Several years ago as it began to dawn on me that my oldest two sons weren’t too far from leaving the nest, I wondered if I had taught them everything they needed to know. Different topics came to mind that I wanted to be sure they had a handle on by the time they were out on their own. We talked about different aspects of some of these things “in person,” but because our schedules weren’t always conducive to lengthy conversations and because I think better and express myself better in writing, I decided to write them occasionally, a la King Lemuel’s mother.
And just recently I thought it might be good to post a couple of those here.
This particular note is from February 2005. I have adapted it a little bit from the original.
It has been a while since I have written one of these. But lately I have been thinking of writing to you something of what kinds of things most Christian woman want to see in men. I know that neither of you is on the verge of getting engaged in the very near future, but you are in the process of becoming the kind of husband and father you will be someday, so it is a good thing to be thinking about preparing yourself for that time.
And of course, I can’t speak for all women. But there are some generalities that I think are pretty true of most conscientious Christian women.
1. A man who is a Christian, actively growing in the Lord and serving Him. It gives a woman a lot of confidence if she knows the man in her life is right with the Lord and seeking to know His will and follow Him. She can trust his leadership.
2. Leadership without tyranny. There was an excellent article in a magazine that Jason got about the parallels of leadership of a church and a family. Pastors are told in Scripture not to “lord it over” their flocks but to lead by example (I Peter 5:2-4), and that is true of husbands and fathers as well. While the man is the leader of the home (I Corinthians 11;3; Ephesians 5:23) and responsible before God for his family, there shouldn’t be any ruling with an iron fist. While she knows the final decision rests with you, she doesn’t want to feel that she doesn’t have a voice and her opinions don’t matter. One reason God gave woman to man was to “complete” him, to come alongside and minister to him and encourage him. That can’t happen if he doesn’t listen to her.
If that doesn’t quite make sense, think of it from your own standpoint. You have been under authority all your lives (and will continue to be under some kind of authority all your lives). You know your dad, your pastor, your teachers, even your bosses are “in charge” to various degrees, but I think you have experienced various kinds of leadership styles now to know how it feels when someone is over-authoritarian. On the other hand, you don’t want a leader who is kind of wimpy and ineffective, like a teacher that everyone runs over.
This includes spiritual leadership. She doesn’t want to be the one to always suggest, or wish, that you prayed together or read the Bible together.
3. A man worthy of reverence. Ephesians tells a woman to “reverence” her husband. One time when I studied it out, it seemed to mean a deep respect, even just short of worship.
When ungodly leaders have been in office, sometimes we have to remind ourselves as Christians that we are supposed to honor those in authority over us and respect their positions even if we can’t respect them personally. You don’t want to put those under your leadership in a position of having to think that way with you, to have to make themselves respect you because they are “supposed” to — you want to have the kind of character that calls forth that kind of respect. That doesn’t mean perfection — none of us is perfect — but it means by and large as a general rule to live and act in a way that others can respect you.
4. Protection. A woman wants to feel cared for and protected by her husband — protected from harm and from evil.
5. Provision. God has ordained that the man be the provider for the home and the woman cares for the home and family. That doesn’t mean a woman can never work outside the home (that might be another topic for another day). I hope that you’ll place a priority on having your wife be able to stay at home, especially when she has children. I worked before you guys were born, but I am so grateful that He provided so that I could be a stay-at-home mom. I think because my mom worked so much I especially wanted to be at home with you. I wanted to be the one to teach you and influence you and see you grow up — I didn’t want to give that over to someone else. I just wanted to be with you as you grew up. And besides that, I came to find out I just didn’t have the capacity to keep up with everything at home and still do much else outside the home. I know some women who apparently can, but I couldn’t.) There are times when it is helpful to have her income, like when you first get married and are setting up housekeeping, and there may be times when despite a man’s best efforts he can’t find work. But the overall attitude should be that as God enables you, you’ll be the provider.
6. Understanding. 1Peter 3:7 says, ” Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” I think that knowledge can include knowledge of women in general and how they think and react differently from men, but also knowledge of her in particular.
7. Love. There is a book I’ve never read but heard a lot about called The Five Love Languages. Basically it is the idea that different people perceive love different ways. For some, saying thoughtful loving things to them makes them feel especially loved; for others, physical touch — a quick hug, a pat on the arm, etc. makes them feel special and loved. I think the 5 are: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service (doing things for them), giving, and time. Of course, all of us love to be loved in all of those ways, but the premise of the book is that everyone primarily perceives love in one of those ways more than others, and we should try to find out what makes our loved ones most feel loved and try to express love to them in that way. Whether you agree with all the book says or not, I think the premise is true. It shouldn’t be, as the old saying goes, “I told her I loved her when we got married, and I’ll let her know if that ever changes.” You need to actively show her you love her. Nor should it be as the illustration a former pastor used to tell of a man who for years every Sunday night after church made himself and his wife a snack of cinnamon toast, giving her the heel. After a number of years she burst into tears, saying it made her feel so unloved that he gave her the worst slice if bread, He said, “But, honey, the heel is my favorite part.” He thought he was giving up the best for her; she thought he was giving her the worst. The key there is communication.
There are probably more things, but these are what come to mind just now.