..something. The only description we get of him says he appeared to be everything she wanted in a husband. Then, as confirmation of her word-of-knowledge she offers up…….nothing. We can assume the girl is married and has kids and is happy. Somebody show me what I am missing here.

I have no idea if she was right or wrong. Its not even important. What is important, and those without the churchian blinders on will see it clearly, is that she bent her perception to fit her will.

The Prophetess will also have a way to explain away disaster and maintain that she was correct both times, all wrapped in churchian ribbons. Lets assume the boy she married ended up an addicted layabout abuser. She would have a million ready phrased answers that started with “God was just trying to ______________”. The simplicity of these statements makes them at once rhetorically vacuous and absolutely granite wall impenetrable.

I had already listed this category in a notebook where I sometimes jot things down for future posts. The email from FL was not the genesis, rather it was conveniently timed. I have seen this particular manifestation, the prophetess, a great deal among the circles of friends and family in my life. I have seen it in individuals and Ive seen it as a sort of brainstormed community rationalization when several churchian women are talking. They even violate one of the sacred tenets of relationship that women hold. Never fix, just listen.

When a man shares a problem with one of these women he will get endless possible scenarios back…guesses as to what God is doing. He is opening/closing doors, He is testing, He is doling justice for unconfessed sin, so forth.

The Spiritual Grower

It doesn’t matter how the couple started their marriage. She is a believer from childhood, he is not, or the converse; They both were believers from childhood or became believers after they were married. What happens is that spiritual growth as taught in most churches  creates a marital wedge because the teaching is fem centric and so appeals to her that she gets, in her mind, way out ahead of her husband. This is not a new problem. it is present as far back as the ages of couples that I am able to have known in my 51 years. It is not a mega church or seeker church limited phenomenon, small town rural or urban, young crowd or old crowd. It is a human gender dynamic stepping in between the holy spirit and the woman.

I was reading an article by Lee Strobel where tells how his wife came to Christ before he did. This occurred after they were married. I am certain Lee guarded his words as most men would when writing something like that that the wife is sure to read. Yet even guarded it was clear he had experienced this dynamic. First she lords it over him and magnifies his deficiency, a new previously unknown deficiency that she now can see so clearly. Then if and when he meets his savior he will never be the Christian that she is. If they discuss an amount of money to donate above the tithe and he suggests an amount she will always say more. If they discuss volunteering she will double down. If they pray daily, she says it ought to be thrice daily. He cannot and will not ever be seen as we are to see one another, which is as equal sufferers of brokenness also equally loved and worthy by the same savior. He will be spiritually nit picked for the rest of his natural life.

Surprisingly, the worst side effect of this is not her low opinion of her husbands faith and walk or her high opinion of her own. It is the easy way she rationalizes NOT being a good wife using what she has learned at church. Ive listened to women who seem to have a great peaceful relationship with their husbands share in all sincerity this now understanding of submission where she has this hot line to and from God and He renders item by item when its “OK” for follow husbands lead. I’m not talking about sin and lawlessness….put it out of mind. One women said if she was called to minister in a far off land, husband could choose to go or come, but she was going! This makes her feel uber obedient to Jesus in some way.

Worse still, the physical part of the relationship deteriorates. Not just sex, but affection, her care for how she looks for her husband, etc. I have extended family relatives where the woman is openly hostile to her husband when he tries to offer the kids of affectionate hugs and kisses we are taught women want. The men I am and have been close enough to over the years have admitted that as their wife “grew in faith” she became increasingly disinterested in sex and affection, and was somewhat sanctimonious about the fact that if he asks for sex she freely gives…meaning she affords him some moments within which he can hopefully get some relief.

Finally, the supremacy of the kids supplants the last vestiges of the marriage. The last thing to die is the simple courtesy of, when he is talking, listening to him until the sentence is completed. If a pipe clanks in the home during his words she will flutter off to check that its not a child in distress.

There is no limit to what this women will do under the mantra “God told me to…..”

The Debater

The debater never ever ever argues according to her. She will ask the same thing 15 different ways, exhausting her husbands resolve, and if he asks that they not argue she defensively states its not an argument, she is just asking.

During the argument she will use many tools and tricks. Tricks mainly. The two common are of course the argument from emotion, and the change of scope.

We’ve all heard the argument from emotion. she wants to buy something for aunt Mable, the bank account is near empty, and her argument is “we haven’t done anything for aunt Mable in a long time”. I submit this is universal in women.

The change is scope is common but not ubiquitous. Its when the husband asks….nicely….that she rectify some thing that she truly does almost daily and has for years and her response is ” I didn’t do that the past three days”. I’m not talking about a socks on the floor issue, or toilet seat position. I’m talking about a thing that reasonable people should stop doing because it materially impacts others.  It is impossible to discuss something chronic when the other person insists on switching the frame to acute. Then they switch back, and forth, and back, and forth. If women do this with each other and it makes sense to them…..fine….if I tried that with men they may just drop the topic and walk away, concluding I was not sufficiently capable to hold discourse. If it was done on the job with a supervisor, repeatedly, termination would be inevitable.

But men, you do not just have to be tolerant of this. Family Life would of course agree you must be tolerant and so much more. In their April 16 Moments With You the closing paragraph states:

“Husband, don’t argue with your wife from a position of authority or gifting or power or capacity. Don’t win just because you can. Simply apologize.” And ask for forgiveness.

‘Would you rather be right or be married?” That church taught cute little saying, and false dichotomy,  has carved its own distinct path of destruction through American marriages.

Full circle back to the site Elspeth referred, one of the principles, Jeff Pollard, in a blog post celebrating his 40th anniversary, gave some advice to men. In typical fashion he can’t seem to find a single imperative instruction when it comes to leading the wife. Here is his take.

Submission does not mean that a woman is an inferior being. Submission does not mean that she must agree with everything her husband says, believes, or does. Submission does not mean that she stops thinking. Submission does not mean that she must never attempt to urge her husband to change his mind or to change a sinful habit. Submission does not mean a wife can never reprove her husband. Submission does not mean that a wife follows her husband into sin. Submission does not mean putting her husband’s will before the will of Jesus Christ. Submission does not mean that a wife is her husband’s slave. The relation between husband and wife is not master and slave, but king and queen. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:26-27). Submission does mean that God has given a woman a different role. Submission does mean submitting to what your husband believes to be the right things, even when you disagree. Submission does mean that a wife must submit her thinking to the Word of God and to the lead of her husband without becoming contentious. Submission does mean that a wife must recognize that if her husband does not change, she must live Gospel-centered truth before him, attempting to win him without a word. Submission does mean submitting to her husband when she disagrees with his decisions.

There is a major equality deficit in Christian marriage teaching. It has nothing to do with women being under heel. It has everything to do with a man protecting and serving his wife. But protecting her  now means, let her whim and fancy flow freely, be ready to clean up her messes no matter what. Serving means supplicating. This is the only way these men can attempt to explain that it IS difficult to love wives as men are instructed. What likely began as an attempt to illustrate that men are not left off the hook in marriage has turned into a side show version How Low Can You Go.

But look on the bright side. If all of the archetypes I mentioned are present in your wife all you have to do is stay low enough to keep the hell out of her way until she needs your help. if she wants your opinion on something, she will first give it to you then you can share it back. All the while men this is a calling from God. You will be last in every way. Just imagine the blessings that await you as was written in Matthew 20 quoted above and repeat to yourself while your neck is being ground into the driveway by a pink jack boot…..”I am First”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “I am second or first or whatever she wants me to be

  1. One reason it is hard to talk about historical marriage is that there is so little understanding of how people used to live. I think the average educated person imagines Little House on the Prairie with swords when it comes to the Middle Ages or Reformation. They don’t realize how much life had changed due to technological and economic development.

    It used to be that when you talked about women’s work, it was WORK. There was division of labour because she was baking bread, sometimes even grinding grain at home, making, mendin clothes, cleaning using home made materials, etc. division of labour was just a fact of life. Men took most of the outside the home risks, and led, though we also know women influenced. So the old calls to compassion are a tempering of this authority.

    So compared to this…what is this tyranny women labour under now? Barbara Rainey’s fears for her daughter are less clear than Hamlet’s of dealing with Claudius. It’s typical. Fear of….something. A dread of…that. Let’s prevent…whatever. Let’s talk about what submission isn’t and what headship is. This is helpful how?

  2. When the head is cut off, the body is in complete confusion.
    When the body rejects the head, they can’t operate togetherness.

    Sorry coming up with stuff when I’m thinking about Ephesians 5. You (Emp) have addressed issues I’ve addressed in my own marriage. It wasn’t easy but I see this so often where faith or holiness is based on what someone does daily. Especially the one when the woman is saying pray three times a day versus once. Some people can pray all day and still not be close to God.

  3. thank you Elspeth.

    You’re welcome.

    I have worn all of these hats at one time or another. Rather unsuccessfully in most cases, i might add.

    Good post.

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